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).


Routines, Responsibility and Relevance: MakerStudio 2016

Routines, Responsibilities and Relevance

Off to a great start with the 3Rs: Routines, Responsibilities and Relevance

Routines: Students were so excited to have their first day back in the Maker Studio. As we found ourselves ready to enter, I was so excited to see the number of students that remembered the routines that were established last year. Routines, that students can follow from year to year, impact instruction time by affording efficiency in getting on task. All grades, second through fourth, demonstrated and shared the importance of having routines in place. Not only did they follow routines for entering and exiting the space, they also worked on the visible thinking routine to share their background knowledge. Students responded to, “What is a Tool?” by expressing their thinking on the thinking wall.


Responsibilities: As students began discussing the responsibilities that they would demonstrate in the Maker Studio, they were very quick to share the “why” behind the responsibility. It was not a set of rules but a personal expectation of responsibility for being safe and mindful. Student developed responsibilities provide ownership for both positive and negative experiences.

Relevance: Behind every engaging lesson there is relevance. Teaching and learning that “looks” like play supports learning for all students. When the learning is relevant and purposeful, useful and applied students bring everything they have to the experience. “What is a tool?” was the launch of our 2016-2017 learning year. Students eagerly shared their thinking about tools and built their own excitement towards using the tools in the Studio. The literature link we used was, “Monkey with a Tool Belt” by Chris Monroe. This one book has set the stage for relevant activities for students in grades 2-4. Students have already made connections with the main character and are looking forward to the BreakOut session that stems from the story line.

Next Week: “CHICO is MISSING” breakout activity


edcamplogo5We are very excited to host the second annual EdcampSTEAM in Alabama.  Come share, discuss, and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.  Join us in Respecting the A, the ARTs in the STEM model by sharing ways to build curriculum with technology, makerspaces, mixed media and crosscutting science concepts.

When:  August 6, 2016  8am – 3pm  

Register: Eventbrite


Plastic 6: 3D Holograms

The Atlanta Science Festival was a comprehensive arrangement of Science workshops, family activities as well as educator learning opportunities. Seeking professional development and living with a growth mindset sends us all over the country. Sometimes the opportunities are in your back door or neighboring state. Sometimes those opportunities are in the classroom next to you.  With a variety of sessions and events, we had to map out what would be best for STEAM learning and collaboration. After driving for half an hour and ending up in a warehouse district, I must say we were a little hesitant but then remembered some of our best learning has been when it was least expected. With only 5 cars in the parking lot and two hours ahead of us, we entered. At first glance it looked like we would know about most of the materials being shared but that is noreason no to seek intently. To listen. To Reflect.

A conversation about plastic #6 and how use plastic and heat to create art reminded us of a project our art teacher just completed as a part of her curriculum andSTEAM participation. Several times this week the term “oldie but goodie” has been used in a variety of conversations. In a session on PBL, oldie but goodie technology resources were revisited. We don’t always have to replace something that is working or that serves a purpose.

During this session on Makerspaces, The oldie but goodie motto was brought to life with the remembrance of “Shrinky Dinks”. Jewelry making, badges and ornaments were all innovative ways to use Plastic #6 using the same heating concept with plastic as used with “Shrinky Dinks”. Fabrication of jewelry provides making opportunities that are completely student driven by individual artistic imagination.


plastic 6 jewelry

A final use of plastic in making was the 3D hologram. The 3D hologram uses an iPhone or iPad to project the image onto a folded piece of plastic that simulates a hologram. This is not a “Shrinky Dink” activity but uses recycled plastic to (CD cases , old transparencies, and I am sure your imagination can think of others) create a hologram effect. In addition, we learned how to make the videos for use with the plastic hologram attachment. This is another opportunity for students to use individual creativity to publish a final piece and communicate understanding.


A great weekend of learning and bringing back. Thanks to all those that shared and learned with us.

MinecraftEDU in the Elementary School Environment

Minecraft logo for blog

MinecraftEdu is a school-ready remix of the original block-building game, Minecraft.  MinecraftEdu provides products and services that make it easy for educators to use Minecraft in the classroom. MinecraftEdu contains many additions to the original game that make it more useful and appropriate in a school setting. A cloud-based solution for hosting Minecraft classroom servers is also an option.  This allows students and teachers access to connect and play together.  MinecraftEdu hosts a library of worlds, lessons, and activities that are available for free.

MinecraftEdu is a great tool that supports STEAM.  There are ready made maps that support Science, Technology (ComputcraftEdu), Enginnering (students build and create), Art, and Math.  Students can:

  1.  Explore Real Lift Buildings (Roman Coliseum, Globe Theatre, Schools, Football Stadiums, and many other structures/bridges)
  2.  Creation and Engineering (Building with an Engineer Mindset)
  3.  Practice Ratio, Proportion, Arrays, Fractions (The building of scale models allows students to practice measurement/proportion standards)
  4.  Visualization and Reading Comprehension (Reconstruct various setting from texts)
  5.  Reconstruct Books in a magical world (Seusscraft)
  6.  Coding (ComputerEdu) IF/THEN books (If You Give and Turtle a Remote in Minecraft)
  7.  Art (MC Edits)
  8.  Geometry Challenges
  9.  Minecraft Beginner Resources
  10.  Problem-Solving
  11.  Writing (Create your own stories)
  12.  Pixelation with math and gaming
  13.  Fairy Tales (Building The Three Little Pigs houses in Minecraft and retelling the story through Custom NPCs mod)

Other Articles For Reading:

Edutopia: Edutopia gives some great ideas for using Minecraft in the classroom.Gamespot: Gamespot has a great article explaining why Minecraft could be a valuable tool in the classroom.

How to Use Minecraft in Education: This site has an interview and podcast discussing the use of Minecraft in the classroom.

Learn, Teach, Repeat: This teacher wrote a blog after I asked for feedback from teachers to help submit questions about Minecraft in the classroom. Thanks Joe!

Minecraft at NCS: This teacher provides troubleshooting for users and gives ideas on how to run Minecraft more smoothly in the classroom.

Minecraft Across the Curriculum: This site will give ideas language arts, drama, music, visual arts, science, geography and history.

Minecraft Possibilities: This teacher provides some depth about plugins necessary to run Minecraft. Thanks John!

MindShift: This is another great article emphasizing how teachers use Minecraft for educational purposes.

Minecraft Wiki: This is a helpful guide for using Minecraft in the classroom for educational purposes.

Mojang and UN: This site discusses how Minecraft is used to plan communities.

Mr. Miller’s Classroom: Minecrafting a Medieval Village

Primary Minecraft: This site was set up by an elementary teacher and a Minecraft fan to provide ideas for primary grades.

Swedish School: A Swedish school has made a class in Minecraft mandatory. They mention the following lessons learned: City planning; environmental issues; planning for the future; interactivity; safe online habits; computer skills.

Curriculum  Worlds – This site has great curriculum lessons for students at home or school.

Wes Fryer Resources

Saving Mr. Banks

I recently went to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks.  I did a some reading prior to watching the movie and the movie is full of  life lessons.  Below is just a few that I reflected on over the weekend.

  1. The Influence Of A Father – The greatest influence in a person’s life is their father.  Whether present or not, good or bad, no one puts a greater imprint on person’s life.  A Father is the great protector and provider.
  2. The Mind Of A Creative – As Travers went through the creative process, her mind continually processed things at a deep and emotional level.  So many times, those people who process things in a creative manner or “outside of the box” thinking have no where to put their thoughts.  They trust no one with those personal pieces nor do they think anyone will really understand them or really her their REAL VOICE.
  3. The Power Of Collaboration – Though she was often an overwhelming challenge for the Disney staff, Travers’s contributions to the film helped make it the classic it is.u
  4. “The rain brings life.”  ”So does the sun.” – This exchange between Travers and Ralph shows the different views of the world leaders have.  Very interest to reflect on.
  5. Leaders Are Humble – Travers tells the Disney staff upon meeting them, “No one likes a show-off.”  We live in such a ME (All About ME) society that no one likes a person that shares information about their success etc.
  6. Great Leaders Break Down Walls, Build Bridges And Are Approachable – Walt Disney only allowed people to call him by his first name.
  7. Great Leaders Are Great Stewards And Place High Value On What They Have Been Entrusted With – While trying to get Travers to sign over the rights of Mary Poppins, Disney ensure her, “The last thing I would do is tarnish a story I love.”  Trust is a huge part of life.  Success, relationships, and leadership revolves around trusting others.
  8. People Need Simplicity Rather Than Complexity – While driving to the Disney Studios, Travers notices no one walking on the streets during a beautiful Southern California day.  Ralph responds, “A leisurely stroll is a gift.””
  9. Great Leaders Place The Mission Of Their Organization Above Their Personal Preferences – When Ms. Travers demanded no red colors in the movies, Disney relented because the making of the film and telling of the story was more important.  A Drumline leader hears the beat of the drumline NOT his beat.
  10. Great Leaders Make Things That Are Lasting – When watching one of the rehearsal scenes, Disney remarked, “Forget ironic.  It’s iconic.”  Great leaders make things which become soundtracks to our lives.  Creation and Innovation are important in today’s society.  It is OK to be different, to create something new.
  11. Great Leaders Think Long-Term – Many leaders look for the quick buck when the long-term impact of their idea is beyond their wildest dreams.  When Disney was tempted to sell the rights to Mickey Mouse earlier in his life, he decided against it because “the mouse is family”.  Can you imagine how the world would have been different if he did.
  12. The Power Of StoryTelling – Disney reminds us, “That’s what story tellers do.  We restore order to imagination.  We bring hope.”
  13. Honor Your Father – The story of Mary Poppins is of a daughter wanting to bring honor to her deeply-flawed father.  Many of us could learn lessons from her on doing the same.
  14. We all have a SAVING MR. BANKS and it is ok. 

Seven Norms of Collaboration

 Seven Norms of Collaboration

 These norms build group energy, commitment, and effectiveness.

  • Pausing.  Not all brains work at the same rate or use the same processes.  There are four types of pauses: 1) after a question, 2) after someone speaks, 3) personal reflection time, and 4) the collective pause (structured or spontaneous).  Pausing, then paraphrasing are two steps that set up deeper types of discussion.
  • Paraphrasing.  To help the group be as receptive as possible, avoid using “I” as you paraphrase.  Instead, try using the following openers:

You’re suggesting…  You’re proposing..  So, what you’re wondering is…  So, you are thinking that…

Choose a logical level for your response:  Acknowledge and clarify content and emotion, or structure or bring together a number of statements or issues expressed by the group, or change the level of logic by raising or lowering it.
  • Probing for Specificity.  Human brains form generalizations from diverse pieces of information as a matter of survival.  Therefore, a special effort is needed to gain specificity, a requirement for good group communication and understanding.  Clarify vague pronouns, such as the generalized “they.”  Use specific verbs.  Find out what specific rules are behind words such as “must” and “cannot.”  Avoid using absolute or universal words such as everyone, all, never, and always.
  • Putting Ideas on the Table.  To present ideas in the spirit of group sharing and collaboration, try using one or more of the following openers:
Here is an idea for consideration…  One possible approach…  This is not an advocacy, I’m just thinking out loud…

Also know when to withdraw an idea if it is getting in the way of moving forward.  Make sure, too, that the group works with data, not just impressions.  
  • Paying Attention to Self and Others.  People have differing learning styles, so interact with them by recognizing their language and physical cues.  Listen for whether group members use visual, auditory, or kinesthetic modes of thinking and expression:  I see, I hear, I feel….
  • Presuming Positive Intentions.  Phrase and frame issues and concerns in positive rather than negative language.  
  • Pursuing a Balance Between Advocacy and Inquiry.  Using both cognitive and emotional means, spend equal amounts of time “advocating for one’s own ideas and inquiring into the ideas of others.”

Check Out This Amazing Interactive Concept Map Of Over 350,000 Websites

“The Internet Map encompasses over 350,000 websites based in 196 countries, which are clustered according to about 2 million mutual links between them. Developed by a small team of seemingly (Singapore based?) Russian enthusiasts, the interactive Internet map is an ‘attempt to look into the hidden structure of the network, fathom its colossal scale, and examine that which is impossible to understand from the bare figures of statistics.’

Every circle on the map stands for a unique website, with its size determined by website web traffic. Its color depends on the country of origin, with red for Russia, yellow for China, purple for Japan, and light-blue for the US.”

Little Bits


What are Little Bits? 

Little Bits are an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping and play.

From the Little Bits Website…

Crave creativity? Make something!
Light it, push it, turn it, twist it, bend it, buzz it, blink it, shake it…

Just as LEGOs™ allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. Each bit has a simple, unique function (light, sound, sensors, buttons, thresholds, pulse, motors, etc), and modules snap to make larger circuits. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers, students and designers.

littleBits is not affiliated with LEGO™ or any of its subsidiaries

What Can You Do With Little Bits?

You have to click here and check out the “Little Pics” and “Little Vids” of kids creating amazing products using Little Bits.  You can see how interested, engaged, and creative these children are, and it is so inspiring to watch. 

Getting Little Bits for your Kids: