Tuesday, May 31, 2016

escape the classroom- science edition

I'm super excited to tell you about a really engaging activity we did in my classroom.  It started with my trip to the escape room in town and just how much I loved it.  Then I made my own kids an Easter hunt 'escape' style.  I was thinking there had to be a cool way to bring it into the classroom.  There's at least one company out there making ready made 'escapes' on different topics.  I tried one of theirs and then decided I could make my own that would suit our needs even better, I'll tell you about them at the end of this post.   Admittedly there was a good deal of time invested in the creation and then in the set-up, but the rigor, engagement, and fun levels were all so high, it was absolutely worth it.  High rigor, high fun, high engagement are a sought after trifecta in the classroom.  I have used that word twice in a week here.  Score. 

The topic for this escape was as a cumulating review for the measurement science unit I teach.  I teach it four times in the year to each of the four third grades, so I was thinking time investment wise,  a science activity would get the most play in my classroom.  Bang for my buck. 

To put the kids into their groups, I passed each student a popsicle stick. Because this is not my first rodeo, I had pulled one stick of each color in my hand and handed it to a student I felt like could be a leader for that group.  I also had one stick of each color in the back of the pile in my other hand and handed it to students who needed spread out.  If you're a teacher, five kids immediately came to mind.  

The first challenge was to get into the color group you were handed and build the puzzle.  Once the puzzle was built they waved me over and I gave them the first challenge card and sent them after their supplies.  Each group needed one cup of water, one syringe of water...

and one bucket of supplies. We do four types of measurement in my science unit, length in cm, capacity in ml, weight in g, and temperature in C.  I wrote cards for the first three and have the option to add a temperature card at a later date.  I didn't want the pressure of having temperature sensitive setup elements.  I also was concerned about time. 

Card one had three questions.  The number choice next to the answer they selected were the numbers for the first lock, a three digit lock.  For example, question A's answer was 2.  20ml.  The first number in the combination was 2.  Should they have answered it correctly on their first guess, they were able to open the lock.  Every group but one ended up back at their desks trying to figure out where they went wrong. 

The question about measuring the water in their syringe was tricky for some because I filled them with 20 ml water and 30 ml air.  Few groups remembered that they needed to get rid of the air.  I did not expect that to be a tricky element. 

The first lock was on an old wooden art kit that I added a flip style locking piece to. 

Inside was card two.  There was one card in each location for each group.  The groups had to relock the remaining cards back up for the next group.  I found that I was needed to circulate around and help with locks and the relocking was a bit tricky.  

Card two required them to set up and balance the scales and then do a little weighing.  All the pieces needed were in their buckets.  

A few groups had to go back and reweigh their items.  I gave very little help and allowed them to make mistakes and have to go back and start again.  It was interesting who in each group was the real problem solver, who was too bossy to listen to their team mates, who went for the fast and easy answer and then wasn't right and who was slow and patient and careful  in their work. 

Card two gave them a four digit number that was the combination to a four digit lock that I had placed on one of our lockers.  

Inside that locker was card three. 

Card three required some measurement in centimeters.  And careful reading of the directions!  The lock was a five digit lock that was actually 4 digits and a numeral at the end.  I had to made some last minute adjustments to the card to make the work. 

That five digit combination opened the last locker where I had placed the awards.  There was a pile of first place awards that the first group took, second place awards that the next group took, etc.  I was able to do this activity with my final quarter science class and then with my homeroom the next week as well and both times the winning group was not the group I had guessed would win.  Slow and steady wins the race. 

One helpful hint should you choose to create your own is that  I added a card for myself that had the lock information,  and the supplies listed clearly organized.  When I se this up next year I know exactly what to program the locks to and what materials to set out.  

I've been messing around with locks for a few different things in class and have quickly learned that the cheap ones I ordered on amazon to start with were just that.  They broke the first activity.  They were a non-descript black lock with three digits, 2 for like $7.  I ended up slowly collecting locks from target and really like this programable Masterlock style that is $7-8.  I've picked up all different colors to help me distinguish the locks on my set-up sheet. 

Also, the kids found it helpful to have a little tutorial using the locks before we started.  Most had zero experience with using a lock.  

I've also decided that as I create different activities using the locks I need to make sure to always set them back to 0000 when storing them.  Otherwise, I might not remember what card they went with last and end up having to trash them. 

I mentioned that I would tell you about the company I tried out that makes escape workshops.  They are called The Escape Classroom.  They are pretty new and don't have a lot of workshops out yet but they do take requests.  I will say that I tried their perimeter and area freebie and it was good. It was geared for 4-6 grade I think and I used it with my 3rd graders.  It was challenging, but doable.  I let them use calculators because we hadn't learned multiple digit multiplication yet. It took them 2 hours, but they loved every second.  I had some feedback for the company and they were great to work with.  They replied super fast and took my comments to heart and made some changes.  They sell their workshops for $15 each, which is a little steep for my teacher's checkbook.  If my school would pay, that might be something to look into.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Welcome Summer!

The last few weeks of school are always a blur of sports and awards programs and field trips and end of year meetings, activities and events and general business.  Add to that that our house was for sale briefly- 10 days, that's all it took to sell.  We however spent a full month of active house hunting.   We accidentally had four sports going.  Bee ran track and played soccer, Lou played soccer and played baseball. We won't make that mistake again, it was the trifecta of ridiculous scheduling. 

This was out first year for track.  Bee ran the 100, 200, and 4x100 relay. I now know what all that means. 

I did get to spend a day with Lou and his buddies on the third grade field trip.  

I don't normally get to go on field trips with him, but we're in the same grade this year so it worked out perfectly.   This is the first year I was in charge of planning the field trips, so I was pretty nervous and excited about the trip. 

It's always a nice day when we go to New Harmony artisan days.  It's a bit of a drive, but worth it.

Bee and Lou were both blessed with amazing teachers this year.  It's always special that hubby and I know their teachers as colleagues, but this year I consider them both friends as well.  It was a special year for both of them. 

Talk about being blessed!  I have a great team to serve with.  Here's the awesome third grade team of teachers at field day.  

There they are, the 22 friends I spent the year with.  My team crushed the competition.   Moore's Unicorns!  

I told my class that if they doubled their AR goal I would reward them with a sweet treat,  Two tables worth of kids did!  After school one day we walked over to Wedny's for a frosty.  Lucky Lou got to join us (he tripled his goal- so it was well earned).  

 The last day of school the kids and I decided that we should get up extra early and go out for breakfast before school.  Dear Hubby thought we were nuts and decided not to get up any easier than necessary.   Lou was up by 5:15m dressed and ready while I finished up on the elliptical.  We went to school with stuffed bellies that last day! 

I try to start sending things home with my students early in the week so their parents don't end up with kitten tables that look like this.  I don't think there's any avoiding it.  Here's the contents of their backpacks. I left this pile for two days. We ate in the living room, and no one complained! 

We got out a day or two before many other schools in the area so first day of summer break we headed for the water park.  We rode all the rides (over and over again) while most kids were still in school! The staff at our school was assigned summer reading (Love Does by Bob Goff) and I was already hearing from other teachers how great the book was, so the kids played in the wave pool and I found a shady spot and got reading. This book has been on our bookshelf at home for about two years and I can't believe I've waited this long.  Hubby is reading it too.  It's a super read!

Welcome summer!  We are ready for you!

Saturday, May 28, 2016


I had more fun than anybody in my family over Spring break.  Oops. Hubby had to work.  We both work at school and I get all the good breaks, not dear hubby.  My mom and I went to a painting class. I've been wanting to go to this class but they only offer certain paintings on certain days and I hadn't been able to make it work.  I set aside some birthday money hoping I could go over the summer.  Then over Spring Break I saw they were offering it a night my mom was in town and we signed up.  

Bee and Lou are hoping to do a class some time too.  They better save their birthday money! 

Friday, May 27, 2016

babies, proposals, and some escaping

It's exiting times in our family.  One sister is having a baby, another is getting married.  And we did some escaping, but neither from parenthood or marriage, just escapes an escape room.    

This is back from Spring Break... good grief.  Welcome summer break!  My sister and mom came into town and my sister did the gender reveal.  We voted 3 mustaches and 2 red lips.  

The mustaches won. The cupcake was blue. 

Bee was thoroughly concerned.  A boy!  A boy cousin!

I'm  pretty pumped about this aunt business.  I don't have experience, but I think I've got this. 

The tallest little sister came too and asked up to be in her wedding party. Full proposal with rings and everything.  We said yes. 

Then I took hubby and the sisters to the escape room in town.  Oh man, it was seriously the most fun I've ever had!  We played in a pirate themed room.  We lost.. but we were so close.  It was loads of fun! I can't wait to go back! So much fun!!! 

Babies, proposals, and in other adulting news, our family is up for another move.  We are staying local this time.  But moving is seriously hard adulting.  There are big decisions and lots of paperwork and serious choices.  Blah.  It looked for awhile like we might spend part of the summer homeless in between houses, but I think we've got it figured out. We should know a lot  more next week.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Little Mermaid Jr.

Another Spring. Another 80 something costumes. Another amazing musical put on by our talented middle schoolers.    This year we did Little Mermaid Jr. 

Ariel, Flounder, King Triton, Sebastian, Ursula, the eels, just a ton of fun costumes to prepare.  

Wait, what?   There's Bee.  She was in the choreography this year. She's sitting as a wave, second from the left. 

The mermaids had on heeley skate shoes so they floated around the stage.  It wasn't my idea but costuming got a lot of compliments for it. I'll take it. 

Ursula was a really fun costume.  Most fun (for me, not Ursula) was that the poor girl who played her had step throat the week before the show and the tentacles needed to practice with the costume, so I had to step in and be the sea witch for a few days!  

We chose the show last summer, so I had all school year to plan and purchase things... plus the gave me a little more budget to work with this year... and I spent every penny. 

There's Bee again as a wave and one of the boat steerers. 

We had a super strong set of 8th graders to take the leads, and many great 5-7 graders to support them.  

The kids I had my first year teaching at this school are now fifth graders, so it was fun to work with a few of them again.  In the next few years it will be even more fun as my third graders work their way up, knowing the kids that much better.  King Triton was my favorite to work with.  Super polite young man and perhaps my future son-in-law.  Just calling dibs now. 

The mersisters were my last costume to put together.  I couldn't get it right, I had mermaid skirts I made for Peter Pan, but they needed added to and they needed tops.  The old tops we used weren't anywhere to be found.  I ended up buying old prom dresses and cutting them up.  

Bee was a lovely wave. 

There's Bee again far right, now a chef.  Oh man, that Chef Louis was a hoot. 

So, our head of school is a goofy, fun guy that the kids all love.  The near kiss scene on the boat was a point of concern.  We're fairly conservative and didn't even want to imply the kissing- despite the fact that the song is called 'Kiss the Girl.'  I was told our Head of School was going to be going on as a jellyfish in a cameo sort of role.  I had a jelly fish costume all ready. The morning of the show he told me he was going on a seagull to do something funny.  You can't do that last minute to a costume person.  We figured it out... I had some extra pieces and he did go on as a seagull.  He squawked really loudly and made it a goofy song instead of a romantic song.  The kids didn't know what was coming as he had only practiced at the dress rehearsal and that was as a jellyfish.  

Every year it almost feels like too much to get it all together, but as soon as the show is over, I can't wait to get started on the next show.  My kids have asked me not to do it again, they don't like all the shopping and errands it entails.  We've got two scripts to read this summer and then I can get thinking on new costumes!  Sorry kids. 

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