RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

By Sandra Woodard, RAFT Membership & Green Room Associate

St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland for over 1,000 years, but it was mostly a religious celebration of the Saint’s life and deeds. Today, many people of Irish ancestry in the U.S., and many others who consider themselves “Irish for the Day” spend March 17th each year wearing green, watching parades and otherwise participating in this celebration of all things Irish.
          St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, brought Christianity to Ireland in about the early 5th century. Patrick was from a wealthy family which lived in Roman Britain. He was brought to Ireland as a slave at about age 16. Having spent about half dozen years there he finally made his way to freedom, eventually entered the Church of Rome, and was sent to Ireland as a bishop. There, he is credited with performing many baptisms, and converting people to the Catholic Church. St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
            There are many millions of people of Irish ancestry in the United States, as well as Canada, Australia, and England. During the Great Famine of 1845 to 1849, there was a blight of the potato crop in Ireland. Potatoes were the sole diet of millions of the Irish people, who subsisted on nothing else. When the potato crop failed for four years in a row, millions of people starved to death, or died of disease, such as cholera and typhoid, while many of the population emigrated away from Ireland to find work and a better life for themselves.
            In America discrimination was rampant, with many “Help Wanted Irish Need Not Apply” signs in business windows. Numerous Irish women and girls entered domestic service, and many men entered the police and firefighting forces.
            The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762, before the famine. The participants were Irishmen serving in the British Armed forces. Today New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco all have St. Patrick’s Day parades. The U.S. state with the largest percentage of people of Irish ancestry is Massachusetts.
            One of Ireland’s biggest influences in the U.S. may be on our Country Western and Bluegrass music. The jigs and reels of Ireland were played in the rural South, and can still be heard today in their original form, as well as being a major influence on our popular music.
St. Paddy’s Day comes from the Irish name Padruig, or Patrick.

Irish and Irish immigrants of note include:

Art- Dale Chihouly
Music-Van Morrison, U-2, Thin Lizzie
Politics- Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan
Literature-W.B. Yeats, James Joyce
Playwright- George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde
Music and Entertainment- Riverdance, Celtic Woman, The Chieftains
Acting- Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Brenda Fricker, Aiden Quinn, Saoirse Ronannan 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Putting the E in STEAM

By Amanda Amburgey M.A, Maker Science Teacher, Bulldog Tech 

What is going on in this classroom? There are kids everywhere excitedly making, testing, remaking, retesting, hot gluing, hammering, there is so much duct tape!  This is what engineering looks like in a middle school science class.   This is excited, meaningful learning.  How did I get to this place where I feel comfortable facilitating such an active engineering process with my classes?  As a science teacher I have had practice with hands on, inquiry based labs, technology and math makes their way into those labs easily.  But, engineering had me stumped.  How was I going to be an effective engineering teacher as required with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) when I knew so little about engineering?  

This is where RAFT and their STEM workshops really saved me and gave me the courage to start engineering projects.  I started with a somewhat common misconception of what engineers do.  I thought engineering was going to be a lot of sharp mechanical pencils, hours of computer simulations, and very complicated mathematical computations that were just not within my grasp let alone my students.  This is not what NGSS expects at all and age appropriate engineering is both accessible and engaging.  

Professional development at RAFT exposes teachers to the sheer excitement of learning and making hands on solutions to problems.  Teachers they ask, “Can you make a device to protect an egg that will absorb the force of a 5 meter fall?”  The science, math and technology attached to this engineering challenge comes easier to most teachers than the thought of 36 kids actually making these devices and testing their results in their classrooms!  Raw eggs?  Ladders?  The horror of it all can cause a teacher to hesitate.  This is why RAFT profession development was so helpful for me.  I needed to feel what it was like to work with my team to create a device.  We got emotionally invested in our designs.  We needed to think critically and work through multiple iterations to get to a successful result.  Engineering is awesome!  Once a teacher has this experience, she or he will work their heart out to give it it their students as well.  (Note: I learned to wrap the raw eggs in a bit of plastic wrap.  It makes cleaning up so much easier!)

RAFT is the place to get all the building materials you need for your engineering projects without zeroing out your yearly budget.  The range of supplies needed for various builds can be staggering from making a mobile birds nest that will maintain proper temperature for life (lots of foam, cardboard) to making a Rube Goldberg inspired machine (wood, string, pulley systems, balls, etc).  No worries with RAFT you are covered in a few trips to the warehouse.  

Have fun putting the E in your STEAM class!