Sunday, January 29, 2017

Building Coding Connections

In December all students at Richmond Elementary School participated in an Hour Of Code during their enrichment classes.  This was an excellent chance for students to be exposed to the concepts of coding. After several years of Hour of Code at our school, as well as many teachers embracing coding for special projects in their classrooms over the last three years...students have developed great early coding skills.
This year I signed up to participate in the Vermont Robot Rodeo. My teaching goal was for students to have an opportunity to advance their coding skills as they made connections between hardware and software.  I feel that in elementary school the ability to connect coding to the physical manipulation of materials is an awesome way to build true and lasting understanding. I have also seen it increase student engagement as the sharing of results is so transparent (i.e. Robots roll across the floor or say something or react to something!). 

This year I chose to focus the use of robots to build coding connections in our third grade classes(younger classes got exposure to the robots less formally).  We began our investigation by giving every student a chance to explore what robots could do. During this period, we might use apps that were more like a remote control versus coding and kids were encouraged to play.  After this exposure I challenged students to use coding applications to control the robots and to make them 'do something' deliberate and expected.  Students jumped right in to meet this challenge.  They used Blockly and Tickle applications and developed cool project ideas: making a robot draw something, dance to music, greet others, create a light show, interact with another robot, pull a toy on a path, make it through an obstacle name a few!  They wrote many lines of code, tested and iterated to achieve their goal, worked together and had a lot of fun.  Several students pointed out that this work was hard....but not because they wanted  to stop.....but I think they were just proud of themselves! And I was proud of their persistence and drive to learn. 

Kindergarten getting early exposure to coding skill through maze building and BeeBot
Third Graders putting their coding skills to the test!

The Vermont Robot Rodeo is an amazing opportunity to expose students to these coding connections and we are grateful to all of the sponsors who provided funds to give our kids the chance to advance their coding skills. We will be sad to send Dash and Dot to the next school--but we are sure that they will learn as much as we did--and we will be watching and checking out their work too.

I look forward to watching as our RES students use all of the skills they developed and applying this same persistence, thinking and collaboration to other learning.
Below is a video that hilights student work with robots, coding examples and student reflections.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Blogging at RES

Is it cool?Do you like blogging?well we are doing blogging at RES this month.We will show you some pictures of are paper blogs in Mrs.Robinson's class. Scroll down for more pictures.😍.This is a guest post by Katie and Juni.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Media Literacy in Elementary School-- An Educator's Reflection

Often my enrichment blog posts are letting people know about upcoming awesome events, or to highlight amazing student work that is going on in our classroom at all the different grade levels.  Occasionally though I use this blog to share some of my reflections on education as a professional that is striving to support students each day.

For the last several months the news, especially the educational news, has had many articles about the realization that in the constant deluge of media that surrounds all of us...some information, and sometimes quite a bit of information is 'FAKE'. Educators around the country are asking how they can help students to be prepared for this world of media where sources are not verified, random tweets can go viral with no basis of truth , where fact checking is not a mandatory part of published work (after all anyone --even I-- can publish a blog!!).  They are worried that if adults are falling victim to false media...what does this mean for our children and students?

These are important questions, and for several weeks I have been reflecting on how this impacts my students and myself as an elementary educator. It is important to me that my educational practice is not only meeting the prescribed 'have tos' of our district, or state, but that we are supporting students in being world and digital citizens and that we are thinking about these big questions. Some people may think that perhaps this topic is not really one for elementary education----after all students can learn about media bias in middle or high school when they are actually using those tools--right?  In a recent discussion with a fellow educator she posed a great question to me: Are these questions really the questions about FAKE news developmentally appropriate for elementary students?  Is this something that our students are going to come across in their learning and be able to make concrete connections to?

I believe that they are important, AND that we need to look at them through a developmentally appropriate lens.  We need to think carefully about what foundational skills students need to be media literate in this fast paced 'information overload' society. We need to accept that our students even at ages 6 and up are exposed to social media (some through looking at older family member accounts, some through their own accounts despite best effort age restrictions, and MANY through word of mouth).  We need to accept that students are participating in their own forms of social media through texting.  I have been having discussions for four years with nine and ten year olds about internet safety.  In that short time the number of students exposed to or connected to someone exposed to online forums (games, chat rooms, social media) has gone from a handful to about %85.  Children are digital natives--technology is prolific and our acceptance of this needs to come with thoughtful educational practices that support their navigation of this awesome, amazing and sometimes FAKE new source of information.

I want my students to embrace all of these great new avenues for learning..BUT...I want my students to be able to critically evaluate media and consume media thoughtfully.  In a recent School Library Journal on this topic (See Full article here:   Author: Linda Jacobson, Downloaded on 1/3/2017) they share that 
"Media literacy experts stress that children should begin acquiring these questioning skills long before they are old enough to use social media. Even in the early years, they can begin to question the messages in signs and TV commercials."
  In an article on Common Sense Media (an amazing website I utilize as an educator and a parent frequently) they warn: 

"If you get your news online or from social media, this type of headline sounds very familiar. What's real? What's fake? What's satire? Now that anyone with access to a phone or computer can publish information online, it's getting harder to tell. But as more people go to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other online sources for their news and information, it's even more crucial that all of us -- especially kids -- learn to decode what we read online"
 ( See full article here:  Author: Sarah Filucci, Downloaded on 1/3/2017).

So...what can we do to build critical thinking skills, to help our kids decode media? Here are some of my ideas:

--Use developmentally appropriate context to show students that not all media is true
----In younger grades this, as Jacobson suggests in her article, is as simple as pointing out that some stories are true and some are not (fiction versus nonfiction)
----In second grade enrichment we learn to blog and blog comment.  As we explore this medium we learn that anyone can write anything online and that we have a responsibility to ourselves and others for our content as we share with our school and family community.
----In our fourth grade library enrichment class we expose students to brand association (they are amazed how many candies they can identify just with a single letter!), share commercials and the preparation of commercials (did you know that there are 'food artists'?), think about how toys are advertised and then how they actually are in real life applications, teach students advertising strategies and watch them search these out in magazines, posters, books, and videos.  We also share some fake internet websites and provide tools for students to question the validity of their resources.  (Check out:
----Persuasive essays are part of all grades K-4 writing requirements---but how far can we go to persuade someone? Can we modify the truth?  Perhaps students should have time to play with this idea!

--Give students opportunities to CREATE media as well as to consume it
----Through creation of media I believe that students gain a direct understanding of what they are consuming.  It allows them to more quickly understand the connection between author, media message and purpose.  As students in fourth grade create book trailers to advertise a favorite book they are challenged to use at least two advertising strategies....and suddenly they are analyzing their own work and have more agency to analyze the work of others! When a second grader shares something through blogging and receives comments from someone in Florida, they witness how a message travels online.

--Provide students with strong role models
----I believe that we have to be critical thinkers and creators of media in order to  model digital citizenship. If students see us as a person they can rely on to help them digest and evaluate media then as educators we can support their learning journey more successfully.

--Develop stronger community conversations around media literacy
----This is one I have not quite figured out how to do yet in my role.  I think it would be great to build a community conversation about how we can help students to be critical consumers of media not just for school projects but ALL of the time.

Here are a few resources that I really appreciate about media literacy (this is not exhaustive and not intended to be exclusionary):

Do you feel media literacy is an important part of elementary education?  What can I do as the enrichment teacher to further support this  work?  What changes are you seeing around media creation and consumption--do you have questions, concerns, excitement?  I would love to hear from you!

Robot Rodeo is coming to RES!!!!

One thing I am looking forward to sharing with students in January is that RES will again be a participant in the AWESOME Vermont Robot Rodeo.  After a great experience last year I requested another chance for students to play and explore with robots and this year we will be getting a DASH and DOT robot for the month of January.

Our robot, which has been visiting Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vermont in December  has already learned A LOT!  We are excited to meet our robots which they have named 'Harmony' and 'Nature Rocks'!
Students at Newbury Elementary learning with Harmony and Nature Rocks!

The concept of the Robot Rodeo is that students around Vermont get a chance to increase their understanding of robots and extend their Hour of Code experiences through the use of robots that travel from school to school.  Last year we were also honored to have students present their learning at Dynamic Landscapes--a local professional development conference for educators (it was so amazing to watch students teach and engage teachers!) You can see some of the great work going on around Vermont at the Vermont Robot Rodeo blog here:

And I will be doing guest posts on this blog as well as the Robot Rodeo blog as we share our experiences at RES!

Our robots will be arriving THIS WEEK! So stay tuned for updates.

Maker Mondays Coming Soon!

Flyers are being sent home this week (Wednesday) for a program I am working on called Maker Mondays!  I think this after school class will be popular so get your forms back quickly! Here is the information:

The Enrichment Program at RES is excited to introduce:
When: Monday Afternoons January 23, 30, February 6,13,20
Time: Immediately After School until 4pm
Where: The RES Makerspace

The Details:  Mrs. Rankin will work with students to design, create and make in the makerspace. During our time together we will have an opportunity to do guided tinkering projects (Creating our own spinning tops, jitterbots, and sewable circuits) as well as freedom to create from our own imaginations! If you are a student who loves to make things…or wants to learn something new in a fun and exploratory environment, then this is the after school program for you!

Cost:  This five week session will be $25 per student (Part 2 students are welcome to attend, provided they pay this additional fee). Partial and full scholarships are available.

Students:   All students in Grades K-4 are invited to attend, but class size is limited to 20.  Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

Questions? Contact

RES Family Science Fair--Save the Date!

The RES Enrichment Program is excited to announce the annual
Thursday March 16th, 2017  

We look forward to the excellent projects presented by students in grades K-4!  Please mark your calendars and start thinking about how you would like to participate.

Do you have a science fair project in mind?  Here are some ways to make a plan:
  •   Expand upon an interesting topic you have studied in class
  •  Think about a topic that interests you, or a science question that you are curious about
  • Talk to family and friends to brainstorm ideas for a project
  •  Stop by the enrichment room and borrow a fair idea book and talk with Mrs. Rankin
  • Check out science project resources in the library  (Did you know that your family can check out additional books from the library beyond your weekly two? See Mrs. Redford if you would like to take advantage of this!)

The RES Science Fair is a non-judged family event.  Students are encouraged to work together with family and friends to develop a project they are proud of presenting to our community.  Your entry does not have to be a science experiment. It may be as simple as a display of your leaf collection or as complex as an experiment on how the circulatory system works.  Look at the world around you. What are you curious about? What interests you?  Ask why something is the way it is. Do experiments, demonstrate a scientific principle, make observations of the world around you, or collect and analyze data. 
Most importantly- be creative and HAVE FUN!

In a few weeks Science Fair entry forms will be sent home.  At that time you will be asked to share your planned science fair topic as well as any special display requirements you have. 

Questions? Contact: Darcie Rankin, Enrichment Teacher by email at

Happy 2017

It is GREAT to be back at RES for another year of learning with students, staff and families.
Image from :
I always welcome feedback and ideas that will support my enrichment work with students. I also welcome families and community members to join our class to teach and learn with us.  Do you have ideas? I can be contacted by email at