Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

2nd Grade Student Newscast

5th graders traditionally create the school newscast for Alta Vista Elementary, but while they were away at science camp 2nd grade teacher Marika Parnell saw an opportunity to try something new with her class!

She collaborated with her Instructional ToSA, Christy Mills, to develop a plan to have her students create the newscast. The topic was field trips. Marika worked with class to produce a set of guiding questions that they would like to explore. The next step was to practice the interview process. Students were grouped into three interview teams, each with interviewers and a videographer. The teams developed a system that included the use of cue cards and the video recording was done with iOgrapher kits. 

It took a lot of practice for the students to understand all of the nuances of the process, including how to make sure the interviewer & interviewee stayed in frame, how to capture the audio clearly, and how to navigate the interview process by asking follow up questions when appropriate. Constructive feedback was essential for everyone to work and grow together. When they were ready they visited 3rd and 4th grade classrooms to complete the interviews. Marika said watching her 2nd graders interview the older students was a highlight of the project!

After the interviews they filmed the newsroom portion against a green screen backdrop, and Marika took on the role of editor. When she started she had no experience editing videos with iMovie, but she was able to learn through a process of trial and error with a little help from her STEAM ToSA, Mary Fran Lynch! This reflects the mantra of Marika's class: we try new things and if it doesn’t go well at first that’s ok as long as we keep improving and seek help when needed.

The newscast was an incredible success; Marika’s class is being recognized all over campus for their efforts and they are incredibly proud of their final product. Check out the full newscast below!

You can follow Marika on Twitter: @MarikaParnell

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Student-Created Scientific Investigations

Recently our 7th grade students at both Dartmouth and Union Middle school designed and carried out their own scientific investigations to learn about chemical reactions. Working collaboratively across both middle schools, our 7th grade science teachers created an authentic, phenomena-based opportunity for students to explore a concept while practicing the skills of writing accurately and to a specific audience. It was the first time this year our 7th graders were asked to develop an entire investigation from scratch.

The Setup: Students were provided a collection of safe substances that they knew little to nothing about and a collection of various lab equipment. They were asked to create a step-by-step process to determine what happened when the various substances were combined, and whether the changes they observed were physical or chemical in nature. After drafting their process in small teams, the groups then peer-reviewed each other’s directions and had the opportunity to make revisions.

Implementation: It was time to put student plans to the test. Students followed their own directions and observed all sorts of interactions. While the expectation was that their written directions were followed to the letter, they were allowed to make changes as they experienced problems with their initial plans - as long as they recorded their revisions. These opportunities to iterate were crucial, because instead of being locked into procedures that were either inefficient or would not work at all, students were able to learn from their oversights and mistakes and make adjustments along the way. A great example of this is a team that decided to use only one cup to mix chemicals. They quickly realized how time-consuming it was to thoroughly wash the cup between trials, so they adjusted their investigation to use multiple cups at the same time. A simple revision, but one that allowed students to experience the impact of the changes they were implementing.

Students created their own data collection and analysis tools, such as tables and graphs, which guided them to think critically about the types of information they needed to collect and how to best organize and analyze the data, instead of simply filling out a data table that was provided by the teacher. The investigation was followed by a Claims Evidence Reasoning formative assessment that asked students to determine which reactions they observed were physical and which were chemical, and to use the data they collected to support their conclusions.

The Outcome: Many of the teams struggled with different parts of this activity, especially when it came to writing specific and accurate directions, but they all came a long way throughout the process and made meaningful, real life connections to the concept of a chemical change. Students shared their experiences with working in teams and reflected on what they could do to improve when they work together again.

The next time our students create a scientific investigation in 7th grade, they will have to follow another team’s directions instead of their own. This will add another layer of accountability to their writing and allow them to see how others interpret their work!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Smart Restart

On our first day back from winter break, staff throughout Union School District welcomed students with engaging and creative activities designed to get students excited about returning to school. Dubbed the “Smart Restart,” students, teachers and staff members participated in a variety of positive social emotional, hands-on and fun opportunities to create and explore together across all subjects and grade levels. Below are just some of the many wonderful activities that were experienced in Union School District on Monday.

Alta Vista Elementary students and staff were inspired by the book Picasso Loves Shapes, so each grade was provided a different die-cut paper shape in different colors and our students used them as inspiration to create their own works of art. Carlton Avenue students fashioned their own unique arcade games from used cardboard boxes and other random materials and invited everyone to play. Students at Guadalupe Elementary showed their artistic side, but some projects involved a twist: teams of seven had to work together to create a power word poster with a pencil tied to seven pieces of string that each member had to control.

At Dartmouth Middle School students participated in activities to promote social emotional growth through a Project Cornerstone kickoff, film making, water color painting and even competitive puzzle solving. Our Union Middle School students tried to solve Digital Breakout challenges and learned about healthy eating during Kitchen Chemistry activities. Students at Lietz Elementary explored various cultures through food and traditions and created art with words, while Oster Elementary students enjoyed STEAM centers, puzzle design and stop motion filmmaking. Noddin Elementary students completed a variety of engineering, coding and Minecraft challenges and some even made their own harmonicas!

Check out #USDLearns and #SmartStart on Twitter to see some of the other amazing things that happened during our Smart Restart, and thank you to everyone for creating such an amazing experience for our students!

If you see something cool at your site that would make a good blog post, or would like to guest author a post, please share your thoughts here!