Skyping with Bruce Strickrott

Photo Mar 19, 10 06 25 AM

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Skype session with a 5th Grade class at Trevvett.  They Skyped with Bruce Strickrott, the Alvin Manager at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.  The students had researched all about Bruce and his career and were prepared with some excellent questions to further their understanding of their oceans unit and their Underwater Human Environment Project.

We learned so much!  Here are some of the highlights:

– Alvin is the deepest diving submarine in the world and can stay under for 3.5 days, though their trips are usually day trips from 8am-5pm.
– They average 3 new species per dive.  One new specie was even named after Bruce.  Check out the Eptatretus strickrotti
– Using the Alvin, they have discovered brine lakes on the bottom of the ocean floor.
– Usually animals are scared of the Alvin and get out of the way, but it has been attacked twice by swordfish.
– The grossest thing he’s ever seen is a hagfish feasting on a dead whale on the bottom of the ocean.  Check out these hagfish and see why.
– The windows on the Alvin are cone shaped to prevent the pressure at the bottom of the ocean from crushing the submarine.  It can dive down to 14,764 ft.  Under the sea, there are 6800 lbs of pressure per square inch pressing on the Alvin.
– They have to take the right amount of oxygen tanks down for each dive and scrub the carbon dioxide off of the Alvin to keep the conditions right for humans to be at the bottom of the ocean inside the Alvin.
– If they start their dive near the equator, the water temperature is around 95 degrees.  However, when they reach the bottom of the ocean floor, it is 2 degrees above freezing, so they take layers of clothes to bundle up in and have special sleeping bags designed to keep them warm.

It was such an authentic experience and such an exciting way to learn more about the ocean!  You can download Skype from the Software Center and get your class chatting with an expert to enhance your curriculum.

Composing & Editing Writing with Google Docs

This year, the elementary students are able to log into their Henrico Google Account and use the Google Applications. For this lesson, I set up the usernames and passwords for Ms. Herod’s 5th grade class at Longan. The students logged into their account and opened a new Doc. Ms. Herod gave them a prompt and we allowed them to type their descriptive paragraph(s) for about 30 minutes.

Next the students went to the share settings and shared their document with a classmate and their teacher. When the students clicked on their Shared with Me folder, they saw a document from one of their classmates. This allowed them to open their classmate’s Doc and use the commenting feature to suggest ways in which they could improve their paragraph. Students were looking for grammatical errors, spelling, punctuation, run on sentences, etc.

At the end of the lesson, the students asked if they could continue editing their friend’s writing for homework, so I think they enjoyed this new way of editing writing!

SCA Voting Using Blogs and Google Forms

This year the SCA teacher reps at Springfield Park decided to move away from using QUIA and use a Google Form instead. Our only issue with the Google Form was that we could not insert images of the students running, so we decided to create an SCA Blog. On the blog, there is a tab for “Meet the Candidates” where the students can see a picture of the student running for office and their speech. Then they click on the “Cast Your Vote” tab and fill out the Google Form to vote for the candidates of their choice. The teacher was able to enable voting the day of the voting and then disable voting at the end of the day. By going to Form –> View Summary of Results, the teacher was able to easily see who the winners were for each office. Google Forms provide a nice pie graph to show the results. Now that the votes are in, they will use their SCA blog to post upcoming events (Spirit Days, after school PTA events, etc).

How A Book Gets Published Prezi

The students in Mrs. Pierce’s 5th Grade class at Springfield Park have been working on researching and sharing the many steps that go into publishing a book. They brainstormed the different jobs that are a part of publishing and selling a book and split into teams to conduct research on that topic. Then they collaborated on a class Prezi to explain how a book on the bookshelf is just the tip of the iceberg. In their presentation, they explain the roles and responsibilities of each person/group involved in publishing a book. Here is what they have so far:

After working on their Prezi, invited a local author to come into their classroom and discuss the steps involved in publishing a book. Information they gained from interviewing Ellery Adams will help them to edit their Prezi. Next, they would like to Skype with a publisher or someone who works at a publishing company to check their facts and edit their Prezi even further. It’s a work in progress, but they are learning a lot of skills from this experience.


Karen Nowicki, 5th Grade Teacher at Springfield Park, saw a TED Talk about SCRATCH and it sparked her interest. I too had just recently learned about SCRATCH at a technology conference in Charlottesville. I liked it so much, that I put in a software request to have it added to all student and teacher machines, and it was approved! Mrs. Nowicki and I are going to introduce the SCRATCH program to her students this week. As a starting point, the students will work through the SCRATCH Task Cards provided at I printed them off, cut them out, folded them in half, and laminated them, so hopefully they will last for multiple classes. Not very tech-y of me, but I think it will be easier for the students to learn how to program code without having to go between multiple windows.

The students will work through as many cards as possible to learn how to manipulate the sprites (or characters) on SCRATCH. Our hope is that students will then be able to transfer this knowledge to create a review game or digital story telling. I can’t wait to see what the kids design! Check back later for their finished products.

Smencils Commercial

Each year, the Springfield Park SCA sells Smencils to raise money for their school.  In the past, the videos were created by a teacher.  This year, we assigned the task to the students and they rose to the occasion!  We began by meeting with the SCA Officers and having them brainstorm what needed to be included in the commercial.  Next, the students created a Story Board for the commercial using a template from Pixie.

At the next SCA meeting, the students collaborated by taking on different parts of the commercial and filming mini-skits or taking still photos.  Then the officers met again to put the videos and pictures together into an iMovie.  Check out their finished result!

Smencils Commercial from Karen Hues on Vimeo.

Step Up To Writing Template in Pixie

Mrs. Ricks at Springfield Park approached me looking for a more interactive way to have her students plan for writing a paragraph.  She noticed that their attention just wasn’t there using paper, pencil, and markers, so I helped her create a template in Pixie that her students can use for future writing assignments.

The first green dot is for the topic sentence.  The yellow dots are for main ideas, and the red rectangles are for supporting details.   Finally, the last green circle is for the conclusion.  On this template, everything except for the text boxes are glued down so that students can not rearrange the shapes on the page.  After students type up their sentences, they could easily then record themselves reading their paragraph and listen to it played back to see if it makes sense.  Click the link below to download this Pixie template.

Step Up To Writing.pxi

SCA Voting Using a Blog

Mrs. Neely, 4th grade teacher at Glen Lea, wanted to have a way that students could listen to their peers speeches and then vote for the SCA officers of their choice.  Together we set up a blog for the Glen Lea Election!

On the blog you will find a tab for a page with a drop-down list for the speeches recorded by the students running for President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.  After viewing the speeches, students then click on the tab for the page where they can cast their vote.  On this page, a Google Form was embedded.  Students selected the four candidates that they thought would best represent their school on the SCA.  We set up the form so that students could only select one person in each category.

Mrs. Neely did not open the form up for voting until that morning and then closed it down again that afternoon.  Once all votes are in, they automatically compile into a spreadsheet complete with graphs and percentages, so it is easy to see who the winners are!


Collecting & Graphing Data

The 5th Grade students in Mrs. Stoner’s math class were beginning a unit on graphing.  Springfield Park is a pilot school for ActivEngage, so we were able to utilize this program.  ActivEngage will be available at all elementary schools soon!  In order to collect data, we asked the students when their birthday is and had them answer using the text response in Engage.  After all students responded through Engage, we were able to show the entire classes responses on the screen.  The students transferred this information to a graph using Keynote.  We discussed how to use enter the data in the cells, and then use the inspector to create and label our graph.  We focused on how all graphs need a title & x-axis and y-axis values and labels.  What a quick and easy way to collect data!

Light Stations

The 5th Grade students in Ms. Lehman’s science class at Maybeury really enjoyed the fast paced light stations that they rotated to today. At one station, students visited some create web resources to find information about light in a Light CyberHunt. They then typed the answers they found on their Pages document.

On the next station, they were given a Pixie document with columns for transparent, translucent, and opaque materials. They had to search through the Pixie database for images that would be appropriate for each category.

The final station allowed the students to create a Comic Life from scratch. They selected one scientist who contributed something to the study of light and created a Comic Life page for them using a database of images that I found and dropped into their classroom folder. They also had to add appropriate text to their page.