RIDGELAND, Miss., Oct. 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — SchoolStatus, a leading provider of an education communications platform designed to improve student outcomes through data and parent engagement, announced today the acquisition of Operoo, a privately-held, Australia-based company that provides one of the most widely-used cloud-based solutions for online school forms, medical data, and trip management.
SchoolStatus will acquire Operoo in its entirety, fully incorporating Operoo’s operations, technology, and team into SchoolStatus, including 27 employees and over a thousand customers in Australia, Europe, and North America. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Operoo enables thousands of schools, clubs, and associations around the world to automate, manage, and track operational tasks from a single cloud-based platform. The company offers digital workflows for a range of routine processes – which are often manual, disconnected and paper-based – including distributing and collecting parental consent, payments, medical and emergency information, student registration, staff onboarding, policy management, incident reporting, activity and group management, paperless school trips, and more.
The addition of Operoo’s school operations and productivity software into the SchoolStatus data and communications platform will enable schools to further streamline communications between school and home, saving time and resources by automating operational tasks and workflows, promoting increased staff productivity, parental engagement, and student participation. Now, parents will be able to respond to permission and form requests, make payments, and communicate more meaningfully with school educators and administrators directly on their mobile phones.
“By integrating Operoo’s operations and productivity technology into our comprehensive communications platform, we are taking another step toward creating a frictionless environment between school and home and enabling K-12 districts to provide an even better experience for their parent community and educator stakeholders,” said Russ Davis, CEO and Founder of SchoolStatus. “The acquisition of Operoo comes at a pivotal time in the K-12 sector, amid surging demand to streamline and automate operational school tasks and processes and enhance communication. By further expanding the capabilities of our leading data and communications platform, SchoolStatus is well-positioned to transform the interactions between school and home.”
“We’ve been on a mission to eliminate operational inefficiencies for our customers,” said Operoo CEO and Co-Founder, Troy Westley. “Giving the schools advanced decision-making capabilities through intuitive analytics takes this to the next level. I love the data analysis and communications capability SchoolStatus brings to the market, and I know Operoo customers will, too. Combining our offerings creates a unique K-12 analytics, communications, and workflow platform, which will address a significant gap in the education sector.”
“Operoo has differentiated itself with a leading operations and productivity platform, which has revolutionized the digitization and streamlining of formerly manual, paper-based tasks for educators and parents,” said Operoo President, Peter Bencivenga. “We believe our technology will complement SchoolStatus’ vision for more data-driven and accessible parent communication. We are thrilled to become part of SchoolStatus, providing our customers with access to a unified solution that can increase parent engagement, teacher satisfaction, and student outcomes.”
In July, 2021 SchoolStatus announced that PSG, a leading growth equity firm partnering with middle-market software and technology-enabled services companies, made a strategic investment in the company with the aim to accelerate growth and product innovation.
About SchoolStatus SchoolStatus is a leading provider of a fully-integrated data analytics and communications platform designed to drive better student outcomes through the unique combination of comprehensive data and direct parent engagement. With SchoolStatus, educators have instant access to the information they need, supporting data-driven decision-making and enabling more proactive and meaningful communications. SchoolStatus removes technology, language, and access barriers to parent engagement. With more than two hundred million successful parent-teacher interactions, SchoolStatus is the choice of school leaders who recognize the need for data-informed decision-making and parent communications. For more information, visit schoolstatus.com.
eSchool Media staff cover education technology in all its aspects–from legislation and litigation, to best practices, to lessons learned and new products. First published in March of 1998 as a monthly print and digital newspaper, eSchool Media provides the news and information necessary to help K-20 decision-makers successfully use technology and innovation to transform schools and colleges and achieve their educational goals.
You and your students made it to the end of the school year! It wasn’t easy. ESPECIALLY this year. Nonetheless, here we are.
But wait – just because we’re at the end of the year doesn’t mean that all learning has to stop! There are still plenty of opportunities for students to sharpen and maintain their skills during the last few weeks of the school year.
This post is full of fun last day of school activities for distance learning! Many of these end-of-the-year activities can be used during the last day of school or even the last week of school!
Below are some teaching ideas and resources that you can use during the last few weeks of distance learning with your students. At the end are some printable ideas that can easily be sent home for students and parents to complete together.
Language Arts Teaching Ideas for the End of the Year
Do your students have something to say?
Have students write a letter to their future self at FutureMe.org. You can opt to have it delivered sooner or later. Kids will no doubt be surprised at their thoughts and words when they read their letters in a year or several years!
As an alternate activity, have students write a letter to next year’s teacher and have it delivered to the teacher’s email address!
If you’re a fan of MadLibs, check out a similar activity in paralaughs. Parts of speech are the crux of the game. In this game, instead of generating them, players identify adjectives, verbs, etc., within a hilarious story.
Social Studies Ideas for the End of the School Year
This has not been a great year for taking an actual in-person field trip.
No problem! Try a Virtual Field Trip to any number of places, including the San Diego Zoo, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or just a plain old dairy farm!
There is much to be learned via field trips, even virtual ones! Many museums and places with traditional in-person field trips have redesigned their websites with virtual field trip experiences.
Science Activities for the End of the School Year
Science is all around us!
The Smithsonian Learning Lab makes this clear by putting countless treasures at a child’s fingertips. Learners can discover digital images, recordings, texts and videos, and can also create content with online tools. The interactive platform has lots of surprises to keep students engaged.
Focusing on only space?
NASA has a fantastic website packed with options for learners, teachers and parents and families.
Math Activities for the End of the Year
Students can learn math anytime, not just during school hours!
Encourage parents to incorporate more math into their home routine! Bedtime math makes it easy and fun to work on math with thier kids right before bed. On this site, math problems for students are woven into engaging bedtime stories.
Students LOVE learning about each other. Older students can brainstorm and design a survey using Google Forms. Other students in the class or school can take the survey and students can analyze their results. This would make a great buddy activity where and older student and younger student can design a survey together!
Social-Emotional Learning Teaching Ideas
The end of the school year is usually thought of as exciting – but what if your child is NOT excited about leaving school? Losing that structure can be very disruptive for some. Mindfulness is a helpful practice for kids and adults alike. Here is a body scan video that takes the listener through the process using kid language that is matter-of-fact, but not condescending.
After scanning the body and determining points of calm and upset, meditation can be just the thing to focus and calm one’s nerves. Here is a video just for kids to take them through the process of meditation.
The end of the school year can provide feelings of ambivalence to children and adults. Just know that, no matter what you’re feeling, it’s okay to feel that way. With your guidance, children can keep their learning going through these and so many other online options.
A Few Printable End-of-the-Year Resources
While all of the teaching ideas and resources above can be completed virtually, sometimes it’s nice to have some paper and pencil activities to keep hands busy during the last few weeks of school.
Summer Bucket List
We’ve made our popular Summer Bucket List Craftivity Digital! It has all the same topics as our printable version. Students can describe what they want to do this summer, what they want to read, or where they want to travel. It’s a fun activity for the last week of school.
End-of-the-Year Flap Book
While the End of the Year Flap Book is not a virtual item, it can be sent home with students. It makes a great last week of school project that students can complete a little bit each day.
End of the Year Memory Book & Activities
Our Memory Book and Activities are another great activity to round out your school year. Theses resources are not available digitally, but they can easily be sent home with students.
When you think of BINGO, do you think of a room full of senior citizens with their daubers ready to go?
I’m going to let you in a secret.
Whether you are playing for 5 in a row or blackout bingo (complete the whole card), there is just something in the anticipation of whether or not YOUR NUMBER is going to be called next.
Most kids already know how to play this game, and even if they don’t, it’s so easy you don’t need to take a lot of time explaining the rules (unlike a lot of strategy games that come with a tome of rules that make no sense until you have played a few times!).
Practice and Review Math Facts with Bingo
This bingo game is perfect for kids learning their multiplication facts or for review, even up through middle school grades! There is no shame in reviewing the basic multiplication tables, particularly before standardized testing. It solidifies fluency, which allows students to work on the problem solving and not make an avoidable multiplication error when under pressure.
Create Your Own Bingo Math Games
There are a number of websites you can use for personal use to create your own BINGO games. It does get a little trickywhen you are creating games for math instead of with words, particularly if you are working with fractions, which can be difficult to format correctly.
Personalizing learning to students individual academic strengths and weaknesses and personal interests was hard to do during the pandemic, especially in remote or hybrid learning environments. Social distancing in physical classrooms added to the difficulties.
No matter what stage they are at in putting such programs in place, one big worry is how such efforts will affect test scores. The reality is that changing up instruction and integrating more digital tools into learning could jeopardize everything from teachers’ relationships with their students to the school’s state standardized test scores.
So what does personalized learning look like in schools that perform well on standardized tests versus those that perform poorly? What factors are at play that educators should know about?
You were the lead author on a recent study showing that teachers in high-performing schools tend to implement personalized learning strategies more effectively than those who work in lower-performing schools. Can you tell us briefly how you conducted that study and what your number one takeaway was?
We wanted to see how personalized learning was practiced in K-12 schools that had already transformed their practice from teacher-centered to learner-centered. So, we identified those “learner-centered” schools in the U.S. and asked the teachers various questions about what they did to create personalized learning experiences for students and how they used technology to support them. Then, we wondered if there were differences between high- and low- performing schools in terms of practice and technology use. So, we gathered the students’ data from state standardized tests and compared the teachers’ practices and technology use between high- and low-performing schools.
Our number one takeaway was that personalized learning, when implemented thoroughly, was effective for increasing academic achievement measured by standardized tests. One of the greatest fears of teachers and administrators is seeing a drop in their test scores. This makes them reluctant to transform their traditional practice to personalized learning. We hope this finding will assure them that personalized learning is effective if implemented well.
You found that teachers in high-performing schools were more likely to include students’ own career goals and interests in developing personalized learning plans. Why do you see that strategy as effective, and why might higher-performing schools be in a better position to implement it?
Motivation is powerful in learning. Every student has unique interests. Tailoring learning to individual students’ career goals and interests makes learning personally relevant and keeps students engaged in their learning processes. We found evidence that tailoring learning to their unique interests helped motivate the students to learn more in those schools. So, I would not say higher-performing schools were in a better position to use students’ interests.
Teachers in higher performing schools were more likely to say they formed close relationships with their students. Why do you think that is and how might it have contributed to student success?
Yes, we found that teachers in high-performing schools formed close relationships with more students than those in low-performing schools. Other findings of the study help answer why that was the case. Teachers in high-performing schools considered more characteristics of students in developing personalized learning plans, stayed more years with the same students, and assessed more non-academic competencies such as social skills and work ethic, than those in low-performing schools. In other words, they had more opportunities to interact with each student and get to know each. These opportunities allowed them to form closer relationships with their students.
There are several ways that close relationships between teachers and students improve student success. When teachers know more about each student, they know what works for the student. So, they can create more effective learning experiences for the student. Also, students tend to feel safe and cared for when they think that their teachers know them well. They can more easily share their difficulties, struggles, and failures. A safe and caring environment encourages them to be adventurous and proactive when it comes to learning instead of being afraid of failure.
Teachers in high-performing schools were more likely to use technology collaboratively than those in lower-performing schools. Was that a key factor in the success of personalized learning?
Yes, high-performing schools had more powerful technology systems that integrated more functions that support learning than did low-performing schools. Technology alone is not a key factor in the success of personalized learning, but it is an essential enabler, especially for personalized learning in a classroom with a large number of students. Using powerful technology systems will not guarantee the success of personalized learning. However, it is a must-have tool that helps teachers implement personalized learning.
Your study touches on the role that standardized testing may play in keeping low-performing schools from going as deeply into personalized learning as they would like. Can you talk about the reasons for that?
Implementing personalized learning takes a paradigm shift in beliefs about teaching and learning and a dramatic change in instructional practice. The punitive nature of the [federal education law] No Child Left Behind left educators fearful about trying new teaching methods. While the law has been replaced by the less punitive Every Student Succeeds Act, some still feel pressure to get good test scores. This prevents many educators from taking risks to innovate their practice.
As the study findings suggest, personalized learning should be implemented faithfully to be effective. But it takes a great deal of time and effort to reach that level of implementation fidelity. Therefore, pushing educators to adopt personalized learning while maintaining the negative consequences of a temporary drop in test scores may lead them to adopt it at the very surface level, which will not result in an increase in academic outcomes.
What lessons from your study can we apply to the COVID-era of schooling in which learning virtually is more common than before the pandemic?
Learning virtually without physical interactions can be challenging, especially for younger learners. On the other hand, online learning can be designed in a way to bring multiple benefits that are difficult to realize in face-to-face learning. Actually, online learning environments can be more flexible environments for implementing personalized learning than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Students can take as much time as they need to master content without being restricted by class time. Learning can take place anywhere, allowing students to engage in real-world projects. Student data can be recorded and processed instantly to inform teachers. Our study findings shed light on how we can tap into the distinctive benefits of online learning environments.
Also, during COVID some students, especially those who are disadvantaged, have learned a lot less than they otherwise would have. Therefore, when COVID is over, different students are going to have different gaps in their learning, and the only way to effectively fill those gaps is to personalize student learning. Our study sheds some light on how to do that.
How do our brains process everything we experience through our senses?
These are only a few of the questions your 4th-grade students will need to be able to answer. To help, we’ve taken the time to gather some great ideas for teaching the NGSS standards for From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes. Understanding the internal and external structures and functions of plants and animals can be daunting for many students, but it can be exciting, too.
This post is chock full of ideas to help teach your students all about how the structures and functions of plants and animals support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. Keep scrolling, you’ll be glad you did.
The ideas in this blog post align with the Next Generation Science Standards for Fourth Grade 4-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes. This blog post covers 4-LS1-1 (Structure and Function), and 4-LS1-2 (Information Processing).
Below is a description of how each individual Performance Expectation (PE) and Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) align and relate to each other.
4-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
4-LS1-1 Structure and Function: Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction
Aligns with the first DCI:
LS1.A:Structure and Function
Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
4-LS1-2 Information Processing: Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
Aligns with the second DCI:
LS1D: Information Processing
Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.
Now that you understand the standards and the basis for these teaching ideas, let’s move on to the fun stuff!
SCIENCE STATIONS ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES FOR 4TH GRADE
For Structures and Processes, we have two bundles that cover all of the related standards. Each bundle contains eight science stations with hands-on activities designed to engage students on a deeper level in understanding plant and animal structures and processes. Each bundle also includes vocabulary cards to help students with core concepts.
This is an example of the Investigate Bird Structures for Flight Science Station. In this INVESTIGATE science station, students read about structures that suit them for flight. They examine a bird femur, sternum, and feather as part of the investigation. Students then answer questions about the investigation in their science journals or on the included worksheets.
ADDITIONAL LESSON IDEAS FOR TEACHING ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES
While we have written resources for teaching about Structures and Processes, there are many more ideas that you can use in your classroom without purchasing our units and science stations. Below are ideas for demonstrations and experiments, books, and videos to enhance your science lessons.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS FOR LEARNING ABOUT STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION FOR FOURTH GRADE STUDENTS
This is a simple and fun experiment for any age. This website focuses on colors for the lesson, but you can easily use this experiment to explore the functions of capillaries in plants and animals.
This experiment is great for a lot of different scientific exploration, including how our brains process information. The website may seem like it’s geared for younger students, but the experiment is engaging enough for all ages.
CREATE AN ANIMAL OR CREATE A PLANT
Engage your students’ creative side while simultaneously teaching them to think critically about the biology behind their new plant or animal. While the page mentions downloading the templates for this activity, it’s not needed. The examples on the page are enough to get you and your students started. We’d love to hear about some of the new creations your students come up with!
EXPLORE BLOOD COMPONENTS
This is a perfect experiment for your students to learn about the different structures and functions of organisms. With this modeling experiment, students can see the different structures of blood and have a sweet treat at the same time!
Have your students conduct a research project on an insect of their choice, like a honey bee or grasshopper. Instruct them to define the special body parts of the insect, how these specialized body parts function, and how those functions support the insect’s ability to survive, grow, and reproduce.
Guide students in a dissection project of flowers. Have them name the different parts of the flower, such as daffodils or lilies, and describe how each part functions to support survival, growth, and reproduction.
We have a Third Grade Science Station for Plant and Animal Life Cycles all about Flower Dissection. This science station walks students through how to look at the parts of a flower.
ANIMAL AND PLANT CELL MODELS
Students can research plant and animal cells and recreate what they learn in a variety of ways. This website gives you ten different fun, creative ways to build cell models. This is a great way to engage your students in learning about the basic structures of cells and the functions of each structure.
This experiment will give students a real hands-on experience! Students build a hand model to represent the function of the muscles in the human hand. You can find step-by-step instructions here.
BUILD A PUMPING HEART MODEL
This is a fascinating experiment where students can get to the heart of learning. Help your students build a pumping heart model by following the instructions here.
BUILD MODEL LUNGS
This experiment is a breath of fresh air! It’s simple to put together, and it provides a terrific visual of how the lungs function. Click here to find instructions on making model lungs with your students.
SIMULATE THE STOMACH
Here are a few activities your students can try that will simulate how food is broken down/dissolved in your stomach. The first part offers an experiment on stomach acid. The second part explores the functions of the stomach itself (the actions of the muscles, etc.). There is a third part, but we’ll leave that up to you as the teacher to decide if you want to include it or not.
FLOWERS SEEKING POLLINATORS
The California Academy of Sciences offers this in-depth lesson plan with a three-part activity that teaches students how flowers and different pollinators (bees, birds, etc.) depend on each other for survival and reproduction.
BOOKS TO TEACH ABOUT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES
Books make learning science more fun and engaging. They add visuals and details to hard concepts. Here are a few books that align with the structures and functions topic for fourth grade.
My First Human Body Book My First Human Body Book is an interactive exploration into the different systems of our bodies. It engages children from 1st to 5th grade with detailed pictures they can color, while teaching them all about the human body’s structures and functions.
The Fantastic Body A full-color exploration of the ins-and-outs of the human body’s systems. It’s full of diagrams, interesting facts, and gross stories (perfect for your 4th Grade students). It also includes projects your students can do on their own to investigate the functions of the body on their own.
How to Survive as a Firefly This fun little story will have your students laughing as they learn all about the life-cycle of fireflies. There are a lot of facts included about the firefly’s structures and functions that support their survival, growth, and reproduction. It is a wonderful addition to your classroom reading list.
How to Survive as a Shark Part of the How to Survive series of books, this will make a great addition to your classroom book list. How to Survive as a Shark is a fun romp through the ocean depths that will teach students about the lives of sharks, including the functions that help them survive and thrive.
Redwoods While Redwoods is written for students up to 3rd grade, it is a must have for students of any age group learning about Structures and Functions. It is filled with vibrant drawings and a story that combines fantasy and nonfiction to give students the feeling that they are walking among the ancient redwoods while learning all about them.
Beauty and the Beak Invite your students to follow the incredible true story of a bald eagle named Beauty. Her inspiring story details how important an eagle’s beak is to their survival.
Perfectly Peculiar Plants Perfectly Peculiar Plants is a vibrant exploration of the world’s plants. Students will discover plants that give us food, plants that are poisonous, and plants that are simply strange. What does it take for these plants to survive their environments? What do they need to grow and reproduce? Answers to those questions, and more, can be found within these pages.
It’s Alive: From Neurons and Narwhals to the Fungus Among Us This humorous book is packed with fun facts and colorful illustrations that take a look at life on earth. Students can discover the answers to questions about everything, such as jellyfish, trees, bacteria, and even our own brain’s processing of information and stimuli.
Bat Loves the Night Bat Loves the Night follows the daily (or is it nightly?) life of a bat as she hunts for her next meal and returns to feed her baby. It includes descriptions on the structures of a bat’s body and the functions it needs to survive.
VIDEOS ABOUT STRUCTURES AND FUNCTIONS
We have included videos and activities for Structures and Functions in our Science Stations. Those activities include differentiated questions and ways for students to respond to the videos.
Here are links to other great videos that your students will enjoy as they learn more about structures and functions.
PBS/The Wild Kratts: Structures, Functions, and Information Processing
When it comes to teaching students all about animal structures and functions, the Kratt brothers are the experts! Their TV show is full of entertaining and educational adventures that highlight different “creature powers” in each episode. This link to the PBS webpage hones in on the specific NGSS standards for Structures, Functions, and Information Processing. It offers different Wild Kratts video clips and extra resources to learn more.
PBS: Plant Structures
Your students will enjoy this wonderful video that explores plant structures.
Smithsonian Science Education Center: How Animals Use Their Senses
The Smithsonian Education Center is offering brand-new lesson plans that include downloadable videos and PDFs geared toward classroom, and home, curriculum. They are created with 4th Grade NGSS standards in mind. Click here to be taken to their webpage geared toward answering the question: How Can Animals Use Their Senses to Communicate?
Scishow Kids have a lot of great videos on structures and functions, including this one that explores the life that students can discover during spring – from new plant life to interesting new bugs!
Other Videos about Structure and Function
There is no shortage when it comes to engaging, educational videos on the subject of Structures, Functions, and Information Processing. Here are a couple of videos worth checking out:
We hope the information presented here is helpful to you and that you feel both empowered and inspired to bring the world of structures and functions to life for your 4th-graders. Below are two of our science stations that focus on these Next Generation Science Standards.
I have a little peek inside how I organize materials and store things for STEM class! It is rather daunting to think about putting all these materials away- and then being able to find things again or quickly! I thought about that the first year I set up a STEM Lab and I worked really hard that year to get a great system in place.
I know you will find some tips that will be useful to you as you organize for STEM class!
In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that with your purchase of items Amazon will pass on small percentages to me. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!
Here is a quick look at some ideas for you!
Cabinets and a great inventory system
Bins of all kinds
I have details, photos, and tips for you! Let’s get organized!
Cabinets and How to Keep it All Straight!
Let me tell you now that my STEM lab has about 42 cabinets and drawers, plus each lab table has an additional 6 drawers. With that amount of storage, I knew from the beginning that I needed to have a good plan.
Let’s start with the insides of the cabinets. The best advice I can give you is to take a good look at all the materials you have and then draw a plan on paper. Label every cabinet with logical items that would be stored together.
The cabinet in the photo is all about measurement. Every item falls into that category.
This makes it easy to find these items later.
I arrived at this part of the plan because I first emptied all the cabinets and I arranged the contents on the lab tables in categories. The cabinets were all full, but nothing was together that should have been. Arranging it on the tables helped me place everything with similar items. When I started re-loading the cabinets it was easy to stock the categories together.
…I had so many cabinets. How would I ever remember where things were?
I decided I would number the cabinets. Every drawer and every cabinet has a number. Cabinet number 2 has all the measurement tools in it. Cabinet 42 has office supplies.
I used the numbers from an old calendar bulletin board set. I just laminated them and taped them in place.
…even with all these numbers, would I be able to find things? I decided to take the time to create an inventory book.
This is going to seem extreme, but y’all this has saved me tons of time.
Let me explain the system!
As I loaded the cabinets I listed the contents in my inventory notebook- by the cabinet or drawer number. The pages of the notebook are numbered.
But, it occurred to me that this might not help. What if I needed something specific, like a needle. Where would that be? So, I also made an alphabetical listing. So, if I need a needle, I look at the N page and it tells me the number of the drawer where these are stored.
I cannot tell you how many times I have needed something and have no idea where it is. I pull out my inventory book and I can locate the item really quickly. This is a great help when the room is full of students that are building a tower and one team needs a needle for some reason.
So, let’s recap:
Put things away logically in categories.
Number your cabinets and drawers.
Create an inventory book- which, by the way, you can do digitally if you prefer.
You are going to need some storage bins. Many sizes, with and without lids, and a place to put them!
I use the shelves of one of the lab tables to store some of the bins we have.
The size we use most often are plastic shoeboxes. I use these for sorting materials, preparing bins for teams to use, and for storing partially completed items that we need to save for another week.
We also use the double-wide shoebox bins. These are great for storing projects that are larger. And, like most teachers, I have plenty of plastic storage baskets. TIP: I don’t use these very often. Baskets have holes in them and pieces of projects will fall out.
Plastic pencil boxes are a great item for you. Each of our lab tables has several of these pencil boxes. One holds colored pencils, one has markers, and one has crayons.
I learned quickly that students are more likely to clean up crayons and pencils and markers by placing them in a large box rather than the box cardboard box they came in! And, the cardboard boxes fall apart.
Plastic pencil caddies are my favorite thing ever. We keep one of these on every lab table. The caddy holds pens, scissors, and notepads.
If we are completing a project that requires a calculator I also place 3-4 calculators in this bin.
These are the things we use during every class and they are easily grabbed from the caddy.
Also, a bonus for the caddy. Every team has a different color. I use this while randomly placing students at the team tables. TIP: Hand out colored cards in the matching table colors (the pencil caddies) when students arrive. So, if a student gets a red card that means he or she sits at the red table.
Of course, you also need some larger bins with lids. This makes the bins stackable.
I use these larger bins to store materials that have a theme. For example, all of our parachute-making materials are kept in the parachute bin.
TIP: I also have two of these that are full of scrap construction paper! Other items that need a large bin – cardboard, cardboard tubes, and foam scraps.
Can we talk about cleaning up?
We end every class with a clean-up procedure. This keeps materials put away and lessens the chaos a little.
One of the best items I ever purchased at Dollar Tree would be these little dustpans and brooms.
Every lab table has a pan and broom and a small garbage can. Part of cleaning up is collecting garbage to take and dump into the large can and sweeping up around the lab table.
TIP: Also put out your scrap boxes during clean-up time. Students can place gently used paper or other materials in those bins to reuse another day!
I hope you found some great tips to get your STEM space organized and ready for the school year! You might also enjoy these posts:
Early fall 2021 enrollment numbers delivered more disappointing news to higher education leaders this month. Undergraduate enrollment sank once again, this time by 3.2% from the year before, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
To help make sense of a particularly turbulent time in higher ed, we put together several charts showing recent enrollment trends. They use the Clearinghouse’s preliminary enrollment data, which is based on 50.5% of institutions reporting their fall figures. We will post new versions of these charts as more data becomes available.
Undergraduate enrollment saw declines across the board
Year-over-year enrollment declines by sector
Taken together with the fall of 2020’s decrease, undergraduate enrollment has now dropped 6.5% over two years. Declines were particularly severe at four-year, for-profit schools and community colleges, which have seen the largest two-year enrollment decline out of any sector.
“If this current rate of decline — this 6.5% — were to hold up, it would be the largest two-year enrollment decline in at least the last 50 years in the U.S.,” Doug Shapiro, the research center’s executive director, said during a call with reporters this month.
Less-selective colleges saw the greatest enrollment declines
Fall 2021 enrollment declines at four-year colleges by selectivity
Undergraduate enrollment declines weren’t even across four-year colleges. They were concentrated at less-selective schools, which saw enrollment drop 4.7% this fall from the year before. Highly selective four-year institutions, meanwhile, saw an overall enrollment increase of 2.1%.
First-year enrollment continued to decline overall
Year-over-year enrollment declines by sector
First-year enrollment continued to sink, even though this fall’s overall decline of 3.1% is only a fraction of last year’s decrease of 9.5%. Despite the year-over-year decline shrinking, first-year enrollment is still down 12.3% since 2019.
Losses were particularly severe at four-year, for-profit colleges, which saw a 25.2% decline in first-year students this fall.
White, Black and Native American undergraduates had some of the largest declines
Year-over-year undergraduate enrollment changes by student group
White, Black and Native American undergraduates had the largest declines out of the racial and ethnic groups tracked, respectively dropping by 10.6%, 11.1% and 12.7% over the past two years. Latinx and Asian students saw less than half that rate of decline, falling by 5.1% and 5.5%, respectively, over the two-year period.
International students also saw major declines, plummeting 21.2% since fall of 2019.
Graduate enrollment rose across all college types except for-profits
Year-over-year enrollment changes by sector
Yet there were some bright spots. Graduate enrollment continued to climb during the pandemic, rising by 2.1% this fall from the year before. Overall, graduate enrollment has increased 5.3% over the past two years.
However, four-year, for-profit colleges saw graduate enrollment plummet 16.6% in the fall of 2021, erasing a 4.2% enrollment bump the prior year. Shapiro cautioned that this sector’s figures are among the most likely to change as more enrollment data comes in this fall.
How do you keep students busy while you’re packing up the classroom, doing end of the year assessments, cleaning out closets, and all of the last week of school activities? Over the years, I have strategically planned in-depth and independent activities at the end of the school year to give myself some breathing room to get it all done!
While you can plan to do these activities during the last week of school, I would plan to do them over the last two to three weeks to give kids space to think about the activities and do quality work. In fact, you can plan several different activities throughout the day to give yourself incremental times of breathing room over the last few weeks of school.
End-of-the-Year Art Projects
Art projects are some of my favorite end of the year activities. I love choosing projects that take several days to complete. We do a little bit each day and end up with a fun, colorful project.
Several of the art ideas in this post are collaborative, which means students work together to create a classroom display. They are prefect for open house, but also good to give students some final experiences to work together as a team.
Distance Learning Activities for the End of the School Year
This school year has been a mix of students coming to school in person and learning at home via digital tools. Many students are still at home.
Despite the distance, teachers can still give their students some fun, engaging digital activities to celebrate the end of the school year. This post has quite a few ideas that you can use with your virtual learning students.
Create Writing Portfolios
Have your students been doing a lot of writing this year? Do you have oodles of writing samples collected in piles around your room?
Have students build writing portfolios out of pizza boxes! Here is a cute idea on how we implemented these writing portfolios in our classroom.
Have Students Help You Prepare for Next Year
If you have older students, have them help you assemble things for next year. I often had my second grade students add labels to notebooks, sharpen pencils, create toolboxes, and re-organize my classroom library.
The possibilities are endless. By the end of the school year your students know you. They know your routine and your expectations. They also know how you like your classroom to be and can help you set that up for the next school year!
Plan Independent Rotations or Centers
If you have a day, or a block of time during several days, consider setting up some centers through which students rotate. Do this in your classroom or collaborate with other teachers to cut down on the prep work.
Set up several centers and randomize how students are grouped within each center. I have a great post here with a free download that helps organize your students.
I basically put everything in a basket and give students about 20-30 minutes at a center to complete the work of that station. Do one a day, two a day, or make it an all day affair.
Build a Repertoire of Sponge Activities
Have you ever heard of sponge activities? The term itself may be unfamiliar, but I bet the concept is one you know well. The basic idea is short 10-15 minute activities that you can do with students to fill up some time. Some of these may even make great center activities above!
This may not be the year to travel, but it doesn’t mean that students can’t dream a little bit!
Have students pick a place to travel, research all about that place, and then give a report about how to get there, the best places to see, things to do, etc. Most cities and regions have tourism and travel websites where students can find information about the place.
Use this as a Project Based Learning activity and work in some math (distance to the place, time it takes to get there, meal plans, spending money per day, etc.), some social studies (history of the location), science (animals that live there) and more!
Build a Game Room in Your Classroom
This is by far one of my favorite end of the year activities. I only did it one year, but we had so much fun! Using a YouTube video as inspiration, students built arcade games. We had days of planning, building, and playing.
I have some notes and reflections at the end of the blog post that will hopefully help you plan a very fun end of the year game room in your classroom!
End of the Year Memory Book & Activities
The following is more of a traditional option. Have students create a memory book and engage in some fun end of the year activities. The memory book comes in several different versions with many options for students to reflect and write about their school year.
During the last few weeks of school give students some fun traditional activities like writing a letter to next year’s teacher or next year’s students, during a survey, making a comic strip and more!
End of the Year Memory Flap Book
For a non-traditional memory book, check out this memory flap book option. This version requires a bit more cutting, but creates an awesome final project. It’s perfect for older students who can cut all the angles and write in smaller spaces.
Summer Bucket List
This Summer Bucket List is another one of my favorite craftivities. I love seeing what students want to do during summer and it makes a great parent communication as well!
More Ideas for Activities to do at the End of the School Year
Here are a few more traditional, well-known ideas that are perfect at the end of the school year. Some are easy to implement with little prep work, others take a bit more planning.
Do themed days (beach day, camping day, water day, sports day, art day, travel day, etc.)
Create a countdown system (paper chain or balloon board). Fill each balloon or strip of paper with a short fun sponge activity for the day.
Celebrate the students in your classroom and dedicate a day to each student. Depending on the number of students you have in your classroom, this might take some more advanced planning. During that day have students write notes of encouragement, give compliments, etc. It’s like star of the day, but just for the end of the year.
Games are one of my favorite ways to learn and reinforce skills with kids. My own kids, especially when younger, wanted to play game after game. Why not play games that aid in education?
For convenience, I have added links to all of commercially-produced games in one location! You can browse for them here:
Disclaimer: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement,
testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.
Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value
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link. You can read my full disclosure here.
Print-at-Home games are listed at the end of this post.
You can turn ANY game that uses dice or spinners for game advancement into a math-centric game by simply adding more dice. If you’ve ever played Chutes and Ladders, you know the game can go on …and on. Solve this problem and make it more exciting. Instead of using the spinner, use dice (lots of them). It will take a few tries but eventually your kids will be adding up the numbers on dice faster than you can!
Yahtzee is one of the best games to play with multiple dice. I made a set of scorecards you can use while playing with 10 dice that you are welcome to try out (scroll to end of post for link).
Math Card Games: Rat a Tat Cat, Sleeping Queens, Frog Juice, Zeus on the Loose These are all games for early math learning from Gamewright. They work in addition, rounding, and basic number sense. Fair warning – reading the instructions for some of these the first time can feel overwhelming but the games are really not difficult. I suggest the play and read approach – play a bit as you read the directions, or find a YouTube video that explains the play.
Sumoku or Math Dice (intermediate): For Sumoku, you create a grid much like you would in Qwirkle (see below), but instead of shapes, there are numbers, and each row must sum to a multiple of a specific number. If it sounds complicated, well, it can be. However, it’s also a TON of fun if you have math-minded kiddos. Math dice is another one where you will only want to play if your kids won’t get frustrated by the math involved.
Equate (advanced learners only): If you have a kid that LOVES math, this is the game for them. If math is a struggle, avoid this game as it’s quite a taxing one mentally (even for those who love it!).
24! If you haven’t played this game before, it’s simple to learn but challenging to master. All you need is a sharp mind and a deck of cards! Find the rules here.
Logic, STEM, and more
Qwirkle and Rummikub are both great for logic and pattern recognition! For Qwirkle, watch a video on how to get started but you are basically looking to match either color or pattern (with no repeats in a given row or column). Completing a set of 6 earns you a Qwirkle for bonus points! Rummikub is another tile game that is even easier to learn, but much more difficult to master. You need to keep a constant eye on the board and awareness of your current tiles.
Or pick one of these: GravityMaze, Laser Maze, Rush Hour Traffic Jam, Solitaire Chess, Sequence The first four of these games are all ones that can be played independently, from Thinkfun. They have tasks of increasing difficulty and provide solutions for self-checking. Sequence has a variety of options to choose from, so be sure to check out all the options to find an appropriate set for your family.
Advanced Learners: Set. This is a game that can be frustrating for kids who aren’t ready, but once they are ready, there is no upper age limit on this game. It’s one I truly love playing with my kids! There is also a junior version available! You can also play a version of this game online every day at the New York Times Crossword Puzzle site (just scroll down and select “Set”)!
Robot Turtles A great precursor to coding game, this is a fun one to check out with your kids! It’s also from Thinkfun. Valence and Ion (science): these are for upper elementary and middle school kiddos. If you have kids with an inkling toward Chemistry, these are sure to delight!
The Scrambled States of America Game This game helped my kids learn all the names of the states!
Ticket to Ride (multiple versions): This is a very popular game among board game enthusiasts and probably one of the longest games to play on this list. If you love board games, you have to try this one!
Flag Frenzy Kids will gain awareness of different flags wiht this matching game.
Apps to Try: Stack the States and Seterra (also their website is great for practicing geography skills) – check out the App Store or Google Play for these!
While traditionalists like myself will enjoy playing games such as Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams, they aren’t for everyone. If you do have those games but they aren’t quite right for your kids, use the tiles to spell out words together that you find around the house, or create a “crossword” with the tiles, building words together of things they love (sports, food, activities, etc.)!
Engage reluctant writers with Rory’s StoryCubes. This is less of a game and more of a story generator.
Practice sight words and more literacy skills with PairStare (see below).
Just for Toddlers and Preschoolers!
Toddlers don’t have to miss out on games! Some of my favorite games for little ones are cooperative games like Busytown and Hoot Owl Hoot.
Other games for this age
Pengaloo A gamethat challenges memory and reinforces color awareness! I love the feel of this game, its wooden piece are very satisfying to play with!
Uno Moo A simple game of matching that is also just so fun to play! This one never gets old.
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Perfect for color learning, memory, and more!
Print at Home Games
I have created a number of print-at-home learning games for elementary and middle school learners:
Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta yesterday, as part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sweeping vision of creating a next-generation “embodied” internet inspired by science fiction, where users, as he described it, will be “in the experience, not just looking at it.” And he is targeting education as one key part of that vision.
What that metaverse will look like is still a bit vague, but the company gave some hints in prepared statements and in an hour-long video it released. And it has committed real dollars to the educational part of its effort, promising that its Facebook Reality Labs will invest $150 million in an education program to assist with tech development and to train people to use augmented and virtual reality tools.
And Facebook (er, I guess now Meta) announced that it would partner with Coursera and edX to help push Meta’s curriculum in augmented and virtual reality, which it calls the Spark AR Curriculum. A spokesperson for edX, which started as a nonprofit by Harvard and MIT but is in the process of being sold to for-profit 2U, said the group would share more information about the partnership and its broader shifts in the coming weeks.
The choice to bet the future of Facebook on the word “metaverse” is an interesting one at a time when Facebook is under intense scrutiny for its growing power, and after the recent leak of internal documents that suggest the company has moved forward with features despite internal research showing social harm. As it turns out, the term “metaverse” was coined in a dystopian novel that is highly critical of growing corporate control of society and of internet technologies.
That book that spawned the term is the 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash,” an action adventure set in a world where much of everyday life is lived in an immersive digital world that eventually replaces the internet. In the novel, the metaverse has emerged after a worldwide economic collapse, where governments have given up power to private companies and entrepreneurs—leading to a huge divide between haves and have-nots. Basically it is as far from a sales pitch for a visual internet run by a giant company as you can get, though somehow over the years it has become a template in Silicon Valley for what a shared visual cyberspace might look like.
Zuckerberg’s interest in virtual reality is nothing new. In 2014 the company bought VR company Oculus for $2 billion. And in his statements yesterday Zuckerberg said the idea for the name change predates recent criticisms of the company.
The version of the metaverse imagined in the hour-long video that Meta released yesterday involves a mix of technology, including what appear to be holograms. That’s the case in a scene (at about 31:00 into the video) where a student is getting help on her astrophysics homework by swiping her hands to manipulate a giant picture of the solar system, zooming in on the rings of Saturn by gesturing with her arms.
“If you were taking astrophysics, you could study in the multiverse,” said the narrator of this part of the video, Marne Levine, Meta’s chief business officer.
But high-end VR headsets also seem part of the Meta metaverse vision for education as well.
The next example shown in the video is a student wandering around ancient Rome, thanks to an immersive VR world where the student is transported as an avatar.
“Imagine standing on the streets hearing the sounds, visiting the markets,” said Levine in the video’s narration. To get a sense of the rhythm of life more than 2,000 years ago. Imagine learning how the forum was built by actually watching the forum get built right in front of you.”
Most of the graphics shown in this part of the video appear to be an artist rendering rather than any demo of actual technology, as the video showcases one possible future rather than any specific products (though one VR documentary by David Attenborough developed for Oculus VR headsets was briefly shown). It seemed at times more like some optimistic ride at a World’s Fair or at Disneyworld than a sales pitch.
One challenge for bringing this vision to life is that VR headsets have failed to take off widely, despite years of attempts by Facebook. The company discontinued the Rift headset this year after lackluster sales, though it now sells a VR headset called Oculus Quest 2 that it says is selling better (though the company has not released sales figures). This week that headset was renamed Meta Quest to match the new corporate brand.
VR headsets remain clunky and expensive, and it’s also costly to develop materials for them for education—or any other purpose.
And with all the problems and challenges that educators are facing during a global pandemic, adding bells and whistles of more Hollywood-inspired course materials does not feel like the best way to spend time and resources to many educators. Earlier this year, Arizona State University touted a company it is backing to develop educational material for VR headsets at the ASU GSV Summit. The demo attracted curious interest, but also many shrugs from officials that EdSurge talked to, who were more interested in the better use of existing tools than investing in expensive new gear.
“The metaverse could help with the company’s demographic crisis, if it encourages young people to strap on their Oculus headsets and hang out in Horizon—Facebook’s social V.R. app—instead of watching TikTok videos on their phones,” Roose wrote.
Disclosure: EdSurge has received support from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization co-owned by Mark Zuckerberg.