Chico Is Missing! BreakoutEDU

Chico is Missing! Breakout developed from the book, Monkey with a Tool Belt, by Chris Monroe.  The story naturally lends itself to the educational problem solving activity.  Chico is the main character of the book and is trapped by an organ grinder.  He uses his tool-belt to breakout of the box and find his way back home. The breakout activity focuses on Chico getting trapped in a toolbox in the MakerStudio but without his tool-belt. He has made a mess with the tools and slipped causing him to fall into the tool box.  The intro sets the stage for the scenario. Granted, the music is a little much but we discussed how music creates different setting and elicits emotions. Mystery was the goal? (See the intro video)

Classes had approximately 25 minutes to break Chico out of the box. For our first time and being the beginning of the year, I would say we were successful. The students worked through several activities.

Step 1.

Students watched the intro video. The video ends with a QR code that is scanned and takes the students to the first problem to solve.

Step 2.

A jigsaw puzzle was created using an image from the book.  Students solved the puzzle to find the color code clue. This clue was then used in the breakout EDU “Locks App” and linked to the first clue to find in the room.

Step 3.

Students were to find (we need the clue picture) the room number (131) represented by dots. The first set of keys were place under the giant dice that represented 1: 3 :1.  Under the dice the students found the first set of keys and a clue to the key lock box.  Students had to remember what Chico slipped on (tools) and find the word in the MakerStudio.

Step 4. A book titled, TOOLS, was sitting next to the box with the key lock.  Inside the box students found their next clue.  Several cards were in the box along with flashlights. Students used the flashlight (tool) to scan the cards for an invisible word to be revealed. The word to breakout Chico was tools.

Step 5. Students went to the toolbox with the word lock on it and entered the word tools. Chico was OUT!






scanning VillaniKiddChico






Involving students in literature and engaged activities makes the learning purposeful and meaningful. The relevance of the tools as an intro to the MakerStudio will continue throughout the school year. We use tools for everything. The literature connection has been instrumental in problem solving, critical thinking, and mathematical reasoning as well as a new school-wide positive reinforcement discipline model (more in a future post).


Are You A Maker? MAKERology

MAKER– a person that makes, hacks, produces, wood/metal work, creates something new.  Many times a maker includes a creator of new technologies: new devices, video games, electronics, robotics, and/or apps.  Makers are DIY people/persons.  They have a unique culture of thinking and mindset.  A Maker also includes a creative mind, innovated ideas, and the ability to make things come to life (Kickstarter).  Makers support open source hardware, they tinker, and see cardboard/recyclables as tools (Junk ReThunk).  The Maker Movement is fast moving and supports Constructivism/Social Constructivism learning.  What a great movement for purposeful play, discovery, and developmentally appropriate activities for our students.

OLOGY – a subject to study  or branch of knowledge

MAKEROLOGY (EDU Version) – The study of MAKING  (What is best for students?  Best Practices with Making, STEAM, and looking at your learning space with 21st – century eyes:  Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just for what we knew about learning in the past?  Do you have a space for making?  Making is not about the tools.  It is about creativity, opportunities, design, the environment, and time).

Maker Movement – If you create a system where initiative and creativity is valued and rewarded, then you’ll get change for the bottom up.

~Paul Pastorek


Starting a Maker Space

The Maker Movement

Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn.

Below are a few things to consider as you get started with your Makerspace:

1.  The most important thing about a makerspace is to provide a place for students and teachers to be creative, to explore questions and ideas they have (whiteboard wall is great for Visible Thinking), to build something, all in a safe environment. The space should be thought out ahead of time and not just thrown together with TECH TOYS.  Technology is not to be seen as a toy but rather a tool that enhances curriculum and learning.

2.  The makerspace CAN BE no-tech, low-tech, or high – tech.  In our case, we have developed a space for high-tech with a lot of engineering tools and literature.  See OUR MAKERSPACE TAB soon (It’s under construction currently).

3.  What will you use the space for?  You will need to set the expectation about what will be done in that space.  Will it be an open room, have a set schedule, or have a facilitator for the area.  Someone will also have to manage the materials and know have to keep the technology up and working if you have a high- tech area.

4.  Areas with expectations (signs/rules) in the makerspace let students know what that area/tool/materials are for.  Posting expectations/rules helps students stay on task.

5.  It is also important that you allow for students work to be posted/hanging in the area.  Students also need to the freedom to leave their works of art out only to return to add more to their creation.  Storage of their work is important.

6.  Make-It challenges are also a nice thing to have hanging in the area.  As students finish a project, that have other things they can create.

7.  Visible thinking is a MUST.  Students are able to re-visit their thinking and add to their thoughts as they work through their creations.  We have a whiteboard wall that students brainstorm and add to as their project/creation grows.

8.  Low-tech areas are a great starting point for any school.  Materials would consist of art supplies, cardboard, blocks, legos, duct tape, scissors, glue, pattern blocks, literature, yarn, towel tubes, marbles and other various materials that will allow them to create pieces of art, sculptures, and design Rube Goldbery Machines.

9.  START with what you have and what you know.  Only you know what can be created and be successful.  For us, we cleaned out closets, old science kits, and other various boxes only to find to big surprises!  Move things around.  You don’t need top of the line furniture etc.  Create your own works of art.  Remember…the space is for students.  What do you think they want to see, build, feel, hear, and smell?

Try Engineering

Try Engineering is a site that hosts lesson plans and games designed to get students interested in engineering. The lesson plans are arranged according age and engineering topic. The lesson plans can be downloaded as PDFs.  Be sure to look at all of the lesson plans because several are specifically for upper grades.  This is just one of many sites I came across when searching for engineering sites for elementary students.

The games section of Try Engineering features 36 online games. Some of the games were developed specifically for Try Engineering while others are hosted on other educational sites like those of NASA and PBS.

The games section of Try Engineering also includes links to a dozen iPad apps that students can use to learn about engineering and programming.

Muzy Photo Blog

I found Writing with a Photos (More than words can say alone) a very interesting read.  Pictures do add emotions and feelings to words… important part of the reading context.  Pictures make the words come to life.  Think about media (commercials) and the influence video/pictures/words have on us as a society.

Why Do We Take Pictures?

  • To Connect
  • To be apart of a community
  • To alter our perspective
  • To capture the decisive moment
  • To change lives
  • To been seen
  • To save memories
  • To show us things we’ve never seen before
  • To make us think
  • To capture beauty
  • Plus MORE…..

We have so many tools that can be used in the classroom to enhance our reading, writing, and thinking.  The article above mentions several.  Recently, I came across Muzy.  Muzy would be a great photoblog to be used in the classroom for comparing/contrasting, sharing pictures, and writing/collaborative discussions on pictures posted.

Teacherstone Muzy


There’s a whole new classroom model and it’s a sight to behold. The newest school system in Sweden look more like the hallways of Google or Pixar and less like a brick-and-mortar school you’d typically see.

There are collaboration zones, houses-within-houses, and a slew of other features that are designed to foster “curiosity and creativity.”

The un-schoolness doesn’t stop with the furniture and layout though. The school has no letter grades, students learn in groups based on their level and not age.

Most of all, admission to the school is free as long as one of the child’s parents pays taxes in Sweden and the child has a ‘personal number’ which is like a social security number to our U.S. readers.

More on this can be found in the book INNOVATE.