STEAM Education With Fibonacci Numbers

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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

~ Albert Einstein

Leonardo Pisano Bogollo, aka Fibonacci rediscovered the number pattern that is now generally referred to as the Fibonacci sequence. Fibonacci recognized that certain numbers seem to occur in nature more frequently than chance would allow. The number sequence is also used to calculate the golden mean or golden ratio, known in mathematics by the Greek letter phi.

You can easily calculate the sequence in your classroom or at home by adding the last two numbers to make the next.

Here is the sequence:

0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34…

The first two numbers in the sequence are added and the sum creates the next number.

0+1=1. 1+1=2 2+1=3 3+2=5

We usually open our Fibonacci math enrichment unit with posting the number sequence on the board as a challenge. We ask the class to find the pattern. Surprisingly enough even the first graders usually figure it out.

We also have some favorite read alouds. Here are some Amazon.com links if you are interested in getting them.

Blockhead is the story of Fibonacci. The illustrations are beautiful and the golden ratio is embedded in the images. Kids really relate to his struggles and his difficulties fitting in.

The other book we use is Growing Patterns.

Growing Patterns uses beautiful photographs to illustrate the number sequence and the golden ratio.

One of our favorite activities is to go on a Fibonacci number hunt walk. We take the kids for a walk and try to find natural items that show numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.

Here are some example from our last walk

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea

The Bougainvillea shows three bright pink leaves.

Sticky monkey-flower
Sticky monkey-flower

This California native has 5 petals.

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We had to count a lot of petals to find a perfect daisy.

We wrote in our journals and drew some of the flowers after the hike. A great way to introduce kids to the Fibonacci sequence.

Here are some great websites with golden ratio and Fibonacci sequence activities

https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/golden-ratio.html

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/fibonaccis-missing-flowers

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How to Celebrate the International Day of Peace At Your School

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If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

The International Day of Peace is celebrated around the world on September 21. At noon children in every time zone will have a minute of silence. The wave of peace will be rung in in New York City with the Peace Bell. A bell made out of pennies that were donated from children around the world. The holiday is fairly new but a great way to focus on peace and community in our schools.

There are many wonderful songs about peace and our school is going to perform some at our morning assembly. We have battery operated candles for all the students and our first song is going to be Light A Candle for Peace.

We also picked A Song of Peace. This is one of our favorites and both songs are very easy to learn.

At noon the whole school will observe the minutes of silence that is part of the event. The plan is that a wave of peace will move around the world as each time zone hits noon.
This is our first time celebrating and we have come already across so many great ideas for next year.

Come an join us to celebrate the International Day of Peace around the world!

 

 

Teaching Your Students to Love Reading With a Reading Picnic

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Do you want your students to LOVE reading?

I hate books!”

You have probably heard many students express their dislike for reading. We usually tell them that they don’t really mean it and how much fun reading can be. They read guided reading texts and stumble through our reading anthologies. They read decodable texts over and over in the hopes that the code will somehow stick to their developing brains.

The truth is that most teachers were prolific and fluent readers as children. It was a subject we thrived in and we loved getting lost in a book. Somehow the magic of a book touched us and we rode on the wings of our favorite tomes to far away adventures and magic realms. We would inhale the smell of a newly printed book as if the aroma was forshadowing the riveting adventures awaiting us.

We teachers have been working our tails off to get fluency rates up.  We test how many words they can read in a minute. We determine if they are able to read nonsense words. All these things are really important but they miss one really important point. Good readers LOVE reading. They enjoy doing it. The most important factor in the end is that we transmit this all important magic pixie dust: A LOVE for the printed word.

Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Do you remember you favorite reading spots from your childhood? Were any of them outside? Under a shady tree and a lawn? Reading outdoors is a very special treat that children rarely get to indulge in. Being outside benefits kids in so many ways.  Looking at and listening to nature increases dopamine levels in both children and adults. Not surprisingly happy people show better concentration and memorization skills.

Reading Picnic

Have you ever tried a reading picnic center for your classroom? We absolutely love ours. We ordered a nice picnic blanket from Amazon.com and have our book centers in themed picnic baskets. The blanket works really well because it has plastic lining. You can wipe the plastic side and the blanket stays dry even if the ground is damp. It also seems to be extra soft and cushioned but any blanket you have at hand would work.

Magic Tree House Magic

One of our favorites reading picnics consists of a collection of Magic Tree House books. The whole collection is a treasure of exciting fiction combined with a great non-fiction background series.

Reading Recovery

The great thing about reading an entire series is that children become so familiar with the characters that it becomes manageable for even struggling readers. Once a student has mastered reading one book they feel confident and eager to read the rest. We have had success with this center even with 6th graders.

Great Activity for Volunteers

We are really blessed with lots of parent support and the reading picnic is a perfect center for volunteers. All the volunteer has to do is to grab the blanket and picnic basket and find a cozy spot under the trees.

The feedback we are getting from this center is amazing. Students love going outside and reading. They really get into the Magic Tree House series and some manage to read all of them!

If you don’t happen to live in California you can have your reading picnic indoors as well. Why not take the center to the hallway or cafeteria? Happy reading!

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Wandering Black Line Art Project

Wandering Black Line
This is one of our favorite (Almost) No Prep Art Projects. You can literally pull this together in 5 minutes. We usually plan this for the first week of school and revisit versions of it throughout the year. The kids love it and every child can feel successful. We are always amazed how different each one turns out to be. The students’ personalities shine through in surprising ways.

First we turn on some music and hand out black markers. It really helps to monitor their meandering lines. We use water based markers and wipe the tables down afterwards. If you are using anything more permanent you might want to have some newspaper to cover the desks.

When the kids have finished the black lines we hand out red, yellow, and blue markers. We find it really helps to limit the colors in the beginning. Some of our other line projects include patterns and more shades. You can use any material at hand to make wandering lines. They even look great with only paper and pencil!

Are you interested in more (Almost) No Prep Art Projects? You can find a selection of our favorites right here.

Math Hopscotch

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We love exercising while we memorize our math facts. The benefits of movement for long term memory are well documented and you can find out more about brain-derived neurotropic factor right here. One of our favorites is math hopscotch. We first create the game with chalk and then its time to play. Our students love it and get some much needed exercise. We use liquid chalk because the colors are so vivid and it is much easier to use.

We put the kids in groups of 4 and have them design their game. Sometimes they come out a bit lopsided but that’s ok. We do check in the end that the numbers are in the correct places. Any mistakes are easily corrected by filling the area with the color of the number and then using a contrasting chalk to make the correction.

This activity can be done with any kind of math fact. We also use it to count by 2’s and 5’s. Our students love coming up with their own games and sometimes it is best to get out of the way and let the kids have fun with it. The best part is to watch the whole school use the games at recess and lunch!

Are you interested in some of our other math activities?

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Boat Making STEAM Challenge

Boat making is one of our favorite STEAM challenges. Not only do you get to engineer and design a boat, you also get to test it out in water. What could be better, right?

Materials

  • Corks
  • Rubber bands
  • Toothpicks
  • Colored construction paper
  • Small inflatable pool or water table

We show the kids how to wrap the corks with rubber bands. Three work nicely to make a boat. The kids then decorate it with sails made from construction paper and toothpicks. Students are allowed to experiment with the supplies and built a boat however they want. The activity can easily take an hour, depending on how much time you have.

Having fund with STEAM challenges? Here are more ideas:

Pokemon GO Expert Books

Unless you have been living under a rock, or left civilization altogether, you have probably heard about Pokemon GO. It is the new app that lets you catch Pokemon by walking around with a smartphone until the app alerts you to the presence of a Pokemon. You then use the app to flick a virtual pokeball and capture the Pokemon. There are also such things as items, pokestops, gyms, and eggs (conveniently hatched by walking), but you don’t need to know any of this.

Pokemon GO will be BIG in writer’s workshop next year. Expert books about the card game have been a favorite for years but this new app and the incredible excitement it creates in anybody under the age of thirty, just has to be harnessed for writing. Expert books, reviews, fiction, small moments (capturing Pokemon), and so much more!

So go ahead download the app and try it. You will be the coolest teacher around. Also, Minecraft has now polar bears. We thought you should know.

5 STEAM Tinker Space Ideas

Students often tell us that their favorite part of STEAM education is the tinkering aspect. They enjoy experimenting with new materials and using things in new ways. In the beginning this meant that we took out a giant box of random materials and soon the classroom descended into chaos. The kids loved it but the clean up required was stifling our enthusiasm for such activities. Here are some great ideas for tinker spaces, but remember, a box full of random materials is still a child’s greatest treasure.

1. Materials Wall

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A place for everything and everything in its place. Peg boards are a great way to organize supplies.  Students can easily see what is available. Labels help to keep things neat.

2. Supply Storage

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Some of our favorite supplies are popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and tin foil. Kids can get creative with pretty much about anything. If you have absolutely no use for an item, you can be sure students will find a way to create something amazing with it.

3. Display Space

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A shelf to display tinker creations and curiosities is a great way to set the mood. We like to rotate the artifacts frequently and the kids love the recognition. A big part of STEAM education is the art aspect of it. Artistic touches and displays are a teaching tool in itself.

4. Lego Mindstorms

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To have a robotics center takes a tinker space to a whole new level. LEGO Mindstorm is one of the easiest to use systems available on the educational market. Students can work in groups, so a few sets can go a long way. This is definitely a “in a perfect world” kind of addition to a tinker space.

6. Research Area

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Tinker enthusiasts love to read! We like to have a collection of science and engineering books available. The key is not to clutter the area but to present a select collection of books and rotate them throughout the year.

We would love to hear from you.  How does your tinker space look like? What are your experiences with STEAM education?

Community Mural

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

~John Donne

A community mural is a wonderful group project. This is an (Almost) No Prep Art activity because we use materials available to us and students create every aspect of it. Nothing is pre-cut or copied. We think the results are pretty awesome.

Materials:

  • Butcher paper
  • Tempera paint
  • Buttons
  • Sequins
  • Construction paper
  • Color
  • Copy paper

These are only suggestions. We use what we have in the room. Recycled materials also work really well. You can see in the picture that somehow googly eyes and puff balls got involved.  We must have put them in the wrong activity box.

Procedure:

Outline your streets and landmark with pencil. Assign different kids to paint the landscape. In the meantime the rest of the class starts to create houses, cars, and people. You can demonstrate how to do it or just see what they come up with.  The only thing that is very important is that the kids cut out their contributions completely. It sometimes takes them a while to understand that they cannot add their own background. We tell the kids to make the houses about the size of the palm of their hand but they still come out all different sizes. We arrange the artwork and the kids glue it on. Making a community mural?  We would love to feature it on the website! Have fun!

5 Ways to Be Remembered as the Most Awesome Teacher Ever!

The end of the year is almost here and it’s time to bring out the fun! Here are five super easy and fun ideas of making the end memorable and manageable. Having high interest activities will not only let your popularity soar but also keep you students engaged and on task.  Time to have some fun!

  1. Make a Community Mural

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Bring out all your leftover art supplies and let the kids go creative. Create a mural of your community.  We’re not talking about an accurate map here, just a colorful collection of our homes and landmarks in the area.

2. Chalk Art Walk

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Why not include the whole school in your fun.  We use up our extra supplies of chalk and go wild on the yard.  The kids plan their pictures before heading out and work in small groups.

3.School Memories Books

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There are lots of commercial versions of school memory books available.  All you really need is paper and pencil. We make our school memory books out of newsprint  and bind them with construction paper. Kids love them either way.

4. Put on a Play

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Putting on a play or musical is an amazing way to ring out the year. So much learning is going on when kids have to perform, create props, make costumes, and direct fellow actors.

5. Fun STEM Activities

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How many counting bears can cross your bridge? Use your science supplies to create a STEM challenge.  Have the kids plan and then implement to build the sturdiest bridge.  Our record is 109 bears.  We double dare you to break it!

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After all this fun, who even wants summer vacation?