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Hi everyone! It's been a long while since I have blogged... I've been busy adjusting to life as a new mom to my beautiful baby girl... but I am excited to be back to share some goodies with you.  In honor of "Throwback Thursday," I'm going to share a fun activity I did with my class 2 years ago that I never got around to blogging about.

Two years ago, my class was studying about wonders of the world. Throughout our studies, we journeyed across the continents to learn all about historic, famous, and mysterious landmarks, sights, and structures. When we "arrived" to Europe, our class read the chapter book Night of the New Magicians by Mary Pope Osborne to learn more about the great Eiffel Tower. Through the book, my students were introduced to 4 "magicians" (inventors) that created important inventions that are still in use today. After learning about these innovated inventors I thought to myself, "What would be a fun way to extend our learning?" Well, the answer I came up with was... CREATING OUR OWN INVENTIONS... of course!

Now, at this moment I was very excited because I had this great idea to engage my students in that I was sure they would love, but I wasn't prepared with any resources to help me put this project into action. I needed a way to guide my students through the process of developing an invention. As luck would have it, I happened to be taking a gifted endorsement course at the time which introduced me to the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS). 

Creative Problem Solving Process
"What is the CPS?" you may ask. Well, it is a 6 step strategy created by Alex Osborn (the creator of brainstorming and founder of the Creative Education Foundation) and Sydney Parnes which guides students in the creative process from defining/identifying a problem to carrying out an action plan. 

AHA! This was just what I needed. Using the CPS as a guide, I began to develop an "Inventor's Log/Notebook" that would guide my students on the course of creating their own invention.

(Since carrying out this project with my students, the design and content of the Inventor's Log Book has been revised.) You can check out the new and improved version {HERE} at my TPT store.

The first step in our creation process was to brainstorm a list of everyday actions we carry out and identify which we would like to improve or make easier. We created a class list on the board and then students were asked to pick 5 actions to write on their log. From the 5 actions, students were asked to identify one action they would like to create an invention for. 

Class List of Daily Actions
Daily Actions Page

(*NOTE: The first step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page students create one big web of ideas and on the second page they narrow down their choices to begin identifying the challenge they would like to fix)

After the students selected ONE action they would like to create an invention for, I grouped students together that had similar ideas/interests (i.e. completing homework, studying, wiggling teeth, etc.). 

You may be wondering, "What do I do if a student does not have a matching interest with another student in the class?" Well, I did come across some students that did not have a matching idea/interest and when that happened I gave the students 2 options. Option one was to compare their list with other students that were not paired to see if they had ANY common ideas they could agree on OR option two working on their own if they were really passionate about their invention idea.

Once students were grouped, we moved onto the next step... fact finding. In this step, students were asked to write a list of 5 facts they know about the action they would like to create an invention for and draw and label existing inventions used to carry out this action.

(*NOTE: This second step has been revised to include WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY questions to assist students in finding facts about the action they would like to improve.)

Step 3 was to identify the problem because in order to develop a successful or desired invention, the students had to determine what the REAL or BIG problem was that needed to be overcome. 


Each step of the way, I modeled the process for the students. This is my model of the problem page.
(Prior to my having a SmartBoard I used to project my presentations onto my whiteboard.) 
 Here are some student samples of the Problem Page:


(*NOTE: This third step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page, students brainstorm a list of problems and select the one they would like to solve and on the second page they clarify WHY the problem they have chosen needs to be fixed and what they hope to accomplish.)

After students identified the problem they would like to tackle,  the next step was to think of solutions to fix the problem and design a prototype. 

My model solutions web
My model prototype
(*NOTE: The solutions step has been revised to consist of two pages. On the first page, students brainstorm a list of solutions to their problem and on the second page they select the top 3 solutions and survey their classmates to help them pick the BEST one.)

Once their prototypes were designed, the students got to work creating... 
I really wanted these inventions to be student-made so I only allowed the students to work on them in class. 
The Tooth Wiggler
The Blate (A self heating plate)
The Food Ball (Invention for Pets)
 I purchased most items from the Dollar Store to assist students in creating their projects. My purchases were guided by the materials listed on the students' prototype planning page.

In all, this project took around two to three weeks to complete since we solely worked on it in class while continuing our other daily learning activities. 

Here is a picture of all of the finished inventions:

I called this my "Invention Corner" where I displayed all of the students' finished inventions along with pictures of them working throughout the creation process. 
Here's a closer look...

The students and I were so proud of their work that we knew we just had to share it with others. Inspired by the book Night of the New Magicians, we decided to host our very own World's Fair to showcase the inventions. If you would like to learn more about our showcase, please check out my next blog post. You won't want to miss it!

It's the holiday season,  which means its a time for family, friends, and most importantly giving. 
This holiday season, thanks to Pawsitively Teaching, my class was able to give away a total of 46 unique and original gingerbread men and women to other young boys and girls as part of the
 2014 Gingerbread Man Exchange. 

I have to say that participating in this exchange was a wonderful experience. It brought back many childhood memories of when I used to send letters to pen pals across the country and parts of the world. I'll never forget that exhilarating feeling of wondering what my pen pal would think of the package I sent and anxiously awaiting their response. Even to this day, as an adult, receiving "real" mail still tickles my heart. I am thankful that through this exchange I am able to provide my students with the opportunity to feel that same excitement.

Well, you might be wondering exactly how the Gingerbread Man Exchange works... In the case you are, I'm going to give you a brief explanation. First, interested teachers in grades K-4 had to email Pawsitively Teaching to let her know we would like to be part of the exchange. Then, she created a spreadsheet of different groups of teachers that would exchange the gingerbread men. There were 5 groups of 16 teachers, totaling 80 teachers! That's an impressive number of participants! Once we learned which group we were in, our classes were required to create and decorate 15 gingerbreads to mail out to the other 15 schools in our group. Each gingerbread was to be sent with a brief letter from our class telling about our school and the area we live in, etc. Finally, our gingerbreads had to be mailed out by December 2nd to ensure each would arrive on time before the Winter Break and voila that's how this magical experience worked! 

 Now, I am departmentalized in my school, meaning I teach 2 reading and language arts classes, so I was lucky enough to participate in two different groups. Together, we mailed out 46 gingerbreads! Yes, I know that math doesn't add up with the 15 per group that need to be mailed out, but with the host's permission, I had each of my students make a gingerbread to mail out instead of only making 15. I have 24 students in my homeroom and 22 students in my afternoon class and that's how we got 46. I tried to mail them out fairly by looking at the class sizes of the schools. I ended up sending 2 gingerbread men to teachers with a large class size and the required 1 to classes with a smaller number of students. 

Ok, enough about the logistics... 
I'm sure you're eager to see the gingerbreads already, so here you go... Enjoy!

Here are my homeroom class's gingerbreads:

These are my afternoon class's gingerbreads:

Here's a closer look at some of the gingerbread boys/girls:

 Aren't they adorable? I was so impressed with the students creativity and personalized touches that I decided to have students write a descriptive narrative about their gingerbreads that we could include in our packages.

Here are some pictures of the planning and final product:

Once we were ready to put together our packages, I asked students to decorate the addressed envelope that would contain their gingerbread with fun and festive images.

I projected an example of how to decorate the envelopes on the board to give students an idea of what to do
Here are some pictures of the students hard at work decorating the envelopes:

Once all of the envelopes were decorated it was time to assemble our packages. Each package contained our class letter, 1 or 2 gingerbreads, and a descriptive narrative introducing the gingerbreads.

Here are all of our gingerbreads ready to be sent to their new homes:

Even more exciting than sending our gingerbreads was receiving gingerbreads from around the country in the mail. Every day was a new adventure to see if we received a letter and if so to learn where each gingerbread came from and what their city/state/school was like.

At first, our "Gingerbread Man Exchange" bulletin board began with just a few letters that magically arrived with our classroom elf "Elfie". 

It wasn't long before our bulletin board was covered with a multitude of fun and creative gingerbreads from across the United States. Check out our web of new friends. 

I would like to give a very special thanks to Pawsitively Teaching for organizing this collaborative exchange! The students had a fantastic time using their knowledge of friendly letters to write for a real audience and using their creativity to create, decorate, and describe their gingerbreads. Aside from the academic benefits of this exchange, I have to say that my favorite aspect of this activity is that it helped make students more culturally aware of communities outside of their own. 

I can't wait to participate in it again next year and see what new teachers and students we can connect with!
What do a dentist, engineer, artist, and rocket scientist have in common?
Each of these professionals presented at our annual Career Day extravaganza!
This year, as every year, we were blessed to have some extraordinary parents and community members visit our school to share the amazing work they do each and every day. 
Read on to learn more about our educational and engaging Career Day event.

Our morning began with an exciting presentation about "teeth" from one of our very own student's mom, Dr. Gonzalez-Zamora! Through her presentation, students learned all about dental hygiene including how to properly brush and floss their teeth. They even received their very own brand-new toothbrush to help them get on their way to having a beautiful set of pearly whites!
 Who can resist a beautiful smile?

Here is Dr. Gonzalez-Zamora posing with  her proud daughter, Nicolle

Students practiced brushing correctly with this fun model of a set of teeth
Next, students learned all about the exciting world of engineering from Mr. Borges, the father of two of my students (a set of twins)!  He did a fantastic job giving students an overview of the different types of engineers including civil, construction, electrical, mechanical, biomedical, computer, and much more. 

After the presentation, students were lucky enough to practice working as engineers! 
Students were split into small groups and asked to build the tallest freestanding structure using PVC pipes and elbows. There was one catch, there were no plans to build off of, so students had to collaborate as a team to quickly design and build the structure off the top of their heads. 

Here is Mr. Borges with one of his proud sons, Ethan
Students gathering their materials for the collaborative activity
Hard at work building the structure
The winners!
This was the only team to finish with a free standing structure

Once the challenge was over, Mr. Borges, explained the importance of having plans to guide engineers in their work. 

Students analyzing a set of engineering plans
  Next up, we went on to meet a real-life artist!  He did a wonderful job of helping the children realize that EVERYTHING is art and inspiring them to believe in themselves. 

Our presenter showing students different forms of media that can be used to make art. 
After three inspiring and thought-provoking presentations, we journeyed on to our last career day presentation where we met a rocket scientist from NASA, Mr. Villorin! He taught students all about NASA's new spacecraft Orion and even let them create their very own rocket!

Students had a "blast" creating Straw Rockets! 

Straw Rockets Craft

Students proudly showing off their straw rockets
Once students were finished creating their straw rockets, it was time to see if they would fly... 

Students launching their straw rockets, it was a success!
It was a success! Each students rocket blasted off. 

I would like to express my gratitude to all of the amazing presenters who came to share their careers with our class and school this year! Thanks to them, my students had a great time learning about different interesting and important careers in our community. 

Until next year!
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