Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Engineering Spy Challenge: Guest Post

I'm bringing to you a guest post from blogger Kelly from Learning Things on the Fly. Don't forget to "like" her on Facebook.  Although she has two girls and I have two boys, I admire her passion to make engineering fun for all kids, but especially girls. I've asked her to introduce her Engineering challenge in hopes that you'll join our family in working these activities into your kids lives over the next few months. We'll be doing one every other Friday! Now, without further ado...

Hi, my name is Kelly and Darci the STEMmom has been kind enough to let me share with you a little bit about what I’m doing this summer.  I was raised by a single dad and I have an older brother, so I was given every opportunity to build, tinker and play with electricity, magnets and blocks. I think the environment I grew up in gave me all the skills and confidence I needed to love and excel in math and science and a desire to be an engineer.  I have two little girls and I often see that they are drawn to pretend play, stories and books, dress up, and drawing. They love to be in other worlds. Our house is full of building toys and our girls love them, but they often need encouragement to get started and often use them to build little worlds that they can make stories about.

It is clear that girls and boys think and play differently. I love this article by ASCD about the learning differences of boys and girls (article). Girls are amazing at crossing both hemispheres of their brains, they are terrific listeners, they are often great with detail and can write well descriptively, and they have better verbal and emotive functioning. In general, boys love to move objects through space and have good spatial understanding. It would seem that girls aren’t geared for engineering, but it’s just that at a young age engineering isn’t put into terms or presented in ways that are appealing to the way they learn. So I made my girls a little ten week Spy Mission.  The Engineering Spy Girls program is really 10 open-ended engineering challenges that are caught up in a fantasy world to appeal to young girls (and boys). It’s taking the building that helps with spacial awareness, basic physics understanding and design that are often missing from girls play and putting it in this imaginary world where the girls are Spy Engineers helping these adorable Spy Puffs that they have created reach their goals. It’s meant to appeal to their love of small creatures, stories, secrets, pretend, and success.

Each week a new mission will be posted. These missions are project-based learning and building challenges that will get you to use your engineering brain and stretch your imagination. If you document your solution to the missions you will get compensated with more spy swag. As you complete missions you will receive new official documents celebrating your accomplishments and move you up on the Spy Challenge Ladder. After you complete your first challenge you will receive your missions book and your first badge, and after you finish your second mission you will receive an official Engineering Spy Girl ID (or an Engineering Spy ID for boys) that can be printed out at home. To officially complete a mission you need to send in a picture of your completed mission and some sort of documentation (to Kelly {at} learningthingsonthefly.com ). You can print out a labbook page here or just make a drawing of your solution to the problem in the mission. It is very important in engineering and the spy world to take notes of what works and what doesn’t so that you will be better prepared for future missions and problems. We hope that you enjoy solving the problems and that you have great adventures with your Spy Puff. Remember the Spy Girls motto – Engineering Spy Girls where the best spy gear is your brain.

My goal with this is for the children to feel like they were doing engineering and enjoy it. I want them to hear engineering from this point forward and think about how they solved problems, how they created things, and how they enjoyed building and creating.  I was also a middle school math teacher for a couple of years and I know for a fact kids will try harder and enjoy a class more if they think they are good at it. I for one am truly sick of girls saying they are not good at math and science… they can be. If they have early success in working with building and physics, they will be able to have success in these things later on at school. If you would like to join the squad check out the missions at http://www.learningthingsonthefly.com/engineering-spy-girls/main-engineering-spy-girls-page/ . ~ Thanks, Kelly

Kelly and I are hosting a blog hop so we can all see how others are doing with this wonderful Engineering Spy Girl Challenge (Boys welcome too!).  Its a blog hop, so you should not only be able to link up, but also include the linky on your site so people can "hop" from blog to blog! Let's have some crazy engineering fun! :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Children's Illustrator Curriculum

So, as the STEM Mom, I acknowledge my need for help in the arts! While I am a photographer and crafter, I'm not well versed in art appreciation. So I went out in search of help to include art into our homeschooling curriculum this year!  

I am so happy to have found an art curriculum that I think will be perfect for us this school year. The curriculum came from Jill @ Enchanted Homeschooling Mom and is titled, "Storybook Artist Unit Studies." She wrote the curriculum to accompany this wonderful book "Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art."


This book has illustrators of children's books talking directly to children about their lives, art studios, inspiration, and many include photos of themselves as children! It is a wonderful attempt at showing how art is a process, and how we all are artists at heart. 

Jill's curriculum organizes the book into a curriculum that will last the full school year and maybe even more! I plan on trying to do 2 lessons a week, which means we will study one illustrator for two weeks. Jill's lessons include discussion questions and links on the web to projects that line up with that artist's style. I absolutely can't wait to get started!

In June I attended a Handwriting Without Tears workshop as I struggled with teaching this skill for my son in kindergarten last year. I feel I have a better handle on it this year, and want to start the year using the wide double lines.  Handwriting Without Tears suggests that the double lines, removing the red dotted line can reduce confusion for new writers. Therefore, I modified the Illustrator Report that Jill designed for us to complete during each illustrator study.  I also added one prompt that reads, "Pick one illustration and describe what you see and how it makes you feel."   

Illustrator Report for Storybook Artist Unit Study; Using HWT wide double lines: STEMmom.org

Feel free to download my version of Jill's Illustrator Report that uses the wide double blue lines that work well for students who use Handwriting Without Tears.