LME Computer Institute: The LME Computer Institute has had a fun and productive 8 weeks. Since the field of computers is so wide, we kicked things off with a group discussion where we determined student interests. Using that information, we started out with the basics of how a computer works, opening up a desktop and laptop to look inside at the various parts and how they all operate together. We also briefly looked at keyboarding and the history of computers, illustrating the speed at which things change. Our cluster members then sketched predictions of what computers and cell phones might look like in the future. Other topics covered included making your own computer from parts, a video tour of Dell computers, and how computer graphics have developed over time.
A big interest that students expressed was learning how to make games on a computer. After introducing our cluster members to programming essentials (with help from LME parent Eric Deal), many students chose to create something with the website Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/). Scratch was developed at MIT, and is an easy way for children to program and share their creations using a drag and drop interface. It allows for the creation of interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.
Other students chose to use the website Inklewriter (http://www.inklestudios.com/inklewriter) to create interactive stories. This award winning and free tool allows children to mix creative writing and computer programming. We hope you enjoy the fruits of their labor at the Enrichment Showcase!
Clay, Clay, Clay: What a blast we've had using our imaginations and newly acquired skills to create unique works of art from clay. Our creations include pots made on the potter’s wheel, as well as pieces made with clay slab, coil and pinch pot techniques. Many of our pieces have been glazed and fired and are waiting to be seen by others. We are also sharing with the community by donating several of our bowls to the Empty Bowl Project Auction, which provides financial support to the Round Rock food bank.
Cooking Around the World: The “Cooking Around the World” Cluster prepared 6 dishes from the countries of India, Argentina, Mexico, China, a Native American and North African inspired dish. Our recipes included Indian Flat Bread, Cheese Balls, Mexican Wedding Cookies, spring rolls, Roti, pumpkin muffins, and mashed sweet potatoes. We are so thankful to the many parents who volunteered to come and share their cultures as well as their favorite recipes with us. Our learning encompassed measurement, cooking terminology, cultural awareness, map reading, and following directions. We learned how to zest a lemon, use a hand mixer, identify different herbs, fry, bake, cream, and mash. Each child created a Passport of Global Cooking which also serves as a cookbook so they can prepare the recipes for their families.
LEGO Discovery Cluster: Over the past eight weeks, the members of the “LEGO Discovery Cluster” members have enjoyed exploring and sharing their love of all things LEGO. Students in the cluster were able to use their creativity to develop an individual or group project ranging from building and programming a robot to making a stop motion film. Along the way, students learned about and developed important skills they needed to accomplish their goals including teamwork, problem solving, and planning.
Games! Games! Games!: The students who participated in the “Games! Games! Games!” enrichment cluster had an enjoyable time learning how to play several new games and sharing some of their own games from home with other members of the group. We played dice, card, board, strategy, and domino games. Several mentioned that these kinds of games were good alternatives to watching TV or playing video games, and others thought playing games like these would be a good way to spend time and have some fun with elderly relatives. Hopefully the students who participated will also have an opportunity to teach and play some of these games with younger students at LME.
Brown Bag It!: "Brown Bag It!" was busy! The Brown Baggers learned what it would be like to be a chef. Recipes were selected and tested. The Brown Baggers also found out what it would be like in a kitchen when everything needed to be prepared and sent out of the kitchen on time and at the same time! It was a lot of hard work, but everyone had fun in the process. The Brown Baggers also thought about people in Austin who are struggling to prepare meals for their families. As a result, the Brown Baggers would like you to consider bringing a canned good to donate to the food pantry at Caritas of Austin. If you would like to know more about Caritas you may visit their web site: http://www.caritasofaustin.org/
Caring Crafters: The “Caring Crafters” enrichment cluster enjoyed working with different materials and making crafts, most of which benefited others. They started off creating pumpkins made from dryer venting that were used as decorations at the Fall Carnival. Next, they made felt dog toys which were given to Austin Pets Alive, a local non-profit organization that will use the toys for animals waiting to be adopted. They also enjoyed making water bottle bird feeders that were hung around the campus and have been very much appreciated by the birds now that the weather has gotten so cold! Their favorite crafts were pony bead sun catchers and Rainbow Loom bracelets. They were challenged to perform random acts of kindness by making bracelets and giving them to other students or teachers they did not know in the hopes of simply making them happy. In the end, everyone learned new crafts, gave back to others and had a great time doing it!
PING: Our twelve boys from grades 4 and 5 met eight weeks ago and instantly decided to change our cluster name from “Fore” to “Ping”. Ms. Schnier brought her golf bag in and we covered the type of equipment you need to become a golfer. We decided on what we wanted to learn in our cluster. The boys obviously wanted to understand how to swing from ¼ swing to full swing. They were also interested in putting. We used a putting mat which visually trained the person in putting a 3’, 5’, and 7’ putt. We were impressed with the student’s concentration and intensity. They were also very observant of golf safety. We used real golf clubs and golf balls. The students learned to importance of golf tempo and ball trajectory.
Health Career Cadets: The Health Career Cadets spent our time exploring careers in health care and learning skills associated with those careers. Over the course of 8 weeks, we learned about careers in mental health and counseling, chiropractic and acupuncture, nursing, and medical doctors. We learned how to suture, dissect, take temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen readings, use acupressure points and check a person’s spine for alignment, and more. We also learned about the high school academies available for students in Round Rock that follow a program of study and course progression for students interested in the health care field—the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) academy at Westwood High School, and the Health Science academy at McNeil High School. Both academies offer certification programs for students, as well, such as Emergency Care Attendant and Texas Certified Nursing Assistant certifications. We used our patient charts to log what we learned each week and track progress towards our “treatment plans” (goals) for the cluster. We had a great time exploring the various professions and their related skills, and look forward to sharing our knowledge and excitement with you at the showcase on Friday, 12/13/13!
Awesome Author Cluster: The Awesome Authors Cluster started out by brainstorming jobs that people with a love for writing might have. Some of our ideas were: journalists, newspaper, publisher, editor, technical writer, teacher, textbook writer, website creator, and music/lyric writer. After that, Mrs. Jackson shared Chris Van Allsburg's books with us. She read one of her favorites, The Widow's Broom. Next, we brainstormed what we wanted the cluster to be and what we wanted to do. Some of our ideas were: Read a book and write a sequel, Read a book and write a different ending, or Make a short story book. We decided that an authentic audience could be Barnes and Noble, the public library or maybe Starbucks. We then worked on a piece of writing of our own.
We have had two visits from real authors. P. J . Hoover visited with us about how she became a writer and gave us some writing tips. Usha Akella came to our cluster and talked to us about her love of poetry. She also taught us about synesthesia, the writing technique of using a sensation to describe another sensation. She took the students through an exercise in this technique. Most of the time in this cluster the students just wanted to use their time to write. They have written short stories, poetry, riddles, and ghost stories. Some of them want to write books and have already started these.
Scratch the Surface: The "Scratch the Surface" enrichment cluster was very productive this semester! Seventeen fourth and fifth grades created computer animations and games. Each one worked independently, but the students helped each other debug their games or create innovative codes to control the "sprites" or characters in the games. The students had the opportunity to view other students’ games that were posted on the SCRATCH website to get ideas, but each came up with their own creative projects. Everyone created at least one product, but many students made several games. The students were productive, creative and worked together as community of "programmers" in this cluster.
Kids Helping Kids: In the “Kids Helping Kids” enrichment cluster we have learned about ways that we can volunteer our time and talents to make a positive difference in our community. At our first meeting, we talked about our experiences volunteering with our families and we looked on websites to find ways that we could help other kids in need. We talked about helping kids who were sick in the hospital, kids with physical challenges play sports, kids who are supported by Special Olympics, and kids who are in transitional living situations.
At our second meeting, Mrs. Smith came and talked to us about her family’s experiences at Dell Children’s Hospital. After she talked to us, we decided to help the kids at Dell Children’s. Soon, we called the hospital to find out what they could use and what they could not use for our donations. The hospital has strict rules to make sure that the patients stay healthy and safe.
Instead of donating toys or something else, we thought that the patients there might enjoy having a craft to put together. So, we found some fun crafts to make. The next time we met, we started making the crafts that are on display, following the rules that Dell Children’s Hospital gave us.
We wrote out directions and did some cutting and stuff so the kids could just put the crafts together without spending lots of time getting the materials ready. Then we put a picture of the completed craft on the outside of a white bag and put the materials and directions into each bag. Each turkey craft kit bag contained a brown paper cup, 8 construction-paper feathers that we cut, a construction-paper waddle & beak that we had cut, a brown pompom ball and 2 googly eyes. The luminary kit bags had a cut paper with a pretty design and a battery-operated candle.
We Skyped with two Child Life Specialists at Dell Children’s and showed them our finished paper cup turkey. They said it was cool. After we Skyped, we realized that not all of us would be able to go to deliver the paper cup turkeys and luminary kits. Ms. O’Neal delivered 45 paper cup turkey craft kits and 19 luminary craft kits to Carley McCaw, the Child Life Specialist we had Skyped with, at the hospital on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of craft bags! Ms. McCaw sent us a nice thank you note. We are pretty sure all of the kids liked the craft bags we made and sent to them.
POWERpoint: In the “POWERpoint” enrichment cluster, we explored how to use technology to make presentations. Also, we discovered Prezi's and S'Mores which are two awesome websites to use for projects, presentations, or just for entertainment. The students picked a topic of interest and either together or individually worked on creating a presentation. Whether it be inserting video clips, investigating the cool ways to use Google for working documents, the students were are very engaged and had a blast showing off what they know and learned.
3,2,1...Action: Our enrichment cluster showed students several ways cameras can be used. The students were taught about how to shoot video for news and for fictional short movie skits. Students learned about three basic shots called a close up, a mid shot, and a wide shot. We used these shots in a class stop motion video by developing a picture flow chart with details about different shots to be taken. After creating our video we created our own scripts and students choose the types of videos that they were interested in. Some of the projects created were the following: News video of other clusters, claymation, movie shorts, how to videos. Finally we learned how to save the videos and use Windows Live Movie Maker for editing.
To Be or Not to Be: In this enrichment cluster, students saw examples of four different movie presentations of the famous speech by Hamlet. We discovered how the words of the page can have many different interpretations. We did some improvisation exercises and then decided what we wanted to do at the end of our cluster. Not surprisingly, the kids wanted to perform! We talked about working from a script and where to find scripts. In the end, two kids wanted to write a script together and the rest of the kids preferred that the teacher write a script to perform. Starting with our 5th session together, we’ve been rehearsing for our performance. The two plays are “To Be or Not to Be” and “The Old Man’s Story”.
Bonding with Chemistry: This enrichment cluster went by so fast! The coolest (literally) experiment was when we attempted to set off 10 Mento/Diet Coke rockets at one time in the freezing cold. The messiest experiments were the Oobleck and the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide “mini volcanoes”. Not only did we watch them explode, we were able to explore and observe with our hands and eyes. These are just a few of the awesome things we got to do. We finished with creating a banner showing all of the experiments we did. We had a great time BONDING!
The Printing Imagination Station: In this enrichment cluster, we learned about different printing techniques and watched a video about the history of printing. Some of the activities we did included, potato stamps, stamping with recycled materials, carving rubber stamps, learned about positive/negative space, and the hardest, yet most exciting of all was screen printing. We created our own design for our final product, which we screen printed on a t-shirt, apron, or canvas bag. We learned a lot about screen printing and had an awesome time!
Web Web Websites: In the “Web Web Websites” enrichment cluster students took on the role of web designer, and creatively designed their very own websites. Students identified a purpose and planned how to inform an authentic audience on a specific topic of interest. Many of the students chose the Laurel Mountain community as an audience and created websites that describe the LME preserve, faculty, enrichment clusters and more! Hopefully you will be able to visit these websites published under the student resource LME webpage. From here the students decided on the type of web host they would use: Google Site, WIX or Weebly? Students quickly discovered how color scheme can negatively and positively impact the number of page views, then dug deeper as they began developing their website by embedding images, videos, linking pages and even including user surveys into their individual sites. The world of web design is a big, exciting place!
Into the Wild: Citizen Science: Over the past 8 week, Into the Wild: Citizen Science learned more about the patterns of life in our world and how their work at LME gives them a voice in the political processes that impact the success of conservation efforts around the world.
Students used the iNaturalist.org platform to record wildlife observations in our Preserve as part of the new wave of "Citizen Scientists." Citizen scientists are typically non-science professionals who conduct experiments and/or record observations that are then shared with the general public and professional scientists. Professional scientists use the data as part of their greater efforts.
In our case, we visited with scientists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who helped us better understand iNaturalist and how they use it in their work. With our ongoing work at LME, we have the opportunity for student observations to contribute to discussions about the preservation versus destruction/development of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve just behind our campus. Continued annual sightings of the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler by LME students help preserve this precious habitat.
Students used tablets, netbooks, digital cameras and desktop computers to capture and track their results as part of a cluster competition to see who could get the most observations and accurate identifications over the course of the cluster. Students also wrote about their experiences in the cluster and those writings are being compiled by Mr. Hance for formatting and collaborative inclusion in an article to be submitted for publication.
The cluster gives us a window on how we can more broadly share our research with other schools, and how we can continue to engage students in outdoor learning by incorporating their digital interests in meaningful, authentic learning experiences.