A Makerspace Inquiry Lesson – Minecraft, Yarn, Smoothies and the Honeybee…

What does a ball of yarn, a quilt, a Makespace, the Honey Bee, a podcast, Green Smoothie and a Minecraft Museum all have in common?

The following is an example Inquiry Lesson that infuses Maker Space, Collaborative tools, Inquiry and Design thinking, including Minecraft. We facilitated this lesson at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre in our Grade Six Journalism Program, for Gifted Students.

This Video is the lesson consolidation. Everything is connected. “How Wolves Change Rivers”.

Interconnectivity.

We ask: Is Interconnectedness essential for our survival?

DSC_0290_2*How does the interconnectedness of anything change its course or direction in life?

*What does it mean to depend on someone or something?

*Will the disappearance of the honey bee impact human life at the local to international level? In what ways?

*How can we strengthen our own connectedness to the earth? To each other?

 


Curriculum Connections:

Copy of IMG_20160110_183417 (1)

Social Studies: People and Environments, Political and Physical Regions of Canada (Ontario Curriculum)  For More Detailed Curriculum follow this link

Connections to Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 13:Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages


Pre-Lesson and Critical Literacy/Inquiry

To begin, we would use a “Flipped” approach. First, students would be given a task to investigate content related to the local and global issue of disappearing bees. Students explore, find, read,watch/listen and discover information related to why honey bees are disappearing. Second, students are  asked to bring a leafy green vegetable and a fruit (and any type of super food such as chia or hemp). Contributing means feeling part of something and recognizing the value you bring in- your importance. This piece is vital. It strengthens community and builds trust.

EXAMPLE LETTER: LINK


YES, Space is IMPORTANT!

Room Design, Bulletin Boards and Relevant Activities (Self-Directed Activities)

Kitchen (connection back to home/family)

healthMock kitchen is created. Vegetables are displayed along with a nutritional information focus; Students would also share in a Tea Circle Discussion upon arrival (as they do most days); The kitchen would also have an assortment of plants (especially those with obvious pollen); A variety of honey types would be on display for students to explore the texture and taste and begin to make personal connections to the topic.

Science:

15375There is also a worm compost bin (vermi composting) to maintain the importance of connections and emphasize the value balancing what we take and give back to the earth.-Flowering plants on display for students to explore with microscope; A variety of informational videos available.

 

Living Room Area (literacy)

alternative spaces DSC_0087_4

Word wall and activities; Knitting/crochet activities (in shape of honeycomb; Sewing (creating a beehive pattern activity); A variety of books, magazines, newspapers and literature

 

Math Area

DSC_0096_4Collaborative puzzle for hands-on activities (an explicit way to demonstrate the connectedness of each individual piece and its necessity for the whole); A display that demonstrates facts and data, along with inquiry questions; A map display showing areas that are impacted; Honey Comb is be available  to help students learn about the geometry of the Bee Hive and how the HoneyComb is made.

Maker and Art Space

DSC_0296_2

Students will have access to lego; Sewing Machine Activities; 3D printer; Programming activities (using scratch to program geometric shapes);Green Screen applications; Pencil Sketching, Math and GeometryDesigning

 


Introductory

IMG_8002With a cup of tea, the lesson will begin around the “Kitchen Table” where we will feel, touch, smell and taste some of the fruits and veggies that will go into the Smoothies. We will discuss how the veggies change their attributes and nutritional impacts when the are paired with one another (i.e., vitamin C with Iron). As a group we begin asking questions about what we know and don’t know about the vegetables, their interconnections to each other as well as to the earth. We will ask, what would happen if they weren’t available?

Here, we would begin our inquiry.

DSC_0216_2Following our Tea Circle, students will begin an independent exploratory activity where they will participate in a  ‘shared’ Google Document and contribute to collaborative inquiry. (Here, a link is created by opening the document to anyone with link to make the process efficient.) Students contribute to information search focusing solely on the specific foods they brought in (or assigned to) and make explicit connections to nutrients. They use the information to create recipes that focus on a certain need or ailment.

We call it “Brain and Body On”.

LINK to the DOCUMENT

  • We would later use this activity to make the connection that healthy foods are a necessity in our lives and begin the inquiry of WHY so many people continue to suffer obesity and health problems – relating this to our connections to the people and world around us.
  • We would discuss Nutrition in the context of wealth and poverty and further explore the Global Goals.
  • We would connect this to the biodiversity of our planet and examine the impact – the cause and effects of loss and gain. Students would see the chain reaction of how a honey bee can impact the lives of humans, food and climate change, and the impact this has for Ontario Farmers, Trade relations and cost of food. This article would provide a context: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/food-and-climate-change/
  • We would connect this to rising prices of fruits and vegetables due to lower yields of farmer crops, to the grocery store and finally to the consumer.  We would discuss Trade. This link would provide a context: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/loonie-grocery-costs-1.3399841
  • Students would discover that this loss would perpetuate poverty and would lead to a health crisis since our most valuable resources (as they’ve discover) are only accessible to people who can afford the high costs.

Minds-on & Hands-On

DSC_0226_2Together:  Students begin the day, together in a large circle (this process helps students understand the impact of being connected and interconnected). Students are encouraged to be mindful of the fact that they all share in the moment, the day.  One by one, students pass a ball of yarn while celebrating and sharing one connection (a team, a family, a friend, a book…). They form a web of direct and indirect connections and would learn that they can be impacted indirectly when the yarn is yanked or dropped by anyone in the circle, even those that aren’t directly linked.

  • compare this to our connections to our planet, to other living organism,  to the foods we eat, to others – near and far.
  • bring this realization of interconnectedness back to the Big Idea (Is interconnectedness essential for our survival?)

Individual: Students are given time to explore hands-on activities provided throughout the classroom – all that demonstrate concepts of interconnectedness. This can be done at the start of class (when they arrive, or throughout the class as time allows.

  • puzzles
  • knitting, crocheting (co-creating a quilt)
  • sewing
  • Circuits and Programming activities
  • 3D printing
  • Creating Smoothies

(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)


Inquiry – Student Driven:

As a class, students create a COLLABORATIVE book that identifies a variety of topics/issues involving the plight of the honey bees and the interconnectedness of the environment and humans. Together, students create a list of issues involving the disappearing bees ( focus on trade, farmers crops, use of pesticides, GMO’s, cause and effect on environment…). Upon completion, each of the Inquiries will be posted.

List of topics will focus on specific learning curriculum expectations

*connections between natural environment, employment, jobs and consumer (relating to bees)

*Jobs, land and organizations dependent on survival of bees

*Impact and connection of environment effects and land use (cause and effect)

*Environmental issues at an international scale and its impact on Canada

In partners or individually, students  are given a full period (or more) to research and discuss the topic of their choice, but always relating it back to the inquiry topic of the Honey Bee and its interconnected value to the world.


 

Staying engaged… feeding the body and soul…

*Note – Throughout “Worktime”, students will have an opportunity to make SMOOTHIES based on their recipes and ingredients (from earlier activity). During this small group time, students will be asked to share how the ingredients and the nutrients are directly connected to their inquiry topic. AT this time, we will make connections back to the land and its impact on farming and then back to the consumer.

(Assessment Opportunity – Teacher/Student time)


Product (Culminating) – What are students working to create/produce?

Copy of DSC_0228_2*Podcast – Students learn to use Audacity and begin exploring podcasting techniques. As part of Interconnectivity, students use SKYPE to discuss Podcasting techniques with an expet in podcasting -Rodd Lucier.. Students are given examples and podcasting techniques -how to express voice, to conduct an interview, to use voice to convey a message, etc. Students will create a podcast interview, informational podcast or a skit.

 

*Blog Students upload their podcast to their blog along with a blog describing the topic and inquiry question.Students have a prior knowledge of blogging. They will be reminded to use more than one medium in their blog and to end their blog with an inquiry question.

*Collaborative Book – Students will contribute to a Collaborative book using OneNote or Google Drive

Copy of IMG_ldwr7qStudents will add their information to the WHOLE class creation using Google Drive or OneNote, thus demonstrating and participating in a connected activity

*MinecraftEDU – Students will design their solution or their information topic in a collaborative world. Here students will design a collaborative museum, where they will add their information through design and interactivity.


Assessment

Learning criteria will be established with the students. As a group we will discuss some of these expectations:

  • Research and Information produced must contain local and international data that explains a topic.
  • Students address connections to themselves as well as looking at connections at a large scale (consumer, poverty, land use)
  • Students will ask relevant and critical questions as part of their research
  • Students recognize the impact that the topic has at a larger scale and discuss reasons for this
  • Students use appropriate vocabulary
  • Students recommend solutions

Specific Expectations

*describe some major connections between features of the natural environment and the type of employment that is available in a region, with reference to two or more municipal regions in Ontario

* “Why are some jobs dependent on the seasons?” “What are some of the jobs that are connected to forests, lakes, and rivers? What sorts of jobs are connected to agricultural land use?”

*gather and organize a variety of data and information on the environmental effects of different land and/or resource use and measures taken to reduce the negative impact of that use

*evaluate evidence and draw conclusions about issues related to the impact of natural resource extraction/harvesting and/or use around the world

*communicate the results of their inquiries using appropriate vocabulary (e.g., non-renewable, renewable, flow resources; extraction; sustainability; deforestation; fossil fuels; aquifer) and formats appropriate for specific audiences

*explain why some environmental issues are of international importance and require the participation of other regions of the world, along with that of Canada, if they are to be effectively addressed

When NOT to use Minecraft in the Classroom

I do not share this post with the intent to judge others in their attempts to educate students by using specific tools.  Instead, I want to encourage critical thinking, reflection and discussion. I share it as a way to ask for support and guidance as to when we should be using Game-Based tools to engage and teach certain content.

I struggle with incorporating the popular “Craft Reconciliation” project into my current Inquiry Lesson about Truth and Reconciliation between the Canadian Government and First Nations Peoples. I struggle at the thought of using a tool that for many students is considered a “game” to address such a deep, personal and difficult topic. I do not want to put light on an issue that has had such dark implications and caused so much harm for so many.

It is important to me as an Educator to have my students truly understand why Canada is involved in the process of Truth and Reconciliation as it pertains to our First Nations, Metis and Inuit. This isn’t just part of our history – our past and present – but it is part of our own individual need to understand why reconciliation, truth and forgiveness, is necessary for individual growth so that we can authentically make and act upon changes – not just say reconciliation, but also demonstrate it. These are the values that we uphold as Canadians.

In my role as a Teacher for Gifted (ages 9-14), I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for students to dive into some of the deeper issues that involve First Nations, Inuit and Metis (FNMI) not just as Peoples of the Past, but of the Present. I was also thrilled at the potential of using creative approaches, like Minecraft, for students to engage in this initiative – Craft Reconciliation is an initiatve  –https://www.facebook.com/WabKinew/posts/10153017657506618:0 where students would engage in a inquiry process and design thinking.

I was excited to participate in this process – at first.

But then, as my colleague (Kristy Luker) and I began designing the inquiry lesson, I became more and more uncomfortable with having students sharing and demonstrating their thoughts in Minecraft. The task yes, but why was I so uncomfortable with my Minecraft when I have done so many lessons using Minecraft in the past?

Let me be clear here. I am a HUGE advocate of Minecraft in the classroom. I have used Minecraft for almost six years and have presented locally and Internationally over the past several years on why Minecraft is a choice learning tool for design (and for thinking, engineering, collaboration, math, science, literacy …you get the point). I write blog posts about Minecraft and have even won awards based on my use of Minecraft within an Inquiry driven classroom (The Enrichment and Innovation Centre).  My point is that  I am in FULL agreement that Minecraft is a fantastic tool.

BUT….I am uncomfortable with students using Minecraft for this particular topic. Am I afraid of minimizing the content? Am I afraid that students will be distracted from the seriousness of the issue? Am I worried that they will not give attention and justice to an issue that has had such dark and destructive impacts on an entire culture? Are we over using Game-Based tools…to the point that we have lost perspective?

I can attest that I know how student work in Minecraft. I have worked on Minecraft related projects with over 600 students over the last few years.  Keep in mind, I am talking about students at the Junior or Middle school ages (9 – 14). I’m not sure how this would be different for Secondary level students or adults. I wonder if it is different for those students who have only used Minecraft in an Educational sense? 

Watching them work, play and create is what made me love it so much as a learning tool. But I have learned that they work differently in this platform. Even in a most focused and rich design task, they are in “play mode”. This isn’t bad, it is just a fact. Most of them have been ‘playing’ Minecraft before any teacher or school ever introduced it to them. They know well and and used the tool well before most teachers. They go into “Minecraft Mode”.  It is almost impossible for us to tell them to stop “playing” and get to the task/design. FULL ENGAGEMENT. I am certain that any teacher who has used this tool in the classroom can attest to this.  They can’t help but get giddy and excited – like anyone would that is allowed to use a creative, open-ended and collaborative tool. Plus, it’s Minecraft!!  And, too often, they need some reminding to stay on task (they love to build Minecarts or anything involving redstone for just about anything).  They also need a lot of time and thinking as part of the process. A lot.

It is exactly these reasons that I am uncomfortable with students using Minecraft to explore and recognize Truth and Reconciliation between Canada and the FNMI people. Why? Honestly-   I don’t want them to get “giddy and excited” in this topic. I don’t want them to Play when talking about the Residential schools. As I read and read (and read) the information and documents released, I realized that the issues go so deep and personal. We are not just talking about the physical symbols and cultural values that our First Nations have brought to Canada. We are talking about the the fact that over the years, Canada has policies that were geared at eliminating Aboriginal rights. The report released in 2015 explains, “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation and cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. (Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, 2015)

The more that I learned from the report about the Residential Schools in detail the more angry and upset I felt. “For the students, education and technical training too often gave way to the drudgery of doing the chores necessary to make the schools self-sustaining. Child neglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision created situations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers (Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, 2015) .

If you have ever read my blog or tweets, you know I am an advocate for the use of engaging and current learning tools. I believe that we need to do better at engaging our students. But as an advocate, I am also cautious and I tend to think critically about how we do this in a balanced and respectful way.

I hope this doesn’t get read with offense but more as a discussion starter about when we should be employing Game Based tools in our curriculum. Does the content matter? Are students able to recognize the seriousness of a topic when using a tool that they are used to using for fun? Maybe I’m way off. Maybe fun and engagement can help us understand hard topics better? But in this case, I am going with my gut.

Consider joining in the conversation.

EndNote:

We did our first of 5 lessons about Truth and Reconciliation. We talked about why we were not participating in the Craft Reconciliation Project. They said, “It doesn’t feel right”.

Here is the overview (just an overview) of our lesson. Keep in mind, it is changing as we go along.

-Zoe

 

Makerspace, Inquiry and Minecraft – Enrichment and Innovation Centre

I am excited, thrilled and honoured to be given the opportunity to present some of  my experiences as a Teacher and Researcher, in particular how and why I am using Minecraft in my Maker/Learning Space. I look forward to meeting, sharing and collaborating with the many innovative and curious educators that will be attending ISTE and hopefully attending my session on:

Monday, June 29, 12:45–1:45 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)
Building/Room: PCC 108

What will I be presenting? Sharing?

This year, I co-created and facilitated programming at the Enrichment and Innovation Centre, at the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. I’ve tried to write and share my experiences and personal reflections throughout the past school year. In one post, I write about the Classroom Design and I call it, “A little Starbucks and a little Kindergarten” . In another post called, “Problems that Matter…Where our Inquiry Started…and never ended.”. Here, I share what it is like to teach in an “ideal” learning environment where all students are given an Individual Education Plan, where there are no bells and no interruptions and where the class is infused with a variety of technologies. In another post, I share how I infused the Inquiry Process with Minecraft and literacy and provide a sample lesson plan called, “The Road Not Taken”. Here, student deconstruct and then reconstruct the Famous poem, by Robert Frost.

Please join me on Monday where I will discuss further, some strategies on how to implement Minecraft and other creative tools into the classroom space.  Here is a sample of what I will be sharing:

Be PROUD of that “Minecraft Teacher” label (or whatever the label)….

A couple of days ago, I read a couple tweets from a teacher that was voicing thoughts about being labelled as a “Minecraft” teacher, rather than an Innovative teacher that uses many engaging and creative tools including Minecraft. I looked back through the Twitterverse, but couldn’t find the tweets again.

FDSC_0271irst, I think that any teacher, leader or principal  that is labelled a Minecraft teacher should be EXTREMELY proud.  Bring it ON!  Think about it. You are being labelled as a teacher that is creative, open-minded, collaborative and willing to use tools and methods that are engaging and encourage students to venture into ARTS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING and MATH! Not to mention, using a tool that lends itself well to having students THINK, REACT and ADAPT to certain situations.  And to further the point, you are using a tool that is Universally Designed and doesn’t restrict students that have literacy barriers or language barriers.

 

So, if people see you as a MINECRAFT TEACHER, then I suggest you thank them. Maybe they just don’t understand what a compliment they gave you!

I find myself thinking  more and more about the assumptions that are made about teachers that research, share, blog and reflect on specific technology tools they use as part of the learning and teaching process. In fact, sharing specific examples about the tool or program on Social Media can have an interesting result since the context isn’t always obvious and assumptions get made about the teacher. For example, The Minecraft Teacher, The Smartboard Teacher, The Livescribe Teacher, The Google Teacher, The iPad Teacher…… You get the point.

But who cares? I am certain that I’ve been labelled a certain “kind” of teacher. I suppose it depends on who and from when. Today, I might be considered the “Minecraft Teacher”.  I delivered several Smartboard workshops for my District about 10 years ago, so back then, I was the “Smartboard Teacher”.  About 8 years ago, I started using blogging platforms with my students, so those who know me then, might consider me the Blogging teacher, or the Skyping teacher since we used Skype so often. A couple of years later, I began incorporating tools that were Universally Designed, such as audio amplification systems. I used the Front Row system and had a microphone around my neck most of the day. Yes, for a while, I was the Front Row teacher. And then, there was the iPad. My iPad ‘ONE” was the only iPad in the school (of 700) for 2 years. This single iPad labelled me as the iPad expert.  In 2006, my students were using Scratch and Robotics and even for a short while, I was seen as the Programming Teacher. Then, there was the Livescribe. Another action research project that had me integrate the tool in ways that I still find myself attached to, especially around assessment.  Recently, I’ve been investigating and integrating a variety of Microsoft tools into the classroom. Maybe that makes me a “Microsoft” teacher too.

Doesn’t it seem like the technology tools and innovations that we blog and tweet about seemed to override everything else we do as teachers? as leaders? as learners?

Do we take the time to sift through our assumptions, to get to know the person and understand why they use the tools or methods they do? Why the “act” the way they do on Social Media? Who are they really?

I now use all of these tools or program as part of the teaching and learning process, depending on the situation, the student and the context. Those of have taken the time to know me, know that I am NOT an expert, but am willing to try out as many tools as possible in hopes that I can reach my students in a way that supports higher order thinking, inquiry, and depth.

My classroom focuses on collaboration and inquiry, not technology, not Minecraft, not Livescirbe, not Smartboard, not Coding, not Google, not robotics… (you get the point).  I am good with the many labels that are attached to my name and I’m even good with the fact that I have probably used these tools for “Subtitution”  (SAMR) on occasion. But…I used them and I continue to learn.

DSC_0272Back to the “Minecraft teacher “ and for all the “Minecraft teachers” out there, be proud of your label, because you ROCK. You are taking risks, trying new things, engaging your students and putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and judged…and still, you do it. Remember, it is most often due to the ignorance or lack of understanding of you and your practice that results in the LABEL, not you!

 

I wonder, what ASSUMPTIONS, based on interactions in Social Media,  about educators, leaders or others in your network, do you have?  

What assumptions do you think are made about you? 

 

The Road Not Taken – Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning in Minecraft

robertfrontpicsquare

The Road Not Taken – Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning in Minecraft

two_roads_diverged_in_a_yellow_wood

 Designing lessons that foster creativity, collaboration and depth in thinking is multifaceted. We need to use tools that provide an opportunity for interaction and collaboration. This includes a method for students to help one another and provide feedback. The context needs to be relatable and flexible. The content, whatever it is, needs to have value and personal connections and it needs to matter -and if it does, it will have depth and purpose. I offer the following as an example.

Summary of Lesson:

Robert_Frost_RoadsAs a whole class, students would create (Yes, actually build )  the poem “A Road Not Taken” using Minecraft as a Medium (using a server). Students would have already discussed the meaning of this poem and there many perspectives. This can be done with any poem. In Minecraft, students would need to compromise, share skills, collaborate and of course problem solve. Importantly, the students would need guidance and support from the teacher, both inside and outside the realm of Minecraft. The chat tool is pretty handy. To add a dimension of “self” to this shared story, students would find an area within the class creation to share a poem or story that they created themselves.

Big Idea: (Current theme is ‘Journalism’)

Journalism and poetry are a perfect mix because together they bring WORDS, VOICE and EMOTION to life. In this activity students would read, write and bring to life a poem through visualization, collaboration and co-construction.

Grade Six Lesson Objectives/Goals ~Relating to Curriculum:

* to use synthesize and infer meaning in texts

* to use make personal connections to a variety of texts

* to participate in discussions by asking questions

* to think critically about a topic, offering a variety of points of view

* to work collaborative in small and large groups offering support and feedback as needed

* to use a variety of tools to enhance the final product and extend learning as needed

* to understand metaphor and analogy in poetry

* to use visualization in reading and writing

* to create, in written form, a poem

* to use creative and collaborative techniques to share, model, and visual literature

Inference, Storytelling, Reflection and Language:

tierna_quoteStudents would be introduced to a variety of quotes. Instead of a teacher led introduction or hook, students would initiate the task. In a collaborative document, they would share a quote that resonates with them and explain why through storytelling and reflection.  (In our case, the quotes were provided and theme based). Here is what they published: “Our Thoughts will Change the World” (Posted with permission). In our example, students used a shared Google Presentation, accessing the link on the classroom blog.

Personal Connections and Critical Thinking

kid_poemIn sticking with the Journalism theme (and now that they have a background), students would create their own poem based on their personal connections to learning. The poems would be shared using a collaborative document, where they would offer feedback and critical questioning and would participate in a discussion that fostered critical thinking and depth of ideas. Eventually, they would take their poem/story and share it on “The Road Not Taken”. Hidden Gifts along the path…

 

Visualization, Metaphor and Analogy

 Students would be introduced to ‘ A Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost. Here, they would engage in discussions around metaphor, analogy, descriptive language, vocabulary…. They would use connections to the real world to visual the poem and would find a variety of ways and perspectives that one might interpret the meaning. They would listen to each other, offer critical though, ask questions and draw conclusions.

Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning:

Students would use MINECRAFTEDU to: 1) Co-create a visualization of the Frost Poem by adding individual elements of creativity, words and interpretations. Here, students would be each given a section of the poem to place in the collaborative construction; 2) Co-Create, discuss and construct (literally and figuratively) the meaning of their own poem.

In a nutshell, students would have a whole group task to build a visualization of the Robert Frost Poem while also adding in their own poems where they see fit. Layer upon layer upon layer.

When the students go home and tell their parents “We played Minecraft”… you’ll know what they actually did…they delved deep into literature, collaborated, created, problem solved and shared. And they had fun!

Minecraft and Fractals – a wonderful pair!

Minecraft and Fractals
By: Zoe Branigan-Pipe and Beth Carey

screenshotWe are all familiar with Math Manipulatives and the power of hands-on learning. Minecraft allows students to explore, create, design and problem solve in many dynamic ways. Here is one example of using Big Ideas and Concepts in Math. These concepts, once understood, force learners to use practical math skills in an authentic way.

“Today I learned about fractals the mathematics of nature introduced by Benoct Mandelbrot. Fractals are a repeating pattern in all directions with any shape. Inspired by Ancient Egyptian architecture this fractal is made entirely of gold blocks and glass. Although it is impractical it just shows what minecraft can really do”. -Gwen, Gr. 5 Student

Big Ideas: How does the concepts of fractal geometry link to the elements of design, engineering, and invention of the past and present and guide future decisions?

Overview: Grade Five Gifted students explore the connections and implications that nature has had on Math, Science, Art and Engineering. Using Minecraft as a creative and collaborative tool, students extend their learning of daVinci to explore and create fractals.

Source: Quillan and Makenna

Source: Quillan and Makenna

 

Who has heard of Fractals? Can someone give an easy definition? What are other things that we know of in nature that are fractals? How have fratals impacted our world? How does understanding the science of Fractals help scientist learn about Co2 levels on the planet as a whole? Where else could this idea be used to help the world? What surprised you about Fractals?

 

 

Activity Summary:

1) Background Information: Introduce and discuss the concepts relating to Fractals focusing on the principles of S.T.E.M.
2) Knowledge/Understanding: Show and discuss parts of video: Fractals The Hidden Dimension HD 1080p / Nova Youtube:http://youtu.be/lmxJ1KDR_s0
3) Communication/Thinking: Discuss, identify and list the many math concepts discussed in the video (Geometry, Symmetry, Patterning/Algebra, Problem Solving, Number Sense).
3) Communication/Thinking:Provide examples of assortment of Images that relate to Fractals.
4) Practise: Allow students, individually and/or in partners to draw and design their Fractals on paper
5) Application/Practise: Use FLAT world on Minecraft or Minecraftedu. Have students create their Fractal design in 3D dimension
6) Thinking/Communication: Allow students time to discuss, write and describe their Fractal on Collaborative document.
7) Consolidation/Sharing: Have students take SCREENSHOTS (F2) and copy/paste their screenshots into collaborative document/virtual bulletin board for sharing.

Design Thinking ~ Make Urban ReDevelopment a Reality in Minecraft

The purpose of this lesson is to inspire and engage students to use creative and critical thinking skills to make decisions and designs that impact an urban area. This cross-curricular approach to Design Thinking, allows students the freedom to use and connect  their inquires to real examples. The activity is intended for group or collaborative learning and uses a combination of whole class and small group facilitation with access to a variety of tools. The final product is a Design and proposal of a chosen Urban Landscape in their own community. Minecraft (and lego) are ideal platforms for students to use resources and tools collaborative to display their concepts.  The example lesson (below)  was facilitated with a group of 7th and 8th Graders in the Gifted Program at HWDSB.

Design Thinking – How are Urban Landscapes changing to meet the needs of people and communities of the present and future?

Throughout their schooling, our students learn why cities are built along waterways. Most Social Studies  (History, Geography) curriculums emphasize the impact of Early Settlements and Explorers at the turn of the 19th Century. Students learn about industrialization and as they move along in grades and age, they begin to make connections between the age of industrialization, globalization, communities, Social Justice and Environment.  Our learners have and will make strong connections about how the age of industrialization has impacted them and the world around them. Eventually, they will use this knowledge to move forward and apply 21st Century technologies to make change and adaptations to the world around them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 5.20.37 PM

The picture here is Hamilton, Ontario, situated on the Western part of Lake Ontario (across from Toronto, South of Niagara Falls). The area at the bottom of the picture display the industries and factories that gave Hamilton it’s nick name – Steel Town.  Over the last few years, many of these factories have downsized, been bought out, or have shut down.

This is a REAL  example that IMPACTS my students. It is their community, their city, their economy. They need to feel compelled and INSPIRED to care, to understand why this single example connects to people and events around the world.

Ask the Learners to think Big: How can  old technologies and industries be transformed to meet the needs of today..and the future? WHY does it matter?

In most big cities, there are areas just like Hamilton where the industries that occupy the space are changing in scale and nature. Many are approaching the end of their time. This is an excellent opportunity to have students explore, investigate and make real world connections. Who knows, maybe one of their ideas and concepts will become a reality.

Ask them  to think BIGGER.

What makes a good city? Why?

What is the difference between demolishing and restoring?

How are cities changing or how should they change to meet the needs of a growing population?

Invite students to make GLOBAL Connections – In this short and compelling talk Kent Larson gives many examples of how cities and industries are changing to meet the needs of the future.

Kent Larson: Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city gives some examples that apply to the now and the future….

Bring it back to a local example and invite students to share potential ideas, concerns and insights from those shared by Larson. Are the innovations realistic? Doable? Possible? How do the ideas and theories from other communities impact our community?

Return to Barton and Tiffany (Hamilton’s Industry Land)

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/2029/return_to_barton-tiffany “The Carr/Curran “vision” was presented to planning committee councillors in the late summer of 2012 and was greeted politely if not enthusiastically.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Invite students to explore examples from other local areas. Examples that are real and possible. Here is one from Hamilton’s Neighbour – Toronto.The Cherry Beach area, along the Toronto Waterfront that seems to only be used by locals. Paths, and parks boarder along industries and along the waterfront.

 

 

 

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Invite students to share the many examples of how land and space can be restored to attract people and improve communities. This picture is an example of bike and pedestrian paths that were added behind roads, beside roads, on the side of factories and even along old rail lines, eventually leading to the Beaches area of Toronto.

 

 

 

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The TASK:

1) In pairs or groups, continue to investigate the history and examples of urban redevelopment both locally and globally.

2)Draw, Sketch and Discuss alternatives to the land.

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3) Co-create and build the land in the Minecraft and/or LEGO Environment – Flat Land (collaborative server).

 

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4) Using a shared Document, presentation style, ADD a captured screen shot of the proposed concept/design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1bMz0s5L1sdf6CHRAVBraqnURGGw3jW03S4GSGCVZga4/edit#slide=id.g2a828f7ba_00

Design Thinking, Teaching and Learning with Minecraft and Lego

Our Class Picture

This lesson was facilitated with Grade Five Gifted Students. This is an example of how to combine a variety of collaborative tools (Collaborative thinking/planning, Blog, Web2.0 Doc, Minecraft) with a hands-on approach to building and designing prototypes that focus on world problems. Minecraftedu, large amount of assorted lego, a class full of engaged students and a teacher/facilitator provided the necessary resources. 

It was incredible to witness the dialogue, creativity and critical thinking as the students explored and designed their ideas into something concrete. 

Inventions

Big Idea: How do past and present inventions impact our world of today?

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This is a sample lesson that can be used at a variety of ages and grades. Because this lesson is based on the concepts around Design Thinking, it is easily adapted to a variety of curriculum and standards (Writing, Oral, Research, Presentation, Media, Social Studies, Digital Citizenship).Students will engage in a workshop involving a problem solving and design process. They will connect their knowledge of inventions as well as the literature/history they are studying (in this case, DaVinci) and will plan, design and co-create inventions that focus around a real-world problems.

 

Students will use a variety of collaborative (face-to-face and online) tools and will be challenged to think creatively. Is this a new invention? What was the inspiration? How will this invention impact the world? Why is it needed? What are the important details that need consideration?

What is the role of collaboration and sharing when designing and creating a concept? How does creativity change when we change the mediums (talking to writing, to drawing, to designing, to building….etc.)

 1) Introduction and Group Discussion (Breaking the ice)

In Circle, have students share and discuss a favourite invention and why. Ask them to think of the problem that the invention solved. Encourage strong open ended questions and descriptive vocabulary. Introduce the “Big Idea” …and discuss.

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Connect the topic “Inventions” to the overall theme of “DaVinci” (relevant in our situation). How did DaVinci get inspired? What triggered his ideas? Were they realistic? Which inventions were meant to solve a problem and why?

2) Mini-Lesson and Task Overview

IMG_0570*Discuss the terms “Concept”; “Concrete”; “Idea” and “Abstract”

*Connecting back to the DaVinci theme, show students TedX video – Robot that flies like a bird http://www.ted.com/talks/a_robot_that_flies_like_a_bird.html

  • How does this invention impact the world?
  • How does this invention impact a single human being?
  • What problem can be solved by this invention and why?

 Share and discuss (whole group, pairs…) the following information: Canadian Inventions http://www.mediatrainingtoronto.com/blog/2013/6/29/50-great-inventions-canada-gave-the-world

IMG_0450Ask students, in partners, to once again think of the above questions as it relates to each invention and then  create “Criteria” that makes a good invention (and post)

  • impact on environment
  • safety
  • medicine and healing
  • social justice
  • realistic, creative
  • positive impact on world

 3) Task, Process, and Sharing →


IMG_0565Students will collaboratively design and build their own invention using inspiration from real-world problems.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 6.47.37 PMThey will (depending on age, post these steps for reference during work time)

 

  1.  in teams, first think of a concept/idea that relates to criteria
  2. draw, discuss and describe their invention
  3. use Minecraftedu – flat world to co-create a model of their invention/idea
  4. return to their drawing and description and edit, change and add as needed
  5. using their plans and model, students will build their invention using lego
  6. Access the collaborative document (in our case this was posted on blog) and add description, picture and screen
  7. Whole class sharing -* In pairs/groups students can give ‘virtual’ tours of their inventions using a shared Minecraft Server

(At some point, demonstrate how to take and retrieve screen shots from Minecraft and insert into Shared Google Presentation)

Congrats to the students who shared in the excitement of writing this collaborative book: 

Extension:

* Persuasive Writing Activity

* Dragon’s Den Type presentation

* Advertisement/Media Literacy

* Science Fiction Story

* Trade Inventions…write and describe about each

* Add on to each other’s inventions

* Descriptive Writing

* Poetry

 

Thinking through Redstone IN Minecraft

My son compares Redstone in Minecraft to Electricity in the “Real World”. He explains, that this wire like application has endless possibilities when it comes to creating or building machines.

I spent some time working with him on Minecraft and noticed his use of patterns when using this application in Minecraft. As he mastered a particular concept (electrical source, flow, breaker), he then copied it over and over to create and customize simple machines. What I was most intrigued with, was not his knowledge of electrical currents or how circuit paths function, but was his ability to think through a problem, add further dimension to the problem and use the knowledge to construct further creations and so on. Here is an (unedited) video of Nathan explaining how he is learning to use this application.

If what I seek in my classroom is for my students to use their own creative thinking to create and solve problems that are authentic (to them), I wonder how this application might challenge them. One thing is for certain, since this game offers a blank sandbox, the possibilities are endless.

Community and Urban Planning – Project Based Learning and Minecraft

The following pictures/slides provide some information about how we are using PROJECT BASED LEARNING, INQUIRY and MINECRAFT in the classroom.

Recently, a reporter asked me, “So what have you learned through this project?”

 

I’ve learned that I need to step back and trust my students.

I need to provide time, support and facilitate the groups and activities and allow them to discover for themselves the different possibilities, avenues and perspective of an issue.

I learned how important it is to use tools that they themselves are familiar with and to explicitly provide situations where they can be leaders and facilitators themselves.

The Barton and Tiffany area in Hamilton remains vacant. These students, while their concept plans may never get to play out in the real world, have had their voices heard.