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Writing Rocks—June 2018 Calendar


posted: Wed, Mar 13th, 2019

Engaging kids with technology 

The importance and power of instructional technology took center stage when Mountain View celebrated Digital Learning Day. The nationwide day of recognition encourages educators to develop innovative teaching assignments which engage students with computer software, interactive websites, online courses, video production, and anything else involving technology.

At Mountain View, students partnered with their school buddies (kids in lower or higher grades) to complete activities of their own choosing. These included a digital escape room, a Jeopardy-style math and ELA game, storytelling using computer coding, and video creation using Flipgrid. 

In a project that combined old-fashioned analog with digital technology, art teacher Kristina Carnevele challenged students to create their own versions of famous pieces of art. She digitally projected the artworks on a paper-lined white board and had the young artists paint over the projected images.

 “When digital tools are put into the hands of great teachers like we have, the results are exciting assignments that engage kids and let them have fun while learning,” said Melissa Kolenski, school principal. “It was an amazing day that let students explore their interests and build stronger bonds with their buddies.”

Digital Learning Day is an initiative of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national nonprofit committed to improving the lives and academic achievement of students.

Article comes to life

“Aero and Officer Mike,” an informational text about a policeman and his K-9 partner, recently came to life for third-graders when detectives from the Morris County Sheriff’s Office visited with Spike, a dog in the K-9 unit.  

Detectives Adamsky and Granato discussed how the dogs are trained for police work, the various breeds best suited for the job, and the different specialties of the dogs.

The highlight, however, was a display of Spike’s speed, strength, and agility. Detective Adamsky donned a protective sleeve and commanded Spike to bite it to practice his restraining skills.

The visits went beyond exploring how K-9s are used in detection and law enforcement. It also showed students the deep relationship between a real working dog and his human partner – a relationship that the third-graders read about in “Aero and Officer Mike.” 

“This helped the students make a real-world connection,” said Courtney Koppinger, third grade teacher. “One student came up to me at the end of the demonstration and said he wanted to be a detective and work with K-9s when he grows up.”

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office uses more than a dozen K-9s who are trained for specialties such as narcotic detection, bomb detection, and search and rescue. The K-9 unit was started in 1977.

Anna Moschella and Samantha Vanderhoof at work

A Valentine’s Day break-out 

Poor Cupid. The god of love finds himself trapped in a room on Valentine’s Day, his busiest day of the year. His only hope is the Mountain View fifth-graders who can rescue him if their math, language arts, and problem-solving skills are strong. But there are only 45 minutes on the clock. It’s a race against time and the fate of love hangs in the balance.

That was the scenario of an escape room/break-out challenge put together by the school’s fifth grade teachers. Teams of three or four students worked to use their academic knowledge and ingenuity to solve a series of math problems and language arts exercises. The teams solved word problems involving fractions, determined the meaning of words using context clues, and found the value of symbols using algebraic equations. The correct answers were used to solve puzzles that led each team to the combination of a lock on a safe box which represented the captive Cupid’s room.

A riddle started each team off and provided the clue to the location of a key hidden in the classroom. The key unlocked a book safe with the tasks that needed to be completed. 

“Escape rooms reinforce skills learned in different subject areas and encourage students to think critically,” said teacher Anessa Goldkind. “They also help kids to develop life skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and perseverance.”

To successfully work out the clues and puzzles, the students also employed a number of tools such as UV flashlights which were used to read invisible ink.

“It was a fun and intense experience,” said student Jett Davis.

This was the first escape room done by the fifth grade this school year. Jen Olsyn, the school’s instructional supervisor, brought the idea of academic escape rooms to Mountain View a year ago. The Flanders PTA provided a grant to purchase thenecessary materials such as plastic lock boxes, safes disguised as books, and cipher wheels.

Chloe Winters tries to open a lock on the safe box
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