Welcome!

26 07 2012
 
After teaching in public schools for 19+ years, I’m delighted to have joined the ESSDACK team, partnering with Kevin Honeycutt to bring you LifePracticePBL, a flavor of Project Based Learning that engages all learners, Kindergarten through High School.
 
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Ginger MACE13

Developing the LifePractice Model
Project Based Learning has been my passion for the past 6 years, creating a PBL school and the Life Practice Model we used. I can help your school move down the path toward authentic and engaged learning in all aspects of school. By creating an atmosphere of learning across both the academic and the social continuum, the students, staff, and community can create a dynamic education system. I’m ready to share with you the steps that it took to develop a true community of collaborative learners; staff, students, and parents together.

What does Ginger do?

Ginger provides dynamic and hands-on learning for those interested in providing engaging professional learning opportunities for teachers, administrators, parents, and communities.

 
Ginger’s specialties:
  • Project Based Learning
  • Technology Integration
  • Creativity
  • Gifted & High Ability Learners
  • Anti-bullying and Digital Citizenship
It is my passion to help teachers inspire their students to do more and be more than they could ever imagine.

Hire me to come work with your
staff, students, and community.

ESSDACK logo

Ginger Lewman

 





An Essentials List For Your PBL Classroom

23 07 2014

In my travels working with teachers about how to create their full-on Project Based Learning environments, I’m frequently asked what sorts of “stuff” do I need to have on hand as kids are building and solving various tools toolbox PBL makerspacechallenges, problems, and questions. You see, I believe that when kids are building things, they are engaging deeply in their learning, especially if it’s more than just doing crafts. And if it involves some level of measured danger, engagement comes along too!

I’ve created a sort of generic list for those who are new into PBL with your kids. Look it over carefully. Of course you may choose to add specialty items, depending upon what you have going in your class, but this is a good, all-purpose list.

Incidentally, you may choose to keep some items in a special toolbox at your desk for safety, depending upon the age and experience of the students. But I also think that a healthy dose of safety lessons and smart thinking can go a long way. But then again, lessons from a kid’s hand with 21 stitches across the palm also go a long way–to the unemployment line.

You make your own professional judgement with some of these tools:

Consumables
Keep a refrigerator box full of recyclables: butter tubs, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, milk jugs, small scraps of wood (cedar shims and/or lathe are great and inexpensive options), styrofoam, newsprint, clay, buttons, crafty goods, two-liter soda bottles, etc.
You can never have enough “craft supplies” from various garage sales and sales at your local crafting stores. Keep collecting throughout the year and get yourself a great organizer shelf for the smaller items.

Handtools
hammers (claw, ballpeen, tack), phillips and standard screwdrivers (also precision screwdrivers), SAE wrenches, box cutters (special toolbox), hacksaw, cross cut saw, mallet, power drill, various sized bits (special toolbox), tape measures (10′ and 50′ — the 50′ stays in your special toolbox), pliers (standard, needle-nose, vise grips), wire-strippers, wire cutters (dikes), clamps, a variety of sand paper grit, safety goggles.

PBL Tools toolbox

Fasteners
household screws, nails (finishing and otherwise), hot glue (special toolbox, depending on age), wood glue, JB Weld (special TB), super glue (special TB)
duct tape, packing tape, blue painter’s tape, masking tape, electric tape, scotch tape

Extras
cardboard, poster board, foam core, fabric remnants, thread, needles, wire, fairy lights (xmas lights)

As I compiled this list, I was surprised that my PBL classroom supplies were suspiciously similar, identical, in fact, to my MakerSpace supplies.

So how do I gather all this stuff?
That’s a great question. At the beginning of the year or around the holidays, I shared a Google Doc list of things I’d like to have for my classroom. Parents and grandparents were usually very glad to help out. Some had to quiz me on my workshop safety measures and I can appreciate that. :)

I usually asked parents to donate what they could and over the period of a year or so, we got a pretty solid supply room — and by “room” I mean “toolbox” and “refrigerator box.” The recyclables are usually filled by a couple dedicated parents. HINT from my science teacher: Be sure the supplies are well-cleaned first, or they start to stink. Blech. 

The hand tools I asked for from families who might have a few extras lying around. And I always kept an eye on the big box stores around Christmas and Father’s Day. They always have very inexpensive kits for sale. And while the cheap sets break more easily (a true safety issues), the kids are usually going to break the tools first because of misuse or accidents like dropping or losing them. So I have one nice thing that goes into my special toolbox that only I use. And the kids get the ‘beginner level’ tools.

Finally, garage sales are great places for crafty supplies. I loved it when an older crafter was hanging up her apron. I swooped in, based on inside information from parents. I sometimes had parents pick up goodies for us and I paid them back later. Also, the fabric remnant bin at your local fabric department is a great place to pick up odds and ends for a buck or two. You don’t need to have a project in mind. Kids can get creative or get their own supplies. Most choose to get creative!  :D

You can’t get this all together by this fall? What’s the bare bones list? 
I’m glad you asked. To start, you really do want to have the following items:

  • a couple hammers and finish nails
  • screwdrivers, phillips and standard
  • box cutters
  • safety goggles
  • hot glue
  • duct tape and packing tape
  • cardboard
  • fabric

Then build your supply cache from there.

Is there something I missed?





Extreme Sidewalk Chalk: a STEAMmaker Challenge

8 07 2014

I know that in my last post, I said the torsion drum challenge would be my next post, but I don’t want to write about that tonite. So…here we are!

STEAMmaker Camp is more than just a makerspace. As I promised in the “Starting Your Own MaskerSpace” post, I’m going to get transparent with the additional challenges we used at STEAMmaker to get the kids moving & shaking. And of course, there were lessons learned in each. The first installment was the Amazing Rubberband Car.  And like just about everything I do, STEAMmaker Camp is a little different.

The Backstory:
I love a makerspace. I love how people can enter the space, think, design, build, revise, and tinker-out as much as they want to. And I think some kids are ready to do that from the start. But I think some of our kids come to us with some “institutional damage,” meaning that they don’t know how to self-start. Or they don’t know how to do that intelligently and with intention. And it’s the same with STEAMmaker, only here, they also came in teams from different schools. These teams may not even have ever worked together before this camp because even being from the same school, all the teams were multi-aged.

Knowing this ahead of time, I decided that I would create challenges that would not only allow them to do some team-building within their own school-based teams, but also try to get them to mix up between schools.

Additionally, I designed the challenges to allow the coordinators (Carianne, Tammy, and me) to see who the teams were as learners, how their sponsoring teachers interacted with the kids, and how they managed their time, materials, and space. We learned a LOT each time.

I highly recommend these challenges for anyone who wants to create an environment where students have to take charge of managing their time, task, and problem-solving.

Challenge 2: Extreme Sidewalk Chalk!

We’ve all seen them — those crazy, dizzying sidewalk chalk drawings that have floated around on Facebook for years. If you haven’t seen them, check out this video and you’ll get a nice reminder:

In Extreme Sidewalk Chalk, students were challenged to create extreme sidewalk chalk drawings themselves! We watched the above video. Many kids were familiar with this type of art. Some had never seen it. Once they saw the video, the kids were very quiet. Some had art skills. Most felt they didn’t. We told them they were going to create drawings like the ones seen in the video.

They began to get truly worried. And that was absolutely intentional. You see, on a regular basis, I want students to feel panic and self-doubt, and then find that with a little time, a lot of effort, and some help from good resources, they can do more than they ever imagined. And that’s precisely what happened during this challenge.

Once the campers’ panic and self-doubt had sufficiently set in, it was time to help them move forward. I gave them a link to this playlist, that shows many artists doing 3D drawings in time-lapse.

We asked students to work in smaller groups (2-4) and decide which of the previous they’d like to try to recreate. They got 10″ x 17″ white paper, pencils, and big pink erasers. And the kids dug in.

Extreme Sidewalk Chalk 3D STEAMmakerWe supported them by talking with them about tone and value…about making the darks truly ebony-dark and so then it’s easier to shade back out light. My apologies to any true art teachers–I’m certainly not one, but we still were able to do some exciting things!

Once they had sketched, shaded, and planned to where their sketches looked like they were picking up a definite 3D quality, we let them go outside and begin drawing in chalk.

It took about 30 minutes of sketching with pencil/paper for most teams. Then they dove outside! It took another 30-ish minutes out there and we had some wonderful success!

BIG TIP: Plain, Walmart-purchased chalk is NOT what the professionals in the YouTube videos use, but I didn’t want to spend huge money on this challenge that might not turn out well. I wasn’t sure. I’d never done this with kids, but had strong faith they could do it … you see, they had time, effort, and some good resources! So I bought some Crayola and some other brand “bright” sidewalk chalk.

Some groups did better than others, of course. Some have more experience than others. But all did very well, surprising themselves with their own hidden abilities. This boy says it all:

The Clincher:
As the makers were finishing up their work outside, marveling about how darned close they were to the original 3D images and excited about how they never thought they’d be able to do that well, I was very explicit in my conversation with the group.

I made it clear to them that it’s important we push ourselves to do things we’re pretty sure we could “never” do because what if we’re wrong?

And if they weren’t as successful as they wanted to be, consider what might happen if they were able to devote more than 2 hours to practice? Also, I tried to make it explicitly clear that the exercise was about making things appear that had never existed in that space before. That if we looked at things from a very different way or from a very specific perspective, we might be able to create three-dimensional things in only two dimensional space.

And that being an inventor or a maker or an innovator is about trying to see things in different ways and about making things that had never existed in our space before.

Of course, this challenge doesn’t have technology all over it. After all, this is sidewalk chalk, for goodness sake. It’s about the experience and the mentoring though to success which is what makes it valuable for all learners.

Holler at me if you’d like to bring this sort of experience, or any of the STEAMmaker Camp experience to your community. I’d love to help create a sustainable MakerSpace for your schools!




Creating a Unifying Classroom Brand: elementary version

22 06 2014
Ginger Lewman, PBLI am lucky to count Ann King, a 3rd grade teacher and literacy coach extraordinaire from the grand state of Indiana, as a friend of mine. Check out her blog. Our mutual friend and her school colleague, Ryan Stroud introduced us face-to-face a couple years ago while I was working in Indiana and I always love to see and hear what they have going on in the hallowed halls of their Indianapolis school.
So the opportunity happened that Ann was in Kansas, visiting her sister, Rachel, (@rbharder) who is a 4th grade teacher in the nearby town of Hesston, Kansas. And right about that same time, the following picture came across Twitter:
    This list was created/compiled by Andrew Steinman (@steinman), EdTech Consultant for Kent ISD in Michigan and Gary G Abud, Jr (@MR_ABUD), 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

This list was created/compiled by Andrew Steinman (@steinman), EdTech Consultant for Kent ISD in Michigan and Gary G Abud, Jr (@MR_ABUD), 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Ann and I love to get our heads together to wrestle with all sorts of ideas and this was a good one. We felt that, based on our experiences with class identity, there was truth in the branding advice. But we also wondered if we’d actually follow the above protocol. Maybe there’s a better way?
And of course, we found ourselves adding to, and adjusting, the original list.
Ann plans to tackle the intentionality of classroom identity next August with her 3rd graders. I plan to follow along to see how this plays out at the lower elementary level. I can’t wait to see!
Thanks for your help in thinking this through, Ann! And thank you to Andrew Steinman and Gary G. Abud, Jr for posting their original thoughts and experiences.
Oh, and for fun, here’s a picture of Ann doing her very first podcast ever!
Ginger Lewman, PBL

Ann King at the helm!





The Amazing Rubberband Car: a STEAMmaker Challenge

20 06 2014

STEAMmaker Camp is more than just a makerspace. As I promised in the previous post, I’m going to get transparent with the additional challenges we used at STEAMmaker to get the kids moving & shaking. And of course, there were lessons learned in each.

I love a makerspace. I love how people can enter the space, think, design, build, revise, and tinker-out as much as they want to. And I think some kids are ready to do that from the start. But I think some of our kids come to us with some “institutional damage,” meaning that they don’t know how to self-start. Or they don’t know how to do that intelligently and with intention. And it’s the same with STEAMmaker, only here, they also came in teams from different schools. These teams may not even have ever worked together before this camp because even being from the same school, all the teams were multi-aged.

Knowing this ahead of time, I decided that I would create challenges that would not only allow them to do some team-building within their own school-based teams, but also try to get them to mix up between schools.

Additionally, I designed the challenges to allow the coordinators (Carianne, Tammy, and me) to see who the teams were as learners, how their sponsoring teachers interacted with the kids, and how they managed their time, materials, and space. We learned a LOT each time.

I highly recommend these challenges for anyone who wants to create an environment where students have to take charge of managing their time, task, and problem-solving.

Challenge 1: The Amazing Rubberband Car Challenge

With no introduction other than they were going to start a challenge, campers were shown this 35-second video:

 

I put the video on loop so they could watch it at any moment. And we let the loop run on the wall for the entire duration of the challenge.

There were no instructions about how to build the car. But because they were new to this environment, I asked them to, in their teams, brainstorm ways that this car worked. We encouraged them to draw pictures. What were they seeing? What was happening? How might this car move forward and backward? Some kids, at this stage, grabbed devices and Googled “rubberband cars.” I let them. It was a smart move on their part.

STEAMmaker Camp, Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK

Students were encouraged to preview the supplies as they were planning and designing. The challenge video was playing on a continuous loop on the wall behind them.

Part way though that process, I dumped a box of supplies on the table. I let them look at and touch the supplies, but they couldn’t take the supplies yet. It was to help them begin to brainstorm their ideas, given the supplies they had. The supplies were things like:

  • various sizes of rubberbands (about 4)
  • various sizes of boxes
  • various sizes of balsa wood
  • weights for pine derby cars
  • a sheet of foamcore
  • measuring square
  • 2 sizes of bamboo skewers
  • 1/4″ dowel rods
  • various tools like saws, hot glue, pencils, box cutters, etc.

After a few minutes (30-ish), I let them begin to build. Because there were enough identical supplies to let all kids build the same car and they were planning their own designs, the cars ended up radically different.  One team split into two during the design process and ended up building two cars.

Then, after about 1.5 hours, we called time and had them present their plans and cars as a panel of adult coordinators (not the teachers), shared what we liked about their cars, process, and presentation; what we wondered about their cars, process, and presentation; and gave them a 1-5 rubric score based on the cars’ aesthetics/design, functionality, and the demonstrated teamwork of the group. We also asked them if they were allowed to go back and re-work their cars, what would they change about not only the car, but also their working process.

Only one team’s car actually worked and, admittedly, it wasn’t great. The team just also happened to be the youngest team with about half being rising 5th graders (they’d just finished 4th grade).

But it didn’t mater that the cars didn’t work. We were demonstrating and learning (and internalizing) that failure is a part of growth is you let it be. That failure isn’t the end of learning.

One team was full of independent geniuses (and as a gifted teacher, I’m not using that term lightly–they each were brilliant but were TERRIBLE at working, let alone working together).

And like the cars not working, it didn’t matter that the team didn’t work well together. This camp was about growing. They now had the opportunity to get better. And during the presentation, they got to see the result of their lack of teamwork as compared to teams who did work well together. That transparency of feedback leads to authentic learning, if we let it. Making our feedback private doesn’t allow for those lessons to become obvious. We nodded, noted what needed to change and we moved forward.

For me, the challenge was not about making a car. I could not care less about the car. I wanted to see the kids working to know who I had in the room for the next 4.5 days. I wanted them to experience a true struggle and see how they faced it. To see what they did when they faced failure. To see what they did when they got an honest critique of their work.

For the kids, the challenge was about making a car; it was supposed to be. They were hooked in. They were invested. They were trying to impress and win. And they all did. They had fun. They were frustrated. They persevered. They won. And while they were busy with building a car, we were able to “Trojan-Horse” in a lot of extra learning.

I wanted to drop a challenge on them right away — they were at camp for only 15 minutes before they got their first challenge. Then we spent a good 30-45 minutes reflecting on what we experienced. What we will be experiencing in the camp. How it relates directly to real life.

You see, the real lessons came after the challenge so we could all have a common experience on which to “hang our hats” for a common understanding.  And then we moved forward, starting from a common base, into our makerspace.

 

Challenge #2: The Torsion Drum Challenge will be in the next post.

If you’re interested in learning how to do these challenges with laser-targeted precision and purpose for your STEM/STEAM classrooms and schools, let me know. I’d love to help.

If you’re interested in setting up your own STEAMmaker Camp or lab, I can also help there.

Shoot me an email!

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