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Graphics: Bits and Points – 3rd Grade STEM

The 3rd graders did a study of Bitmap and Vector graphics. They learned about the differences and uses of the two types. They learned that bitmap graphics are used for photos. There are small squares called pixels that form the photo. The computer must record each pixel to create and store that image. This creates a very large file. I showed them that you can see the individual pixels when you zoom in on the photo. These types of files do not remain clear when they are enlarged. The other type of graphic we study was the vector. This type of graphic uses anchor points and paths to record a logo type file. Based on a math grid, anchor points are determined and then a line (path) is drawn between those points. The paths must create a closed object or it will not work. This requires a much smaller amount of information that needs to be stored in a file. This type of graphic is mainly used for logos. They can be enlarged to any size. Think about the advertisements that you see on a billboard or the side of a bus.

To demonstrate these two types of files, we made two pieces of art. For the bitmap image, we made sea creatures using graph paper. Each individual pixel was colored to create the creature and still show the squares. In the background, we made fish and the color blue to represent the surrounding ocean. We used all the creatures to create a picture that made the creatures appear to be underwater. When we were up close, we could see the squares, but in the back of the room, it looked like an ocean scene. Since the sea creatures were not randomly placed, the “photo” did not give us a realistic bitmap effect, but they understood the concept.

The vector graphic example consisted of tape placed on a poster board. The students took turns placing tape anywhere they wanted. After they were done, they colored only the shapes that were closed. When it was finished, it created a logo where those shapes were placed. All of the open paths were not colored.

This is a great learning experience. It exposed them to the world of graphics. There were two types of software that we discussed for the different types. I told them about Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Even though these two are very powerful and useful, getting the most from them takes lots of study including reading books that others have written. They learned that there are professional graphic designers that do this for a living. They create logos for company advertising, websites, games, and movies, etc. There are also people that do photography and work with Photoshop to do editing for magazines, catalogs, movies, etc.

EeeeK, A Mouse – 5th Grade STEM

The 5th graders have been working with mice…Yikes! Insead of dissecting a mouse in science, we are dissecting a mechanical mouse in STEM. We started off our adventure with a discussion of the history of computer mice and their engineered improvements over time. The first mouse was invented by Dr. Douglas Engelbart in 1964. It was made of wood and could only move up and down. We discussed the different types that we have today and how they are useful for different situations. The purpose of the mouse is to translate human motion into a message that the computer understands. To demonstrate this to the students, we studied a simple roller ball mouse. The roller ball functions by moving 2 disks within the mouse that have holes that control light pulses. These are converted to “X” and “Y” positions. This coordinate system is recognized by the computer as the 2 dimensional screen. Computer software is installed that sets the size of the screen and a way to determine distance and direction of the mouse as it is moved. This is translated to a cursor on the screen. The click that you hear when you press the mouse is for navigation on the screen and to improve human/computer connection. When we hear the click, we know that we have communicated our need to the computer. The students were put into groups of 4 and asked to disassemble their mouse to see how it is put together and how it functions. They were to find one thing that they thought was a weakness of the mouse. Thinking about that weakness, they came up with a way to improve it. They were given thread spools, straws, rubber bands, rulers, and tape. Some of them made new mice and some incorporated the new materials in the existing metal and plastic. Some of the ideas were a sliding thumb rest for multiple sized hands, a computer on and off switch on the mouse, a mouse that can be used on concrete, and a mouse with a speaker to allow disabled people to move the cursor with their voice. This was a great project and the students did an amazing job with their alteration of an extremely important piece of technology.

Biology Rock, Paper, Scissors – 2nd Grade

The second grade students took a look into the natural world of biology and were surprised to learn that there is a lizard that uses a form of the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for the survival of its species. The male side-blotched lizard is divided into three different types. Each type varies in how it competes with other males for mates. A cycle is created because each type does well against one type, but poorly against the other. Before we tested this in the classroom, we assigned colors to the different types below:

Orange – beats blue with aggression
Yellow – sneaks into the orange territory and tricks them by pretending to be a female
Blue – protects one female from the yellow

Orange beats Blue
Yellow beats Orange
Blue beats Yellow

Once we established how the lizards compete, we played a game to see how it works. Each student was given a colored lizard to wear backward around their neck. They traveled around the room and challenged one another. The losing color had to leave the game. The last color standing was the type that had the greatest lizard population for that year. We played the game several times to see a pattern. We played 4 rounds that resulted in two of the colors dominating each for 2 years. There was a clear way to cheat at the game, but the students were encouraged to follow the instructions so that we would have an accurate experiment. Biologist have observed this cycle occuring about every 4 years. The “Rock, Paper, Scissors” mechanism has also been observed in the three strains of e.coli, coral reefs, plants, marine invertebrates, and fungi.

This was a great activity. It was fun and a great way to take a game and apply it to learn a concept. Nature is an amazing thing.

Paper Circuits – 1st Grade

The first grade students learned how a simple circuit works and the parts needed to make a bulb light up. They each had a small LED bulb, a coin battery, copper tape, a resistor, and a clip. We had a diagram to follow so we glued it to the back to keep the circuit hidden from the front. We determined where the bulb would come through the paper to the other side. Then the students drew a picture on the front that incorporated that light. Once they had finished, we turned the paper over and assembled the circuit.

They knew that the circuit had to be closed for the light to work. If there was any place where metal was missing or wires were disconnected, it would not work. We placed the copper tape, resistor, and LED to make a solid path from the negative side of the battery to the positive side of the battery. It was important that they knew which way the LED was placed. If the wires were switched, the LED did not work. The battery was placed in the space provided and then the paper was folded over to make the copper tape touch the other side of the battery. They had to be careful here, because the battery needed to be turned the right way. The clip was used to hold the battery in place while they wanted it turned on. This was so much fun for them and it proved to be a good learning experience. If you ask them what a circuit is, I hope they will be able to tell you.

During this activity, the students learned that when anything is created by an engineer there will be times when things do not work properly. Because there were some that didn’t light up, they realized that something was wrong. We had to find the problem and then fix it. This is the “improve” step in the Engineering Design Process.

Paper Circuits – 1st Grade

The first grade students learned how a simple circuit works and the parts needed to make a bulb light up. They each had a small LED bulb, a coin battery, copper tape, a resistor, and a clip. We had a diagram to follow so we glued it to the back to keep the circuit hidden from the front. We determined where the bulb would come through the paper to the other side. Then the students drew a picture on the front that incorporated that light. Once they had finished, we turned the paper over and assembled the circuit.

They knew that the circuit had to be closed for the light to work. If there was any place where metal was missing or wires were disconnected, it would not work. We placed the copper tape, resistor, and LED to make a solid path from the negative side of the battery to the positive side of the battery. It was important that they knew which way the LED was placed. If the wires were switched, the LED did not work. The battery was placed in the space provided and then the paper was folded over to make the copper tape touch the other side of the battery. They had to be careful here, because the battery needed to be turned the right way. The clip was used to hold the battery in place while they wanted it turned on. This was so much fun for them and it proved to be a good learning experience. If you ask them what a circuit is, I hope they will be able to tell you.

During this activity, the students learned that when anything is created by an engineer there will be times when things do not work properly. Because there were some that didn’t light up, they realized that something was wrong. We had to find the problem and then fix it. This is the “improve” step in the Engineering Design Process.

Folding Matters – 4th Grade STEM

Have you ever thought about how folding is used in the world? There are natural occuring folding and man-made folding. The fourth graders were introduced to natural and man-made folded objects.The man made devices were inspired by Japanese origami. The folding was studied and then mathematical processes were applied. Here are the examples of folding that we discussed:

Butterfly wings inside a Chrysalis – If they are not folded, a wing could be damaged while emerging. This is nature’s way of preventing this problem.
Proteins within your body- They are responsible for functions within the body. They are naturally folded to determine specific jobs. Scientists can manipulate the folds for medical reasons. Man made protein folding has created many flu vaccines.
Heart Stents – A small folded metal cage is inserted into a blocked artery and then expanded to hold the artery open. This allows blood to flow through.
Parachutes – If these are not folded correctly, you would jump out of a plane and then have a very rough landing. These will only deploy when they are folded properly. When a parachute is used, it is inspected and then folded very carefully for the next use.
Car airbags – The folding of these may mean life or death in an accident. They must deploy the correct way. Only proper folding will work. They are very small when folded, because there is little room where they are located.
Satellites- They must be folded to fit inside of a cylinder rocket and then unfold later.
James Webb Space Telescope – Will launch in 2021 – Must be folded to fit in a rocket. It will unfold once it is in space. It is made of many materials that fold in different ways. It is amazing to watch. James Webb Telescope simulation

After studying these examples I challenged the students to make a solar panel with specific dimensions that could be folded to fit into a foil box. The “skeleton” of the panel was made out of materials of their choice. The skeleton was covered by aluminum foil. They had to fold it to fit without tearing the aluminum. Most everyone created a rectangle version, but I had a couple attempt a triangle shape. Ask your child about this and see if they were or weren’t successful and why.

Raspberry Pi Demonstration

The 4th and 5th grades were treated to a wonderful and very informative demonstration of how a Raspberry Pi works. This is not a yummy, gooey dessert. It is a very small computer that can be used to make an endless number of electronic equipment. It has a board the size of a credit card with all the connections you would find on a regular sized computer. This part gets a little boring and technical for some, but others will appreciate the specific information if they think taking on a project with this would be fun. There is a 40 pin GPIO for wiring, 4 usb ports, LAN ethernet port, audio jack, CSI camera connection, HDMI port for video monitor, micro usb for power connection, DSI display port, and a micro SD memory card slot. This Raspberry Pi will be used to light up our HiVE sign that the 5th graders made. We are using LED pixel string lights that have individually programmable bulbs along the string. This allows us to program lots of different patterns, colors, and movements with the lights. Mr. Ryan Neily, a Wood Acres dad, offered his time to come in and talk about the history and uses of the Raspberry Pi. He hooked up the lights and showed the students the code he had used to make the lights do the different movements and colors. He used a simple drag and drop program called “Scratch” so they could follow what he was doing. The students were amazed every time the lights came on and did something new! Their favorite thing to do was change the RGB color settings. This was a great demonstration and we would like to give Mr. Neily a big THANK YOU from all of us!! Look for one more post about the finished HiVE sign. It will be hooked up before the last day of school!

T-Bot II Robot Arms – 3rd Grade STEM

The 3rd graders have been using T-Bot II robot arms to study simple machines, hydraulics, and Cartesian coordinates. The students learned that there are 6 simple machines that are used to make work easier. We discussed the types and how they are used. They were surprised to discover that simple machines are used everywhere. They could see that the T-Bot is a complex machine made up of some simple machines. The T-Bot II is controlled by syringes full of water. The water is transferred from one syringe to the other through plastic tubing causing that part of the robot arm to move. The water is colored to help identify what part each syringe controls. The students learned that this process is called hydraulics and it is used in construction machines, elevators, office chairs, car brakes, etc. After they mastered the use of the T-Bot II, we moved on to a study of the Cartesian coordinate system. Negative numbers were new to them, but it didn’t take long for them to learn how to find a point on the grid. They rolled dice to determine a coordinate and then moved a gram cube to that location using the robot arm. We worked on lowering the number of steps that it took to get there. This was done to demonstrate what programmers experience when writing programs. They must use specific details in an efficient way. We also talked about the use of the Cartesian coordinate system in latitude and longitude that is crucial to satellites and the military. At the end of our study, I gave them some time to think of a creative use of the robot. I had one team pick up a marker and draw with it. Another group used it to push a ball into a stack of small cups, calling it “Robot Bowling”. Throughout this activity, we discussed the real world application of all these concepts and the jobs filled by robots today. Think about where we would be if we didn’t have robots to build cars, take us to space, explore the underwater world, help with surgery, aid our military, and defuse a bomb!

5th Grade Spanish Class Update

Hello 5th Grade Parents,
We have had a very interesting week of Spanish learning here at the Woods!! I know that many of our students are patiently and eagerly awaiting Spring Break. Here are a couple of updates We have been reviewing our Unit 4 material on how to describe what time it is, in Spanish, and we have also been reviewing how to incorporate our stem-changing verbs into our daily activities.
Furthermore, when we return back from our Spring Break vacation, we will take our Unit 4 Exam on Thurs., April 12 (both classes). As usual, we will receive our study guides that Monday so that we can be optimally prepared for our test. I hope that all of our families have a wonderful Spring Break and I will see you all bright an early next Monday.

3rd grade Spanish Class Update

Hello 3rd Grade Parents,
I hope that you have had a wonderful week, because we definitely have had a great week of learning here at the Woods!! I know that many of you are eagerly awaiting for the first signs of Spring Break. Before that though, here are a couple of updates that you need to keep in mind. We have been reviewing our Unit 4 material on “la salud”, sports, and activities. We have been continuing different vocabulary for common sports and physical activities, like “correr (to run)”, “jugar al futbol (to play soccer)”, and “hacer gimnasia (to do gymnastics)”. We have also been learning how to describe when we do these activities, and when others do these as well.

Furthermore, when we return back from our Spring Break vacation, we will take our Unit 4, Part 1 Exam on Thursday, April 12 (both 3rd grade classes). As usual, we will receive our study guides that Monday so that we can be optimally prepared for our test. I want to say that our students have had a great week, including much improvement, which is always wonderful to witness. I hope that all of our families have a wonderful Spring Break and I will see you all bright an early next Monday.

This Matters At Wood Acres.

  • High Expectations For Teaching And Learning

  • Strong Instructional Leadership

  • Safe Learning Environment For Everyone

  • Positive And Welcoming School Climate

  • Valuing Time On Task For Mastery

  • Close Home School Partnerships