Building STEAM with LEGO



Hello Everyone,


I know, two blog posts in the last three days, I must be catching up on my posts. Anyhow, I wanted to share my second Donors choose Project, Building STEAM with LEGO. As many know, I launched my first Donors Choose almost a month ago, and I’m 25% funded and even getting several votes thanks to Limeades for Learning. A few months ago, I was reading Play like a Pirate by Quinn Rollins and my love of LEGO was reawaken in the classroom. The last few months, I have been slowly moving LEGOs back to my tech and classroom instruction. In fact, I just had a major find of my old LEGO and a purchase of a new small starter set to use with my students starting in the next couple of weeks. However, my Kinders and older students are hungry for more using LEGOs from Green Screen to creation with our drones and what their imaginations can build. So, with one point left, I created this Donors Choose to have my students Build with STEAM with LEGO. Since this is a much smaller project, I’m hoping to reach funding more quickly while my STEAM Storytellers is slowly building… ah hem… steam. So, if you could please consider donating or sharing my LEGO Donors Choose Project and please stop by Limeades for Learning and vote for mine or my co-workers Donors Choose. Running now until the end of October. Each week, the projects with the most votes will be either fully funded or receive $600 for our Donors Chooses.

Thank you again and I’ll see you soon.

Vote for my classroom and fellow teachers for Limeades for Learning


Sonic is teaming up with Donors Choose for Limeades for Learning. From September 26 to October 23, 2016, you get to decide which teacher projects we fund through voting on this site! It could be a teacher in your community or just a project that really speaks to you. Limeades for learning is a national initiative of SONIC®, America’s Drive-In® to support public school teachers in local communities. In partnership with, SONIC will provide essential funds needed for learning materials and innovative teaching techniques to inspire creativity and learning in today’s youth. Over the course of the four-week campaign, SONIC fans can vote daily on their favorite projects, and the projects with the most votes get funded each week.

More than 41,000 public school students benefited from Limeades for Learning in 2015 alone. When students are inspired by their teacher to learn and create, they have greater opportunity to reach their full potential. Currently, teachers spend $1 billion annually out of their own pockets for basic supplies and inspirational learning materials for students. This program is designed to ensure no student goes without because of a lack of resources.

Currently, my school has four up, my STEAM Storytellers, our Math Centers and iPad Initiative and We are the Future. Please considering voting for our school and help us bring needed tech, supplies and learning to our students. Together we can make a difference.

We are the Future

Kicking Reading and Math Centers Up a Notch

STEAM Storytellers

iPads Needed to Make Students 21st Century Learners

Pixel Art Game Cards


The last few days, I have been working with my various students to create Pixel Art Game cards. So many of my students, especially my Middle Schoolers love creating pixel art with Google Sheets. I based the project from Alice Keeler’s post a while ago on using Google Sheets for Pixel Art. You can read all about it, including getting the template here. Originally, during my STEAM enrichment class, we were using the pixel creation and then shifted it to creating 3D prints. Allowing my students to create in digital form and then transfer and scaffold with their designs into a basic 3D print using Perler Beads. It became such an amazing experience, my students wanted to skip recess to work on their Pixel Perler Beads.


Adobe Post Card

Making me smile in the processed, I wanted to take the pixel art creation to another level with gamification. Many of my students want to learn how to create games, but are not sure where to start. I decided to shift them to creating their own game card creation using Adobe Spark. The project is easy, students create their Pixel Art in Google Sheets and then they take snapshots of their work and then import it into Google Drawing where they turn them in various badges, characters, add ATK points, DP, HP and so forth. Next, I have students put the images into Adobe Spark. Using Post, they give their cards a very professional look with the various logos, layouts, ect.


Spark Video

Next, students are to then describe how their cards work using Adobe Spark Video and then the final piece will be to assemble the rules, play and game board (if there is one) into Adobe Page and finish their games. Then I have the students play their games in a great Game Jam for the classroom. My students just love creating their pixel characters, building their decks or game boards. Give it a try with your students and I will be talking about how this to my peers at Edcamp Illinois this weekend. Give it a try.

Have your Students Filled a Bucket with Seesaw


Have you ever read the book: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? The short book explains to students that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings about ourselves. When our buckets are full, we are happy; when they are empty, we are sad. It is important that students learn that when they fill a friend’s bucket, they also fill their own bucket because it feels good to make others happy. Usually this is done with the traditional way of paper, coloring and scissors. I decided to try it with a digital sense with Seesaw. The activities remains the same, however students can digitally create their buckets to fill. What’s even better, is they can share the their buckets with their classmates, teachers, parents and more. It’s a great way to fill your classroom empathy. You will be surprised how the activity truly helps students build stronger bonds with their classmates at any grade level and through the platform of Seesaw. Give it a try today.


Special thanks to: Scholastic for the other great Fill the Bucket resources for the classroom.

A Reflection a Year Later


It’s funny, Labor Day use to be a time I either enjoyed the day off, visited some family members or spent time with my own. However, a year ago, Labor Day marked a very different moment for me. It was when I was about a week away from my over three year position at Christian Life from ending. I remember waking up in the morning and saying to myself: “What is going to happen?” I had a few interviews, but nothing had materialized as a result. I was pretty much finished cleaning off my old files and turning over all passwords and accounts over to CLS and making sure students had all their devices, information and teachers would be in good hands when I left, but I remember something else, Fear.

I was afraid. This was the second time in four years I was facing unemployment and while this was over budgetary reasons and I had a few weeks warning, it was just an unsettling time. Last time I faced unemployment, I had a baby on the way, I had just started my masters program. I was living with my wife’s parents and I was looking for a job anywhere I could find it. It was not the best time for me, but I at least knew I had a bit of a safe haven when I got home. Now, it was a different story, my son was school, my own wife was unemployed and working homecare for money, we had a house, I still hadn’t completed the last of my state certification classes and I had just completed my candidacy exam to start writing my dissertation proposal. As the day ticked by I kept thinking to myself: “My last week of work starts tomorrow and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I had a very hard time trying to keep my mind at ease and I remember, I think I put together about twenty Stick Around Puzzles, made about thirty google and App Smash lessons and I tossed my Smashbook to the corner of my office and said I don’t know how I’m going to be able to write in it again. It was the bleakest Labor Day I had ever had.

A week later, everything was over, I turned in all my devices, took the last box of my stuff from my office to my rusty van and had several prayers with the staff I had loved to work with for close to three and a half years. In an instant, it was all over and I was feeling more scared than ever. A few weeks went by and I received a phone call from a school about a position had opened up. I went to that interview like it would be the last one I would ever have, brought my A game, stayed calm and now a year later, here I am. Campus Manager of Technology (Director). Teaching STEAM classes to my students, finishing up my dissertation proposal and just a couple months from finishing my state certification. Amazing how much good happened when it looked like some very dark times were about to begin. What was very ironic was my book, Small Hope, which just saw publication a week before Labor Day arrived at my house and I read it to a majority of my elementary students on my last day at CLS and true story, I read it to my son, Tyler just before the phone call I got from Jackson to come in for an interview.

The story was about finding Hope when it seems are world has fallen in on us and just today, I was talking about how students have to find Hope in my journal reflection for one of my last classes today. It made me realized, that despite what had happened a year ago, there was a small bit of hope in me that said: “Don’t worry, you will make it through this too.” A year later, those words are truer than ever. The last year has been a time of shock and amazement now here I stand close to completing a milestone and despite many hours of rewrites, hoping my car won’t die on me or making sure bills stay paid. There is still Hope guiding me and telling me, it will be all right. You just have to believe in yourself like you believe in your students. You help them to find Hope when you teach that they will be successful. Don’t lose Hope now, believe you can and you will always find a way and I choose to believe that and that I will always find a way. Always remember that, you can choose to be fearful or to believe in a better tomorrow. The choice ultimately is up to you and I discovered.

Harold & the Purple Crayon inspired my Donors Choose


Just before the school year started, I started a Donors Choose to bring Ozobots and our own Flash Forge 3D printer. Many asked how the project came to life and it was my son discovering Harold and the Purple Crayon. Those who don’t know the story, The protagonist, Harold, is a curious four-year-old boy who, with his purple crayon, has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it. He goes on many adventures with his purple crayon creating it. I was talking to one of my students during summer school and they asked if they could do the same when the school year started again. I said, we could but we don’t have any Ozobots and we only have a 3D printer on a partnership. They told me, we have to get them and make our own story and characters and sure enough this donors choose was born. We have until December 10 and I want to try and get it funded sooner so I can introduce the Ozobots and the 3D printer for the Hour of Code this November before they reach our full curriculum in January.

We already are on our way and four of my fellow teachers just had their own Donors Chooses funded and I believe I can get this done for my students. Please consider donating and use the code: LIFTOFF at checkout and your donation can be matched up to $100, but only until Monday. Please, help my students before STEAM Storytellers and move us towards STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics).

STEAM Storytellers Donors Choose Project

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.01.34 PM  Last year, my friend Peter Smetana and I worked hard to bring STEAM to his art classroom using Spheros and Drones and we transformed the art curriculum and began to pave the way to create a STEAM initiative to have our students become innovators and tomorrow’s global leaders. This year, I am teaching a full STEAM classroom elective and while I will be using our Spheros and Drones, but something my students were asking about before the school year was over was about creating stories and games using coding and this project was born. Less than half of our students have access to technology at home, and are eager for any opportunities at school to use technology and the Internet. My goal is to provide tech experiences to our students to promote 21st century learning and skills, but to go to the next level with STEAM and create STREAM. Science, Technology, READING, Art and Mathematics.

My students want to expand into coding and learning through experiences and authentic problem solving. Ozobots are a great tool to be used in a STREAM setting and align with Common Core. Ozobots will encourage my students to think at a deeper level! They would be able to create dialogue between two characters in the story, and write a code to navigate the conversation and the story structure. Ozobots can be tailored by various skins, but they can be limited by the set brands of skins available. By adding a 3D printer, such as a Flash Forge 3D printer, my students will be able to create their very own skins for their Ozobots and be able to integrate it with their other mobile technology bringing their characters to life with 3D printing and coding. My students will begin to discover and cultivate their creativity as they begin to apply their unique gifts and talents and allow them to become the innovators and global leaders of tomorrow with the stories they will be able to create and tell.

We have until December 10th to fund the project, I am hoping we have this happen a lot sooner, like by September. My students are so hungry for using technology and creating and I want to give them all the opportunities possible and this Donors Choose will be a door of opportunity to enter. Please share or support our project and if you use the code: LIFTOFF from now until the 21st your donation will be matched. Please help making my STEAM storytellers into STREAM story tellers and future global leaders.