Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reflections on First Lego League

On Saturday, November 14, 2015, two teams from Pioneer Middle School participated in the Regional Qualifier First Lego League tournament held at Houghton College.  This is the second year that Pioneer has participated in First Lego League.  In 2014, we brought one team of six students to the Regional Qualifier competition in Buffalo.  This year, fifteen students participated! It was exciting to see how the program has grown in just one short year.

For those unfamiliar with First Lego League, it is a three part competition focusing on Core Values, the Project Presentation, and the Robot Missions.  The Core Values of Lego League are as follows:

·  We are a team.
·  We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
·  We know our coaches and mentors don't have all the answers; we learn together.
·  We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
·  What we discover is more important than what we win.
·  We share our experiences with others.
·  We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.
·  We have FUN!  

Core Values served as the guiding principles for both of our teams.  In everything we accomplished as a group, Core Values were at the heart of what we were working on.

The Project portion is more of a traditional science project with a bit of a twist.  Instead of simply researching a topic, students instead had to identify a problem and develop an innovative way to address the problem.  This year, the projects had to focus on trash and solutions for solving problems with trash.  The Pioneer Green team decided to tackle the problem of styrofoam lunch trays.  They proposed using cellulose (plant) based lunch trays instead of styrofoam because cellulose trays would eventually biodegrade.  The Pioneer White team identified that throwing out batteries is a huge environmental problem.  They developed a campaign, including a website, to notify community members of the dangers associated with throwing out batteries.
Members of the White Team work on research for their project.
As part of the project presentation, teams would have only five minutes to present their problem and solution to the judges.  Both teams developed skits in order to present their ideas in a more creative and interactive way.
The Green Team practices their project presentation.

Students from the White Team practice before the competition.
Perhaps the most highly-anticipated portion of the First Lego League is the robotics competition.  Students honed their computer programming skills in order to train a robot to complete missions.  Each mission is worth a predetermined amount of points, so the team that accumulates the most points will win this section of the competition.  This part of the competition requires a lot of trial and error; it is difficult to get the robot's programming just right in order to complete the missions.

Watching the robot competition is stressful for team members, coaches, and spectators alike!  Thank you to Mrs. Woolley for capturing the following photos of the Pioneer teams in action.
Members of the White Team cheer on their teammates during the robot competition.

Extreme precision is needed to successfully run the robots.

The judges, Mr. Rehrauer, and White Team members watch the robot complete missions.
Members of the Green Team prepare to run their robot.

A quick meeting to discuss team strategy.

Members of the Green Team watch the robot in action!
The biggest surprise of the day was that four teams from the competition at Houghton College would move on to the next level of competition in Rochester, NY.  We were pleased to learn that the Green Team would be advancing on to the next round!
Some members of the Green Team celebrate their successful day!
Although it was wonderful to learn that the Green Team would be moving on, this was not the most important takeaway from the day.  Both teams displayed excellent behavior, perseverance, manners, and professionalism throughout the course of the day.  I may be a little biased (ok, a LOT biased), but the Pioneer students were some of the most well-behaved students at the entire competition.  They represented Pioneer in a way that made the coaches and families very proud.  We have lots to celebrate!

Moving forward, members of the White Team kindly offered to assist the Green Team prepare for the Rochester competition.  In the coming weeks, it will be a true Pioneer team effort. We will make some changes to the project and the robot in order to have an even better showing at the Rochester competition.  We will be eager to share our updates from the Rochester competition in early December.

Congratulations to all of the wonderful Pioneer Lego League Students!

Splat the Cat and Gratitude

On November 17th, 2015, Mrs. Proudman's class came to the library for their weekly visit.  We have been working on our Global Read Aloud project for many weeks, so it was nice to do something a little different.  Since this would be our last library visit before Thanksgiving break, we spent some time discussing gratitude.

We began the visit by reading Splat Says Thank You! by Rob Scotton.  Although this was not a book specifically about Thanksgiving, the book discussed gratitude between Splat and Seymour, two great friends.  In order to thank Seymour for the many wonderful things he has done, Splat makes a thank you book for Seymour.  Mrs. Proudman's students were able to share examples of gratitude they have for their family and friends.
Splat Says Thank You! by Rob Scotton
We were excited to learn that Splat Says Thank You! is part of a larger series about Splat the Cat.  We are looking forward to reading more Splat books in the future.

Next, we spent time thinking about different things we are grateful for.  This was a great opportunity to practice our penmanship skills.  After answering each question, we shared our answers with the rest of the class.  It was interesting to learn about the different things we all enjoy.  The pictures below show some of the things Mrs. Proudman's students are grateful for.

After our activity, students had time to check out books, color, and work with modeling clay.  Our next library class will be Wednesday, December 2nd.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Wrapping Up the Global Read Aloud

On Thursday, November 12th, 2015, Mrs. Proudman's class visited the library for our last official day of the Global Read Aloud.  Although we plan on having a few more Amy Krouse Rosenthal activities in the coming weeks, this was the last day that the rest of our friends in other schools would be participating along with us.  It has been fun to take part in this adventure with students from other areas of the world!

First, we had to answer the final questions on the padlet from Ms. Satov's class at the Mabin School in Ontario, Canada.  The class asked how many books we had in our school library.  Mrs. Proudman's students estimated the following numbers of books: 215, 2,000, 2,000, 1,000, and 102.  I believe that we have close to 14,000 books in our library!  This was a fact that surprised Mrs. Proudman's students.  We then shared some of our favorite books and series with Ms. Satov's students.  Currently, we like to read Captain Underpants, Dork Diaries, books about John Deere tractors, Dylan's Day Out, and Mr. Granite is from Another Planet.

Next, I told the students about my friend, Mr. Clark.  Mr. Clark is the librarian at Windom Elementary in Orchard Park, NY.  He had the good fortune to visit with Amy Krouse Rosenthal this summer!  Because of this visit, Mr. Clark has many great things to share about her.  Our class brainstormed questions that we would like to ask Mr. Clark.  Early in December, we will be organizing a Skype visit with Mr. Clark to learn more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

For our final book in the author study, we chose to read Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  This story explains how Uni the Unicorn believes that little girls really are real.  Although the other unicorns in her life try to tell Uni that there is no such thing as little girls, Uni continues to hold on tight to her beliefs and wishes.  This was a wonderful story about the power of believing.  The students agreed that the illustrations in the book were beautiful.

After book selection, we then had some different activities to choose from.  Students could decide if they wanted to color a picture of a unicorn, model a unicorn out of clay, or write down their own unique wishes.  Many of Mrs. Proudman's students decided to participate in all three of these activities!  Here are some examples of the finished products.

We are eager to participate in next year's Global Read Aloud.  We will be curious to see who the author study will focus on next year.  Thank you to all of our new friends around the world that helped make this a positive, fun, and interactive experience!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

French 8 Fun

On October 13, 2015, Ms. Marshall's eighth grade French classes visited the library for a somewhat different activity.  The students were wrapping up one unit and just beginning another unit, so it was the perfect time to take a break and reflect on why it is fun to learn the French language!

Students broke up into groups of three or four students to complete various station activities set up throughout the library.  The rules of this activity were simple: students could use any information at their disposal (it is a library, after all!) and they must work together.  Student groups were allowed to attack the stations in any order that they chose.  The stakes were high for successfully working through the activities because the "winning" group would be rewarded with a gourmet French treat the next day.

At Station One, students looked at a Wordle depicting why students choose to learn the French language.  Using the information contained in the Wordle, students then chose what--in their opinions--were the most compelling reasons to learn French.  Using this information, the groups then created a jingle to be used on the morning announcements.  This jingle would alert the younger students in the building of the many great reasons why they should choose to take French.
An excellent example of a completed Station One activity.
During Station Two, students learned more about perhaps the most iconic landmark in French-speaking countries: the Eiffel Tower.  Using either computers or tablets, students located answers to many questions about the Eiffel Tower.

At Station Three, students learned that France is well known for its perfume industry.  Students were given the names of many famous French perfumes and the students needed to find a way to translate the perfume names into English.  It was interesting to see the strategies that the students used.  Some of the French words were cognates, so students were able to use their background knowledge to decipher the words.  Other students chose to use Google Translate, French to English dictionaries, or old class vocabulary lists for help.

Station Four incorporated both French skills and media literacy skills.  Here, students were able to choose a vintage French advertisement.  After deciphering the French words, students then answered questions about the advertisement.  What is the product being advertised and what groups of people are the intended audience for the advertisement?  Students had to weigh in as to whether or not they thought the ads did a decent job of marketing the product.  I don't know about you, but I don't find the advertisement with the pig to be all that appetizing!
Vintage French ads used during Station Four.
Last but certainly not least was Station Five.  Station Five was definitely the most interactive of all the stations!  Here, students needed to generate lists of body parts and clothing items in both English and Spanish.  Students used French books available in the library, as well as their old vocabulary lists, for help with this task.  Next, students needed to pick a "model" for their group - and actually label the model using the French terms the group listed.  The groups had a great time with this activity.  Not only were they learning French vocabulary, but there were lots of laughs as well!

Congratulations to all of the groups for a job well done.  A special shout out to the winning teams from each class.  We look forward to the next time French 8 visits the library.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The OK Book

We can't believe that next week is our last week for The Global Read Aloud!  The students in Mrs. Proudman's class have been having a wonderful time reading and reflecting on the works of Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  It will be difficult to top this experience, for sure.

This week, we began library class by continuing to answer the questions that Mrs. Satov's class shared with us on the padlet.  We had four students in class today, so the students were able to answer two questions each.

We then read The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  This is a story about a stick figure who admits that there are some things that he is just "ok" at.  What was really clever about the book is that when you turn the stick figure sideways, it spells OK!  When we discovered this fact, the class had a fit of giggles.  At the end of the story, the character shared that while he is ok at many things, he is having lots of fun learning about what he would be really good at.

As a class, we discussed the things in our life that we are "just OK" at doing.  We discussed that it is OK to be OK - you will not be great at everything you try, but that shouldn't hold you back from trying!
Our list of things we are OK at doing.
While we might just be OK at certain things, there are definitely some things that we are GREAT at doing!  The students in Mrs. Proudman's class have many unique and wonderful skills.  It was interesting to hear all of the things the students are GREAT at doing.
Our list of things we are GREAT at doing.
Once we were finished with our list, we then went back to working on the postcards for Mrs. Drew's class in Wake Forest, NC.  During our last library visit, students created beautiful illustrations for the postcards.  This week we focused on adding some sentences to the postcards.  Mrs. Proudman's students wrote great sentences about their favorite Amy Krouse Rosenthal books.
Working on postcards for Mrs. Drew's class.
After putting the final touches on the postcards, students were eager to check out books.  Some of this week's favorites included Captain Underpants, Dork Diaries, My Weird School, and hunting magazines.  Students then returned to the table to work on their very own OK drawings.  It was interesting to see how students decided to illustrate their OK characters!

Next week, we have our choice of reading any Amy Krouse Rosenthal book we choose!  What is your class looking forward to reading?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Super Thursday

As part of this year's Maker Club program, we were hoping to expand our offerings to now include "Super Thursdays" at a few points during the school year.  For Super Thursdays, we would all participate in a program led by an expert in the subject.  The expert could be either a student or adult who wanted to share a skill with our group.  Instead of everyone working on their own project, everyone would be participating in the activity our expert is leading.

On Thursday, October 29th, 2015, we held our very first Super Thursday in the library.  We were pleased that our first volunteer expert was Carol, a Pioneer student!  Carol has an interest in card making and was eager to share her skills with others.

Carol created a program geared towards creating handmade pop-up cards for Halloween.  Carol came prepared for teaching - her lesson planning could definitely give teachers a run for their money!  She prepared a PowerPoint presentation outlining all the steps needed to create the cards, set out all the supplies needed for the activity, brought over a box where students could drop their scrap paper, and even found Halloween music to play during the activity.
Preparing to give the first Super Thursday maker presentation!
Carol did an excellent job leading students through the activity.  She paused at appropriate points to allow students to catch up. 
Using supplies from the makerspace to make Halloween cards.

An example of a finished card.

Another finished Halloween card, courtesy of our Super Thursday leader.
All students in attendance agreed that this was a fun activity!  We are grateful to Carol for being such a brave volunteer for offering to lead the first Super Thursday.  As a token of our appreciation, the maker club advisors gave Carol a card and some treats.  We hope to provide more Super Thursday experiences during the 2015-2016 school year and beyond.  If you have an idea you would like to see/present for Super Thursday, please contact a Maker Club advisor for more information.
The first Super Thursday group with their completed cards.