World of Sand Challenge – Problem Solving, Inquiry – and fun.

“Salt and water combine to form salt water, which sinks below pure water. Heating up salt water causes it to split back into salt water and steam. Steam rises and condenses, eventually forming water droplets. Plants drink water and grow, but die if exposed to salt water. And that’s just three of the nineteen materials available for you to draw.” – World of Sand

What I’ve discovered most about my students in this Gifted program, is that they want challenge. Not just any challenge, but a challenge that doesn’t have just one answer, but a myriad of possibilities. They want a challenge that can be done, and re-done over and over, with different results or possibilities. They want to create the challenge, to ask the questions, and to discover solutions. The epitome of inquiry?

Today, one of the students finally got to implement HIS challenge. Details posted on his blog post – “World of Sand Challenge” (A comment on his post would result in a  smile).

Using the REFLECTION app on the SMARTBOARD along with the iPad app World of Sand, he demonstrated how to combine the elements, tools and chemicals to create reactions. Once the students had a chance to practice, he set specific guidelines: Acid, Liquid Fire and Acid to be set as “automatic” – in that order. The problem? Combine the other elements so that these elements/chemicals do not touch bottom of screen.

 

Here is one student explaining their result. I feel humbled to be part of their learning journey.

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I play it. They create it. Scratch.

About a year and a half ago I had the opportunity to listen and watch as Mitchel Resnick, creator of Scratch, demonstrated how this free, open-source programming language software engaged students around the world.  I was so intrigued with the program because it was so different and so far removed from the Atari games I played as a child.  And so, I  began experimenting with its possibilities both at home and in the classroom. My students used the programming language with ease (admittedly, I had much more difficulty then them and didn’t explain it well) but they used software tools to create digital storyboards about the Olympics, as culminating activities in our Space unit, to tell stories about Early Explorers  or they simply used the programming language to create and share games (for fun). At home, to my utter delight,  both my kids (7 and 9 years old) quickly replaced their usual sites – mini-clip or andkon.com with Scratch. They spent hours reviewing the games created by other children and studied the codes. They downloaded and changed games to make it “theirs”.  I can’t help but find pure joy in watching my boys create games.  There is some irony in the fact that at 8, I played Pong, while at the same age my child creates the game for himself. P1016550 It was for this reason, I was so excited to meet Mitchel Resnick at ISTE 2010 last year in Denver. I asked him for an autograph (for my son, of course).  My 10 year, told me recently that one of the newest features on the Scratch website is the   “Scratch Suggestions” portal. The creators are engaging and empowering the users by asking them what they think and it is that kind of respect that keeps them coming back. That is what my son told me. Now onto the point of this blog post – The other morning I came downstairs to find my boy on Scratch (surprise, surprise). I stopped for a moment to watch him and was amazed at the skill level. When did he learn this? Who did he learn it from? He told me that although Scratch is available at school, he doesn’t use it. So where did he learn it? Certainly not from me.  From the other players. From the examples.”I  learned it by reading the scripts”.  So I asked him to show me what he was doing. I do hope you find a second to give my son a comment.

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