From my years of teaching elementary
school, a few ideas come to mind on what are essential skills for young people
to learn. They are presented here, in no particular order:
the ability to substantiate and
articulate your thinking and viewpoint
the ability to negotiate and
work within a group
the ability to take information
from one place and use it in another
the ability and fortitude to
try something and rework it to make it better
the ability to try something
the capacity and interest to
learn about the world
the interest in connecting
in-school learning to the ‘real world’
the opportunity to be both
teacher and learner
Finding few engaging manipulatives attached
to curriculum to achieve these goals, I have co-developed several products for
hands-on collaborative learning in a variety of settings: the classroom, in
after-school activities, in homeschooling, and in summer camps. These products
offer open-ended opportunities for students to experiment with curriculum
supported ideas and creative-free-thinking. They offer the possibility for
students to teach and learn from each other, taking time to listen and
contribute while using visually stimulating hands-on materials.
The first, the intooba construction kit for K-6, (www.intooba.com) is designed for hands-on collaborative learning in STEM/STEAM engineering and math. Rods and connectors are used to solve over 25 engineering challenges, each with several levels of complexity. A math manual is provided to support common core concepts such as shapes, measurement, and estimation.
Our challenging engineering projects encourage collaborative learning in designing, constructing, and budgeting.
diskii math (http://www.diskii.com) is a hands-on math manipulative for grades 1-5. Our instructor manual offers ideas on learning such topics as algebra, logic, fractions, and decimals, and is based on common core standards. Students may learn both as teacher and student when working collaboratively with diskii tokens. Each token is associated with a unique name, color, and face offering three variables for problem creators. Users can vary the complexity of the product by assigning an age-appropriate value to each token when creating challenges. We have developed both physical and downloadable token sets.
At Ozzla, Inc. (http://www.ozzla.com), we have created a series of Ozzla Sparks for English Language Arts (ELA) and advanced English Language Learners (ELL) educators, tutors, and homeschool learners. Ozzla Sparks combine professional international images with many lesson ideas reflecting common core standards. We have divided Ozzla Sparks into two offerings. Pre-made lesson units are one to two week units on a specific topic. Ozzla Sparks Collections offer users the opportunity to explore many topics in more open-ended and creative ways. Each Ozzla Spark Collection offers 36 unique image cards which are numbered and bordered for individual, paired/sibling and group/family activities. These may be downloaded, and/or viewed on our website.
All of our materials require minimal
instruction to set-up and use. No professional development is required for
these easy-to-understand products which are supported by instructor and student
manuals where appropriate.
NOAA SOS Explorer is an amazing visual interactive tool to help teachers explore and explain topics of scientific interest to the K-12 community. Adding a powerful and vibrant visual component to student learning brings such topics as the oceans, bird migration, marine sanctuaries, coral reefs, and transportation to life. This offering could well complement the movement within K-12 schools to convert traditional libraries into media learning centers.
The Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD) has, in collaboration with the educator team at NOAA SOS Explorer, developed a set of questions and internet resources for educators to complement the visual datasets:
As elementary school teachers, we developed an entrepreneurial after-school program for grades 3-5.
We felt that it was important for younger students to develop a solid understanding of business and the economy. Our program consisted of three components:
(a) visiting local businesses, noting physical positioning, product, and range of service;
(b) playing a virtual stock market game: GAME HERE;and
(c) creating a product from concept to design to packaging and marketing.
I have not seen many programs on this topic. Recently, however, I met an elementary educator who has developed an extensive curriculum in business development ideas for elementary and middle school students. Eva Foxwell’s materials include curriculum material on entrepreneurship, business skills, and career development: CLICK HERE
We do not know where students’ interests and passions will lead them later in life, but it is certainly advantageous to offer early insight in careers, entrepreneurship, business, and economics.
I am always thrilled to share really interesting products, both recently introduced and longstanding favorites. I particularly favor products offering children hands-on learning opportunities.
The products I can share after attending an education convention in Palm Springs, CA are:
(1) KEVA Planks from Keva Education. Keva offers teacher lessons and activities with their single size Keva Planks made from fine hardwood maple. Students can innovate and problem solve collaboratively using the materials. Using your hands to work through problems with classmates can only benefit students as they prepare for other STEM/STEAM topics. Website HERE
(2) Learning Wrap Ups. This company offers many hands-on classroom and after-school curriculum supported manipulatives for students to reinforce learning in math and reading topics. Offering very creative ways to check and practice topics. Website HERE
(3) Insect Lore. To get hands-on learning about caterpillars, ladybugs, butterflies and more, this company offers an excellent opportunity to do just that! Children should know about all aspects of our fragile eco-system, and what better place to start than with insects? Website HERE