By Sarah Hampton
At the beginning of the school year, I wrote about my school's plan to implement Bootstrap, a curriculum that integrates computer science and mathematics. We just finished our first attempt at Bootstrap at Sullins Academy and we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some of our observations:
Overall, we continue to be encouraged about the potential of Bootstrap and are working to give it the time it deserves next year. Have any of you done Bootstrap as part of your algebra curriculum? If so, how are you implementing it? If you’re running it exclusively through your algebra classroom, do you find that you have time to do it and meet your required standards? I would love to learn what’s working so we can productively continue our adventure!
Real life meets Geometry class...
A few months ago, my students (Sarah Hampton here) were able to design and build a parking lot for our school. In their own words, here’s how it happened. This blog post was written by them.
Parking Lot: What's the problem?
We have a huge real world problem that our geometry class can solve! Our school’s upper field parking area is somewhat of a mess. There are no instructions as to where parking is permitted, so, as a result, many drivers claim more parking space than needed and don’t leave any space for other drivers. This leads to a traffic jam, causing a slower and confusing flow of traffic. In addition, because of this catastrophe, many drivers are forced to drive on the running track in order to exit the area, thus damaging the surface and placing pedestrians at risk for being injured.
In order to address these problems, Mr. Mark Hill, the Head of the Building and Grounds Committee, tasked our Geometry class to design a parking lot. We had to fulfill the needs of a counterclockwise flow of traffic, follow local regulations, and maximize the number of parking spaces, all while making safety our number one priority. This fell into a two part project, first, we designed a blueprint for the parking lot, and secondly, we laid out the actual parking lot.
Our small class was divided into two teams: a team of the three girls and one of the four boys. To get to the best solution, the teams competed on making the best and most effective design possible. After working hard, both teams presented a pitch to three judges, Mrs. Hampton, our geometry teacher, Mr. Hill, the Head of Building and Grounds and a civil engineer, and Mr. Vermillion, our Head of School. As the pitch started, Mr. Hill set the tone for the students saying “Let me tell you this; this project is as real-world as it gets. If you were an engineering consulting firm, you would be doing the same thing right now. You would prepare a preliminary solution to the problem and “pitch” that to the project owners. In this case, that’s Sullins Academy. If we liked your design, we’d hire you to do the work. As students, you may get to see your design actually implemented, which will be a tangible reminder of your time here whenever you go up to the field.”
The three judges came to a conclusion that there were positive elements in both teams’ designs. As a result, there was a draw and Mr. Hill made a new blueprint combining ideas of both teams. On a cool day, the class went up to the track to start marking the parking lot. We built a curb stop template and an angled line template and took all of our other supplies: string, stakes, measuring tapes, a speed square, and a few sharpies. Then we measured out the correct angle and distances for each parking spot, which used our knowledge in geometry and basic math to figure out where to put everything.
Throughout this project, we learned how to use an engineer scale, create a blueprint, and include trigonometry in real life situations. Most importantly, we learned the significance of proportionality in similar figures. In the end, we realized how much work and math really go into constructing a parking lot!
By Pati Ruiz, Sarah Hampton, Riley Leary, Judi Fusco, and Patti Schank
For the last few months, we’ve been reading, thinking, and talking about computational thinking (CT) in preparation for three Webinars for Teachers and Parents on the topic. The webinars are on January 30, February 6, and February 13. Go to the link above to sign up for the webinar and get all the details.
A lot of the websites and articles we reviewed about computational thinking for teachers gave us only a brief introduction to it. We’ve read about what researchers have been doing and how they have been thinking about CT, and using their research, we’ve been trying to think about what CT means for and looks like in the classroom. We also know that it’s a new topic for parents, and that parents may want to think about what it means and what it can look like at home.
The term computational thinking was made popular in a paper in 2006 by Jeannette Wing, and since then, researchers have expressed different understandings and definitions of the term. There wasn’t a common understanding of what it was then, and exactly “What is it?” is still a fair question today. Some people equate computational thinking with coding, but others do not. We agree that computational thinking is a much broader set of skills than just coding or programming, and that it’s not the same thing as computer science. Computational thinking skills include abilities that help people use computers to solve problems. Being able to program is one way of interacting with a computer, but there are other ways that one can work with a computer, and computational thinking is needed in more than just programming classes. For example, when researching for a history project, students may need to use data to strengthen their arguments. Students are using CT when they locate, evaluate, analyze, and display data. Learning to program is an advantage, in terms of learning to think in a new way, but we believe that programming is not the only way to incorporate CT into classes. We’ll explore these things in our webinars.
The first session will be an overview of CT. The second session will be geared toward what CT can look like in K12 classrooms. At our third session––a special webinar for parents or other caregivers––we will think about projects and practices that can be done at home with kids to help them learn and think in this new way. Come to the webinars to learn and think with us about computational thinking and what it looks like in K12 classrooms and at home! Please share this information with interested colleagues and parents as well. We hope to see you there!