Last week the students were given a design challenge to design and build something out of a cardboard box that was useful.  Each class had to collaborate and work together to create one project to bring to morning meeting.  Here is what each class created.

8th grade- birdhouse

7th grade- suggestion box for the library

6th grade- a wheeled bin to carry lunches

5th grade- remote controlled box

4th grade- lined doghouse with storage for toys

3rd grade- recycling bin

2nd grade- lost and found container with labeled compartments

1st grade- storage system for classwork and items from desk

kdg- pillows for the reading area

After each class presented their creations, we talked about innovation.  How can these items be changed to add value and set them apart from similar items that have already been produced?  So, each class is going back to the drawing board to redesign their product in an innovative way.  I look forward to seeing the new versions and prototypes they come up with.

Whole School Design Challenge

On Tuesday during morning meeting the students learned about the Engineering Habit of Mind, resourcefulness.  To practice this they were given a design challenge.

Design Challenge
Can you create something useful using one cardboard box that serves a purpose?

*You can use only 1 cardboard box (size is up the students) in this challenge.
*The design must be completed by the end of school on Friday.
*The items used during construction cannot be purchased. They must be brought from home (prior to construction Friday) or found in the school.
*Each grade is responsible for designing and building only one useful item.

I look forward to seeing what the student engineer!


Engineering Habits of Mind- Resilience


Second Grade
To practice resilience the second graders worked on logic puzzles. They began by solving one together. Then they were given a puzzle to solve on their own. Each time they were given a new puzzle it became more challenging to solve. Resilience was needed when the students’ attempts failed and were asked to persevere and try again.

Fifth Grade
Fifth grade practiced resilience as they tried to build a house of playing cards with a partner.

For kindergarten’s resilience activity they watched a video about a llama who really wanted to get some berries, but many things kept getting in his way. He didn’t give up and eventually got a berry. They then talked about how we can give ourselves a pep talk when things are hard. They practiced saying “I can do this”. The students then worked in pairs to throw the 5 erasers into a cup. It was challenging, but the kindergarteners didn’t give up and kept trying until they got some or or all ion the erasers in the cup. You could hear many students saying “I can do this”. After they finished, they talked about the challenges they faced, and what they did to overcome the challenge.


Sixth Grade
The sixth graders showed resilience when trying to solve a riddle.

Four people need to cross a bridge in the middle of the night to escape zombies. The bridge can only hold two or less people at any time and they only have one flashlight so they must travel together (or alone). The flashlight can only travel with a person so every time it crosses the bridge it must be carried back. You can cross in 1 minute, the Lab Assistant can cross in 2 minutes, the Janitor can cross in 5 minutes, and the Old Professor can cross in 10 minutes. If two people cross together, they can only go as fast as the slower person. The zombies will reach the bridge in 17 minutes. How can everyone cross the bridge in 17 minutes or less?

Balancing Robots

Topic of Design Challenge: balancing robot
Essential Question/Problem being solved: Design
a paper robot that can balance on your finger.
Subjects involved: Science
Grade(s) involved: kindergarten and first grade
Brief Description: Kindergarten and first grade learned about balance in phys ed class. They then applied what they learned to this challenge. The students were give a robot template to color and cut out of card stock. They were then challenged to balance the robot on their finger. When this proved impossible to do they recalled what they learned about balance from Mr. Johns. They concluded that weight needed to be added to the robots. They were then given two pennies and a small amount of sticky tack to use to apply the pennies to the robot. After some testing of the placement, all concluded that the robots balanced better when the weight was evenly distributed. The student then had fun learning to balance their robot on their fingers, on the end of a pencil, and even on their noses.


Wind Powered Rockets

Topic of Design Challenge: wind powered rockets
Essential Question/Problem being solved: Design and build a rocket that can be launched using wind energy.
Subjects involved: Science
Grade(s) involved: grade 2
Brief Description: After learning about they types of energy from first grade, the second graders were tasked with building a rocket that they could launch using wind energy. The students were given a rocket template to color as well as provided with two different types of straws and tape to use to construct their rockets. Many students began by taping straws to their rockets. After testing, they realized this was not a viable option. On the second attempt many students found a method that worked. They taped one straw to the rocket and inserted a smaller straw into that one. They used the second straw to apply the breath needed to force the second straw and the rocket upward. Other students took more time and made several adjustments to their design before they could get their rocket to launch. This challenge also reinforced the the Engineering Habit of Mind, resilience that was discussed earlier in the day, as well as provided the second graders an opportunity to practice the design cycle.


School-wide PBL

SJS is currently working on a school-wide PBL about our carbon footprint.  Grades 5, 2, and 1 are answering the question, “How can SJS reduce our energy consumption?”  Grades 4, 3, and kindergarten are answering the question, “How can SJS reduce our waste?” Grades 6, 7, and 8 are answering the question, “How can SJS increase our use of renewable energy?”  All groups began their work by completing a chart of things they know about the topic and what they will need to find out.  The charts helped focus their learning.  As progress is made individual classes are sharing what they have learned with other classes.  First grade, kindergarten, and second grade have all completed their parts of this project.  They have each made very informative videos they have presented to the school.

Genius Hour Update

The students in grade 3-8 are taking part in Genius Hour on flex days.  This is a time set aside for the students to work on a project they are passionate about or would like to learn more about.  We have recently moved into the research phase of this project.  It is wonderful to see so many students who are excited to learn more about their chosen topic.


Engineering Habits of Mind

The students have been practicing the Engineering Habits of Mind in their classrooms.  This week we began to look at what it means to be open-minded.  We began with a short presentation that explained what it means to be open-minded and how this idea relates to our work with STEM education and the design cycle.  In the classroom the students discussed open-mindedness further and participated in various activities to practice this.  Here is what some classes did.

Miss Rose read the book Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. They then we discussed how the characters in the story were closed-minded, and how they ended up being open-minded at the end of the book. The students also discussed how they can be closed-minded at school and what they can do to be more open- minded about things.

First Grade
The first graders listened to the story, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds. They then participated in an activity where they each were given a black dot and a white sheet of paper. They were to imagine what the dot could be and illustrated their idea. The students had to keep an open-mind and visualize what their classmates saw the dot as being, learning everyone can see something different when presented with the same information.

Seventh Grade
The seventh graders practiced using an open-mind when creating decorations for they classroom door. All the members of the class learned to listen to and consider other’s points of view.


Eighth Grade
The eighth graders watched clips from the Disney movie, Moana. They then discussed how some of the characters were closed-minded and others were open-minded.

Fifth Grade
The fifth graders participated in an activity where they were tasked with building a new settlement on a newly discovered planet. First, each fifth grader decided individually which of the skills listed they felt were important in the training of an astronaut to settle this planet. Then they worked with a partner and compared their decisions. An open-mind was needed as they discussed and justified their choices, until they both agreed. Next, the partners needed to choose how to spend their $50,000 budget for building their settlement. Again, the fifth graders needed to practice being open-minded so they could listen to and understand their partner’s points of view.


Spaghetti Challenge




Christmas Tree Challenge