The Meta-Cardboard Maker Cart

I’m doing a new cardboard construction unit with my 5th graders to introduce engineering design process and hand tool use.They are challenged to design and prototype cardboard furniture pieces that can be used in the school. To inspire them, I built this “meta-cardboard maker cart” for use in their classrooms.

The cart is one half tool cabinet and one half raw materials bin. I aimed for agile and interchangeable storage units in the cart. Swapping out tools and bins quickly will be a big help.

The tool cabinet has shelves, bins, magnetic racks and charging in the base for the power tools. The materials bin in the back has an array of recovered cardboard pieces in varied flutes and geometries for students to build with.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Coding a Children’s Book

Our 3rd grade programmers are studying computer science through the lens of storytelling this year. During their literacy classes they are learning about narrative non-fiction, and will eventually author their own stories with the help of some mentor texts. This is an exciting opportunity for a technology integration since we can use Scratch to program an interactive story. We used one of the grade’s mentor texts Ish by Peter Reynolds to have students create their own “clickable collage” using content from the story. It’s a great way to give context and meaning to a coding lesson.


You can download my lesson plan and student activity sheet from the ScratchEd website and see links to sample projects too. Here’s my completed model clickable collage for you to enjoy. I show it to students and then challenge them to make one of their own custom design using the images from the book.

Experimental Instruments: Chance Performance

Our culminating event for our experimental instruments unit was a mixed arts chance performance in the vein of composer John Cage. The entire 4th grade was split into four groups: Music, Dance, Costume Art, and Science/Technology. Each group prepared and rehearsed their own contribution to what was to be our cumulative chance performance. Basically, this means that the composition structure and elements were decided randomly (dice rolls) and that performers also can improvise when they are conducted to contribute.

In terms of my Technology class, this unit served as a vehicle to integrate computer science and programming into the larger curriculum. In order to make our various experimental musical instruments actually work, all 4th grade students had to grapple with common computational thinking concepts (loops, conditionals, variables, etc.) and practices (iteration, debugging, etc.) while designing their instruments. We also dove into physical computing concepts with the integration of sensors (distance, touch, loudness & motion) into our instrument designs.

Enjoy a short clip of our young technologists performing with their DIY instruments and links to sample musical programs that drive them.

Experimental, electronic instruments (coded in Scratch):

Students are calibrating an array of experimental instruments including a pencil-drawn drum kit, a distance-sensor theremin, a musical dance floor button, and a volume-sensitive animation for the LCD projector.

LEGO WeDo Sensor Instruments

4th graders continue their exploration of computer programming through music this week. In the video below they are crafting experimental musical instruments that utilize a distance sensor from the LEGO WeDo kit. Sounds and sensors are coded with Scratch. We watched a video of a theremin to get inspiration and gain some context. Examine a Scratch project online to see sample code.