Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Carolers

We had a surprise visit from Hartford High Schoolers today.  They came from the band and chorus and performed several carols for the 4th grade library class.  What a festive surprise!

A little holiday sweetness

How cute is this little guy with Rudolph on his shoulder?!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Paper Circuits

We have been learning about electricity in enrichment groups this month and today the 4th and 5th graders got to experiment​ with "paper circuits," electrical circuits made on paper using copper tape and tiny LEDs.   
I really wanted to give them two days to experiment with this project, but we lost a day to the weather last week and next week is vacation.  I'm going to have to work this in again later in the year because the kids loved it.
(I took a really cute picture of a student holding a finished card, but my phone didn't save it!! )

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Engineering

I challenged students to make Christmas trees with the Keva planks today.  Then I surprised them with buttons for decorations.  I love the different ways they came up with to meet the goal.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Snap Circuits

We were lighting things up with Snap Circuits in enrichment today!  The theme this month is electricity and the kids are pumped!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Things got a little crazy in library yesterday when I introduced an airplane greeting and Mr. Sadowski taught us how to refine the design.  The kids had a soaring time!

When you wish upon a star...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Kid quotes

Two of my favorite quotes from kids this week:

"That's even better than I can draw!" said a kindergartner.

"Wow!!  Did he make that?!" said a 3rd grader. 

Their enthusiasm was outstanding!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Visiting Author - Day 2

By day two word had gotten around and the kids were excited to meet our visiting author! I was hoping they would still be surprised by the surprises in the drawings, and they were! It was only the very last class of the day that was guessing ahead of time.

This is an interesting animal!
Old man or grumpy baby?  Depends on how you hold the clipboard!  :)
Mr. D made a surprise appearance with the 5th graders.
Mr. Burns stopped by and the 3rd graders LOVED it!  Many of them chose to draw along.
Mr. Burns was a good sport! :)
A great caricature of Mr. D!
Mr. Gurney was kind enough to host a special lunch group for some of the kids who were interested in learning more.  We had lunch, chatted, and then he led them in a fun drawing activity.
The kids were excited for the opportunity to talk with Mr. Gurney and get tips on how to improve their illustrations.
Adding color to the disco ball.
A monster of some sort, running a race.
I'm so pleased that we got this opportunity to invite John Steven Gurney to DBS.  The feedback from the students and teachers was outstanding!  I hope to do this again in the future.  I have several author/illustrators in mind. :)

Mr. D's Circus

Monday, November 21, 2016

Visiting Author

We had a fun day in library today! Author and illustrator John Steven Gurney came by to talk to the kids about the illustration process and do draw some funny pictures with them. Each class gets a turn (today or tomorrow!) to talk to Mr. Gurney and see the cool work he does. Mr. Gurney has written and illustrated books of his own, such as Dinosaur Train and Fuzzy Baseball, and he's also the author of several popular series, including the A to Z Mysteries, and the Bailey School Kids.

Mr. Gurney had a series of drawings showing his progress as an illustrator.  This is him in college, as a machine!  Metal face and wires for hair.  Very cool!
With each class he asked for five animals and then drew a compilation "animal" on the spot.  The older grades had pencil and paper and were encouraged to draw along.
Second grade enjoying the presentation.
Some classes got an extra bonus and Mr. Gurney drew a caricature of a student (whoever had the next birthday coming up!)  Everyone enjoyed that and some kids even drew along on their papers!
An impromptu owl.
A 4th grade caricature. 
Hmm... what should we call this crazy character?! 
I love how excited the younger kids got about the mixed up animals!  :) 
If your kiddo didn't get a chance to meet John Steven Gurney today, don't worry, we have him for another whole day!  We are hoping to get a caricature of Mr. D too! 

A big thanks to our art teacher, Ms. Weigand, for co-sponsoring this "artist in residence" with me.  As an author AND illustrator he very nicely fits both our programs and we are thrilled to bring him to Dothan Brook School!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

VT Fest 2016 - Day 2

Another great day of learning with some pretty amazing people! I spent the morning talking about social media and the pros, cons, and challenges associated with it. Coincidentally I met another teacher from the district there and we had great discussions about the differences between how the schools operate and what we could each learn from each other. The long and short of it is that social media is necessary and expected, but so far most schools don't have a comprehensive plan to address it.

Then I headed back to the Innovation Lab to get my hands on some eTextiles! I quickly learned that conductive thread is hard to work with, but there are some really simple projects involving fabrics and electronics. I made a very easy flashlight and saw some examples of other eTextile projects. The woman I was working with kept stressing that when doing eTextiles with kids you spend most of your time teaching kids how to sew, which isn't always what tech people expect to be doing. It's certainly not what I had in mind, but as soon as she mentioned it I saw her point.

The battery and LED inside my flashlight.
Press-button activated.  I showed my daughter this evening in her dark bedroom and we were both amazed at how bright that tiny LED light shines!  It lit up her whole room!

They had a pretty comprehensive 3D printing project going on throughout the conference. I believe they started by printing the components to make a 3D printer. There was a kick-off on the first morning and a wrap-up at the end of the second day, but I didn't make it to either. I'm not quite ready to teach 3D printing yet!
I'm not sure what this is exactly, but I do know it's a functioning machine made entirely of 3D printed pieces.
For the last session of the day I went to a presentation about VoiceThread, an app that has been around for awhile but one that I don't have much experience with. I went with a very specific project in mind and I was pleased to hear one of the other attendees describe how she had done a very similar project using VoiceThread and it worked very well. I'm going to experiment a bit this weekend and hopefully use the app with my enrichment groups this week! I love when you learn something so practical you can implement it in a matter of days!

I didn't mention in yesterday's post that I had to leave the conference right at the end of the sessions and couldn't stick around for the doorprize drawings. I was really bummed because they had some cool products, like robots!, to give away.

Well, this afternoon I was able to stick around for the drawings and a woman ran in to there told me that they had called my name yesterday! Grrr... She didn't remember what the prize was, so I'm going to pretend it was a really boring thing and not the super cool bb8 that I really wanted!

Things turned around today though and right at the end they called my name and gave me a free Chromebook!! Not the robot I was hoping for, but you can't complain about a free computer! :) I'm really happy I got to go this conference, meet with so many cool people, and get my hands on neat new-to-me technologies! I can't wait to bring the knowledge and ideas back to the library and my kiddos at school.

VT Fest 2016 - Day 1

I had such a cool day today at Vermont Fest 2016 at the Killington Grand Resort. Vermont Fest is a chance for educators to get together and talk tech! I learned about paper circuits and I can't wait to make paper circuit holiday cards with some of the students next month!

So proud of my first paper circuit project!
Inside the card you can see the copper tape and LED lights.
Ooohhh.... fireflies!  :)
They have a great Innovation Space set up where you can check out the latest technology, including those paper circuits, 3D printing, green screen technology, and the latest robots on the market. Tomorrow they'll have a session on eTextiles! I'll be there! There are so many neat robots and STEM "toys" on the market. I pretty much want them all in the library!

These Ozobots look very engaging.  I'm sure the kids would love them!  I saw some cool Cubelets as well that I would love to have at our Makerspace table. 

I attended workshops about digital citizenship, technology integration, coding. We talked about how to introduce Scratch to students, how to "push" Hour of Code into all areas of school, includingn "unplugged" activities in the specials classes. I learned about a few grant sources from other participants, and got to try a few new apps. On deck for tomorrow is more coding, another paper circuit cards, building community through social media, and the "digital backpack," Stay tuned!

Using the "Design Thinking" process and a handful of random items, my team created an "usie" stand to take a group photo.  I also learned that "usie" is the word to use when you're taking a "selfie" of a whole group of people.  Learn something new every day!

Friday, October 28, 2016


Today we worked on making letters and shapes and putting them together in "concertina," which means accordion style, so they fold up. The kids copied the models, but were quick to make their own variations as well. 

T for Turtle
T for Turtle, S for Squirrel, and W for Woodpecker.

We learned that letters and shapes are easier to make when they have vertical symmetry.  The letters and shapes that are not symmetrical (vertically) take a lot more thinking and planning in order to get them to "pop out" the right way.

Of course, we also had plenty of crafting and building going on in the library today.  We have a handful of kids in each class that sit right down and read too, but I never think to take those pictures.  :)

Halloween craftiness!

They were excited to see the Keva planks out again.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


We have lots of programming going on in the enrichment blocks. The younger kids worked on "offline programming" such as writing instructions for how to open a door, or how to do a dance, then moved on to They are loving it, though some definitely find it more challenging than others. This week we had a little chat about "helping" versus "doing for" as I noticed one kid had taken over her friends laptop and was doing the work for her friend. I asked what they were doing and the first girl said, "Oh, I'm just helping her." I paused the programming for a quick chat about how best to actually be helpful. :) I love seeing them work together though and many of them are very good at helping one another.

The older kids ended up with some extra sessions and were thrilled to continue with their Scratch programming. After several kids showed their programs at the Unity Day assembly, everyone was eager to try their hand at making a game for their classmates to play. You know the kids are engaged in their learning when they ask to come in at recess or after school to finish "just one more thing."

Next up, digital book reviews!

Friday, October 21, 2016

3D cards

After spending two weeks on origami, the Think3d! crew is moving on to paper folding and cutting. They have to think about how and where to cut and fold to make letters and shapes "pop out" of their paper. In one lesson they are given instructions on where to cut and fold, then the next lesson they have to reverse engineer the projects. Working backwards from a finished product, or just starting with an idea of their own, the students take blank sheets of paper, draw their cut and fold lines, then go to it!
A person, a Christmas tree, "HOME" with a heart on top, Quack!, "LIVE", and "EMMA"
Think3d! is challenging for some and less so for others, but everyone is flexing their brains and working really hard to complete these projects. Some kids love them, other kids groan, but the beauty of this project is that it is very leveled so each person can work at a level at which they can be successful. I love seeing the light in their eyes when the idea "clicks" and the create something cool.

Unity Day

Dothan Brook is an amazing school. In case you weren’t aware, October is National Bully Awareness Month and our school is tackling that issue head on! Our school councelors have done an amazing job of exploring bullying prevention and the students, from pre-k up to 5th, are all familiar with the three signs of bullying and what to do about it. We have excellent examples of students standing up for one another in school, on the bus, and out of school. Ask any kid and they will tell you exactly what bullying is and how it can be stopped.  All week I read the classes books about bullying and they were so proud that those times of situations don't happen at DBS. 

All week the students have been making signs and banners, pencil toppers, wrist bands, and more to prepare for the big day. The students and staff have bright orange “Otters Don’t Bully” t-shirts and everything is decked in orange, the official color of bullying prevention.

On Thursday we held a Unity Day celebration, starting with a very orange group walk to school (see the DBS Facebook page for some great photos!).  At the end of the day there was  school-wide assembly where they showed projects students had made, built a chain of bullying prevention messages, heard the story One be read by two 5th graders, and had a performance by the Select Chorus.  The energy was was high and the students were excited. 

The Unity Day chain, with a link from each student, stretches across the length of the gym.
These students are from my 4th/5th grade enrichment group.  We worked on anti-bullying projects using Scratch programming. The kids only had a few days, but the were committed to showing great projects at the assembly and several of them came in during lunch or recess or study hall to complete and refine their projects.  I was excited to see the enthusiasm for both the message and the technology!
Enrichment group students showing their anti-bullying projects.
I feel so fortunate to be working at a school so committed to each and every student.  I couldn't ask for a better environment to spend my days. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dothan Brook Otters love to read!!

At Dothan Brook School we love to read! For our current bulletin board I had every kid in school write what they like to read. Some were very specific with exact titles or series, while others were a little less so with "scary book" or "adventure books" or "books about dogs." I got a great feel for what kind of books are popular (Hello Minecraft!!) and what books I need to order.

We are also fortunate to have Dartmouth students participating in the America Reads program. They stop by once a week to read with the students during library time. Everyone loves it.

Reverse Engineering

This week we are working on reverse engineering origami projects. Last week we followed directions to make origame, and this week we took apart completed origami and wrote our own directions. Reverse engineering is an excellent learning tool to increase your understanding of how something is built. This exercise also gave the students a chance to practice their "instruction writing" skills, including labeling and attention to details.

I will be taking these origami instructions and hanging them in the library for other students, not in the Think3d! program, to follow. I have a table set up with lots of origami paper, instructions, and books for the kids to read and check out if they'd like.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book trailers

Are you looking for a new book to read?  Check out these book trailers for a fun new way to browse books!  If you see something you like, check to see if the library has it!  If not, let me know and I'll order it for you!  Happy browsing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

2/3 Enrichment Block

I'm so excited about the enrichment blocks we've started.  Twice a week I'll get a small group of kids, selected by their teachers as kids who could use a little academic enrichment, and we will do fun things.  The program will vary as the year goes on.  Right now my 4th/5th group is working on Scratch programs and my 2nd/3rd group is learning the fundamentals of programming.  On day one we started with a series of "unplugged" activities that demonstrate programming without a computer.  The kids loved it!  At the end I have them a challenge to write a dance "program" on paper that we can all do at the next class.  I can't wait to see if any of them do it!

More origami with Think3d!

We had more fun today making Flapping Butterflies, Scuttling Mice, Crown Towers, and Origami Drinking Cups.   I love the excitement in their every when the connection clicks and they make something cool! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016


After two days of mind-bending pre-tests, the 5th graders finally got to dig into the Think3d! program. Think3d! is a research project through Tufts University that is studying whether certain types of activities, such as origami and creating 3D paper structures improves spacial reasoning in students. Dothan Brook School has participated for the past few years. This year all 4th and 5th graders will be joining in. The program involves a series of pre-tests to gauge baseline spacial awareness, then six consecutive lessons, then a series of post-tests to measure improvement. The students did not love the pre-tests, but everyone has enjoyed the origami!

Participating students will be bringing home "Think Beyond" activities that can be completed at home or during free time in school. These are completely optional, but many students find them enjoyable.