Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Scratch Starter Projects

Here is a selection of good starter projects in Scratch. Look at the code, figure out what it does, then change it to make it different!

  1. Paint with Gobo
  2. Wizard Spells
  3. Spiral Maker

CS First and Pythonroom Coding Choices

Google's CS First computer science club materials are great places to get started with coding for students in grade 4 and up. is a good interactive website to learn the basics of python coding.

Choose from one of the following five projects from Google's CS First or

  1. High Seas Animation and Story
  2. Gumball's Coding Adventure
  3. Musical Art
  4. Platform Jump Game
  5. Pythonroom

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Computer Science First

Google has created an excellent resource for learning Scratch, with lots of ideas and helpful videos to assist students with independent learning.

Check out this link below to see the different options available:

Computer Science First

You will need a Scratch username and password to be able to complete the activities.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Caine's Arcade and the Global Cardboard Challenge 2017

Here is an amazing video that tells the story of what one nine-year-old boy can do with some cardboard, spare time, an imagination:

Caine's Arcade

There is in fact a whole web page dedicated to Caine's continuing story:

Here is an inspirational video showing how some elementary students in Bermuda celebrated Global Cardboard Challenge Day in 2014:

Global Cardboard Challenge Day 2014 Bermuda

And here are some students in France:

Global Cardboard Challenge Day 2014 France

To see more videos of other cardboard challenge days, go to:

More Cardboard Challenge Videos

To learn more about Global Cardboard Challenge Day, go to:

Global Cardboard Challenge Day

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Monday, 12 September 2016

Solar Oven S'mores

We are starting the STEM year off with some sweet memories of summer. We are going to build solar ovens to melt s'mores.

Here are some websites that provide ideas:

We will use one class to plan, then the next class to build and bake. Here's hoping for sun on Wednesday!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Inventions that Were Mistakes

Did you know that many useful (or sometimes just fun) things that we use and see every day were invented by mistake? Check out this great article from Amazing Kids Magazine:

Welcome back 2016-17!

This year in PYP STEM, there will be many fun challenges and activities, including, but not limited to:
I'm really excited for another great school year!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Scratch Programming Challenges

Here are some interesting and fun program ideas to challenge your Scratch programming skills:

  1. Write a program that asks the player to guess a number between 1 and 20. After each guess, tell the player if the guess is correct, too high or too low.
  2. Write a program that tests the player’s knowledge of multiplication, up to 10 times 10. Have it ask them 10 questions. Make it so that every time the game is played, the questions are different. Tell the player at the end how many questions she got right.
  3. Write a program in Scratch in which a sprite draws a, square, equilateral triangle and a circle. 
  4. Pattern Studio, challenge #5 from EdTechExperience.
  5. Collect the Coins Game, challenge #6 from EdTechExperience.
  6. Cat and Mouse Game, challenge #7 from EdTechExperience.
  7. Magic 8 Ball, challenge #9 from EdTechExperience.

Choose Your Own Adventure

In support of the current unit's theme of stories, legends and fairy tales, the grade 3-4 class will be using Scratch to animate and write their own "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories.

Here are some examples of these types of stories:
Both of these stories are neat, but what they lack are pictures and animation! That's where the fun of Scratch comes in. Students will write their own short adventure stories (with choices) and provide pictures or animations.

Scratch is a great language for having characters have conversations. There are two basic methods, (1) using "wait" blocks and (2) using "broadcast" and "receive" blocks.

Each of these starter Scratch projects may be remixed to practise these techniques.
Before starting their original Choose Your Own Adventure stories, students will first complete a basic storyboard.

To get started in Scratch, here is a basic five page choose your own adventure story program. Remix this program, add your own story, and consider adding more choices with more pages. Look carefully at the scripts on the buttons to see how to control the story flow. Use the duplicate feature in Scratch to create new buttons - the scripts from the old buttons will be copied over, and will only need to be updated.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Making Quality Video Collages

I'm new to the world of video and image collage videos, and thought this blog post had some great tips, especially useful in the classroom.

Animoto's Five Tips for Good Videos

Copyright and Using Pictures from the Internet in School Projects

Teaching students that they must respect international copyright laws is an important part of any lesson I teach where students will be using images and videos they find on the internet. Here is a great blog post which comments on the legal issues involved, as well at lists several great sources of pictures that are in the public domain.

Copyrighted images and sources of images in the public domain

We need to remember that although students may use almost any image for educational purposes, if projects containing those images are then posted on-line, a definite grey-area is entered. Also, outside of the educational setting, in copyright laws must be respected, and creating good habits that will carry on into a students' adult life in the workforce is important.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Biodiversity Quiz

The current unit of the grade 3 - 4 class has a focus on biodiversity. Here is an interesting link about biodiversity from Wikipedia:

Students will use Hopscotch on the iPads to create a biodiversity quiz.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Electrical Quiz Boards for the PYP Expo

Students who are preparing projects for this year's PYP expo will be making Electric Quiz Boards in STEM class. The basic idea is to create a set of questions and answers, and a board to display them on, and when the user connects a question with an answer, if the answer is correct, an LED will light up to indicate the answer is correct.

Here are some good instructions of how to build an Electric Quiz Board:

For a few ideas of different board designs, see this video
Here's a slightly different variant of the Quiz Board. One question, but multiple answers.
Look out for future posts of our projects!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Whack-a-Potato and Unusual Pianos with Scratch and Makey Makeys

Today, the Grade 3-4 class will be starting work on two more Makey Makey projects. Groups may choose to do one or the other or both.

The first one is to create a modified version of the traditional Whack-a-Mole game, using Scratch and potatoes and the Makey Makey. Here is the project idea:

Whack a Potato

Here is some starter code in Scratch:

Scratch Whack a Potato Starter Blocks

The second one is to create a Scratch program that will allow you to attach unusual objects to the Makey Makey to create a unique piano, such as the banana piano.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cool Science Experiments

Here are some really neat experiments and demos we will be trying!

Biodiversity and the Pinhey Sand Dunes

In the fall, we had two field trips to the Pinhey Sands Dunes: one to learn from the scientist of Biodiversity Conservancy International about this unique and remarkable habitat found right within the city limits in Ottawa, and secondly to participate in the restoration of the dunes themselves.

Here are some videos from Biodiversity Conservancy International links that focus of the Pinhey Sand Dunes, their restoration, flora and fauna.

  1. General Information about Pinhey Sand Dunes. Note the maps on the right hand side that show the disappearing dunes!
  2. The Shrinking Dunes  (video)
  3. Saving the Sand Dunes (video)
  4. Life on the Dunes: Various Species
  5. Where have all the spiders gone? (video)
  6. Collecting Data on Biodiversity (collecting bugs!) (video)

Invasive Species in Ottawa

There are some plants and insects (and even trees, bushes and probably animals) that are thriving in Ottawa but that are not native to this region, and so have no natural predators. In Morrison Park, and the St Paul High School field, I have seen:

Not quite so close to our school, but still within the City of Ottawa, I have seen many instances of wild parsnip, the sap of which can cause very severe blisters and burns.
What can we find growing in Morrison Park this year?

Film Canister Rockets

Many of our students are very, very, very interested in explosions, so we will be tinkering with film canister rockets. Film canisters are not very common these days -- I had to explain what they were the first time I mentioned them to my students -- but I was able to collect many from a friendly photo developing store.

Here are some good links to start researching:

  1. Science Kiddo - Film Canister Rocket
  2. PBS Kids - Film Canister Rocket
  3. Imagination Station - Film Canister Rocket
These web pages all describe demonstrations, but we will want to turn them into experiments by changing only one thing and see what the effect is.

Some questions we may want to answer:
  1. What different types of fuel can we develop? What is the least expensive, most powerful fuel we can find?
  2. What is the effect of temperature?
  3. What is the effect of structural items on the rocket, such as fins and a nose cone?
  4. What is going on that makes the rocket go up?
Here's another type of rocket we can maybe try too:

Monday, 7 March 2016

Obstacle Course in Scratch

A fun game to make in Scratch, building on concepts we have studied earlier in the year is an obstacle game. Here is an example, but be creative and make one that is special for you!

Scratch Obstacle Course Game

Hopscotch Programming

Hopscotch is a great programming environment available for iPads. It is a lot like Scratch, but designed for the touch screen interface.

Here is a YouTube video that provides step by step instructions to make a "Tapper Game" - a game where you are trying to tap an object as much as possible to get points. These instructions give the basic ideas and concepts, you will need to provide the game ideas!

Tapper Game in Hopscotch YouTube Video

Happy creating!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Lemon Batteries

The grade 3 - 4 class has been studying energy: how we use it, how it is made, and how we can reduce our dependency. Here is a great explanation of a hands on activity to make a real battery from household materials:

Apparently, these batteries can be a bit finicky. We'll try our luck in class and see how it goes!

Update: We did successfully make the batteries in class, and were able to measure voltages of about 0.9 V per lemon. However, this was not enough to light up an LED, especially since more current was also needed. Later, by attaching three lemons in series, and making three sets like this, then attaching these three sets of three lemons in parallel, we could finally get enough current and voltage to make an LED light dimly.  

Mad Libs Program in Scratch

To reinforce what has been learned about the computer science concept of variables through exposure in previous programming exercises, students in grades 5 and 6 are creating their own Mad Libs program in Scratch, using variables to hold the nouns, verbs and adjectives. Here is a simple prgram I wrote, if you would like to see an example:

Once the use of variables is mastered, the program can be updated to use lists instead. Here is an example of how this can be done:
My you have a happy time coding!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Building With MaKey MaKeys

Students have started making inventive rooms, space stations and novel tin foil buttons to use as user interfaces connected to MaKey MaKeys, then connected with Scratch programs to give the creations special sound and other effects. 

To be continued!

Caribou Math Contest

All our students should be very proud of their efforts in the latest Caribou Math Contest. It was one of our best showings as a school every! Well done team!

Here are some pictures of students studiously working on their contests.

Those who finished early, had time to work with Tangrams. Some worked hard on making traditional Tangram puzzles, while others created their own images.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Introduction to MaKey MaKeys

I am very excited about the latest acquisition for our PYP STEM lab -- MaKey MaKeys from SparkFun!

What is the MaKey MaKey? It is marketed as an invention kit for everyone, and practically speaking it is a gadget that connects to your computer that allows to you make original and creative user interfaces for programs. Say, for example, you'd rather tap a banana instead of using your space bar. Simple with a MaKey MaKey!  Really, it's probably best to just watch one in action.

Here's a great introduction to the MaKey MaKey, that starts with a cool video:

Introduction to MaKey MaKey by SparkFun

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Circuit Basics

Continuing our exploration of electricity, the grades 3 to 6 students are starting to explore circuits. An excellent introduction to circuits can be found on this SparkFun website:

Sunday, 17 January 2016


We use electricity every day, but what do we really know and understand about it? To start us off on our explorations into electricity, electronics and creating with electronics, we will do some background research. Here's a great website to get us started:

Explain That Stuff: Electricity 

Salt, Ice and Water

Why is salt put on roads and sidewalks in the winter? Could something else be used instead? The Grade 1/2 class did some experiments to see what common kitchen ingredients melted ice the best. Winners: salt, baking soda, sugar. Losers: flour, cocoa, corn startch. 

The next time we meet we will finish our experiments on salt water and density.  

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Sokoban Game for Caribou Math Contest

The next Caribout Math Contest is coming up quickly, and this time the interactive math game will be Sokoban. This game was originally invited in Japan in 1980, and the word "sokoban" means "warehouse keeper" in Japanese. The object of the game is to push large boxes to designated spots in the warehouse. Boxes can only be pushed, not pulled, and they are so heavy only one can be pushed at a time. Boxes are so big they cannot be climbed over. This has some consequences during game play, such as if a box if ever pushed into a corner, there is no way to get it out again.

The first level of the game presented for practice on the Caribou website is quite tricky for beginners, so here are some other recommended resources:

  • Sokoban Online Start with the first lesson that can be found here. This site asks you to create an account, but it is not necessary. 
  • Sokoban by Jordi Domenech There are a few choices of collections of puzzles here too. Start with Level 1.
Sokoban will get easier with practice! Keep these tips in mind:
  • If you are stuck and frustrated, take a short break and come back. 
  • Every Sokoban game has a "Restart" button. Don't be afraid to use it! Often it is not possible to solve a level without some trial and error. 
  • Once you've completed a challenging level, go back and try it again to see if you can still remember the solution. 
Have fun!

Scratch - Virtual Pets

The students in Mme Brinda's class have been doing wonderful work creating their own virtual pets in Scratch. Lots of creativity and applying the use of advanced Scratch concepts like broadcasting messages between Sprites. 

Programming in Scratch

With the Rube Goldberg Fair behind us, we have started a new focus on computer programming using Scratch. Grade 1-2 students made programs to make Sorites dance, Grade 3-4 students have been making animations of the letters of their names and Grade 5-6 students have created a Pong Game. Great work by all!

Rube Goldberg Machines - Nearly finished!

This week, students have been very busy, putting the final touches on their Rube Goldberg Machines. Great work! Now, most teams are turning their attention to adding Hallowe'en themed decorations.