Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Engineers in MCS - Starting Year Two!

New school year = new engineering challenges in Moore County!

After a short summer break, we welcomed our students back into our buildings this month to start the new school year.  As kids have come back, it's been exciting to see that their knowledge and motivation around engineering and problem solving have not been sapped in any way over the break- in fact, we're starting to see some momentum from last year carry into this year!

Ms. Robledo (DIF extraordinaire at HFE, CES, and RES) reported that while doing the 1st engineering project of the year with a group of 1st graders at Highfalls Elementary, she asked "What is an engineer?" to which students replied enthusiastically with "someone who solves problems!"  When asking what they needed to do before they created their first prototype, cries of "make a blueprint" and "make your plan!" ringed out.....  Just think of where these little engineers can go from here!

On the older spectrum, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a 6th grade class already this year, as the DIF team is now taking our engineering thread into the middle grades this school year.  The first class I was able to visit was Ms. Willis's class at Southern Middle School.  She worked with DIF Beth Alderson on the "Whatever floats your boat" engineering project that focuses on the core concepts of density (always a tricky one for 6th graders).

Students were given free roam to plan around and choose various materials to create a boat that would hold as much mass as possible.  Each material (such as styrofoam, cork, cardboard, aluminum foil, etc.) was given a pricetag and students had $1,000 to spend.  After planning and building their first prototypes, they placed them into a container filled with water.  They measured displacement of water as well as the amount of mass their boat held before sinking.  Next, they tried their boat in a container of saltwater to record this same data.

From there, they were able to go back and re-engineer/improve their boat designs in order to hold more mass.

Students did a GREAT job in thinking through this task.  A really cool part of the lesson, though, was when Ms. Alderson asked the students how many of them did engineering last year as 5th graders- almost every hand went up!  It was clear that the students were comfortable with the engineering process and taking some risks of failure along the way.  Very cool!

As a DIF team, we are excited to be a part of this revolution of critical thinking and problem across Moore County Schools.  We look forward to sharing more stories through this blog and also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at @MCSDigital.

-Steve J

Monday, September 11, 2017

Take your students anywhere with Virtual Field Trips

Lets face it. There just isn't the money to do fun field trips anymore, and even more than that there is only so many times that you can take your students to the local zoo or aquarium before it gets monotonous. 

Well let me introduce you to Virtual Field Trips!!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a free resource put on by museums, archives, and companies around the world with the expressed purpose of linking your objectives with their missions. There are virtual field trips for all ages, grades, and subjects. Some even provide lesson plans for you to collaborate with your students and the museum employees. 

This year I was able to facilitate quite a few vitual field trips in my schools. I took 4th graders to Washington State to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to leaarn about animal adaptations from both our region and regions around the country. 

I got to take Mr. Baker's 8th grade class to New Orleans to visit the National World War II museum and got to focus on Dr. Seuss cartoons and primary sources since that is what his student's were struggling with.
Virtual field trips offer an oppurtunity for students to hear the information from someone other than you. Let's face it, after a while we can get a little repetetive. Why not let your students travel the worl and learn from someone new!!!

If you are wondering what is out there here is the link to Microsoft's Skype in the Classroom program, where you can search already designed field trips by grade, age or student, or even subject. 

Wondering how to get started?  Ask your friendly neighborhood DIF!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a fun way to take your students to new places to discover new information. Let me know if you need some help finding the perfect field trip for your students!!!

Beth Alderson
Southern Middle School/ Aberdeen Elementary School