Giant Stride

It’s all that exists between you and a new experience.


Reindeer Games

Wreindeerhat do migration and magnets have in common?  Why mazes, of course!  Recently, Green Valley  Second graders used what they know about magnets, cardinal directions, and coins to create a challenging maze activity.
Students worked with our librarian,Mrs. Haskins,to research  the migration patterns of reindeer.  After that, it was time to build the magnetic reindeer, but in order to do so, students had to complete an invoice requesting materials.  They had only $2.00 to spend, and could not exceed their budget.  Once materials were purchased and the reindeer designed, it was time to create the maze.

Students worked in teams to create a maze on cardboard. Each maze included the cardinal directions on both sides of the cardboard, a maze trail that represented reindeer migration, and at least two obstacles that reindeer might really encounter during migration.

Students teams were challenged to move the reindeer through the maze. The magnetic reindeer sat on top of the maze whemazere the pattern could be seen.  The reindeer’s creator used a powerful magnet from the underside of the maze to move the reindeer, where only cardinal directions could be seen. The team mate  watched from the top and  gave navigational advice, but could not point.  Only the terms  North, South, East, and West could be used for navigation.  When the maze was completed successfully, team mates switched positions. After that, students could trade mazes with other teams.

Students reflected on the project with a Pic Collage activity. They included pictures of their creations, included facts about reindeer facts about magnets, and included the rules of the maze game.




Light, Camera, Action

Understanding the properties of light can be a challenge for Fifth graders, but at Back Creek, a unique classroom project helped students learn all of the important details.

Students were tasked with constructingolaf a winter snowmobile
symbol that was 3-Dimensional and included materials that represented transparency, translucency, and opacity. After students blueprinted their ideas, the creating began and  the winter symbols took shape.



To  proof their designs, students used Sun paper. The first attempts were outside and the students soon discovered that the angle of the sun  and the breeze affecoutsideted their results.  An indoor window was employed, but again, the angle of the windowsun skewed the results. Finally the students resorted to using a flashlight with a very strong beam to simulate the sun.midnightsun1

Opaque materials blocked the light and created a white space on the paper, where translucent created a ghosted image and transparent areas remained dark blue.When the results were in, students discovered that even if a material was transparent, it became translucent when layered  and changed the way light moved through it.susnpaper

The culminating activity was to author an original jingle explaining the properties of light. The students used the Chatterpix App to record their symbol singing the jingle.
The students had a great deal of fun with this project,  and  in the end, came away with a deeper understanding of the properties of light.



World Class Learning

World Cup Soccer is a huge deal in many countries, but students in the US are not as connected with this event as their peers around the globe. That changed for some Roanoke County Sixth Graders this spring. A team of Sixth Grade English teacher used the World Cup as the central focus of a Project Based Learning Event. During this PBL, students worked in teams to research sporting, cultural, and social aspects of World Cup soccer in their assigned country. Teams used an online presentation tool called Prezi to share their findings.   A typical research project would stop there, but these students were just getting warmed up! uniformsStudents developed their Media Literacy skills as they explored the integral connection between World Cup Tournaments, sponsorship, and advertising. Groups authored commercials featuring a product from their assigned country and designed team uniforms.  Soccer coaches met with the students to discuss important aspects of teamwork and training, as well as answer questions.  Local Coach Kaspercoaches met with students ‘assembly style’, while Coach Kasper, dialing in from Denmark, used a Skype Connection to share information.       To finalize the project, students, parents, and teachers celebrated!  Students prepared authentic foods from their assigned countries and shared their presentations, team uniforms and commercials with parents, friends, and faculty members.celebrate1     The World Cup project went way beyond the scope of traditional SOLs. It created cultural awareness, embraced  essential 21st Century Skills of communication, collaboration and creativity, and created deeper learning for all those involved.


Nursery Rhymes

Mrs. Vest’s Pre-K class at Back Creek Elementary recently designed their own spiders to go along with the poems that they’ve learned.  Take a look at their final projects!




Apple Baskets



In a creative challenge, BCE Kindergartners were asked to design a basket that would hold an apple for 10 seconds. The apple had to be inside the basket and held by the basket’s handles. Students worked in teams and could only use the  materials that were provided.  Each basket was unique and many of them held an apple for the required amount of time.  After the challenge students talked about what worked, what didn’t, and what they would do differently next time.


basketgirls                            baskets                       challenge


Niche Bots

What do you get when you ask students to design a new animal living in an assigned habitat and require them to include a pager motor and a battery?  Why, Niche Bots, of course!


Green Valley 4th graders selected animal types and habitats from a hat and worked in teams to design animals that had specific eating habits (carnivores, herbivores, omnivores) and lived in the assigned environment.  Their creation had to exhibit at least one adaptation to the  animal’s habitat, include a characteristic of the creature’s eating habits, and it had to move. Creativity was in overdrive as these students designed their creatures and applied what they knew about closed circuits to make them move.

To wrap up the projects, students used iPads to create trading cards about their Niche Bot.  Using an App by Read, Write, Think, students explained the creature’s eating habits, behaviors, and structural adaptations.




High Impact Learning

One of the benefits of using technology in the classroom is that it has the potential to create learning opportunities that just can’t be
Photo Jan 09, 10 10 48 AM accomplished easily using traditional  methods.  Green Valley Elementary fourth graders recently experienced this first hand.
Using a free app developed by NASA, students used augmented reality to to explore characteristics of  numerous spacecrafts.  Students opened Spacecraft 3D on the iPad, selected a spacecraft to explore and pointed the iPad’s camera at a small piece of paper called a marker.  A three dimensional model of the spacecraft  appeared over the marker. All of the models could be maneuvered and rotated and some, like the Mars Rover, featured animated effects, allowing the students to manipulate the spacecraft.
Not the typical classroom lesson.
Mr. Decker instructed the students to choose a spacecraft and identify the features that made it suitable for the planet it was intended to explore.  Students quickly made associations and discussed why a wheeled spacecraft, like the Mars Curiosity, wouldn’t work on a gas planet like Jupiter  and why the Hubble Telescope can’t collect rocks from Mars.
Armed with this knowledge, the students took screen shots of their spacecrafts and used Pic Collage to create a digital posters. The posters named the spacecraft and shared important features.
In one class period students were able to explore 3D models of NASA spacecrafts, evaluate spacecraft design, and communicate the knowledge digitally.  The students applied important 21st Century Skills while learning, and as a result, they were  highly engaged in learning.  Photo Jan 09, 10 39 20 AM


Learning to Code

lab In early December, 25 million students from around the world participated in the Hour of Code. Green Valley 5th graders and Back Creek 4th graders were among those who were introduced to code.  The students watched tutorials taught by  Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Bosh and others and then put the information into practice as they completed a series of 22 puzzles.
Students approached the tasks enthusiastically, moving Angry Birds and Zombies through mazes that became increasingly more complex. Directed to ‘ask three before me’, they sought help from each other before coming to the teacher for advice.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear a student cheer triumphantly, arms raised in victory, when completing a difficult puzzle.

help All of the students received certificates of completion once finished, but that wasn’t what they really took away from the experience. They practiced logic and problem solving and learned how to work together to when faced with difficult task. Students from both schools plan to continue to practice the tutorials found on the website.



Constructing Trees

The students in Mrs. Vest’s class were recently challenged to construct trees.  Gumdrops and toothpicks were the materials that were used and the trees needed to be free standing, at least three inches tall, and include at least three different gum drop colors.  A pretty tall order considering that the students in Mrs. Vest’s class are pre-schoolers and under five years of age.
The students worked through the challenge and in addition to practicing colors and measurement, they developed critical thinking skills.

success              measure                build


What’s in a Name?



Learning about letters and how they form words is top priority for emerging readers.  Back Creek Kindergartners made many connections to reading when the took part in this name writing activity.  In this elementary engineering task, students were challenged to not only spell their names, but also to design each letter out of a different type of material.

grace This  challenge encouraged students to think creatively about the letters in their name.   They were highly engaged and very focused on the task at hand.

Once finished, the students toured the room and viewed the names of their classmates.  Students noticed similarities and letters in common with their own names and complimented each other on the creativity that they observed.





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