Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Stock Market Game - Interdisciplinary Project Based Learning

For the last several weeks, our 5th Graders have been successfully researching, buying, and selling stocks as they participate in The Stock Market Game. Under the guidance of their math teacher, our students have shown themselves to be savvy investors, and our teams have regularly placed in the top ten for our region.  This week, The Stock Market Game comes to 5th Grade English! The Game includes an essay contest component, and 5th Graders will use their developing writing skills to begin drafting their submissions. After deciding which of their stocks would make for a good long term investment, students will write persuasive essays, using concrete evidence from their research and trading experience to support their opinions. While they conduct research and gather evidence in Math class, the girls will work on planning out their essays, complete with strong topic sentences, supporting details and conclusions, in English. This collaboration between the two disciplines came about quite organically, and we're looking forward to seeing the results of this interdisciplinary unit of study. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Value of a Visiting Speaker

As part of their ongoing study of Afghanistan, the 5th Grade was fortunate to welcome Dr. Howard Zucker to our school last week. Dr. Zucker's visit was a real treat for us, as it was the first time the students were able to speak directly with someone who has spent time in the country they've been so busy learning about. While Dr. Zucker is quite accomplished in many regards - he is currently the First Deputy Commisioner of Health for New York State - the topic of his conversation with 5th Grade was his work with women in Afghanistan. Dr. Zucker shared the story of developing The Afghan Family Health Book, a interactive "talking" book designed to help educate illiterate Afghan women on issues of health and nutrition.  Our students, already quite aware of the challenges women in Afghanistan face, were completely taken with Dr. Zucker's stories of his visits to the Asian country and the people he met there, and enjoyed learning firsthand about daily life in Kabul. They spent nearly 40 minutes asking questions of Dr. Zucker, making it clear that their thirst for knowledge about this subject is unquenchable, and reminding me how important it is to give students these sorts of personalized experience whenever possible. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Skyping with the Founders of Kodable

During the #HourofCode, our 5th Graders started using Kodable, a fantastic iPad app that introduces children to the fundamentals of Computer Programming. The game was a huge hit with our students, with many choosing to play it during free time and some even downloading the app at home. This week, we were very lucky to have a Skype chat with the two founders of Kodable, Grechen Huebner and Jon Mattingly. After sharing a bit about how they became interested in Computer Science and coding, Grechen and Jon fielded questions from the 5th Graders on topics ranging from the challenges of developing an app and getting it into the App Store (Grechen offered some very interesting insight into the complex process) to the fun and creativity involved in designing and naming Kodable’s legendary Fuzz balls. All of the teachers present were impressed with the way Grechen and Jon spoke to the kids, sharing developmentally appropriate information about Computer Science yet still challenging our students to think hard about complex concepts. For example, when one student asked, "Why don't computers just talk to each other in English like we do?" Jon was able to offer a brief and tangible explanation of  binary protocols to explain how computers communicate. Since the #HourofCode, quite a few of our students have developed a budding curiosity in Computer Science, and I'm sure Grechen and Jon have inspired even more of our 5th Graders to pursue this interest in the future! For any elementary educators looking to introduce CS into their curriculum, Kodable is the way to go! 

Grechen and Jon chatting with 5th Graders via Skype

Grechen debuting her handmade Blue Fuzz!