Dear Followers of “Minding My P’s and Q’s,”
It is my pleasure to welcome Linda Wachel as our Guest Blogger. Linda is the Director of Technology and Resource Specialist at Oak Hill Academy. She recently attended a state computer education conference in Austin which sparked some great tidbits of information and insights to share. Enjoy…
“If we can instill into our students the Joy of Discovery, then one day they will CHANGE THE WORLD!” Bill Nye – The Science Guy
I had the privilege of hearing a keynote presentation by one of my children’s childhood heroes – Bill Nye the Science Guy. Around my house in the late-90’s Mr. Nye’s PBS science special was second only to Zoboomafoo, when it came to binge television watching. And if you know Zoboomafoo, the lemur, you know the cute factor gave him an unfair advantage in this competition. Mr. Nye kept my girls occupied (and educated in the area of science) for hours while I cooked dinner, laundry, etc. With his animated presentation style (due to a strong fascination and passion for his subject) and his quick wit, he has quite a knack for holding the attention of children and adults alike.
In his keynote address to a room full of educators at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in February, he inspired and encouraged teachers to instill the “joy of discovery” in their students. He said that students empowered with this gift will one day “CHANGE THE WORLD!” This concept was repeated throughout the conference, the largest technology education conference in Texas. As I attended session after session throughout the week-long conference, I saw a pattern of new buzz words like STEM, STEAM, Makerspace, and AR (Augmented Reality) sprinkled throughout the presentations. Some of these terms were unfamiliar at first, but I quickly realized that these concepts are already woven throughout Oak Hill Academy’s curriculum, events and programs.
STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
STEAM = the same as above with some Art mixed in
Makerspace = a structured opportunity for students to create, problem solve, think outside the box, explore the world of STEAM with a hands-on approach
Augmented Reality = in simple terms this is the fusion of digital information with either live streaming video or the viewer’s real environment. One of the first times many people may have become aware of this type of augmentation of reality may have been when watching a sporting event on television. Television viewers are now used to seeing the virtual “first down” line superimposed on the field.
Our science teachers have developed a curriculum that is rich in these concepts, while incorporating the hands-on approach that our students love. For example, Middle School science classes have been busy working in teams to create their own roller coaster. In a wonderful cross-curricular assignment, Mrs. Mendenhall has guided them from the creative concept phase to the implementation phase, with great practical lessons in fundraising, budgeting, teamwork, planning and, of course, some physics, along the way.
Similarly, Mr. Coffey led the campus in various challenges over the years – designing and devising the most aerodynamic gliders, the swiftest sailboats for the Rain Gutter Regatta, and the most powerful catapult for our Marshmallow Launch. Each of these events combined classroom knowledge with creativity and problem solving – and a little healthy competition.
The Makerspace concept gives students an opportunity to implement all of these skills, exploring the world around them, with encouragement to see things from a different perspective. Mrs. Hewitt has found a use for our outdated technology: instead of calling a technical recycling company to haul off the old computers and printers, she has set up a station in her Fine Motor and Handwriting class where students can tinker with and investigate the workings of these devices. Armed with screwdrivers and a sense of curiosity, students tinker with these machines, taking them apart with the promise of keeping any component they are able to disassemble.
And of course, the world of technology attracts our students like a magnet, drawing them into a realm of augmented reality that sparks an inquisitiveness like no other. With iPad apps like Elements 4d – where students learn that combining a Hydrogen cube with an Oxygen cube will result in the new cube filling up with water – who can resist experimenting with every element to see what else you can create! Another ideal example of augmented reality is the ever popular Minecraft – check out Oak Hill’s Minecraft summer camp sessions, scheduled June 8-19 and July 27 – August 7.
Oak Hill Academy plans to celebrate all things Science and Numbers on our first Numeracy Live on Wednesday, March 25th. Students will research famous scientists and mathematicians, and come dressed as one of these men or women who dared to change our world with their STEM knowledge and joy of discovery. I can only imagine what incredible innovation will someday better our lives as the result of Oak Hill students who are learning that tinkering, exploring, creating, and problem-solving lead to the Joy of Discovery!
In a recent pre-school story time in the library, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday by reading one of his classic rhyming stories that truly sums it all up: Oh the Thinks You Can Think! According to The New York Times, this book “Contains one of Dr. Seuss’s solid-gold morals, the joy of letting one’s imagination rip.”
Think left and think right
and think low and think high.
Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try!
Thanks to Pam for letting me share on her blog platform! I welcome your comments and discussion. I will be monitoring the comments on this blog post. If you have questions or would like to share your thoughts on inspiring our children, I would love to hear from you!