Summer of Learning


Halting the ‘summer learning slide’ with some fun and games.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lane Jabaay 

CREDIT Shakti WarriorsWith the holiday weekend upon us, summer is officially here for students and teachers alike. Summer offers a change of schedule and in the best case – no homework! However, it’s also a time when students fall into the dreaded ‘summer leaning slide’. Researchers found that the summer learning slide, or loss of student performance levels, equates to about a month of learning lost throughout the summer. More disturbing, however, is that findings show that summer learning loss is cumulative, and rates are far more substantial for low-income students versus their higher-income counterparts, contributing to an even greater widening of the achievement gap.

In the City

Mayors in major U.S. cities are following Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s lead by implementing “Summer of Learning” campaigns within their cities for students. The initiatives are designed to…

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First LEGO League (FLL) Team Vitamin Z #7009

Design, Enrich, LEGO Robotics

Getting Started

First LEGO League Team Vitamin Z (#7009) is based in Lake Oswego, OR and is made up of seven 4th and 5th graders from the Lake Oswego School District.  Two of the team members participated on an FLL team last year and the remaining 5 members are rookies to the competition.  The team has been meeting since early August to discuss their team research project and to learn and practice programming their robots.

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This year’s theme is Nature’s Fury, which is focused on the challenges faced with natural disasters.  As part of their early research, in August the team took several field trips to learn about Earthquake Subduction Zones (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries) , Emergency Management in Portland , and Structural Testing in Earthquakes (PSU infrastructure Testing and Applied Research Lab).  Vitamin Z is hard at work getting ready to participate in a Qualifying Tournament in early December and will continue through to their tournament date.

Keys to Success for Working in Teams

One of the biggest challenges of LEGO Robotics is the fact that kids have to learn how to work together as a team.  This is also precisely the most important skill that participants say they takeaway from being on a robotics team – learning how to be a team player. The Vitamin Z team has been struggling with how to work together effectively and came up with a set of Team Rules that are visible at every team meeting.  They were inspired by 6 simple everyday items and the entire team agreed on each and every rule.  I have to admit I was impressed with what they came up with and can honestly say that these rules could be applied to teams in other situations as well.  I look forward to see how these kiddos grow into an effective and cohesive team, this season.

team rules

Everyday Engineering: Engineering in Reverse

Design, Engage, Everyday Engineering


This week, in our Everyday Engineering class, we reverse engineered windup toys in order to better understand how they work.  Students were put into teams of two and given a unique windup toy that they were to observe and predict how the internal mechanics of the toy work.  They sketched their prediction before beginning to take apart the windup toy.  After disassembling the toy, they sketched and labeled all the parts and how they worked together; finally they reassembled the toy to make it work again.

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This activity was a fantastic learning experience and both sections of the class came up with a list of interesting things they learned from the activity.  Here are some of the kids’ insights after completing the Engineering in Reverse activity.

  1. Things on the inside are a lot simpler than you think.
  2. It’s possible to learn a lot about how things work by taking things apart.
  3. Sometimes there are a lot of parts being held together by just one little part.
  4. It was interesting how all of the arms and legs were controlled by just one wind-up handle.  There were lots of gears to connect all the parts.
  5. It was possible to put it back together backwards – the toy went backwards when it was wound.
  6. Some toys had shells that had to be on in order to work.  One truck had a cover that held on a weight that was part of the operation of the toy.  All of the parts of the toy were important.

Introduction to Engineering: Toothpick Bridges

Design, Engage, Introduction to Engineering

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This week, in our introduction to engineering class, we began the design of our toothpick bridges.  Students were paired up and given a set of design constraints, materials, and a set of design requirements for their bridge.

Bridge Requirements:

  • Must span 12 inches
  • Must support at least 5 pounds of weight
  • Must use only whole toothpicks, can not cut or break them.
  • Bridge must be at least 2 toothpicks wides.

Materials :

  • 1 box of Flat Toothpicks (750)
  • Glue and paintbrush
  • Graph Paper
  • Wax Paper
  • Masking Tape (To hold down wax paper)

Using a sheet of 11×17 graph paper, the pairs sketched out a design of a bridge. Once their bridge span was designed, they laid down a sheet of wax paper and began connecting toothpicks to match the design, using glue to adhere the joints.

Most groups only completed the design in the first class period and will get started on the construction at the beginning of the next class.  About half of the groups had a chance to get started on their constructions but did not get too far.  Next week, we will continue constructing and testing our toothpick bridges to support the required 5 pounds.

App Inventor Workshop: Kids Creating Android Apps

App Inventor Workshop, Design, Engage



welcome_v2_highlightCreating apps for mobile devices shouldn’t require years of programming experience. Artists, scientists, students, and people of all ages can create apps using App Inventor. App Inventor is a visual programming tool for building mobile apps. Based on a visual blocks programming method, much like Scratch, App Inventor lowers the barriers to creating apps for Android phones. This course will introduce the components of App Inventor and how to add behaviors, displays, sounds, and controls to an app on an Android mobile device. Second term will focus on market research to develop an app to meet a specific use, need, or problem.

App Inventor for Android - Beta - Google Chrome 9292013 95149 PM.bmp

PaintPot App from App Inventor Course



Tinkering Workshop: Making Robots

Engage, Tinkering Workshop

The Tinkering Workshop is an opportunity for kids aged 5-7 to tinker with various materials to explore and create new things. Our first class of the Fall Tinkering Workshop involved Making Robots. We used recycled materials to find a body, arms, legs, a head, and a face. Students were very proud of their creations after class.

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The items that were made available for this Tinkering Workshop are as follows:

  • Recycled boxes – cereal, granola bars, egg cartons, etc
  • recycled tin cans
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Metal jar lids
  • Corks
  • Clothespins
  • Paperclips
  • Paper Cups
  • Empty Plastic Juice Jugs
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Colored Masking Tape
  • Scissors
  • Plastic drinking Straws
  • Hot Glue Gun (operated by teachers assistant)

Introduction to Engineering – Structural and Civil Engineering

Design, Engage, Introduction to Engineering

bridgesExplore engineering principles through in-depth hands on projects as well as researching technology in everyday life. Students will explore and create in this engaging hands-on class. Each term will focus on a different theme and will explore different technologies related to each theme through experimentation of theories and practical applications. Fall term focus is on Structural and Civil Engineering: Bridges and Buildings; projects include toothpick bridges and urban infrastructure (city structures) design. At the end of the course, students will:

  • Know what a structural and civil engineer do
  • Know the different types of bridges and the pros and cons of each
  • Understand the various ways to strengthen buildings and towers
  • Be able to articulate the need for an environmental engineer in designing for infrastructure improvements.

Everyday Engineering for Kids

Design, Engage, Everyday Engineering

Everyday Engineering for Kids is a class designed to introduce kids to the fun of engineering through relevant engineering experiences from everyday life. Current events (news) and daily life will provide inspiration for exploring technology and design. Hands-on design projects give students the opportunity to design a tangible solution to take home. At the end of this course, students will:

  • Know the difference between science and engineering
  • Understand how science and engineering is used to create music, toys and games, and to improve health and medicine.
  • Be able to apply the engineering design process to solve everyday problems