Third graders at Kaler study our community of South Portland, and I thought this was a perfect way to introduce a maker project connected with literacy. We are two weeks into this project and it’s going well so far.

Week 1: Brainstorming for South Portland

Guiding questions:
  • What was the city like before?
  • What was it like after?
  • What happened to the people in the city?
Vocabulary to highlight:
  • Dreary, using the illustrations — which go from dreary to cheery — to highlight the meaning.


Background Information:
I explained that the story was inspired by the Highline in New York City. The city had a chronic need for more parks and an eyesore of an aboveground trainline that was no longer in use and a park was built upon the old train tracks and platforms.


Activity:
  • Students were challenged to think of something that would improve our city of South Portland
  • South Portland needs a … worksheet. Students were asked to complete the sentence “South Portland needs a __________________ because ________________.” Then they could sketch their idea.
  • In the first class I tried a gallery walk to give feedback. It was not the most successful. So, with the second class, I had each student chair and then call on peers to get two “I like” pieces of feedback and one “I wonder.”
 

Week 2: Teamwork and Combining Ideas

Read: Going Places by Peter & Paul Reynolds
Pre-reading instructions:
  • Pay attention to how teamwork impacts creativity.
Vocabulary to highlight
  • Enviously: This was a new word for a lot of the kids, but they were able to figure it out in context.
  • Replica: The picture does a good job of showing how each go cart was exactly the same.
Discussion:
  • I asked students how the teamwork between Rafael and Maya impacted their creativity. They noted that both kids were able to be more creative both in their ideas and in their materials. They did win the race, but more improtantly they were having fun and ready for their next creation.
Activity:
Based on their ideas from week one, I grouped the students using the municipal departments of the city of South Portland as a guide. The left column is one class, and the right column is the second class. Names have been reduced to the student’s first initials.
 
School Department:
Mission: Enriching lives through quality learning for all.
B: No School
E: More field trips.
School Department:
Mission: Enriching lives through quality learning for all.
M: Math club
A: Books
Community Development:
The mission of the South Portland Community Development Program is to improve the physical, social, economic, and housing environments for the City’s low- and moderate-income residents.
A: Free store
S: Free stuff and food
N: A Toy store
A: An apartment building
Transportation:
South Portland does not currently have a Transportation department, but if it did, it’s mission would probably be to find the best way to get our city’s residents where they need to go.
T: Flying car
C: Flying car
M: Flying tank
M: Flying steam train
A: Bat car
Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront:
The mission of the South Portland Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department is to provide, maintain and develop recreational facilities, open space and leisure opportunities which will enhance the well being of the citizens of the community.
 
Group A: Recreation
B: a pool and a mountain
C: rollercoaster

 

Group B: Parks & Gardens
A: park
A: fountain in the park
N: beautiful gardens

 

Group C: Animals
N: dog parks
J: dolphins
A: a pet for everybody
Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront:
The mission of the South Portland Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department is to provide, maintain and develop recreational facilities, open space and leisure opportunities which will enhance the well being of the citizens of the community.

 

Group A:
G: Fence for endangered animals
D: Parks with a garden
D: Skateboard park
 
Group B:
M: A pool in the road
E: A place for only kids
S: A playhouse
Library:
Mission: South Portland Public Library welcomes all citizens to the wealth of accumulated knowledge and provides free resources to support the interests of its patrons.

 

P: a giant Lego house
N: Serving robot and robot dog
 
Each group needed to work together to come up with an idea that incorporated their ideas as well as new ideas from the research they did in the library. Each group will have a collection of books or articles to browse and read to help them come up with more details to add to their design. They were asked to answer the questions:
  • Who will it serve?
  • Where will it be?
  • What will it have?
As with past activities, some groups dove in quickly, while others were more hesitant. In a couple of groups, it took a lot of coaxing for collaboration to take place, and in one case, it didn’t happen at all. This shows the importance of thinking about groupings and which mixes mix well. Overall, though, the kids came up with some super ideas that combined and built upon their brainstorms from week one, so they got to see how teamwork can enhance creativity.
 
Next week, groups will start building models of their plans, so this week they also started talking about who will do what in the build process.

(Oringially posted at my Make Literacy Blog.)

Making Community: Part 1
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