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
The following article appears in the blog of the Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD) website (www.bcild.org):
Refugee. This word evokes a multitude of reactions from those who hear it. Aside from any political discussion, this human condition challenges so much of our bedrock convictions in our very basic human needs and expectations: that our children will be safe, fed and educated, that we will have somewhere to live, and that we will have some sort of governmental superstructure protecting our lives. Seeing people bereft of these basic human needs gives grades 6-12 communities an opportunity to teach their students about empathy for others. It is extremely difficult to provide interactive learning moments enabling students to appreciate what this abject situation must be like for displaced people.
At the Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD), we collaborated with Denver University’s Daniels College of Business in introducing middle school students to refugees now living in the United States. The Daniels College of Business runs a collaborative community program in training recent refugee arrivals in the hospitality management field. This resource afforded students a chance to hear the life stories of refugees first hand. In turn, this supported a middle school learning unit on the topic. BCILD produced a documentary film on this interaction.
An extremely engaging interactive learning experience has been developed by veteran teacher Craig Angus at the Dawson School in Lafayette, CO. Mr. Angus outlines his program in an article in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Independent Teacher magazine. While Mr. Angus’ learning exercise is conducted on a ropes course, it is envisioned that this same exercise could be conducted on cardboard squares or similar ‘bases’ giving students in many schools an opportunity to benefit from this experience.
Mr. Angus’ article in the independent Teacher: HERE
When students have opportunities to involve themselves in the life experiences of others, even to a minute degree, we build empathy as a community. This surely can only benefit our shared existence.
We at BCILD are attempting to provide interactive learning experiences to all students both nationally and internationally. We welcome comments and suggestions.
Teachers spend many hours of their own time each week searching for images and articles to complement their curriculum materials promoting essential understanding and providing teachable moments in their classrooms. These searches are often complicated by copyright use issues and time constraints.
We have formed OZZLA, Inc. to develop and provide comprehensive yet concise lesson units across grade levels. OZZLA SPARKS, as we have called our lessons, offer professional photographic images and engaging text to teachers for classroom use. OZZLA SPARKS target a specific learning objective such as “Compare and Contrast”, or “Descriptive Writing”. In this way, images and corresponding text are tightly bound together to form a teachable moment.
OZZLA SPARKS provide immediately accessible and low-priced teaching material to teachers.
These lessons are tied to, and reference, the ELA Common Core curriculum guidelines.
We are building a selection of OZZLA SPARKS – click HERE
All institutions, by their very nature, contain a finite amount of knowledge representing the communal skills and learning of their employees. Well funded institutions who find skills or knowledge lacking hire more employees or outside consultants. Many K-12 entities lack the financial resources to exercise this option. That is why it is vitally important for local communities to participate in K-12 education either through on-campus interactions, or by offering opportunities in their own spaces.
Universities, with an abundance of professional educators, students, and meeting spaces, are perfectly positioned to offer enrichment to the K-12 community. Two examples that come to mind are the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) Wizards program: HERE and The Rockefeller University Science Saturday: HERE
Both offer incredible learning opportunities to young learners by carefully crafting how to present complicated topics to this audience.
The Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD) hopes to learn about, and share, information on other such opportunities within K-12 communities.
Photos taken at CU Wizard event Boulder,CO, Saturday 01/26/2019