RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Student Coaching Works

By Elisha Burns, RAFT Fellow

Older students helping the younger ones garden


To increase student engagement, I say let the students take the lead.  I have found that my students do their best work when they are put into a position of leadership.  My students that are normally reluctant learners suddenly are engaged and willing to teach the skills that I’ve taught to them to younger students. I do not know exactly what comes over them, because normally my students can find a million reasons why they should not have to complete an assignment.  However, when I tell them that I need them to complete an assignment so we can help the younger students learn a skill all the complaints go out the window. 

 
Finished product!


It is almost magical how my students will collaborate and think of the best way to instruct the younger students. I do not know if they realize it, but these opportunities to teach younger students are my opportunity to assess their level of understanding. If they really have a strong understanding of a concept then they will be able to identify challenges and plan for them.  Giving my students a rubric outlining what I expect them to accomplish and a time schedule, also helps them manage the work. They are able to translate the high level academic terms into phases that make sense to younger students. Having the ability to code switch like this really helps deepen my students' connection to the content. Making connections and developing deeper understanding of the content is an essential component in the educational shift.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Introducing Parents to STEAM



Rita Mercado, First Grade Teacher, Serendipity School



The idea of having parents come into the classroom can be overwhelming at times, but it is an important step in having them gain an understanding of the learning that happens throughout the day that isn’t able to be sent home in the form of checked work or a neat looking project.

As I began to incorporate more STEM and STEAM projects into my curriculum, I started thinking about how I could paint a clear picture for the parents about just what it was that we were doing. Of course the idea was introduced at Back to School Night and written about in newsletters, but what else could I do. I invited the parents in for a STEAM Night.



After giving a brief introduction on the acronyms and examples of what this looks like in the classroom, the parents were able to move around the room and participate in activities designed for exploration. Once they had a few minutes to play, I posed some questions and challenges.

Shake Tables: Can you build a stable structure that won’t shake off the table?

Giant Geometry: What is the most stable 3-dimensional shape you can build?

Scrap Mural: What patterns can you create?

The parents were engaged, had fun, and asked terrific questions. I hope the experience taught them that the process is the most important part of learning.

If having the parents into your classroom for a nighttime event isn’t an option, invite them in for a few minutes before school or to help out with an activity. It’s worth it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Doing Laundry in Pre-K



By Ashley Estes, RAFT Fellow
 
RAFT is one of the best places to find some amazing premade kits and learning tools. These kits are great and can be used across many grade levels. As a 1st grade teacher, I use them weekly in my classroom. In this article, I would love to explain one kit in particular that could be easily used with students from Pre-K to 1st grade. This fantastic kit is called, Laundry Math. This clever and adorable kit comes with sheets that have clotheslines drawn on them, pictures of shirts and pants, 2 sets of numbers 1-10, and Velcro for the items to stick on. This kit helps with counting, 1-1 correspondence, number identification, problem solving, adding, and subtracting. After laminating and placing the Velcro on the pieces, your students are ready to go. The basic idea of this activity kit is students place pieces of clothing on the clothesline and after counting the items; they place the correct number on the sheet (see pictures below).




As stated earlier, in my opinion, I believe this kit would be great for Pre-K to 1st grade classrooms. I am lucky enough to work in a school that has a Pre-K classroom, so I decided to pass along these kits to the teachers and see how they would implement them. I could not wait to see how this would play out, especially since I teach 1st grade.

The following paragraph was written by the Pre-K teachers to explain how they felt about using this kit in their classroom.

“This activity was used during our morning workshops. I particularly liked this activity because it didn’t require a lot of direct instruction. The children were able to figure out what they needed to do. I found this activity very useful because it helped the children make the connection that numbers represent the number of objects.  It also helped with identifying the numbers.” 




This was so great to read and I was thrilled with how well this kit fit within their curriculum. This made me feel that Kindergarten classrooms could also benefit from using this kit. As a 1st grade teacher, this kit would be wonderful to help my students who need extra help with addition and I would also use it for subtraction as well. I personally love this kit because it is so interactive and it can be used with many different mathematical concepts. I hope you consider using this kit in your classroom and remember you are able to use these to your advantage and tweak them to fiit your classrooms and the needs of your students.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Affordable Repurposing Supports Education




Guest post by Brittany Coleman, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT)

Instead of turning to affordable repurposing, many teachers and after-school providers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each month on school supplies and activities for learning. But little do they know that the average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day. To continue reading, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

One Person’s Junk is a Teacher’s Treasure



By Elisha Burns, RAFT Fellow

This is the time of the year when I think of all the things that I am thankful for having in my life.
Materials found at RAFT
With all of the extra expenses that come with a teaching career I am happy to learn of any ways to lessen my expenses. One of the cost cutting resources that I love having access to as a teacher is RAFT. With the dawn of Common Core and the push for project-based learning comes the need for organizations like RAFT. As a teacher at a STEAM academy I am expected to bring my lessons to life, however my school only provides me with a small budget for materials.


Teachers need to create dynamic hands on lessons and RAFT offers the resources necessary to teach.  Every time I come to RAFT I leave with a cart full of items and ideas. I might find a stack of obsolete product boxes that become the foundation for my student’s historical diorama. Walking around I might see a display showing an innovative way to use corporate waste for learning. I find the RAFT kits an excellent introduction to new topics or a great culminating project to solidify concepts that have already been taught. Before the winter holiday break I gave my students a chance to construct a holiday house that could withstand the infamous RAFT shake table (shown below).



These shake tables were made from cardboard, PVC pipe, bottle caps, rubber balls and a small circuit. Alone these items may seem like junk, but to my students it was just the exciting element that they need to engage in their house construction.   

Thank goodness we have RAFT. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Importance of Play in the Classroom



By Rita Mercado, First Grade Teacher, Serendipity School

I have taught first grade for the last 12 years, and it seems like every year I get questions about what we do during our “Choice Time.” The number one thing that my students learn how to do during playtime or choice time is learn how to problem solve.

My student’s favorite choice is the blocks. Here you see some children building with blocks, but what else are they doing. They are learning about spatial reasoning, using geometry, comparing heights and inclines, among many other things. Not only are children learning how to share and work together during playtime, but they are becoming the engineers of the future. I often overhear my students discussing how they can change the angle of their ramp to make the cars go faster or how to make their tower taller by building a more stable base. They also like to “shop” around the room to find things to add to their structures. “Let’s use this toilet paper roll to add a tunnel for the cars to drive through!” or “Let’s use the counting bears to have customers at our hotel.” The play is collaborative, creative, and inventive. 



I encourage everyone to find what’s right for his or her class and allow time for students to explore. Do all of my students choose blocks? No, but they do all chose something to investigate, discover or create. Mini whiteboards to record math problems, scarp paper bins to create masterpieces, note paper to write messages, and math manipulatives to find new purposes for are all things that we already have on hand in class that my students gravitate to on different days. There is no limit to what they can come up to do during our “Choice Time” and my best answer to what they are doing during this time is learning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

RAFT Presents Award at San Mateo County STEM Fair

On March 29th, the SMCOE STEM fair was held at the Hiller Aviation Museum. Every year, RAFT is allowed to pick a special winner who has demonstrated an exceptional skills in science. The RAFT special award winner this year is Maya Ellis, a fifth grader from Central Middle School in San Carlos! 



Maya's physics project, "Shaped for Speed," tested the effect of shape on the performance of boat hulls. She made simple aluminum foil hulls, which she floated in a tub of water. She added a drop of soap to the back of each boat, which propelled it across the tub. Maya is very familiar with the surfactant properties of soap. She tested four designs and discovered two were particularly good. Maya created a fifth design to extend her tests. She also tested both hot and cold water. All in all, Maya is an inquisitive young scientist! 


Maya's award was created by one of RAFT's champions, Greg Brown, and was made using recycled materials: 
 
Surplus aluminum sheet
Surplus plywood
Articulated arm to hold old-style phone on dash
Space Shuttle clay molds
Plastic pipettes
Wire
Wire nuts
Wire spools
Used pencil cup
Recycled trophy parts
Bottle cap

The tilted triangle at the top is the same shape as one of Maya’s most successful aluminum boat designs.

Congratulations Maya!