Author Archives: lengel

Preparing for Grade 5 STEM Night

The grade 5 students are excited about STEM night in a couple of weeks. In programming class, we have been coding Scratch games and building Makey Makey controllers. Our controllers are constructed using various materials such as playdough, pennies, wire, water, and more. Here is a preview of the girls busy at work. Hope to see you at STEM Night! It’s on March 31 @ 5pm!

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Repurposing in Digital Arts

For the past few weeks, students in Digital Arts have been exploring the theme of “repurposing.” They are taking old products, such as computers, cordless phones, jeans, and shirts, and giving them new life. Some students are focusing on textiles, creating bags, totes, pencil cases, and stuffed animals. Other students are taking a more industrial route and disassembling electronics to see what they can create.IMG_1429

The girls are gaining an understanding of what it takes to make the products we use every day. They are learning that a computer is really hard to disassemble! And they are discovering how useful a zipper from an old jacket can be.

To help make their new textile products more interesting, students are using our vinyl cutter and heat press to create custom prints. They start by designing a vinyl cutout using one color. Later, they challenge themselves to create vinyl prints using multiple colors, all cut separately and carefully placed together in the heat press to create a multi-color design.

The Riveter Lab has lots of projects going on and the students are having a great time. This week in Digital Arts, we had a 90-minute class and I asked students to clean up 5 minutes before the end of class. One student said, “I thought this was a double block class!” We were having so much fun with our projects that we had completely lost track of time.




Students Design Lamps in 3D Digital Arts!

Grade 7 and 8 students are making excellent progress on their projects in 3D Digital Arts. The assignment is to create a lamp using cardboard, wood, or any other available materials, and to wire the lamp. All the students have designed their lamps and we have been using the laser cutter to cut their pieces out of 3/16 inch plywood. Their designs are literally taking shape. It’s amazing to see the girls imagine their designs, cut a first draft, and then realize how they need to modify their designs to create a complete project. The transfer from 2D to 3D is complex, and they are handling it well. Finished projects will be coming soon…



Coding Websites for Students

There has been an explosion in the number of companies that aim to help students learn a new coding language. They all have varying price structures and the interface is a bit different on each site. Here is a quick summary:
CodeAcademy is perhaps the most popular coding site in The Hamlin Middle School. It offers many programming languages, from HTML to JavaScript to Python. “Every exercise on Codecademy has its own individual Q&A Forum where you can ask and answer questions about that exercise. At the bottom of the editor for each exercise is a link called Q&A Forum.” Because of its user-friendly environment and the number of choices for free coding courses, CodeAcademy is my favorite for learning to code a modern coding language.
CodeSchool has significantly fewer free options that CodeAcademy, however the courses are a bit more robust, including topics such as the iOS Language Path, which allows users to build applications for iPhones and iPads. Unlimited access to all content is $29 per month*. If you are serious about learning to code, and you are willing to make a financial investment, this is probably the best choice.

* Normal pricing is $29/month/user but there are special educational rates:
Monthly: $19/student.
6 Months of Access: $95/student
Annual Access: $190/student
CodeHS is another site that offers very little for free. However, for $25 a month, all site content is available. The free content is very approachable and emphasizes basic coding concepts suitable for young learners. CodeHS seems to focus on courses, such as Introduction to Computer Science. It takes a more balanced approach to learning about coding than other online sites, with a gradual progression into more complex topics. CodeHS is growing, and I expect to see good things in the next few months.
Scratch is an extremely popular site that teaches learners to think like a programmer. It uses drag and drop blocks to create if/then loops, variables, and “sprites.” Young learners (as low as third grade) can learn Scratch basics. There are many resources available to help students learn to code in Scratch and kids love it! Simply put, it is fun. And it is completely free.
“CS First is a free program that increases student access and exposure to computer science (CS) education through after-school, in-school, and summer programs.” CS First provides coding lessons in Scratch. This site is great for teachers who want to create a coding class or club and have little or no coding experience. Tutorial videos and highly structured lessons, which even includes a teaching script, make this an extremely approachable product.

Arts Electives Showcase

This trimester, the Digital Arts, Visual Arts, and Ceramics Electives all worked together to create short claymation movies. First, the Digital Arts students created storyboards and treatments for their movies. They wrote descriptions of the characters, props, and backdrops needed. Then they met with the students from the Visual Arts and Ceramics Electives.

Digital Arts students showed the other two electives what they needed, and the other two electives told the Digital Arts students what they could create. The Digital Arts students, in the meanwhile, gathered sound effects and created voice-overs for the videos. After the props, backdrops, and characters had been created, the Digital Arts elective started shooting. They used their iPads to shoot all the video, one frame at a time, using only the Camera App. Then they sent the still images to iMovie on MacBook Airs. The technical challenge here was sending images to the laptops from the iPads, especially since they were sending hundreds of photos per scene. Image Capture on the laptops helped make this process fast and easy. In iMovie, they added the sound effects, voice-overs, titles, and credits. They carefully edited out any images that had hands in them (from moving the clay characters). And finally, they exported the movie.

On November 19, we invited the community to come view our four finished movies at the Arts Elective Showcase. Our claymation films represent lots of time and planning on behalf of all the teachers and students involved. We are looking forward to next year’s showcase already.

Here are three of the films: