Boxitects STEM Challenge!

Boxitects, by Kim Smith, is a book about Meg, a brilliant and creative child who can make masterpieces out of cardboard! Meg is so talented her mom decides to send her to Maker School. There, Meg meets Simone, another Boxitect, and the two creators don’t exactly get along. The story highlights the importance of collaboration and teamwork, as well as thinking “outside the box” (*ahem*) when considering what materials can be used to create works of art. This is a perfect book for teaching and learning online as it reminds children that they can use simple materials they already have at home to build and create with!

Click here to visit Kim Smith’s website to learn more about the book: https://kimillustration.com/index.php/portfolio/boxitects/

I discovered Boxitects because it was selected this year in The Forest of Reading shortlist for The Blue Spruce Award (for Canadian picture books for children in Kindergarten to Grade 2). The Forest of Reading program is run by the Ontario Library Association and aims to spread the word about new and wonderful Canadian books and foster a love of reading. Readers of the books are encouraged to vote on their favourites, and winners are chosen based on votes cast. I always find The Blue Spruce award-nominated books to be wonderful resources for teaching. If you are interested, you can visit the Forest of Reading website to learn more about this year’s shortlisted works as well as lists from years past: https://kids.tpl.ca/ready-for-reading/books/booklist/blue-spruce

After reading the book, we watched the video above to find out why cardboard is such an excellent material to build and create with! In the video, the author of Boxitects, Kim Smith, demonstrates why corrugation makes cardboard so STRONG! She also talks about how much she looks forward to seeing what the children will make with their cardboard and asks for us to send her photos of our creations – something my students were particularly excited about!

After reading the story and learning about carboard corrugation, we gave the children a challenge to create something (anything!) with the cardboard they had at home. Since we are learning remotely, it was important to me to provide my students with plenty of material options for this project. We talked about using carboard boxes used to ship parcels, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, egg cartons, and even paper tubes! Prior to the lesson, I asked our families to gather their materials so the children would have them ready for exploring. I also asked the children to bring their science notebooks (sent home in their remote learning kits) so they could work on drawing a plan or brainstorming ideas about what they could make prior to building.

And then they were off! Our Boxitect challenge was listed on this week’s choice board, which meant the children had all week to work on it. Each day, as children finished their creations, we spent time during Reflection sharing and talking about them. There was such a variety of ideas presented: from houses, to boots, to robot costumes, to airplanes! I began compiling photos of the children’s creations in our special “Boxitect Gallery” slides. My Twitter timeline has been filled with amazing ideas for teaching remotely this year, and the “Art Gallery” idea (originally posted by Kenrick DeoDat – @KenrickDeodat) has to be one of my favourites! My students are incredibly motivated to send me photos of their art works and creations when they see that they’re going to be displayed in a beautiful “art gallery” or “museum.” The art gallery is a way of highlighting the work the children are doing and communicating that what they learn and create is special and has value. At the end of the week, I posted our Boxitect Gallery on our online classroom for everyone to see.

Online learning in Kindergarten can be a challenge. I’m always looking for ways to give the children opportunities to play and create as they would if they were in person at school. This Boxitect challenge reminded me of the kind of excitement we would experience in our regular classroom – the children excitedly talking about what they could make, drawing plans in their notebooks, and getting creative with materials.

If you would like a copy of the Google Slides I prepared for presenting this to my class (including a copy of the gallery ready for editing), click on this link and “Make a Copy” for yourself: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19sAoUsLa6HPZ8wAAhuJfWd7Frvk_HU6mGG2Y3jhqN5E/copy?usp=sharing

Converting an iPad into a Document Camera

We’ve almost made it through our first week of learning remotely in Kindergarten! My hat is off to any of you who have been doing this since September! It’s been a big learning curve but thankfully, I have a wonderful community of colleagues online who have inspired me and given me confidence that I could make this work.

Today I thought I’d share a hack I figured out this week that has been a *lifesaver* for teaching live: turning my iPad into a document camera. I’ll do my best to lay out how I got this to work.

First off, these instructions are for you if you are using Google Meet for your live meeting, a PC computer, and an iPad. I could not find instructions online for this tech set up which is why I’m sharing mine here. I did find some instructions for doing this on Zoom, so I think my method will work for that meeting platform as well (maybe).

Start your meeting. I first log into my Google Meet on my PC. Then I log into the same Google Meet (with the same Google ID) on my iPad (so I am logged on twice in the meeting). It is very important to mute your microphone and turn off your video when you log in. You also have to make sure (this step is CRITICAL) that your volume controls on the side of the iPad are as low as they can go (off/muted) or else you might get feedback.

When I want to use my iPad as a document camera, I click on on the meeting controls on my iPad and choose “share screen” and “start broadcast” and then open my camera on the iPad. It will share what my camera sees with my students in the Meet.

You will need a stand of some kind to put your iPad on. I built one out of Duplo and a cookie rack (yup, really. Desperate times!). The cookie rack is helpful because the camera lens fits between the bars and the bars also fit nicely on the round pegs of the Duplo, which keeps it from slipping. I taped my Duplo base to my desk for added stability. There are probably a million different ways to make a stand that will work just as well depending on what you have at home. This is the best I could come up with given the time (and I didn’t want to spend any money on it either!).

An engineering masterpiece!

This is how it looks when I’m about to model a lesson for Writer’s Workshop:

Ready for a mini lesson!
Ready to read!

*I should add that I had been encouraged to try using my Osmo and iPad as a doc cam, but that didn’t work for me. If you didn’t know this is possible, give it a go and see if it works for you. The Osmo was super easy to set up, but I had a long time delay when I presented it in my live meeting and it didn’t end up being what I needed. But maybe it will work better for you, and then you won’t need any Duplo or a cookie rack!

I hope my instructions were clear enough and that if you decide to try setting this up that it works for you! Wishing all of you the best as we carry forward with our remote learning journeys!

Kindergarten in the Time of Covid-19

Here we are at the start of another school year, but this one feels like no other. When I blog, it’s usually because I have an idea I want to share, or an experience I want to reflect on. But at the moment, I don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing. Due to many parents selecting online learning for their children, my school is redeploying several teachers. I happen to be one of those teachers – but only part time. Half-time redeployed. Yikes! Lucky for me, I will be doing the other half of my day at school in my most favourite role: Kindergarten.

Like many of you, our team has been working hard getting our room set up for our new students this week. We didn’t get a lot of guidance on exactly how Kindergarten should look during a pandemic. I’ll be honest – I have struggled with advice like “keep the children socially distanced but also make sure they play together.” What does that even mean? What does that look like in a practical sense?

Instead of getting myself overwhelmed with everything that will be new and different, I am centering myself on what things I think will be the same. As soon as I started thinking about our program in this way – what we do that is of high value that does not need a lot of tweaking to meet covid-19 safety regulations – I immediately calmed down. Here is a list of things I envision continuing mostly as they did before. You can click on the links for each one to visit past posts where I explain how these work in our class. Remember, those posts were written pre-covid and our processes will change slightly to address additional safety protocols this year.

Reflection Time: Our daily time to meet and reflect on what we’ve learned and discovered throughout the discovery block will continue. We won’t be sitting cozily together on the carpet as we did before (all carpets have been removed from the classroom), but we still have space to meet together and share our thinking. You can read more about how reflection time works here and why it’s such an important part of our day: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2016/04/09/noticing-and-naming-our-learning-the-reflective-process-in-fdk/

Writer’s Workshop: The main difference this year is that each student will sit at their table spot for the mini lesson and will have their own kit of writing and drawing materials to use instead of sharing. We already have our writing notebooks prepped for our new students and I can’t wait to see them filled with the children’s stories. If you want to read more about how we run Writer’s Workshop in our class, you can click here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2016/12/30/writers-workshop/ (A pdf for the notebook cover is also available in that post).

Math and Science Investigations (M.S.I./S.T.E.M.): The great thing about M.S.I is that the children already work from an individual bin, at their own spot. This is a perfectly covid-appropriate activity that can continue essentially as it normally would. Right now, our M.S.I. shelf (a large rolling cart with bins of building materials) is covered in a tablecloth. When it is time for M.S.I, we will open the shelf for children to choose a personal bin to build with for the lesson. Afterwards, bins will be returned to the shelf and covered until our lesson the following week. Because the materials will be sitting covered and unused for 7 days (“quarantined”), we do not have to disinfect each bin after the M.S.I. block is over. For more information on what we do during our building block, click here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2014/03/29/math-and-science-investigations-m-s-i/

Art and Fine Motor Instruction: Like Writer’s Workshop and M.S.I, this is another program that already operates with students using personal materials. For each lesson, students receive a whiteboard, white board marker, and piece of cloth for erasing. Each of these items has already been assigned to our students as part of their individual school supply kits. Rather than sit together on the carpet for the drawing lesson, children will sit at their personal spots at our classroom tables. Otherwise, the lessons will carry on as they did before. To read more about what we do during Art and Fine Motor Instruction, click here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2014/01/16/art-and-fine-motor-instruction-snowflakes/

Outdoor Learning: Outdoor learning will continue to be a big part of what we do at school this year. Our morning and afternoon meetings will be continuing out of doors in our special meeting spot (this year, arranged to accommodate some social distancing). This is where we will sing, read, and have discussions. We will also continue to use the outdoors to drive our inquiry process. There are so many things to discover in the garden, on a walk, or in the sand box. For a list of books you can use to spark inquiry outside, click here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2016/10/20/read-alouds-for-outdoor-learning/

To read more about how we’ve used the outdoor classroom in the past, click here: https://thecuriouskindergarten.blog/2013/09/22/learning-in-the-outdoor-classroom/

This is what I have to get myself started. As the week goes on, our team will be reflecting on what is working and what isn’t and making changes accordingly. As things become more clear, I hope I can share some of what we find to be successful. This is a time when as educators, we need to work together to share our best practices and our successes. We are all in this together!