Friday, July 18, 2014

More Summer Greetings!

Hello again Gagner Gang families!

I'm inspired to write today because, for the past two days, I have been leaving work tutoring at Bristol Elementary school and spending the afternoons in Room 110 getting all set up for the new year. Ordinarily, I would want to show you pictures, but there is still a bit left to be done and I want it to be a surprise.

Returning members of our classroom community will notice a new layout with lots of table space for collaborating, tinkering, and learning. I have redesigned my area of the room so that I can work more functionally and effectively with small groups, use my professional library more readily, and hopefully take up less space. The schematic for our makerspace spot (right now it's in my head as Mr. Raymond and Mr. LaRock do some tweaks for us) is designed for maximum creativity. We still have the bank of computers, which now shares its home with our beloved xBox Kinect, and I think I have configured our limited storage to get the most out of it. It's a good thing I love moving furniture and have a ton of feng shui ability at the genetic level because it's a hard, sweaty job configuring desks, shelves, and tables and hauling box after box of books.

As I put together the room, I keep coming up with things to share with you so that you can save or be on the lookout for items that will be immensely helpful to us this year. In being in other schools and classrooms this summer, I have noticed teachers being really creative about what kinds of craft materials they have in stock. Their not being in the room to tell me what specific projects the items are collected for is almost better because it lets me see them for all of their true potential. Here's a sample list:
  • dental floss
  • string, cording, and yarn
  • fabric scraps
  • cotton balls
  • straws
  • cardboard tubes
  • pipe cleaners
  • beads
  • wire
  • corks
  • used greeting cards
  • magazines
Things that also come to mind are items that would be fun to take apart or have value in being broken or out of date (cassette tapes, scratched CDs, obsolete cell phones, flashlights, watches, small appliances, toys...). My dad, who was a mechanic and tinkerer extraordinaire, would tell you that we're basically looking for "parts cars," so if you have anything that fits this bill and can set it aside until school starts, that would be wonderful. The remixing that kids can do with items that would be destined for the landfill is pretty incredible. (Want a sample? Google "toy hacking.") LEGOs are also more than welcomed as are Erector sets (whole or in part), K'NEX, and the like. 

I'm also on the lookout for basic toolkit items like screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, paint brushes, putty knives, etc.. Even loaners would work to get us started; I hate to use our limited budget to buy these things because they can be a bit pricey and aren't tremendously exciting. I'm hoping my husband doesn't notice that his toolbox is a bit lighter... There's only so much I could "borrow" without it being too obvious that he had been raided.

For storage, I have been washing and saving the lids and plastic containers that yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese come in but also think that cookie tins, sturdy cardboard boxes, baby wipe containers, spent Tupperware, and any of those sorts of reusable packaging will come in handy. These are things that you almost can't have too many of because not only will we need them for bits and pieces, but the kids might have projects in progress that need a safe home in between makerspace times.

Two-liter soda bottles or family-sized juice containers will also need to be collected for an ecology project within the first two weeks of school, so if you can set one or two aside, it would be a big help. We will need at least one per student in both classes and Ms. Pierpont will be asking her families too.

Our classroom library is bursting at the seams and I have concentrated it in one spot which will make for a nice reading nook. I hope to buy mats or rugs this weekend so that the kids can curl up during our daily Myself As A Reader time. Couch cushions, chair pads, bean bags, and other soft seats are always welcomed if your rec room or garage is feeling generous. There isn't a ton of room, but we can certainly take a few to help make everyone more cozy. You might know that a lot of my students choose to sit on fitness balls and I welcome this because it allows for some movement and helps certain learners focus. They're also pretty darned comfortable and I have brought mine in from home this year as well. If you would like to buy one for your student, I saw them for $5 last weekend at the Christmas Tree Shop in Williston. I think a pump was included, but we have several in the room if not. Just please make sure they are large enough to reach desk height (a 65" circumference is usually good).

I'll also take the time to remind you of two very important things:
  • Two students have logged summer reading minutes at I really hope that more will follow! If you're having tech or login problems, please don't hesitate to email me. Four students have sent me postcards about the books they've read this summer. I really hope that more will follow!
  • We have $389 left to go on our Donors Choose project. It's such a small amount if we all work together! Contributions are tax-deductible and getting this project funded by or before the start of school will mean that our makerspace will have some serious tech capacity right off the bat. Please forward/tweet/share the link with everyone in your network. Friends, co-workers, business partners, family members, complete strangers... anyone who might be willing to help us get over the top on this not-to-be-missed opportunity should be contacted liberally!
I'm sure I'll be in touch once or twice more before the big day. Mrs. Knox is planning a welcome event that I will probably link up with for a meet and greet in Room 110 closer to the start of school.

Until then, enjoy the sunshine and read, read, read!


  1. NOW I think I can comment ! Thanks for the cool blogs this summer. They're helping us get a feel for what your class,will be like .. And they're gently pushing our tech envelope. nice !

  2. Excellent, thanks Otto! I expect that everyone's tech envelope will be pushed a bit this year--mine included! I am so glad that the blog is helping you get a sense for what things will be like when we work together, that's exactly why I decided to do it. Cheers!