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Teaching and Learning

Laying Down a STEAM Pipeline

Lego Can Be A Powerful Building Block For Learning

By Scott Krivitsky

Scott Krivitsky is a teacher and community
advocate at P.S. 188 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Before he found his calling as a public
school teacher, Krivitsky was a sales and
marketing director.

I have been an educator for 12 years. Before that, I spent 25 years working in corporate America. It’s important to me that students are prepared for college and have a vision for their choice of careers.

With that in mind, four years ago, I contacted Lego Education and asked them to visit our school and donate Lego materials to P.S. 188’s students. Next, I introduced Lego Education to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). That year, the UFT and Lego Education sponsored a city-wide symposium for all schools to learn about utilizing Lego Education.

When our students are building Lego projects and also writing about their individual projects, they are totally engaged in learning. Yes, students do learn differently and it’s very important to provide for the various learning styles in your classroom. Many of my students are kinesthetic learners and they thrive working with Lego.

These kinds of hands-on projects also lead to fewer student interruptions and more students, teachers find. And students are more likely to attend school—and arrive on time. We also found ways to work with parents and with local middle schools and high schools.


Last year, we created a multi-school, multi-grade project building a replica of Coney Island’s amusement park. The multi-grade teams created small-scale replicas of the roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and carousels. In doing so, the students conducted research, mentored one another, and learned the value of teamwork. Together, they presented their project to the local community.

Reading about something is one thing, but using your hands to build something is another. I find that using tactile objects such as Lego and other toys and tools greatly improves the depth of knowledge and experience for all students involved in the program and enhances the reading and learning. This project provided the best of both worlds and can easily be reproduced by others.

Full STEAM Ahead!

Two years ago, I also created a STEM-focused educational pipeline that bridges elementary schools, middleschools, high schools, colleges, and workforce development organizations. This STEM model was a first for New York City. Soon, art was added to the mix, making it a STEAM Pipeline. We have also expanded to include marine science and technology.

I believe the STEAM Pipeline should be incorporated in every school district. It creates an educational pathway students can follow toward college and career readiness.

The key to creating a STEAM Pipeline is having schools work together in collaboration. This is what we have done in District 21 in Brooklyn, and what I intend to help spread across every district in Brooklyn, all of New York City, and throughout the state.

As educators, we have an obligation to unlock the creativity in our students. Education is a journey. Let’s have our students all aboard the STEAM Pipeline to success.

How to Create a Culturally Responsive Classroom

First, Accept And Celebrate Differences

By Julia G. Thompson

At a time when school systems are scrutinized and criticized from many sides, students of a wide variety of races and cultural backgrounds meet peacefully in thousands of U.S. classrooms every day. Their presence is proof that classroom diversity is one of our nation’s greatest assets.

Some try to define culture in ethnic or racial terms, but a broad definition is more accurate. Every person belongs to a variety of cultural groups delineated by characteristics like geography, age, economics, gender, religion, interests, or education level. Ignoring students’ cultural differences creates strife and tension. Conversely, acceptance and celebration of differences provides rich resources for your class.

Assess Your Own Attitudes, Then Set the Tone

  • Understand how the culture you come from helps to shape your attitudes. If your students’ cultures are different from your own, strive to be sensitive to how your perspective might differ from your students.’
  • Expose your students to a wide variety of cultures. This will help them become more tolerant of their own differences. Whenever possible, make sure that instructional materials incorporate multicultural information.
  • Learn as much as you can about the cultures that are represented in your classroom. Read as much as you can. Talk to other teachers and school personnel about finding appropriate resources. Once you’re aware of the subtle differences among your students, you’ll find it easy to be a more effective teacher.

Engage Students in Conversations About Culture

  • Discussions about various cultures should be an important part of classroom activities. You can have brief informal discussions without losing valuable instructional time.
  • Provide plenty of structured activities that allow students to interact in a productive way, and learn about their classmates’ cultures. These activities require successful collaboration, and expose students to a wide variety of world cultures, which will help to broaden your students’ understanding of classroom material, each other, and the world.

Pay Attention to Families and Communities

  • Accept that a parent or guardian who is not part of your culture may have concerns that differ from yours. This will help you steer clear of imposing your own beliefs, and allow you to discover family members’ goals for their child.
  • Explore resources that can help you reach all of your students. Ask community leaders to make presentations, go on local field trips, or invite guest speakers to visit.
  • Provide Culturally Responsive Instruction
  • Different cultures stress different ways of learning. Design instruction that offers a variety of differentiated strategies that will help students access the material. And be sure to offer as much appropriate scaffolding as possible.
  • When designing scaffolding of instruction, make use of the different ways cultures promote learning. Some cultures stress the importance of cooperative learning while others do not. Offer a variety of culturally sensitive ways for students to be successful.
  • Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings. Be alert to the potential for student conflict so that you can prevent or minimize it.
  • If students learn racism or intolerance at home, it will be difficult for you to stop it in class. As a preventive first step, be sure everything you say and do makes your position of tolerance clear to students.

Finally, be clear about your behavior expectations. This way, the culture of your classroom will guide students’ behavior. Stress that your students keep an open-minded attitude about people whose beliefs or lifestyles are different from their own, and be sure you also model acceptance.


Julia G. Thompson is a public school teacher in Fairfax ounty, Va. Her 35-year teaching background also includes public schools in Arizona and North Carolina. Thompson puts her teaching experience to work as the author of Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, First-Year Teacher’s Checklist, The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide, and The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide Professional Development Training Kit. Thompson’s teaching advice is also available at;; and on Twitter at @teachingadvice.

Hello There, New Technology! Wanna Go Out?

So Many Attractive Technologies, And So Little Time And Money. Don’t Let The Choices Overwhelm You

By Gwyneth Jones –aka– (“The Daring Librarian”)

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the new education tech and trends going on in the world:

Genius Hour
Common Core
Mobile Learning
Design Thinking
Google Classroom
Brain Based Learning
Project Based Learning
Learning Management Systems
Transformative Brain Based Learning Spaces

Sheesh…I could go on! It’s exhausting!


Then there’s all the new technology that you have to get, use, and master! Once it was Smart Boards, now it’s tablets and 3D printers. What if you don’t have an unlimited budget or a super generous Parent Teacher Association? OK, now you have to get funding from a place like DonorsChoose. (Which is totally doable! But does take a wee bit of effort.) And then what if you run out of money to buy the supplies? OMGosh, again. It’s exhausting!

Take a Deep Breath!

I’m here to tell you: It’s OK. You don’t have to be the expert at everything. You don’t have to totally flip your classroom and make videos to replace daily instruction. You can start by sourcing some great videos already created and adding them to your lesson plan. From places like YouTube, SchoolTube, and Flocabulary you can add a rich video mash-up without hours of video editing.

I call it the partial flip—and it means providing augmented information for tutorial or reinforcement, which sparks student engagement. (For an example of how to use curated, not newly created content, check out my LessonPath about Greek mythology, “Big Rich Mt. Olympus,” at

Baby Steps Toward Change


Instead of discarding all of your furniture to create a brain-based and friendly learning classroom, why not just buy a few bean bag chairs for $39.99 on Amazon to create a comfy reading nook or discussion circle?

Instead of building a whole Lego wall or an expensive MakerSpace center with equipment that costs thousands of dollars, why not start small and create a MakerSpace cart that you can roll around the school with bins of Lego, patterned duck tape rolls for crafting, and a couple Makey Makey kits?

Instead of stressing about not having tablets to utilize mobile media in the classroom, use your own iPad or smart phone and film Vine stop-motion animation book trailers, science experiments, art talks, or social studies history snippets!

It’s okay to start small and grow!

Spark the engagement of Twitter and the ease of Google forms by having students write a #StoryIn140, do Twitter style book reviews or QR Code Scavenger Hunts! Use QR Codes around the school with Loo Reviews & Pocket videos or 10 Things to do with QR Codes at Back to School Night!
It’s not the tool it’s how you use it!

That New Technology Date? It Doesn’t Have to Lead to Marriage!


That’s right, the coolest ed tech trends you’ve heard about at conferences, on Twitter, or during a webinar, you know—the ones that may have also been leaving you awake at night feeling stressed out or inadequate for not jumping in with both feet?

They don’t have to all be done at once! You don’t have to overhaul your life, you just need to adapt! You can “pilot” and “beta test” new technologies and new teaching ideas on a small scale. Then, when you find one you like—you can go steady. Date a while. See how it goes.

You’ll know when you’re ready to commit!

It’s also not necessary to get each and every new tech tool that comes out. Remember the Laser Disc? Buy one for yourself, maybe, and get good at it. Bring it to school and try it with small groups. My school isn’t a 1:1 or total iPad school. Some of the coolest things I did with QR codes and mobile media in the early days (say, five years ago) was with two iPod Touch Generation 4’s, my own smart phone, and my first iPad. It’s not about what you have. It’s about using what you have creatively. It’s the innovation of teaching and not the tool. Tools come and go, the daring spirit to try new things keeps moving on!


Gwyneth Jones is a teacher librarian at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, Md. She’s a Library Journal magazine mover and shaker, blogger (, Tweeter (@GwynethJones), international speaker, and Google Certified Teacher.

Need More Resources?

Check out the Daring Librarian’s online lesson plans:

Vine Book Trailers:
Twitter-style Book Reviews:
Code Scavenger Hunts:

Social media stress!

Twitter, Flickr, Vine, YouTube, Blogger, Edublogs, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Snapchat.... There are a lot of social media outlets. Which ones should you join? Which ones should you just register for and which ones do you want to have active involvement in. I’d like all educators to model and create a positive web presence so that they become more visible (and less vulnerable) in their schools and in the communities. But gee whiz, there are only so many hours in the day, right?

Twitter and are my preferred social media tools. I broke up with Facebook years ago, but I’m deeply committed to blogging. What’s your outlet of choice? In 2008, I created a couple graphics to illustrate that life…err, I mean social media, is less like a fancy table d’hôte menu and more like dim sum! You can try a small plate here and there. Like it? Get another! Not to your taste? Push it aside and move on.

It’s funny how the plates have changed over the years! Second Life and Nings are out, and Instagram and Vine are in! Today I am going steady—which means visiting at least once a week—with Twitter, WikiSpaces, and Flickr.

Just starting out? Stop at those three. But if you’re ready for more, consider adding these: Blogger and Edublog, for professional blogs;, for a curation tool; Vine, for instant cred with the kiddos; Instagram, SlideShare, YouTube, and Skype.

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