Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hour of Code Is Over, What's Next!

Last week in MDUSD was so amazing to see al the schools, classes and students engaged in Hour of Code! With that being said, just because the 'official' Hour of Code is over, your kids can still be coding in class throughout the day!

- Coding on iPads or Chromebooks in class during stations is a great way to keep the work going.

- Set up a coding bingo card for your class and have students code different programs, apps and coding modules to fill in the card.

- Sphero are such a natural next step for Hour of Code and coding in general. Blue tape on the ground is the easiest way to build a Sphero track and have kids code. Create different levels of difficulty and make sure they always code with a buddy, Sphero is much more fun with a buddy!

Khan Academy has been around for years and their coding lessons are really awesome! All the tutorial videos are on YouTube and it's a great way for kids to self pace their learning in school or at home!

GoldieBlox is a great follow-up to Hour of Code on the iPad. GoldieBlox is a STEM based game that has kids code in a story format. GoldieBlox add different complexity and levels to code, so much fun!

Osmo is amazing for so many reasons and we really love their Coding game. The coding kit is $49 and really gives the younger kids awesome hands-on experience with putting code together, check it out!

Codeacademy is amazing for those kids who are ready to jump up the next level with coding. Codeacademy is free, it's designed with different levels so kids can progress through the modules and they have many testimonials from adults who've made career changes into programming from the skills they've learned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Hour of Code #hourofcode

It's coming - it's coming - it's coming!

While many schools and classrooms aren't waiting for the Hour of Code to start coding with their students, the 'official' week is December 5-11th!

Check out the Code.org 'teach' tab on their website and choose which level you teach. We recommend you have students create an account using their MDUSD.net so they can track their progress and code at home if they want!

Let's have ALL kids in MDUSD participate this year in the Hour of Code.

There are some really great Code.org videos on their YouTube channel which you can access here, and also see a few of them below as a fun way to kick off Hour of Code!


Monday, October 17, 2016

An Olympian Came to Visit

Last week we had the amazing opportunity to have Steve Mesler (Olympic Gold Medalist in the Bobsled) visit our district and a couple of our schools. Steve is the co-founder and CEO of Classroom Champions and spoke with a few classes about hard work, determination and also let everyone hold his actual Gold Medal, so cool!

Hopefully there's more to come with Classroom Champions down the road, being inspired by an Olympian is very special indeed!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Every School Needs a Lego Wall

Lego's are so much more than 'just' lego's. Kids love building, they love creating, playing, and there is so much we can do with them in our schools. Every school needs a lego wall - below are some ideas and great resources to get started.

You can purchase the green Lego Baseplates on Amazon from many different vendors, or ask your parent community if they have any to donate.

Below is a fun time-lapse video from Diana Rendina and check out her awesome blog post about building a lego wall!

Lego also has a great link with tons of Making ideas on their website!

Sun Terrace Elementary has an EPIC Lego Wall in their STEM/Maker lab. The amazing Karly Moura has also put together task cards to go along with their lego wall that kids can complete in their lab which are posted below.

Kids in action building!

Lego task cards by Karly Moura!

Marble maze in action.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Coding is everywhere - in pretty much every part of our lives and an extremely vital skill our kids should be learning. In a series of posts, we're going to highlight coding initiatives that are already happening in our MDUSD schools.

Sequoia Middle school is using Scratch coding as part of their 6th grade rotation and ALL 6th graders are coding! We published this video below last week and wanted to share again!

The teachers are also using some great DK Workbooks as a guide as they learn and create with Scratch.

Stay tuned for our next coding class that will be lead by Linda Schuler, Principal at Bancroft Elementary - super excited for this to kick off!

Not sure about coding - not sure what it is - Hour of Code has a great video to watch below.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let's Make - All the Time!

Makerspaces are an excellent way to get kids tinkering, building, collaborating, communicating and really just getting their hands dirty with learning. 

Just last week we were visiting Foothill Middle School and the amazing Makerspace that Sue Kunich has created.

Below are some photos and short descriptions of the Makespace that Sue has put together. If you go to Edutopia and search 'Makerspace' you'll find a plethora of articles that will help to get you started. A Makerspace doesn't have to look just one way, you can start super small and build from there!

We'd also recommend checking out Laura Fleming's website for TONS of ideas, she is amazing and has been 'making' for years!

Upon walking into the space at Foothill Middle, there was a student writing code in Scratch and he was able to completely explain what he was coding and why - so awesome!

"I'm the TA (Teachers Assistant) and I'm just writing some code for a few minutes!"

Keep on coding!

As my eyes started to scan the space I noticed 'it' right away. The Sphero track was labeled, and the course was set up. Coding and robotics are so important for our kids to learn and Sphero is in our opinion one of the best ways to teach and learn both concepts!

Lots of Google Cardboard for the VR station in the Makerspace!

Every school has cardboard and LOTS of it! Love this Cardboard City and can't wait to see what kids create throughout the year. 

The Newspaper Tower Challenge looks really awesome, just think spaghetti towers but using newspaper instead. Design thinking, engineering, creativity, collaboration and so much more! And the price is right for this Makerspace station.

The Marble Machine is such a great idea for a Makerspace. Kids are given some materials and have to build so the marble is supported and propelled down the board, which is hanging on the wall! I can't wait to go back and visit to see it in action, so cool!

A LEGO wall is standard for any Makerspace, buckets and buckets of LEGOs to play with and build! Ask your parent community if they have legos around the house that are no longer used, it's a super quick way to get donations.

So many great questions for kids to think about and discuss with the Wind Tunnel. Can you explain weight, thrust, drag, lift and anything else?

If you haven't created in Tinkercad and printed on a 3D printer you are SO missing out. We'd recommend having kids play and design in Tinkercad first, then have them export their creations to print in 3D.

iPhone cases, chess pieces, landmarks they're studying in social studies - what else?!

Mrs. Kunich made this little structure for the cardboard city, love that teachers are getting their hands dirty and creating with kids!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Flexible Seating in 1st Grade #teamMDUSD

Flexible seating options are SO important and there have been some really great articles lately (here and here) that highlight the benefits for kids. Traditional seating and chairs are just really uncomfortable not only for kids but also adults. When was the last time you sat in a hard chair all day long, it's not that much fun.

Just yesterday we were visiting Pleasant Hill Elementary with their brand new (and totally awesome) Principal Aurelia Buscemi and she took me to visit the classroom of Robin Parks in 1st grade. 

"This teacher has no 'typical' chairs is what she told me, everything is flexible seating."

Oh my gosh, flexible seating indeed and so awesome for kids!

Please meet Robin and see all of her seating options! I started taking photos like crazy and then stopped, this needed to be a blog post and thankfully Robin was game!

These Mammut stools from IKEA are only $7.99 each and they're made of plastic which as IKEA says - 'makes it easy for kids to carry around' and they're a great flexible seating options too!

These aren't your ordinary bean bags and are actually beanless. Intex makes these specific ones and they're $23 on Amazon. We also found these inflatable bean bags for $16, check them out here on Amazon.

Stability balls are in so many classrooms and must be on the flexible seating menu for kids, loved seeing them in first grade! Robin got hers from Amazon for $13, check them out here.

Side note - another class at PHE is ALL stability balls, check out the Twitter video from yesterday. Way to go Mrs. Welch!

The Bunso children's chair from IKEA is amazing because they're comfortable, light, stack super easy and are just fun to sit in - and they only cost $14.99!

Camp chairs are such a great addition to any classroom, and they only cost $6.88 at Walmart! They fold up in a snap, store super easy and can be brought outside to extend the learning which is a great option for any classroom. Check them out on Walmart here!

To round out the flexible seating options, the MAMMUT chair (a little different from the stool) is a light and fun option for those 1st graders. At only $14.99 it's a great option for the budget as well!

Robin also had one of these in her room which you can't buy on Amazon, Walmart or Ikea - it's an antique! I did do a quick Craigslist search and there are a few for sale, for $75 and above. They're way more expensive and not nearly as comfortable!

A huge thank you and props to Mrs. Parks for letting us visit her classroom and for all of the flexible seating options she has for kids! Way to let kids have choice and flexibility while they learn, it's so important and beneficial!