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?

 

 

Bridge Making STEAM Challenge

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Where science ends, art begins.”

~Charles Nègre

How many bears can cross your bridge? Are you looking to implement  Science, technology, engineering, art, and math, also known as STEAM, in your classroom?  This activity might be just the ticket. You probably already have all the supplies necessary.

Our counting bears were stranded on islands separated by a deep ocean trench populated by kraken, sharks, and mermaids.  They needed help to connect their islands and make peace with their ocean neighbors.  The bears could only find popsicle sticks, clothespins, masking tape, and string.  Would they be able to bridge the islands without falling into the dangerous waters? Would their bridge be functional as well as beautiful? The mysterious creatures of the deep agreed to let the bears safely cross the bridges if they showed innovative and aesthetically pleasing design.  Would the bears be able to make peace and connect their islands?

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We divided the class in small groups of about five students and they went to work. The kids came up with many different bridge designs and safety features for bears.  Some bears were wearing safety harnesses in case they fell. They considered how the sea creatures would feel about the bridges and what designs would be most appreciated.

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We are glad to report that all bridges held and the bears are now able to visit each other without danger! The bears and the magical creatures of the deep have learned to live in harmony and peace. Team STEAM has come to the rescue again!

Baby Chicks in the Classroom

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The chicks have hatched! After 22 days in the incubator the big day finally came. We had been worried because the incubator was left open on day 14 as the class went on a field trip to the Zoo. The eggs were left in the cold for more than 6 hours! A quick internet search revealed that chicks can survive several hours without incubation. We candled the eggs but there was not much to see on day 14. Since we had two duck eggs we candled those as well and the little ducks were paddling in their eggs!

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On day 21 we came in on a Sunday to make sure the chicks were doing fine. Nothing was happening. What in the world could we tell the kids? We sang to the chicks (really) and finally we heard a faint chirping. The next day things started to get going. We first saw a small hole.  The eggs started shaking and rolling. We could also hear them chirping in their eggs pretty loudly, but no chicks yet. It is very tempting to help a chick out of the egg at this point. You can see the beak through the pip. Their struggle seems so real. However helping a chick hatch is usually fatal. It really makes you think about struggle in general. Maybe there is more purpose in it than we realize.

It took an additional 24 hours for all of them to hatch and it took all of our restrained not to intervene and help.  Now they are chirping and running around in their nesting box and our yard. We take them into the school garden and let them peck in the dirt and fluff their feathers in the sun. What a treat for the end of the school year!

If you are interested in incubating your own chicks you can find more information right here.

 

 

100 Acts of Kindness Challenge 2016

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Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain- and most fools do.

~Dale Carnegie

Join our 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge! A great way to keep track of kindness in the classroom and at home!  After 100 acts of kindness are growing on the kindness tree the class gets to celebrate with a kindness party. Invite your friends and family to rest in the shade of your very own tree of kindness.

100 Acts of Kindness Tree

Kindness is of vital importance and often overlooked in our schools. Did you know that there is scientific evidence that being kind is a great predictor of future success? A study published in the American Journal of Public Health followed 753 kindergarteners from 1991 to 2010, children who showed kindness were more successful over the years of the study. Kind children were more likely to graduate from college and find steady employment.  Prosocial behavior also decreased the likelyhood of having a criminal record or needing public assistance as adults. You can find the details of the study right here. A powerful reminder that kindness matters to all of us.

The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless, unremarkable acts of kindness and love.

~William Wordsworth

Kindness starts with the adults in a classroom.  We as teachers need to model the behavior we want to see in our students. Don’t worry, the class won’t walk all over you. Kindness is not weakness. It is the ultimate show of strength. Being kind will make you, as well as your students, happier. When you show altruism your brain produces endorphins that increase your sense of well-being.  Forget the coffee! Kindness is going to get you going.

Materials

  • Bulletin board
  • Tag board
  • Green construction paper
  • Sharpie

Procedure

Cut a tree trunk from tag board.  Create leaves and record each act of kindness on a leaf before you attach it to the tree.  Have an amazing party when you have collected 100 leaves.


Our tree broke out in blooms inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles. We took the leaves down and each kid made the blossoms with oil pastels.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject, there are many stories and fairy tales that can be used to illustrate what it means to be kind. Aesops fables, Grim’s Fairy Tales, and biographies of altrusitic role models. You can find a collection of kindness stories  from all over the world right here on www.wisdomcommons.org.

Help thy brother’s boat across, and lo! thine own has reached the shore.

~ Indian Proverb