Year3-Week5 & 6: There’s No Place Like Home

2018-09-10_STEAMLab wk05 google-earth_02

Year3-Week5 & 6: There’s No Place Like Home

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I came up with this idea that I wanted to work with Kindergarten & first grade using the theme of “my community,” building on what it’s like to live in North Las Vegas and a child’s almost infinite capacity to create based on the tiniest bits of lived experiences. Week 4 we used Google Earth to virtually visit their homes and I had them tell me one thing that they liked about their homes. They listed everything from dogs to their bed or having their own bedroom, to playing in their backyard. This week I showed them the home I grew up in in Southern California, then we visited some of the homes we didn’t get to visit last week and I had them tell me the one thing they’d like to have in their neighborhood. They listed everything from LEGO-land, to parks and petting zoos, to movie theaters, Olympic pool swim centers and “princess” club houses.

I was hoping that “driving around the neighborhood” virtually, and given all of the undeveloped property around the school, that we could map out the things that we would like to have in our neighborhood, things like big grocery stores or more recreation areas. But that seemed just a bit too advanced for my kindergarteners and first graders. So, for Week 6 I decided to give them the option to build their parks/theaters/rec centers using LEGO or draw something on good ol’ paper and crayons.

I looked for “coloring book” images that I might print-out as a starting point for those who chose the “drawing” option. But I didn’t find anything that I felt would work. I’m pretty sure that I’ll need something more than blank paper to help the Kindergarteners with their illustrations. Several first graders got the idea about what they were supposed to draw, but several were more “general.”

I still hope to figure out a way to “map out” North Las Vegas with some kind of simplified “map” and have my students do some “civic planning” and come up with ideas about what to do with all of the undeveloped lots in the neighborhood. I think that this is going to require many feet of white butcher paper and lots of crayons.

2017-18 STEAMLab WK07: Art – Drawing Self-Portraits

2017-18 STEAMLab WK07: Art – Drawing Self-Portraits

This week we finished creating self-portraits using a simplified facial drawing techniques that I found on YouTube. This is the video that I shared with students last week, going through the video step by step as students attempted to draw their version of what I later called “generic white guy.”

Turned out that the activity last week was a huge challenge and most students were busy drawing right up the end of class and some classes did not finish the assignment. Many complained that they didn’t know how to draw noses (that seemed to be the biggest challenge) or mouths, etc., to which I had to remind them that that was why we were doing this assignment, to learn how to do this kind of drawing. This week, having gone through the steps last week, went much faster and almost all classes were able to complete the task with plenty of time for free time at the end of class. I also simplified the steps, combining the steps and allowing kids to use the triangle shape to draw their noses. It was a lot of fun seeing them create their images. Here’s a brief video featuring the simplified steps I gave to my students and examples of student work that I posted at the end of each day:

As mentioned above, at the end of each day I selected and posted one image per class across the six grade levels on my social networking feeds. Part of my inspiration for this blog post is that the single end of day image/comment isn’t really enough to share what my students are doing and what I’m learning in the process. Also, I’m wondering if I should set up a STEAM Lab specific Twitter account, just to make it easier it find these posts without forcing anyone to have to wallow through my incessant political/religious stuff. Hmmm.

Going forward, the basic plan for the year is to alternate each week between the five letters in the lab’s name: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, and create a lesson with that focus, sometimes continuing the lesson across two weeks (like the drawing lesson). I’m using that pattern and a monthly calendar I gathered from the grade levels on the science subjects they plan to follow, to organize the curriculum. So far this year we studied the Eclipse the first week, we studied electricity/conductivity for technology week, did some lego building challenges over two weeks for engineering and drawing for art for the last two weeks. This is my second year creating this lab program and it’s an interesting challenge to manage the time limitations (37 lessons over the course of the year) and possible breadth of things that could be covered. Onward and upward.

Here’s my weekly white-board instructions followed by more student examples, posted by grade-level:


Kindergarten students


1st Grade Students:

2nd Grade Students:

3rd Grade Students:

4th & 5th Grade Students:

Thinking about Hands…

I recently started or restarted sketching or doodling, now on my iPad. It was something that I did a lot of back in the pre-computer days. Look at any book I owned in those days and you’ll find my doodles and notes bleeding across the margins. Funny that someone who drew long before I was comfortable writing would have mostly abandoned the art when I switched to computers in the 1980s… I’m definitely out of practice…

This past Sunday I was sitting on a park bench after doing three laps around Lake Lilly in Maitland and my feet were not happy with me and I was wondering what to draw. I had this beautiful vista of this lake and the birds and the trees, but my thoughts were much more inward. I wanted to remember, despite my achy feet, how far I’d come in the past year… this time last year I had been losing strength in my hands to the point where I found it difficult to sign my name (not that anyone would notice the difference in my pathetic signature). I was also growing more and more frustrated that I was losing accuracy in my typing. I had bought a couple different keyboards to use with my iPad and had to reject them because anything less than a full-size keyboard and I couldn’t seem to hit anything with my left or right pinky finger. It was so frustrating and scary to feel like I might lose my ability to communicate via my writing. I was losing feeling in my fingers and after seeing how my legs so quickly wasted away to nothing I didn’t know what I’d do if I lost my hands like I’d up to that point lost my feet and legs.

I tried to adjust and started gripping my eating and writing utensils in the same close-fisted stabbing posture because I could use my arm strength to help my failing fingers. I know it scared those around me to see me this way, but I couldn’t think about it much beyond just trying to adapt and keep moving. I did find out that the way I was leaning on my elbows was probably contributing to causing numbness in my hands. Ack, but I leaned so much because with so little padding on my legs and rear I found it difficult to sit for any length of time (not that standing was at all an option…). Grhh. Not a fun time.

I still have some slight numbness in my right pinky finger, which might be permanent, but as I started to get better over the course of the past year, my hands also have returned to something close to their pre-illness functioning. Just like the rest of my body, I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get back to the way it used to be. All the more reason to remember the difficulty I’ve been through and celebrate what I’ve regained so far. Thus, the return to sketching means more to me than something to do during idle mental-cycles. After what I’ve been through I’m trying to figure out the things that are important to me and reclaiming them.

Up to the point when my body began to fail me and I started to lose every day abilities, I had so much that I gave no thought to. This time last year I had lost my ability to walk or to drive my car, to go up and down the stairs of my townhouse, to even get something to eat from the freezer to the microwave and I was beginning to notice the numbness spreading to my hands. As the new year began I started to see some signs that the treatments might be working, but I had lost so much at this point that I didn’t want to make assumptions about when it would end or how long it would take. I don’t if I would have made it if Tricia and her family hadn’t taken me in, but the holidays 2012 were still a very dark time for me when I spent as much time as possible either sleeping or doing something like soaking in a hot bath to escape the pain. It’s all the more important for me to remember what I’ve been through, what I almost lost and reclaim what is truly important to me with both hands. Happy Holidays.

Back to Doodling, Now on my iPad

A few weeks ago I got a fancy stylus for my iPad, not-ironically called Pencil from 53, makers of the iPad app, Paper. It’s renewed interest in using the iPad as a sketch device. A bit later I reflected on some work news in “graphic” form… more or less…

Monitors Back o' My Head by Joe Bustillos

Monitors Back o’ My Head by Joe Bustillos


The Journey from Doodler to Writer

It would probably come as a great surprise to my elementary or middle school teachers that I fell in love with writing, much less learning itself. I was always of a curious nature, but generally not in a way that worked well with staying in one’s seat or working without talking. It probably didn’t help that, as a kid, I also pretty much hated reading. What changed much of this for me was when I fell in love with words.

dapnon1As a kid I loved drawing and spent hours creating monsters and rockets and silly cartoon versions of myself and my friends. I probably would have happily spent the rest of my life doodling but in junior high I quickly discovered that girls weren’t particularly interested in drawings of monsters or rockets and thus began to experiment with putting thoughts to words. Thankfully most of those experiments in writing have long vanished, but that was the beginning of my infatuation with words and writing.

This infatuation blossomed during my Sophomore year of high school when I became a Christian and I began to read the Bible. Prior to this I rarely read anything longer than the instructions that came with beginner model kits (and even then I never really read the instructions). So, somewhat to the consternation of my friends and family, I totally became immersed in reading the Bible in as many different translations as I could afford. Spending time trying to understand the King James’ Elizabethan English opened my eyes to the fluidity and power of language and words in a way that I’d never appreciated before. I became thirsty to understand and learn more and more. All the adolescent insecurities of not knowing ones self found much needed reassurance and security in stories and passages from a time two-thousand years in the past. Thus I went from being a mostly non-reading “C” student in elementary school to becoming a motivated “A” student in college and graduate school.

My relationship with technology was equally circuitous. Simply put, in the early 80’s personal technology was becoming a reality for any working slob and I was looking for an easier way to do my writing. At this time I had also begun what I thought of as a temporary job for the phone company (a temporary job that lasted for 15-years!). I found myself, an artist, among technologists. But I did well because I was a quick study and the job enabled me to begin my long relationship buying technology.

kayproI remember stopping into a computer store in some mall shortly after the original IBM PC was introduced and when the sales person approached me I thought that there was no way that I could afford to buy one of these things and walked away. Ha! One income tax return later and I was spending every waking hour drooling over every bit of information that I could get about these things. My brother, who was more familiar with small computers, steered me away from the newly introduce Macintosh and IBM’s offering. I was soon the proud owner of a 35-pound Kaypro transportable computer with it’s 9-inch green screen, 5-1/2-inch floppy disks and 67K of RAM. As rudimentary as this machine was, I couldn’t imagine how I wrote papers or did any writing before getting my “little” green-screen friend.

Circuitous route number three: Teaching; Teaching was an idea that I toyed with after completing my first B.A. in Biblical Studies but couldn’t settle on a subject to teach, so I went back to school and began studying for a Master of Theology at Fuller Seminary. When my marriage fell apart, taking with it my aspirations for full time ministry, I began a second B.A. in Communications/Journalism. By the time I finished this program I couldn’t imagine a day without writing but was also convinced that I had no need to endure the egos or small-minded ambitions I’d encountered during my student newsroom experience from editors barely out of their teenage years wanting to make a name for themselves (Go CSUF Titans!). Somehow that decision led back to a second look at a teaching career, by which time I’d also figured out that I didn’t need to decide on a subject matter if I taught in a multi-subject elementary classroom… doh! And because my path to teaching had meandered through lots of different paths I didn’t realize that no one else used technology the way I had when I began teaching. I just did what made sense to me. Thus, I became the technology teacher. That switch led to specialist positions creating a video-journalism academy, then computer-lab teaching assignments and eventually teaching online at Full Sail University.So, somehow after so many years into this journey, the technology and the teaching and my love of writing seem to be coming together. And to think, in the beginning all I wanted to do was find a better way to do my writing.

Microsoft’s Courier Tablet – Raised From the Dead… Kind’a

Somehow this seems fitting at this time of year that a darling visionary product from the pre-iPad era, called the Courier Tablet, that Microsoft then killed after the iPad announcement, is back. Well, not the actual device, but two apps that mimic some of the proposed Couriers’ functionality: Paper by 53 Studios and Tapose. For those who may not remember, just before the announcement of what was to become the iPad, Microsoft released a video of a “booklet” type device with dual 7-inch screens that used a stylus and multi-touch gestures and several gadget blogs, particularly Gizmodo and engadget, wet themselves thinking that Microsoft was going to trump whatever it was that Apple was going to announce. Then just before the original iPad was set to ship, Microsoft killed the Courier and decided that Windows 8 (expected in 2013) would be its tablet strategy, thus giving Apple a three-year-plus lead to continue it’s iOS juggernaut.

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