Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hour of Code 2016 Success

This week at RES students participated in hour of code.  I wrote a blog post describing our plans here:
This is the third year in a row that educators at our school have worked to host this event.  It is great to see the learning and knowledge that students are gaining about coding!  It is also fun to watch those students that gravitate towards this learning to have the opportunity to be classroom leaders and support the learning of fellow students.

Coding is a language and creating code requires creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.  Some people may be surprised by the conversations, giggling and hands on learning that was a part of coding this week--it was awesome!  These pictures and video can provide a glimpse into the excitement!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hour of Code at RES-THIS WEEK!

Introducing Hour of Code! Watch this quick video to see some celebrities learning to code alongside students just like you!

Computer programming helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity in people of all ages. The week of December 5 -9th, 2016, all RES students in grades kindergarten through four will have a hands on introduction to computer programming with Hour of Code activities during their enrichment classes! Kindergarten, first and second graders will use  Scratch Jr. app for iPads, while third, and fourth graders will choose from a variety of tutorials on

STUDENTS:  Here are the links for Hour of Code at school this week:
Moana:Wayfinding with Code
Bits and Bricks:  Lego Coding
Minecraft Hour of Code
Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code
 Make a  Flappy Game

FAMILIES and TEACHERS: Here are links to continue the learning beyond this week at school!  ALL of the included links and recommendations are FREE!
Scratch Jr. iPad app
Scratch Jr. Android app 
More ways to learn from

Need more motivation to keep kids coding? Watch this short film encouraging coding!

Do you have questions about coding?  Do you want to figure out ways to help your kids use computers and tablets to create things versus consume content?  I would be happy to chat with you about this...just reach out to Darcie Rankin at 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cougar Cub Inventor's Workshop

On Thursday evening RES hosted the third annual Cougar Cub Inventor's Workshop.  Three years ago this event began as a conversation between myself and a representative of the Vermont State Science Fair who had recently acquired materials via a grant to do engineering outreach at schools.  Each year I have been thrilled to add a diversity of learning experiences to our event that engage students and families in the creative process of making.  This event, attended by over one hundred students is made possible by a great number of people. I would like to thank RES teachers Beth Redford, Tonya Darby, Diane Kane, Katie LeFrancois and Illeen Gilbar for their amazing particpatory support.  I would also like to thank other MMUSD educators who gave their evening to support learning opportunities for our kids, including: Quinn Keating, CHMS TechnologyEducator  who brought a 3D printer and exposed students to Tinkercad design; Willie Lee BRMS Technology Educator who brought gliders to fly with students and Dave Bouchard JES Enrichment Teacher for bringing materials and teaching us about green screens and drones!  We also had members from outside our community....the Vermont Society of Women Engineers hosted centers as well as Mater Christi educator and friend Tricia Finkle.  And new this year ECHO STEM educator Chris Whitaker wowed students with a zip line! In addition we have an amazing 'behind the scenes' staff in Toby Beane, Jen West and Jeanne Adams that all help to make RES events successful!

As an educator I believe in the value of engaging students in learning through hands on exploration and learning.  I also believe that there is strength in education when we can build a community of learners in families and other amazing community members.  I feel lucky to have witnessed this type of learning on Thursday and I hope that everyone had a great time making and creating! I saw low tech creations as students built a massive house structure and space needle out of cardboard, high tech engagement as students coded and designed and everything in between.

I will continue to work to support making at RES and I welcome all feedback and comments about this evening and/or ideas for future projects.

Thanks to all who attended this event!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lantern Making

For the last two weeks the art room has been alive with creativity as students created lanterns with Mrs. Aucter and our 2016 artist in residence, Gowri Savoor.  Each class was engaged and worked hard to make a piece of art to share at our Lantern Parade.  I am proud of our students  and so thankful for our awesome art educator.   The Lantern Parade is tonight, and I cannot wait to see all those beautiful scultures bobbing across the field to the beat of a drum! 

The art community is also supportive of our efforts, as the materials and residence fees were made possible with the support of the Vermont Art Council and Huntington Valley Arts Organization.

Tinkering Award for RES

I am happy to announce that RES is the recipient of a Tinkering Award. This grant award fits with my goal to increase making and tinkering at RES.  The award, is sponsored by the Vermont After School Project ( and the Montshire Museum of Science ( and includes professional development as well as tinkering materials for students.  I was lucky to participate in a full day workshop last week in which I had an opportunity to tinker with materials, work with other passionate educators interested in making, and think about the structure of a tinkering space.  It was a great experience and I came back to school this week energized to bring this style of exploration to students and staff at RES.
I love when teacher training includes time for us to be the student and explore new materials. Here are some of my creations:
What will I make?
Light Up School Spirit
Tops! I made a swimming shark and a magic eight ball top!

I am so lucky to have teachers who are interested in supporting this sort of exploration and I was able to try out one of the tinkering activities with a group of third graders on Monday.  They were creative and inventive and willing to tinker! It was great!  Another hilight for me was getting to listen in to a conversation after wards where students asked why they had done this during what was typically math time. The teacher did an awesome job of turning this question back to students...and their are ideas and comments are worth noting:
*We had to try different strategies to see what would work
*We had to persevere 
*We had to think about balance, just like when we have to balance equations
*We had to understand different shapes
It was awesome for students to be able to express the value of tinkering!  I love that students are finding value in tinkering beyond the act, and also that they are enjoying these activities at their face value as well.
Here are a few pictures of students first time with the Tinkering Kit Award materials.

I look forward to improving my teaching practice and to offering an after school course to support this type of learning in 2017. Stay tuned for more information.

Our Place in this World

Third graders have spent the beginning of the school year in enrichment thinking about their place in this world. Geography and understanding sense of place is an important part of the third grade curriculum.  This study also supports our enrichment goals of continuing to learn about ourselves while giving us a context for our passions and interests.  I love beginning the year with this project because it gives students a chance to be creative and work in groups as we learn.

Students selected a place, and then worked in groups to show this place.  Next the class used an iPad to film and create an iMovie.  Below are the finished results!  Students celebrate our place in his world and we hope you will enjoy their creations.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Welcome to the RES Makerspace

I am excited to announce that the start of this school year has also been the grand opening of the new RES Makerspace!  A Makerspace is a place that encourages hands on exploration through creating, making, playing and tinkering.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, third and fourth grade students spent time designing a new learning space.  They used ideas from other schools, as well as a tour of the physical space to create their plans.  By the years end we had a thirty six page document that included ideas from one hundred students!  Over the summer I worked to break these ideas into major groups and respond to as many ideas as possible with the conversion of our old computer lab to a Makerspace.  I reached out to families in the community, and many people spent time over the summer contributing to create the space RES students envisioned.

As with any learning space, we know that the layout and function will adapt to the needs of students...but as we begin the year...we are excited by all the possibilities this new space holds.  Students have been visiting the space with their classroom teachers. Here is a peek into what they have found!

An epic Lego wall provides a platform for collaborative building!

The window area provides a space for reading, meeting with small groups, taking a break during the making process or even interviewing others!

A computer area holds the promise of a place to utilize technology for creation.  We foresee some great coding and technology applications happening here.
Storage shelving contains a myriad of donated materials that will support students in making and creating.
The word create reminds students of their purpose and hangs over the area where they can showcase their work. Each letter contributed by a different family in the community, emphasizing the community and collaborative spirit of the space.
A green screen is now available for video projects. (The SMARTboard is also still available)
Students have all the tools and set up to create stop motion videos.

A space has been set aside for future station creations, including a take apart station and a sewing station.
Standing and sitting tables for making.
Tables with dry erase board paint, for sketching and planning and drawing.

 We cannot wait to see what students will make!

If you want to know more about the Makerspace, or become involved in collecting materials, or help to make challenges for students. Please contact me at

"Breaking Out" to Create New Learning Opportunities

This summer I tried a new experience for me. I went to an "Escape Room".  This was an hour challenge. I worked with five strangers and my husband (who grudgingly went along!) to solve a series of puzzles that allowed us to escape from a really amazing theatrical set up.  It was a fun and unique experience, and I have recommended it to friends...but it also started my thinking about how the engagement I witnessed and felt in this environment could be transferred to my classroom teaching practice.  During my 'escape' I noticed that despite the styles and personalities of everyone there, we were all engaged in this team effort to escape.

I went home and started researching the concept of escape rooms.  I found that there was a large community of fellow teachers around the country who felt the same way I did about this concept.  There was already a professional community of learners creating educational break out games, and espousing the practice as some of the most engaging activities they had done with students across a whole year of learning!  I began purchasing locks and signed up to be a beta tester on the site...where I could access games and ideas from other educators (

One of my main teaching goals in enrichment is for students to collaborate. In order to collaborate effectively I believe we must all be given many chances to work together.  The idea of a whole class working together to break out is very exciting to me and I wanted to try a game.  The fact that games already existed gave me the additional support I needed to get started early in the school year. I am very thankful for the online community who is creating these examples, especially game designer and librarian Amy Williams, whose game I adapted for my first break out teaching experience.

In our fourth grade enrichment/library class we focus early in the year on skills that students will need to work on capstone projects in the second half of the year. One important skill is the ability to find nonfiction resources in the library. This was a perfect skill for a break out!

It is a few days since I tried the break out with students and I am already considering how and when I will use this new methodology to introduce and teach other concepts.  Students are coming up to me in the halls asking to do another one....and telling me how much they loved learning this way.  Taking a risk and trying a new teaching methodology has reminded me of why I love teaching so learn alongside students, to show them that I want them to learn but also that I want them to try new things, to take risks in their learning, and have fun....

I took many pictures of our first RES break out, and I hope this video helps to capture some of the engagement and excitement students experienced.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Welcome Back

SchoƓl has started in a downpour of rain, but we are still having a great day of learning!

I am so happy to be starting the 2016-17 school year as the Richmond Elementary School Enrichment teacher! Thank you for the privilege of learning with your children....they are amazing.

Happy first day everyone!
I can be reached at and am at RES on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Makerspace Plans and Information

Coming to RES
in the 2016-17 school year

A makerspace is an environment that encourages designing, making, building, and creating through hands on exploration. The RES makerspace (located in the existing computer lab space) will be  available for classrooms and small groups during the school day as well as endless opportunities for our kids!
Want to learn more about makerspaces? Check out some resources posted on the RES enrichment blog at:

Every makerspace is unique and ours will grow, develop and change as students, staff and community ideas and suggestions come alive through use and exploration.

Love this idea?

Recyclable/Free Items You Can Collect over the summer:
Cereal boxes
Paper towel and toilet rolls
Yogurt containers
Plastic lids
Old electronic toys (for a take apart station)
Large Cardboard Boxes

Valuable Making Items You Could Donate:
Pipe Cleaners
Masking Tape
Duct Tape
Wooden Dowels
Coin Batteries
Material (scraps are fine)
Hot Glue Gun Sticks
Legos (small)
Keva Blocks
$$ If you are interested in investing in the infrastructure of the space with a monetary donation, please contact me and we can find an item that would benefit all!

Hands on Help:
I am looking for space design and construction help. (We would need to meet in mid June).  I am looking for people to brainstorm ideas as well as people to make items that would be placed in the space (this would be a great family project for the summer).

Questions? Want to help? Please email

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Robot Rodeo--Sharing and Learning

One important goal of my enrichment programming is to provide students with unique and varied opportunities.  This week I was able to take several students to Dynamic Landscapes in Burlington Vermont.  This education conference is attended by many educators interested in innovating their teaching practice through learning from each other.
We were presented this opportunity because of our involvement in the first ever Vermont Robot Rodeo.  During the month of January RES students had participated in Robot Rodeo ( I blogged about this here: and here and here: 

I was very proud of students as they presented and shared their knowledge with educators.  These few students represented RES as they shared their passion and excitement for learning.  I hope that those that visited our booth learned about robots and understood the value and high engagement that these sorts of innovative opportunities give to our students.

A special thanks to Mrs. Hackett for sitting with us and to parent Sherri Gouse for providing students with a ride!

Seeking Enrichment Feedback

The enrichment program at RES continues to evolve as we develop a program that best meets the needs of students and teachers.  In class we routinely ask students for feedback about lessons and projects.  Parents and community members feedback is equally important and will influence the direction of the program as it continues to grow. We appreciate all feedback--positive and negative--and ask that it be given constructively so that we can use it to improve and learn.  If you want to extend the discussion beyond this feedback form, please contact .

The last two years I submitted a similar survey to our community, and made direct changes to my programming as a result of your comments. I value our community--please share your ideas with me.

Survey time:  5 minutes tops-- to help our students!

Thanks so much.
Darcie Rankin, Enrichment Teacher

To take the survey, you can click on this link:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Westward Expansion Projects

Throughout the school year the third grade team and myself collaborate to create connected learning experiences that bridge the enrichment classroom to the topics that students are studying in their classroom. Sometimes the learning in enrichment is preparation for extension in their classroom--for example we explored many materials useful for learning about electricity during enrichment time and then students expanded on that use in their classrooms.  This year for students' study of Westward Expansion we decided that their enrichment time would be spent creating  projects that would be a culmination  of the learning that happened in their classrooms. Students spent three enrichment classes creating and making something that would share their learning about the Westward Expansion topic of their choice.

We had students cooking, creating green screen videos, making 3D projects from wagons to models of gold rush panning and the Alamo.  I love giving the students freedom to create anything that showcases their learning and to see what they produce.  I also really valued that students wanted to include reports and information that they had collected in their classrooms during their research. I think that creating a project at the end of a learning process can be a great way to give students creative freedom and to help them synthesize the knowledge they have acquired.

Sharing their learning in a project was great, but what gave it additional meaning was the knowledge that they would also share their projects with second graders and in the display case at the front of well as online in this blog post. As second graders prepare for grade 3....this connection at the end of the year is meaningful for all!

Here is a glimpse into the share with Grade 2:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Maps, Mappy Maps!

Students in first grade enrichment have been continuing their study of community with mapping activities and investigations.  Over the last several weeks we have explored classroom maps, building maps, and town maps.  Students have been thinking about how maps teach us information and the methods they use to make sure we understand that information. We have been learning the importance of keys, addresses, symbols, labels and more!  We had a great discussion about the spherical nature of planet Earth, even though we usually see maps of our world on a flat surface.  I challenged students to peel a clementine and then create a flat map with the skin.  As we munched on our treat we realized how the Earth connects in a sphere even when the flat map does not show this.  Students were surprised to learn that people did not always know the Earth was round.

We have learned songs (mappy maps is our current favorite!) to help us remember cardinal directions and all the purposes for maps and we have used robots called the Ozobots as well as physical movement to practice our knowledge of directions. We have also done whole class and individual exploration of Google Earth, an online tool which allows you to virtually tour the world via satellite and streets views.

Currently students are creating treasure maps.  These aged looking maps will be creative and will confirm all the great learning we are doing by allowing students to showcase their knowledge of what maps contain as well as their purpose, with the added benefit of being inventive and fun.  I cannot wait to see their creations!

In addition to all of this cool work, the art teacher Mrs. Aucter and I are collaborating on a project in which students will be creating wooden community buildings. Once completed we will be creating a giant 3D model of our Richmond community!

Maps are a great way to learn, but are sometimes an abstract idea and hard to grasp. We have been doing a lot of work to make the maps connect to our understanding, but students could benefit from continued building of these connections.  I encourage you to check out Google Earth at home, sketch a map of a favorite room in your house together, or just look at a map or our town, state, or country (there are always free town maps at local restaurants!)  What do students notice?  What can you use the map for?  Have fun exploring!

Kindergarteners in Enrichment

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to have kindergarten students visit the enrichment classroom once a week for the last six weeks of school. We have had a great time getting to know each other and the enrichment room space.  I am impressed with their collaboration and kindness and I look forward to more great learning with these students next year!