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Monday, January 9, 2017

Cooking up some Pi finale-- primary age digital making

Several months ago I worked with one of our 3rd grade teachers to develop a multi-disciplinary computer science unit around government and the election process. It was one of the best experiences of my career in education. Thanks to the work of their classroom teacher, the 3rd graders learned all about the election process and the California propositions on this year's ballot. Building off of what they learned in their language arts and social studies units, I had the joy of working with students on a related computer science unit, with a focus on coding and math, to help us build a digital photo voting booth (see related week 1 & week 2 posts for details on the lesson progression).

On Election Day, students presented their work to their peers, admin, parents, teachers, and even the polling place supervisor working downstairs that day (since the school site happens to also be an actual polling place). The students were eloquent, knowledgeable, and visibly excited to share their hard work with an authentic audience.

What skills did students learn during their digital making experience?
  • Sequencing
  • Patterns
  • Math in context
    • Decimal fractions
    • Multiples
    • Abstract reasoning
    • Attending to precision
    • Looking for structure
  • Programming concepts
  • Algorithms
  • ELA in context
    • Punctuation
    • Capitalization
  • Editing & revising work
  • Basic circuitry
  • Electricity concepts
  • Problem solving
  • Perseverance & grit
  • Collaboration

In addition, the hands-on learning and creating in this project-based format provided opportunities for ALL of our learners to shine! Students typically unengaged with "traditional instruction" quickly jumped into the electronics and making, while our detail-oriented friends latched on to the coding tasks, and our more artistic students enjoyed working on the sprites in Scratch and creating the persuasive videos and election posters. Students worked together, learned to solve problems as a team, and coached and supported each other throughout the process. It was amazing to see what kids are capable of when you give them a chance to work on something meaningful in the classroom.

My favorite comment during the unit-- "Ms. Haughs, I love you for teaching us this!" followed by a big hug. I guess the project was a success.

Lesson Resources:

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