Hour of Code: Prep Time

Organize an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week, December 9th-15th.

Source: Hour of Code

There are many ways to get your class, grade level team, content area team, and school involved. Here are some of those ways/resources:

  • Code.org
    • This site has resources for students and teachers (divided by elementary, middle, and high school). It also has background knowledge about the event, and ways to help promote it.
  • Computer Science Education Week: Hour of Code
    • This site has a walk-through video about the Hour of Code, tips for teachers, and a link for Hour of Code tutorials.
  • Hour of Code
    • This site has activities, how-tos, and ways to promote it.
Click HERE for this link.

What is another way to get started and prepared for an Hour of Code???

You could read a book πŸ™‚

Like this one:



Check out other great STEM Picture Books on Amazon.

Whichever way you approach the Hour of Code, your students will be glad you did. πŸ™‚

Happy Coding!


Preparing for the Holidays?

How about giving the gift that gives this season?

You might be thinking I mean books…and if so, you are both right and not completely right. πŸ™‚

The other night I went out to celebrate my friend’s birthday. The days leading up to that night, I kept thinking about what I could give her as a gift. It couldn’t just be anything for this longtime friend. I wanted to give a gift that was her, a person who not only gives so much of herself, but also has a passion for books.


Then…BOOM, of course…a donation of books for those that are in need of them. I am surprised by how long it took me to come up with this idea. My boyfriend and I have been giving each other (and some family members) gifts where we donate, in their name, to an organization that supports a cause they are passionate about. We have been doing this for quite some time, because truly, although we have needs, and often a tight budget to fulfill those needs, we deeply know that we have enough. This isn’t the case for all.

The organization I decided on for my dear friend is called Project Night Night.

Click HERE to access their site to learn more.

Project Night Night helps “homeless children have sweeter dreams” by providing them a package that has “a new security blanket, an age- appropriate children’s book, and a stuffed animal β€” all nestled inside of a new canvas tote bag” (see above photo). They have donated over 25,000 Night Night packages each year! LOVE!

I found their organization (and many others) through a simple Google search. My search brought me to a post by Chronicle Books that lists “17 US-Based Charities That Put Books in the Hands of Children”.

Click HERE to access this post.

The gift was received warmly and I am so glad that I was able to give and to find this site.

I know I will be giving the gift of books again many times over, and this list will help me…and I hope it also helps you give the gift that gives…for any occasion.

Happy Giving!



Have you heard about #teamtrees? If not, it is my joy to share this invitation to participate and to help.

Click HERE for the link to donate.

YouTuber MrBeast started this invitation movement to make a positive environmental impact, by raising funds to plant 20 million trees around the globe. With $1 per tree, his efforts have spread and individuals, and classrooms, like my 8th grade science class, have joined in and donated. You can learn a bit more from this video by Inside Edition:

Click HERE to access the video.

Want to get your class involved?

A great way to start the class brainstorming session is to start with a read aloud. Below are some of my favorites:

Click HERE to purchase on Amazon.

This was one of the books I purchased through a grant I wrote for an elementary school, to increase their access to stories that share science identities. You can read more about that grant from my post Books on Display. And my follow-up post New Science-Themed Picture Books on Display.

Some additional great reads for your classroom, to help start your own #teamtrees donation are:

Click HERE to purchase on Amazon.
Click HERE to purchase on Amazon.

This story, Planting the Trees of Kenya, was on of my past featured books. To learn more about the science, literacy, and science identity connections of this book, please see that blog post by clicking HERE.

Happy Fund Raising!



Cultural Fabric: Follow-Up

About a month ago, I shared a Cultural Fabric activity that I invited my school to participate in. Please see my post Cultural Fabric: Class Building Activity for more information, including a link to a PDF for instructions.

To my delight, they did πŸ™‚, and I am here to share with you some of those results!

My Cultural Fabric Example

Each grade level team (there are two per grade at the middle school where I teach) shared this idea with their advisory class. I really appreciated how the teachers embraced the activity and saw the activity as an invitation to have a class discussion about cultures, about differences, about togetherness…about our strength.

Once the “us” squares were collected, they were turned into “quilts” that were displayed during the week of conferences (and are still up today!). Here are some of those images:

Sadly, I was not at school during conferences to see and capture the initial thoughts and emotions (I was presenting at the NSTA Area Conference in Salt Lake), but many of my colleagues mentioned how wonderful the experience was, and how well it was received. One of my teammates expressed that many students had their parents capture their picture next to their piece of their team quilt. Yay! Happy!

Also, I want to say thank you to you…my viewers! I noticed on my blog data, that this activity was a popular “view”. Thank You! I do hope you share it (and this site) with your teammates as a possible future idea.

And…to help you do that, I made an additional PDF that provides instructions for students, rather than the PDF I originally wrote for teachers, to capture the idea.

My school wants to do it again next year, which will give us time to think of a new key…perhaps a genetics based one. πŸ™‚

Happy Sharing, Communicating, and Embracing Differences!



Parents and students had a wonderful time problem solving and designing together at our NOV8…INNOVATE event! πŸ˜€

The use of the character cards, and open design challenge cards were perfect for our time frame and goal. If you want to read more about the organization and setup of the event, please see my past posts: NOV8…INNOVATE and NOV8…INNOVATE: Character and Design Cards.Β 

Family teams used their background knowledge, problem solving skills, and creativity to innovate together! (Such a beautiful thing!) After each family team was done designing, I had them create a short video about their problem and designed solution on Flipgrid. If you haven’t used Flipgrid in your classroom yet…please consider it. It is new to me and I find it user friendly and great for communicating process (great EL tech tool). Also, even though I didn’t use it this way today, Flipgrid also can be used collaboratively, and be used to give and receive feedback.Β 

So happy with the results of today. I loved the conversations, the results, and the connections. See some of those results below:Β 

Huge shout out to my science team, admin team, instructional coach, media specialist, and amazing office staff for supporting my event and helping make it possible!

Happy Innovating!


NOV8…INNOVATE: Character and Design Cards

Yesterday I shared my NOV8…INNOVATE family events ideas.

Well, after some think time, and some discussion with my amazing colleagues, I have decided on using character and design cards (which is sort of a combination of my ideas):

Please click HERE to access the PDF and see all the cards I plan on having available for parents and students tomorrow. I plan on cutting them out and gluing them onto cardstock, so they last the day (and hopefully longer).

Note: The end of page one is blank…but there are more on page 2. I just needed to create a space so that it makes the cards print properly.

To read more about this event, please see my November 6th blog post.

Design results coming soon!

Happy Innovating!



How do you plan on celebrating NOV8/INNOVATE day, as part of National STEM/STEAM month? Me…I am still trying to figure out those last minute details, but here’s what I have figured out:

At my middle school, we are going to try something new. We are inviting parents (or a family member) to come to innovate with their son or daughter during the time that they have science class.

Click HERE for the link to see the entire PDF (which also includes a Spanish translation).

This means that students will only be missing the period they have science…but in many ways, not really missing science, because they will be engaging in some of the science practices during their innovate time.

For all my fellow visual learners, here is what I am picturing: parents will come to the office, check-in, and come down to the media center (library). This is where I will be with helpful TA’s and call slips. Once there, I will send for their son/daughter/nephew/niece/etc. to come down to the media center. Once together they will engage in an innovation challenge.

Now…the question is…what is that challenge???

This is what I am still contemplating. So far I have 3 ideas:

ONE: Start with a picture book!

Click HERE to purchase this book on Amazon

I could start by reading (but not finishing) this story and then have family teams brainstorm and design what their “magnificent thing” would be.

To read more about this book from a past blog post, please click HERE.

TWO: Have character cards that family teams can work together to problem solve by using the design process. I have to do some digging to relocate the ones I have created in the past, but an example would be:

“Meet Sally. Sally is a middle school teacher. She works at a school that has students use technology and paper based tools to learn…however, Sally’s student desks are only large enough for a few supplies. Students are constantly struggling to organize their tools so that they either fit or are easily accessible. This includes their pencil, marker, etc. With no pencil groove on the desk, the pencils are easily pushed aside and rolling on the floor. Could you help Sally, by designing a pencil/marker solution for her student desks, that doesn’t take up any precious desktop space?”

THREE: Theme Challenge

Similar to a 3D printing challenge I have had in the past, I could give family teams a theme…like: Transportation. Together they would need to brainstorm a community based transportation problem, and design a possible solution.

Hmmmm…three good choices, right?

TBA on which I select and how it goes.

Happy Innovating!