Even though the enrichment clusters have to end, the 2nd and 3rd graders have one final chance to show off and share. Our students will serve as docents at their display and explain to our parents, visitors and other students what they learned. They will explain what they made and be able to answer questions about their enrichment cluster. We are all very excited and looking forward to this Friday!
I had the opportunity to tour three visitors from Old Town Elementary and Elsa England Elementary from RRISD. They are interested in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, enrichment clusters and how they can use students' strengths and interests to drive what they do at their schools. We walked around and toured the enrichment clusters. I was able to answer their questions about the philosophy of SEM and how we make all of this work. I always enjoy sharing my excitement and passion for SEM with others. And it makes me thrilled to think that the word is spreading around RRISD about the awesome things we are doing at Laurel Mountain and how we focus on our students' strengths.
Below you will find the summaries of our 2nd and 3rd grade enrichment clusters. Please take the time to read about what our students have accomplished over the past eight weeks and then come and see it in person at the Enrichment Cluster Showcase on Friday. Giving our students ownership over what they learned based on their interests in another way we develop world-class talent at Laurel Mountain.
In our “Caring Crafters” enrichment cluster we've been busy each week taking our love of crafting and using it to spread goodwill and sunshine to others. We've spent time creating Valentine Centerpieces for the residents at the Pavilion at Great Hills. We made dog treats and toys for puppies at the Austin Humane Society, decorated mugs and made cards for local firefighters and created “We’re Lucky to Have You” boutonnieres for special teachers, family members and friends. We also had some Caring Crafters building and designing Lego picture frames for boys and girls who have lost special people in their lives as well as patients at Dell Children’s Hospital. We had lots of fun together and got to spread a little joy to others in our community!
Our Sensational Scientists applied the scientific method to experiments dealing with chemistry, physics, botany, and earth sciences. Students selected experiments such as exploding volcanoes, walking on eggs, creating a crystal ball with dry ice, blasting off a skateboard rocket with Mentos and coke, making our own silly putty, and taking the iron out a dollar bill. The more we formed hypothesis, followed procedures, documented results, and drew conclusions the better we got at the scientific process. Students learned the importance of measuring correctly and following directions precisely to be successful, sensational scientists.
The paleontologists in the Dinosaur Academy spent time excavating dinosaur fossils. The real challenge was in piecing them together and then gluing them so they looked like dinosaurs! The paleontologists then did some research about their dinosaur and created a habitat for them to live in. Dinosaur Academy members also spent time creating their own dinosaur out of pasta. This really let their creativity loose to create some incredible dinosaurs. The paleontologists then made Plaster of Paris casts of dinosaurs which they were so excited that the project worked. The last cluster we spent our time fossil hunting in the preserve. We found shells and fossils.
Eight weeks flew by as we had many adventures in cooking! The children explored many different recipes before deciding on the ones they would make over the course of our time together. They chose recipes that included appetizers, lunch and dinner entrees, breakfast smoothies and dishes from a variety of cultures. In the process of making the dishes, the students had the opportunity to learn about food safety, basic knife skills, food preparation and food presentation. They were excited to try new foods and discuss ways the recipes and process of preparation could be made better. We were also fortunate to have Chef Michael Wards come share is passion and expertise in cooking with us. He talked about how he was able to follow his interest in cooking to a career as a chef, his training and then demonstrated making two varieties of deviled eggs. The children were fascinated and learned that sometimes it is worth taking risks to do what you love for a living.
LME Energy Alliance
The “LME Energy Alliance” had an electrifying-ly great time in our enrichment cluster. We wanted to MAKE and DO in our cluster, so we focused our time learning about the different types of energy through creation.
We learned about electricity, insulators and conductors, and played with an Energy Stick (it lights up and makes noise when the circuit is closed by our bodies). We made simple electrical circuits to test the flow of electrons through various power sources (battery and potato powered= successful, lemon powered= unsuccessful), and used a light bulb and basic clock as examples of load. We were able to make a plastic bag float in the air with static electricity from a balloon, and even got to play with Snap Circuits.
Next, we learned about solar power and geothermal energy from a group of 5th graders who came to present their science project to us, and then we made solar powered cars. We were so excited that the cars actually worked when the solar voltaic cell on top of the chassis transferred solar energy into mechanical energy to turn the motor and wheels!
Finally, we focused on kinetic and potential energy. We made balloon-powered cars that built up potential, or stored, energy when we inflate the balloon atop the car, which is then transformed into kinetic energy, or the energy of motion, as the balloon releases its air and the car is propelled forward. Overall, we had a great time learning about energy in this hands-on enrichment cluster.
Wow! What a change from the beginning of enrichment clusters! Students went from beginning to expert Scratchers. The majority of students in Scratch had not used it before this cluster. Those students that did have experience were there to help the beginners. Most students worked on creating a new game or story. Some students spent a lot of time creating backgrounds or new sprites. There were some students that worked on Scratch at home adding more details to their project. Students learned to cooperation and problem solving in this cluster! I hope they continue on their path of discovery! A big thank you to our 4th grade helper, Aneesh! He helped students with whatever they needed!
Flying Lion Travel Agency
We had a GREAT time learning to be junior travel agents in the “Flying Lion Travel Agency” enrichment cluster. First, we learned about what a travel agent does and brainstormed ideas for exciting travel destinations. Our cluster learned about all elements of planning for a trip: picking where we'd like to go, keeping an eye on prices, booking a flight, selecting hotels, developing an itinerary, renting a car, and choosing restaurants. We researched our destinations through print and online media on our computers and iPads. Cluster members also designed business cards and collected our best travel plans together to share with all of you at the showcase. We'll see you there!
2015 Reading Academy Awards
Wow! What a great journey it has been! The students of the “2015 Reading Academy of Awards” had the opportunity to participate in many activities these past eight weeks. First we explored well known book awards: the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Coretta Scott King Award. After brainstorming, we decided to name the award that we would give to our books....the Golden Lion Award since the above-mentioned awards are named after a particular person and we wanted to include our mascot in the name. Then the committee members (the enrichment cluster participants) brought their favorite books and we decided on categories for the Golden Lion Award. Next we were able to Skype with the author of Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin. Publishers Weekly called the author’s first book “a mesmerizing read” and Kirkus Reviews called it “deliciously scary and satisfying.” It was the winner of the 2013 Writer’s League of Texas Book Award. After Skyping with Mrs. Loftin, the cluster participants were so intrigued that we HAD to go purchase the book. Now that book has been honored with the “Most Scary Award” by the 2015 Reading Academy Awards! Please be on the lookout for a section in our very own Laurel Mountain Library titled “Golden Lion” Award. We are so excited to reveal the books that the committee nominated at the Enrichment Cluster Showcase on Friday, March 6th!
Up to Our Ears in Clay
The “Up to Our Ears in Clay” enrichment cluster began by watching videos of Ceramic artists from the Pueblo culture in New Mexico. The artists prepared the clay, hand built pots and fired them in hand made kilns outside. The next video was of a ceramic artist in Hawai'i that was inspired by the volcanoes on the Big Island. He made pots on the potter's wheel, glazed them, and raku fired them outside.
Students were excited to learn the real techniques that ceramic artists use such as pinch pots, coils, slabs, how to connect clay, and the potter's wheel. After they learned the techniques, they made whatever they wanted to, using these clay techniques.
Students learned the bisque firing process, glazing and the glaze firing. They are so excited to see their work once it comes out of the kiln.
Games! Games! Games!
The “Games! Games! Games!” enrichment cluster had a blast using our gaming skills over the last eight weeks. We brought games from home to share with our peers and many of us discovered games that we never knew existed! We also shared our love of games with young kindergarten students. One week we taught them card games like Crazy 8's, Old Maid, Go Fish and War. The next week we shared outdoor games like Hopscotch and Duck Duck Goose. We really wanted to share our love of games with our school. Some of us chose to communicate through a KPAW segment and others chose to make a poster to display in the hallway. Finally, a few students chose to use their creativity and create their own games.
In the “League of Extraordinary Crafters” enrichment cluster, we reviewed how to speak to visitors, both students and adults. We discussed the difference between Minecraft Edu versus Minecraft at home. We learned how to collaborate, design and about architecture. After reviewing, the students broke into groups to work on various aspects on our Tomorrowland design. Some of the groups were signs, waterways, airport, track update (help from Dylan 5th grade) and landscaping. We just have some signs to make and our tour is complete. We have both a waterway and a rail car to tour Tomorrowland. We can’t wait to show off our new land at the Showcase on Friday.
Fur and Purr
During the past eight weeks in the “Fur and Purr” enrichment cluster, students have had the opportunity to learn from experts as well participate in hands on activities centered around the care of different types of pets. The students listened to presenters who taught them about working in an animal shelter, being a veterinarian, training a therapy dog, and grooming and showing dogs. They also met and played with four different pets, including a sugar glider! Finally, we created pet toys and pet beds to donate to a local animal shelter. We even made some dog treats for our very own furry friends! Overall, we had a blast and gained an even stronger appreciation for animals and what it takes to be pet owner.
The Animal Helpers enrichment cluster discovered many things about animals as helpers. We learned the difference between Service Animals and Therapy Animals. We learned that dogs work in schools, police departments and the different military branches. Service/Therapy animals aren't just dogs. We learned that horses, dolphins, monkeys and even cats can be beneficial to people as therapy animals. The cluster made several different dog treats and donated them to the Austin Police Department and The Austin Dog Alliance. We also made and donated dog blankets to the animal shelter. We learned the best way to meet and greet an unfamiliar dog. Some careers we learned about were K-9 units, dog trainers, and horse trainers to help people.
Help Save the Animals
In the last eight weeks 2nd and 3rd graders have learned a lot about how to encourage others to help save the animals! They have used their passions and their gifts to create posters, beautiful painting, dioramas out of clay, power points, business cards, and even videos - all to encourage others to help save the animals. We are so thankful for the 5th grade helpers who helped us with research, printing out pictures, organizing presentations, and encouraging our 2nd and 3rd graders.
We have spent the past couple of months on a cinematography quest. Students have honed their skills with flip cameras and the WeVideo App. While many enjoyed spending time in front of the camera, others chose to stay behind the camera. The students learned how to edit and add special effects to their videos. We even had an expert cinematographer from RRISD share about his craft, and make a movie with us! Through the WeVideo application everyone had the opportunity to have a movie published! Our cinematographers are very excited to present their work at the showcase.
The Passionate Painters had a wonderful time these past 8 weeks learning about the different paintbrushes, techniques, mixing colors, and painting beautiful pieces. The students all showed great enthusiasm and appreciation to the craft. We were so fortunate to give these students this time to explore and enhance their love for painting. We would like to invite everyone to our gallery at Zoe's Kitchen on March 10th at 5:30-8:30 pm. Hope to see you all there!