Archive for June, 2014

salmonberries along the fraser river

Posted on: June 9th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Salmonberries are the first berries to ripen locally and salmonberry bushes can be found along the banks of the Fraser River here in Richmond. They are one of only a few berries that are native to this land and for thousands of years, the Musqueam peoples canoed to what is now called Lulu Island to set up temporary summer housing for fishing and foraging for berries and plants.

Many of our students in Richmond have never seen a salmonberry. When they see it for the first time, they comment that it looks like a raspberry or a blackberry and in fact, they are in the same rose family of plants.

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Inspired by a resource created on Vancouver Island, we are working with the Richmond Nature Park and the Musqueam First Nation to develop a resource to support K-12 teachers in understanding local native plants and their traditional indigenous uses. A draft of the first pages of our project can be viewed here: salmonberries draft

I clipped some branches of salmonberry and took them into Lauren MacLeans’ K&1 classroom at Blair Elementary. This class has been involved with the Primary Scientists Looking Closely project his year as well as working on observational drawings and storytelling using First Peoples Principles through our QTL project. They were eager to learn about the plants I brought in (I also brought in some local flowering salal) and I told them a bit about their history in Richmond and some of the ways the plants were used. Students then came over to the tables and engaged in being scientists as they carefully observed the plants and recorded what they saw.

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What amazing drawings from five and six year olds! Some of their work will be added to our resource.

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littleBits in grade 9 science at Cambie

Posted on: June 6th, 2014 by jnovakowski

We have been piloting the use of littleBits in our district to investigate the different ways that the components can be used to stimulate creative thinking within the domain of science. Last week I visited one of Karen Ibbott’s grade 9 science classes at Cambie, to see how grade 9 students might respond to the materials. In much the same way that we have been trying them out in elementary classrooms, I gave each group of 4 students a small tray of components and asked them to find out what they could about littleBits. The students were quick to figure out how the components worked together and manipulated different variables to see what they could do with the components.

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The students then worked in their groups to “create something that does something” and scrounged around the classroom for materials. We asked the students to document their project using a set of iPads I had brought in…taking photos, video and using apps like ShadowPuppet, 30Hands or Haiku Deck to share their project. Lots of creative thinking and problem solving was involved as students collaborated in their groups.

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As the groups worked on their projects, we asked them to create circuit diagrams.

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Here is a short video clip created on the Shadow Puppet app of the Keep the Guy Alive project:

We uploaded 6 projects to the littleBits website and each project post included a short video, photo and circuit diagram. The projects can be found on this page (scroll down page and search by littleBits user name jnovakowskisd38):

Campfire Monster

The Crane

Armed with Alarms


Keep the Guy Alive

Happy Face

What I noticed…what was the same and what was different about using littleBits in a secondary class:

the same

high level of engagement

collaboration amongst students

problem solving

time needed for investigation

vast variety of creative projects created

particular components were in high demand (ie. fan, dc motor, buzzer)


elementary students generally approached created the circuits with more of a “guess and test/check” approach while the secondary students were more intentional and applied what they knew about electricity when constructing their circuits

in general, the elementary students made inferences about what was happening in terms of electrical circuits while the secondary students knew, understood and could clearly explain what was happening

the secondary students were able to envision components that would be useful to have, i.e. “it would be cool if we had a __________”

On our last day together, I asked the students to provide some feedback using TodaysMeet and some of the comments included:

What did you like about using littleBits?

“It was simple and safe.” “Because its very interactive.” “Allows us to have fun and learn at the same time.” “littleBits are better than Lego.”

How do you think littleBits inspires creative thinking?

“It inspired us to invent something.” “It lets you have a sense of creativity.”

How did you use what you know about electricity while you were working with littleBits?

“Knowledge of how electrons flow.” “Making a series circuit.”

“littleBits is a fun little product that teaches others the concept of circuits…it’s fast and fun.”

Overall, the students’ feedback suggested that these materials were valuable and encouraged students to be creative and collaborative. Our District Resource Centre has purchased a workshop kit of 100 littleBits components to add to our collection, creating more opportunities for more students to work with these materials.


math photo a day for may

Posted on: June 4th, 2014 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

One of the many benefits of using Twitter as an educator is the networking available with educators across the world. Because of Twitter, I have been part of a few national and international little projects and enjoy seeing and sharing posts and photos from other places. A grade 3 class from Thompson, Manitoba (Twitter handle @3BBees) posted a Math Photo a Day challenge for May and I thought it would be fun to join in.



Because I visit so many schools, I figured I could capture some mathematically-inspired photos from across our district. I shared photos and used the hashtag #mathphotoaday to contribute to the twitter community that was taking part in the challenge. I have always appreciate the value of visual images in helping students see mathematics in the world around them and would have loved to have played along with my whole class if I was in a classroom this year.

May 1, Polygon at Brighouse Elementary


May 3, Fraction at Steves Elementary


May 5, Ascending Numbers at School Board Office


May 9, Increasing Pattern at Byng Elementary

-part of a doubling and halving sequence, working on mental math strategies


May 13, Tallies at Byng Elementary

-investigating ways to make 7


May 14, Sphere at Quilchena Elementary

-investigating the surface area of spheres with grade 7 students


May 30, Rectangular at Cambie Secondary

-lots of rectangular objects on a rectangular table as grade 9 students investigate littleBits

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I had high hopes of posting daily but I either forgot to take a photo as I got wrapped up in the teaching I was doing or there wasn’t a related image to capture that day. I believe a June challenge was posted, but with June being such a crazy month, I didn’t jump in this time. Maybe next year!