2019-08-19 Documenting Your Journey

End of Week 7 Best Intentions/Best Laid Plans

End of Week 7 Best Intentions/Best Laid Plans

2019-08-19 Documenting Your Journey
2019-08-19 Documenting Your Journey

Damn. I really wanted to be better about the week-to-week communication and posting of the ongoing STEAM Lab stuff. Oh well. Life. Just not cooperative. So, in week two I discovered that it was better to list my curriculum as “units” and not “weeks” because some units/lessons took several weeks to happen. Anyway, during week two we began our “documenting your journey” exploration that began with a family history homework assignment (that required a photo of an important person in the family history and one’s self). Then we spent one week working on just logging into our google classroom accounts, another week navigating from google classroom to google slides, another week to enter text into a google slides template, and week six we spent creating a family/personal drawing to include in videos/presentation files. Then I discovered that I needed some extra time to figure out how to get images drawn by my student and scanned/digitized by moi into their google drive so that they could add the images to their google slides presentation files (something that I figured out today, but is very convoluted…).

This week, week 7, we did a unit on simple machines: lever, where we talked about humans not being the fastest or strongest creature in the forest and how the use of tools led to our survival and eventual dominance. Students K through five drew a lever device and labeled the fulcrum, load and force. We also “experimented” with lifting heavy objects and why using a lever might be better. I figured out how to do that without endangering elementary students with the difficulty of moving a “heavy load.” Doing the lever part didn’t really show how much easier it is to move things via lever versus just hefting heavy things, but I bet any of the volunteers who tried to lift my 30- and 60-pound boxes filled with paper will remember that part of the experience. I’ve taken their drawing and created a lever illustration with the load, force and fulcrum labeled.

2019-09-23 Simple Machines - Lever Demo
2019-09-23 Simple Machines – Lever Demo

Over the next few weeks we have to go over a Latino-scientist bio for Hispanic-American month, run the fourth grade through another SLG Writing Prompt, create 30 iPad stands and create robotic mini-figs for students, both to be used when I teach them how to create stop-motion videos. Also, I’m a couple weeks behind introducing the WeDo robots across the grade levels.

Last year we worked across all grade levels, 5th grade through 2nd, giving them four weeks to use the WeDo robots, but I didn’t feel like they really got the hang of anything in those four weeks. It’s always a struggle between teacher-driven experiences and free explore experiences. Depending on deployment, I’d also like to have a few WeDos and EV3s set aside just for programming and “advanced explorations.”


At the end of last week, week six, grades three through five still needed to complete our google slides presentation file and I still needed to edit primary student video interviews. I need more hours in the day to get all of this done. But, I’m loving the process of student “content” creation.

Last week I got to spend the week encouraging primary and intermediate students to draw their family and when they wanted to turn in their “stick figure” drawing, I got to encourage them to include ears and hair and draw clothing on their images. It was really, really fun. Of course, now I have to spend many hours inserting these images into video interviews (for primary students) and post images in classroom folders for intermediate students.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We still need to finish (and find a way to post) these presentation files and videos.

As I build these interconnecting experiences, I feel pretty good about the program I’m putting together. It’s too bad that admin has chosen an assessment process that doesn’t take into account how much work it takes just to get a student login process to work. I believe that the “T” in STEAM stands for technology and Admin has no idea the step-by-step process it requires to get this generation of tech consumers to be tech-literate, to take advantage of the tools available for learning. Assuming that “if you build it, they will learn” is naive and doesn’t take into account the classroom dynamic that one or two students dedicated toward disrupting the process can easily derail the best planned lesson(s).

Here we are at the end of week seven, building all the connecting parts that should pay off over the following 30-weeks, but I do not anticipate being in this position for the 2020-2021 school year. Admin has made his desires clear and I’m not going to waste my time justifying my existence or efforts. If he can’t see it, then it’s time for me to move on. My responsibility is to my students and giving them the best I can do, if that doesn’t translate into whatever system is being used to measure my “effectiveness” that’s not really on me. It’s not as if the actual job isn’t difficult enough, but to then contort to some system created by non-practitioners is a fool’s errand and I’m done being anyone’s fool. I’ve long since paid my dues. Let’s just say that this is going to be an interesting year completing this chapter in my career and kissing it all goodbye. Oh, and I’ve been building a website for the STEAM Lab to better facilitate communication with parents at https://fitzgeraldsteamlab.blog/ The possibilities are incredible and amazing and worth doing, the reality is far less convincing and a bit sad. Let’s see how the next 30-weeks go.

Fitzgerald STEAMLab 2018-19 Kids and LEGOs
Fitzgerald STEAMLab 2018-19 Kids and LEGOs


  1. Deb Aarens

    I think what you do is amazing. How lucky those kids are to benefit from your devotion, creativity and integrity. I am so glad & proud to know you


    1. joe bustillos

      Thank you. Unless one is close to an educator (or is an educator), it’s difficult to grasp how hard we work in a very difficult, ever-changing world. I know some folks in service industries who are always on-call, but they are often well-compensated for their service. We live in interesting times.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.