Tuesday, August 15, 2017

YCCOSP Stem Academy

While working with the YCCOSP Program (See my first Blog on my summer work) I have been given a lot of autonomy to create learning activities for my students.  This past Spring we had a chance to help design and implement a Saturday STEM Academy.  For four Saturdays, students were immersed in activities in Chemistry, Biology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Professors from York College of Pennsylvania created meaningful learning experiences for the YCCOSP students in the STEM field.  Since our school has discontinued all courses in computer science our students are never given the chance to experiment with coding or different computer programs.

While researching for a graduate course I found several articles on Edutopia about using Scratch coding from MIT to teach coding and mathematics.  Scratch is a basic system and teaches students coding using building blocks on the online coding program.  Several of the students had been through my Geometry class and had learned about the use and concept of Fractals.  Since our students have never been exposed to any type of coding programs I decided they needed to gradually be given steps to learn how to use the Scratch programming and scaffolded their learning activity with three different tiers of difficulty.

The first assignment took students through the basics of scratch code and taught them how to make the online icon do the simplest of moves to create a given polygon.  (Easy Scratch Coding Edutopia Blog)  The second assignment was then the intermediate level of coding which had students create a code to have the icon make a  random polygon and then name it based on the parameters given.  (Intermediate Scratch Edutopia Blog)  Finally students took the program to create the Sierpinski Triangle, a fractal program that made a recursive pattern within itself.  (Advanced Scratch Edutopia Blog).  From each of the blogs I found I created instructions and questions for the students to complete each level of difficulty in coding with the Scratch program.

Students were then tasked to share their code to their college Google+ account.  In the YCCOSP Math STEM Community that I created, students explained what they created and shared it with the world.  This allowed for another deeper conversation about the way one needs to convey themselves online and in social media.  I informed students that the sharing of their code and what their creations did, since it was put online they also had to understand that their words would be able to be seen by others in the social media.  This simple step created the sense that they as digital citizens must be precise in their wording and represent their own selves in a positive academic manner.

The Saturday morning was filled with a lot of fun and students were very involved in the program. Students who had never seen code in their academic career were exposed to a new programming method that can help teach students.  Students were very successful in coding their projects and even commented that they enjoyed learning and "playing around" with the website.  The program ran very well and in the future I hope I can create as meaningful of a set of projects as I have here.  You can get all of my documents used in my TpT store for free! Coding Projects for STEM Mathematics

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

YCCOSP 2017 Summer Reflection

The YCCOSP Program

For the past three years I have worked for York College of Pennsylvania as an adjunct professor and as a summer mathematics instructor for the York College Community Opportunity Scholarship Program.  The summer program is designed to help our students succeed in an accelerated curriculum and prepare them to enter college.  The program offers enrichment to students who apply to the program from William Penn Senior High School. The groups that are in the program are either entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of high school.  I work directly every morning and afternoon with the Rising Sophomores and Juniors teaching them more mathematics problem solving and critical thinking skills.  They also take a course on reading and writing to help develop those skills.  The Rising Seniors take an entry level writing college course and can earn course credit with successful completion of the class.

The program is designed to enrich and has no set curriculum so I have the freedom to design whatever I want for the students to create and learn.  Working at William Penn and knowing the curriculum we offer helps me in structuring the summer class for the students' success for the upcoming school year.  The program helps emphasize critical thinking skills and advancing SAT preparatory skills.  Students in the program are either going into Pre-Calculus their junior year or doubling up their sophomore year with Geometry and Algebra 2.  We worked this past summer on skills involving critical thinking, problem solving, polynomials, geometry basics, trigonometry and even some statistics.  The ten students were also broken into three teams that were tasked with a culminating project called "Design a Winner."

2017 Project: Designing a Winner

Each year the students showcase what they have learned and/or worked on, so this year I found a project online through Curriki using geometric skills to, "Design a Winner."  Students were tasked with building a multi-sports complex with set criteria.  The question  was designed as open ended and each team created a company name, then they had to start preliminary designs, proposals, 3-D models of the final design and showcase mathematical computations they used to help in their designs.  The beauty of the project was that it tied into what is going on in the community already. We begun by reading the YDR article "Rutter's cornfield could become sports complex."

Students also got a special treat because there is one of the largest sports complexes in the nation right down the road from York in Lancaster.  We bused the group down Route 30 to the Spooky Nook Sports Complex, where two experts lead us on a tour of the facility and gave us facts and figures to start the teams on their brainstorming creativity.  Students took to Instagram for a scavenger hunt on the tour and documented the trip with facts and pictures of the facility to use in their projects.  Students then took to using Sketchup to complete 3-D models of their projects.  (Educators can get the $600 program for free with proof of employment by a school district!)


With the program running for 5 weeks and only Monday-Thursday time was limited on the project.  What made things run more smoothly was dividing up the aspects of the project between the student writing class time and mathematics class time.  Students wrote proposals, created Powerpoints and designed pamphlets for advertising in the writing class. They then created their model, used mathematical ratios and proportions to scale their models and created a poster to show off their designs and calculations in math class.  All components were then put on display during the showcase finale.  Students were also tasked with writing and orally practicing their proposal so they could discuss and answer questions about their project with the staff and parents who came to view their work.  

Students working on their project.

The last week I was really worried about how the project would turn out because I felt like we had rushed everything to be done on time.  We did not get to use trigonometry to talk about angles in the complexes the students were creating nor did we complete more calculations that would have intensified the math, but the students were excited to use the Sketchup program and learn about new designing software.  The thing that also did not help was that I did not have time to approach and have the campuses IT download or purchase a subscription to Sketchup for the students, I took my own personal laptops, I had 2, for the students to use and one student brought his own and downloaded the free version of Sketchup Maker.  The designs that came from the students were pretty amazing, although the time did not permit tons of detail they did come up with some interesting beginnings of designs.  

Athletic Era and their Project Design

The students were innovative and worked diligently in and out of the classroom, some utilized the Google Document Apps features to collaborate on one pamphlet or slide show at all times, which I did not even have to suggest.  By the end of the program my fears of the students being unprepared quickly subsided by looking at the posters and listening to the students discuss their designs to various YCP faculty members and their parents.  The students had a great sense of what the project was all about, they had stunning posters, great rate changes and an even better understanding behind design.  One group thought so much about the culture of York that they wanted to create a complex in the formation of a rose, since we are the White Rose City.  

AGibso and their Project Design

Although I did not feel like we got through everything that could have been done with the project, the time that I had with my students was invaluable in re-fueling the fire that makes me want to teach.  The inquisitive creative teams that I worked with were fun and impressed me with the work they completed.  The students did such a great job this summer that I feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments, plus I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on my regular geometry classes again! 
Clock Work and their Project Design