Pi in the Sky

As most of you know, Pi Day is celebrated every year on March 14.

Pi in the Sky  I can’t let Pi Day go by without giving a shout out to a book by one of my favorite authors, Wendy Mass.  Her novel Pi in the Sky takes us to outer space for a funny and informative science fiction adventure.  With pie!

In Wendy’s own words:

“The germ of the idea for Pi in the Sky came from a quote a middle-schooler gave me. It was by astronomer Carl Sagan: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ My brain just started churning that quote over and over until a story started to form. I’ve always loved reading science fiction—starting with Ray Bradbury when I was younger—and I felt ready to take on the challenge.”

She actually started her career writing nonfiction for kids, so she’s no stranger to researching science and math.  It actually took her three years to do the research for this book before she felt ready to write about astronomy, evolution, and astrophysics on a level that students could understand.

Learn more about the book:

And here’s a link to some classroom resources for Pi Day.

I’ll leave you with the Pi Episode of Math Bites with Danica McKellar.

Do you know of any other good Pi books or resources?  Please share them in the comments!

 

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Hour of Code with Scratch

Scratch  Several of my library classes participated in the annual Hour of Code using Scratch, one of my favorite coding programs.

Hour of Code 1Why do I like it so much?

  • Detailed step-by-step tutorials for introductory projects
  • Color coded instructions and tools that make it easy for students to click on the right thing
  • Flexible project ideas that give students some freedom for self-expression within the boundaries of a structured activity
  • Printable activity cards so students can explore Scratch independently
  • An online community for educators

Hour of Code 2It’s always interesting to see which students will cautiously follow the instructions to the letter, and which kids will use the tutorial as merely a suggestion of what can be done.  I also enjoy watching them turn to one another asking “How did you do that?!?”  Sometimes the most unlikely students become Scratch Masters, and it’s gratifying to watch them shine as they assist others.

Hour of Code 3If you haven’t tried Scratch yourself, it’s easy to get started with it.  And I think it’s important to realize that you don’t have to know everything about Scratch to use it with your students.  Over the past week I’ve learned several new things about Scratch by watching the kids experimenting with it, and I’m quick to admit “Hey, I didn’t know you could do that!”  That’s how we model learning for our students, right?

If you are using Scratch already, I’d love to hear about your experience.  Please leave a comment, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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A Monkey With a Tool Belt is Ready for Anything!

Monkey tool-beltI fell in love with Chico Bon Bon the minute I met him.  He’s an extremely resourceful Monkey With a Tool Belt who loves to build and fix things.  He’s generous with his time and skills, he helps his friends with all kinds of problems, and he’s able to think outside the box.  (Literally!  An organ grinder traps him in one and he has to plan his escape.)

You might say he’s been part of the maker movement since 2008, before it was a buzzword in libraries and education.  So what better book to get kids thinking about their “maker” interests?

Monkey ramp

This week I’m reading the book aloud to third graders and asking them to think about what they like making and doing, and what specific tools or supplies they need to pursue their interests.  They have a choice of listing those items with a small drawing of each one, drawing themselves wearing their “maker” tool belt, or some combination of the two.  Here are some examples:

2-Alexandra    1-Morgan1-Elliott

This will lead right into a discussion of our makerspaces and the supplies that will be available for the kids.  It also gave me some great insight into the hobbies and interests of my students.  As they were writing and drawing, I was pulling books on art, fashion, sports, cooking, etc to show them during check-out time.

Don’t miss Monkey With a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe, or the two sequels!  Click on a book cover to look inside.

       

 

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LEGO Challenges in the Library: Build a Duck

One of my goals this year is to incorporate more STEAM activities into my library program, and with that in mind I’m instituting a series of LEGO Challenges for my students.

I began very simply with my 3rd and 4th graders; their first Challenge was to Build a Duck.

1-CIMG4064We went over some basic rules (click for a copy of my Duck Lego Challenge instructions) and then I gave each student a mini LEGO building kit that I put together using six to nine red, yellow, orange, and white standard bricks.  I made sure no two kits were identical so that copying someone else’s design would be impossible, and I stressed that the goal was to be original.

1-CIMG4090Most students dove right in, while others were a bit hesitant.  I think some had less experience using LEGOs, but a few were not sure what the “right” way to build a duck was.

09-CIMG4070As I circled the room offering praise for their creativity, I could see their initial noisy excitement fading to deep concentration as they experimented with different designs.

05-CIMG4066Students only needed a few minutes to complete their projects, which gave us plenty of time for Show & Share using the document camera and the promethean board.

12-CIMG4073I put blue paper under the document camera to serve as the duck pond, and students showed off their creations and explained how they built their ducks and why they used their bricks the way they did.

16-CIMG4077Allowing students to start small gave them an opportunity to build their confidence as well as their ducks, thus paving the way for more complicated projects later.  Who says learning can’t be fun?!?

1-CIMG4071Eventually I’ll be including LEGO Challenges as one of my makerspace stations.  Are you using LEGO Challenges in your library or classroom?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share what you’re doing!

 

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