Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ruth Spiro Visits The Van Meter 3rd Graders To Share Her New Book, Made by Maxine!

Last week our friend and author, Ruth Spiro, visited Amy Garrison's 3rd graders on Skype. 
We were so excited to virtually welcome Ruth to Van Meter to celebrate her new book....
Made by Maxine!  In fact, School Library Journal calls Made by Maxine, A fun and uplifting picture book for all libraries that encourages children to engage with STEM concepts.

This new picture book written by Ruth and illustrated by Holly Hatam, will inspire any young maker.  

This was also shared online about Made by Maxine, 
Meet Maxine, an inspiring young maker who knows that with enough effort and imagination (and mistakes), it's possible to invent anything.
Maxine loves making new things from old things. She loves tinkering until she has solved a problem. She also loves her pet goldfish, Milton. So when it's time for her school's pet parade, she's determined to create something that will allow Milton to march with the other animals. Finally, after trying, trying, and trying again, she discovers just the right combination of recycled odds and ends to create a fun, functional--and absolutely fabulous--solution to her predicament.
They loved listening to Ruth read her new book. 
It was special to hear Ruth read One day at school, Miss McMiller made an exciting announcement, since the teacher is named after me!  What a honor that is. It makes this book even more special. 
Afterwards, she got them thinking about using their imagination by showing them a juicer.  She asked them what they thought it was and their answers were so thoughtful and fun.
 Ruth also gave them lots of time to ask their own questions, while....
...encouraging them to use their imagination and never give up. This conversation was perfect for our students as we weave STEAM, Makerspaces and SEL throughout our classrooms, libraries and community.

We can't wait to Skype with Ruth again, as she is one of our favorite authors.
Several years ago, one of our first Skype's and projects were with Ruth. We Skyped, celebrated Bubble Gum Day and raised money for a charity.

You can read about this special day here.
 Since that, Ruth has went on to write Made by Maxine and several board books in the series,

 Baby Loves Science.  
These are perfect for our youngest learners as they learn science topics such as coding, engineering, physics, gravity and more.
Thank you Ruth for Skyping with our third graders and their teacher, Mrs. Garrison. We loved every minute!  Your new book, Made by Maxine, has inspired us as makers too.  
You can read all about Ruth and her books on her website,

Our Keyboarding Smore and Symbaloo To Share!

Today, we kicked off a new keyboarding program with our elementary students at Van Meter. 
We created a Smore online newsletter for our families and teachers.  We shared it this morning before the students came to the library to....
...learn about the resources we pulled together for the Keyboarding Symbaloo that you will find here.

Within the Symbaloo, there are online tools, apps and tasks for learning how to keyboard, games to strengthen keyboarding skills and timed typing sites to track growth in speed and accuracy.  We will include several holiday and seasonal resources and activities that are fantastic to use too.

With consistent practice, they will gain accuracy and speed, and also be able to convey their thoughts through keyboarding successfully.  While, of course, having fun!
Our kindergarten and first graders explored the keyboard and worked on mouse skills through different websites.
We give them choice to what they want to visit.  It was interesting watching them explore and learn more about the keyboard. 
With our second through fifth graders, we are going to be using several websites and apps for them to practice keyboarding.  There are lots of digital keyboarding games, sites and even a few timed typing tests they can visit on the Symbaloo.  Again, choice is important. 
For the organized, self-guided instruction, we will be using We signed up every class with their own class.  
We included the link to the classes on each grade level Symbaloo as shown above. This made it very easy for them to go to their class as they signed up using school gmail accounts.  It will be handy for them to use these tiles throughout the year too. 
 It was fun watching them sign up in, personalizing their account,
thinking about their hand placement and posture,
while learning how it is set up and how they will work....
 ...through it it at school and.... home.
I can't wait to see the difference this site and all of the other sites, apps and activities will have on our learners as they use these resources to learn and practice keyboarding at school and home.

We will be using and these other resources with our middle school students as well.

Please feel free to make a copy and use it for your own keyboarding program too. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

An Interactive Google Map For Our Traveling Murals As They Go Around The World!

The Traveling Mural Project is off to an amazing start!  As of today, we have almost 80 school communities signed up. 

Last night, my cousin and fellow teacher librarian, Julia Maynard, created this awesome Google Map of the schools participating.  You will find it here.  She will continue to add the schools to this Google Map. 

Julia will also add pictures of each mural the schools create, so make sure you take a picture of your mural before it is cut apart and after you put the traveling mural together too. 

Thank you Julia!  This will be such a wonderful way for us to keep track of all the traveling murals as they go around the world. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Makey Makey Comes To Van Meter Through Family Literacy, The Library & Symbaloo!

This week at Van Meter we are kicked off using Makey Makey within our library, Makerspace and classrooms! 
At our Family Literacy Night with author Julia Cook, we split up into three groups to run activities while Julia spoke to our parents.  
We had a LEGO and building station, STEAM and snack station, and a Makey Makey station...all tying into literacy. 
My Makey Makey crew, Diana,
Josie and myself, were in the library.
We kicked off our time together in our station reading Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey.

Throughout the book, we see the main character using Makey Makey to give her doll a 1.0 makeover, so this will be the perfect tie in for our night of celebrating literacy and making.

We started with this video that shows us what we can do with Makey Makey. 
Then we let the students and their families jump right in!

We couldn't wait to break out the Makey Makey kits during Family Literacy Night and with our classes throughout the year in the library.  Our students LOVED seeing the creativity, experimenting and fun that took place. 
As also kicked off using Makey Makey with this new Symbaloo I created. It will give them several places to start and was awesome to use in our Makey Makey workshop. 
We have added this to our library Symbaloo for all of the students and teachers to find.  

You can find the Makey Makey Symbaloo here to use with your students and community too. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Day Bloxels Came To Van Meter For The Big Board Game Jam!

On October 16, we had something very exciting come to Van Meter Elementary.  
The Bloxels Big Board Game Jam came to our community on that day thanks to our friends.... 
 Josh, Caleb and....
...Amber from Bloxels.  
They were there to work with our 60 5th graders for the entire morning.  

To kick off the day, Josh taught them all about....

Bloxels EDU and how they were going to turn their stories into video games.  
With Bloxels, students build interactive stories that become video games.
And one of the best parts, Bloxels is collaborative from the start as they work together and can even share and play the videos games of their own and of their classmates.  
As Josh explained Bloxels, our students hung on to every word as they learned...
....they would be getting into groups to write a story with a game title, hero, enemy/challenge, objective and overall story.  They would first work on the worksheets that Josh provided to write their video game story and use the grid to lay out their backgrounds and characters. 
In Bloxels, all of the different colored cubes....
...have specific functions so as they lay out their video games on the grids, 
they use the different colored markers to specify what function...
...they need to create their video game. 
With the white cube being the Story Block, this was one of the most important things for them to think about as they would have a place to add the objectives and story of their video game. 
When Josh was done explaining how to create their video game, he told them all how to log into their account within Bloxels EDU.  It is so nice, because every student can have their very own login within the class platform.  
Our 5th graders would have most of the morning to collaborate with their team to write, map out and create their video game.  
It was fun to walk around and hear the brainstorming taking place as they.... 
...dreamed up their team name and video game. 
One of my favorites....The Glazed Donuts and they created a game where their main character Sage has to battle Evil Dude to save the world!  
The engagement, excitement and passion we saw the 5th graders put into their video games was inspiring for all of us to see.  
The characters, 
backgrounds and how they put their video games together were amazing!   
As they worked,  
...and Caleb were there to give the kids advice...
...and talk through their video game building.  
We watched them problem solve,  
test things out, 
and work together.  
They played their games as they created them... 
...working within the Bloxels app too.   
The detail and thought they put into their video games was.....

They couldn't wait to share what they were creating.    
At the end of the morning, each group presented their video games and played them for the group.  
This was one of their favorite parts of the morning as they loved sharing and... 
...seeing what their friends had created. 
 They couldn't wait to try every one of the video games out too!  
The Big Board Game Jam was one of the best days!  It not only gave our students an opportunity to work together and communicate to write and create a video game, it also gave them the sense of accomplishment through success, trial and error, testing, playing and presenting with their classmates and teachers.  

Bloxels showed our students that they can do anything!  And just think....there might be future video game creators in this group! 

This is just the start of using Bloxels at Van Meter.  For the next four weeks, all of our elementary students will be writing, creating and playing their own games....and we will be using Bloxels with our secondary students too.  We can't wait to see all of them teach and support one another. 

Thank you Amber, Caleb and Josh!  You guys are awesome.  We love what you and Bloxels have brought to Van Meter!  You made a difference!  

And don't forget to watch the video too. :)