Rubik’s Cubes at Needham High School
by Paige Rowse, Needham High School Teacher-Librarian
The NHS Library is pleased to add 225 Rubik’s cubes to the collection this year thanks to a grant from the Needham Education Foundation. This purchase was an instant hit with cubers and noncubers alike as the Rubik’s Cube Club immediately set to creating the first mosaic. They chose to build the portrait of Caesar Chavez, solving each individual cube to a specific design and stacking the cubes together to form the final mosaic. In a few afternoons, their masterpiece was complete and displayed prominently in the library. This new piece of art sparked a number of discussions as students and staff realized how it had been created.
We have since created a number of smaller mosaics which were started by math teachers and completed by individual students visiting the library. Another exciting opportunity provided by these cubes is to design our own mosaic, fostering technology, art, and design skills in the process. This is one of the many ways in which this program can grow in coming years and connect to many different students. In addition to the opportunity to design and build mosaics, Rubik’s Cubes themselves can provide a fun avenue to explore mathematical concepts such as geometry, algorithms, factorals, and exponents. Teachers are welcome to check out a class set of cubes for hands-on learning opportunities, which is easy thanks to the 25-cube boxes designed and built in the Da Vinci Workshop. These boxes were designed not only to contain a class set of cubes, but also to display a small, finished mosaic or portion of a larger mosaic.
It is incredible to see all the different people and departments involved in just this one grant! We look forward to seeing more students and staff explore this innovative opportunity.
by Elizabeth Hitron, School Librarian, Hillside
The “talking books” have been a big hit at Hillside! Students in K-5 have been enjoying the collection of 82 Vox books, which are hardcover books containing a small MP3 player on the inside cover. Simply pushing the play button allows students to listen to a high quality narration of their favorite stories. They require no batteries and can last up to four months without a charge.
Kindergarten and first grade teachers have checked these out to use as listening centers in the classroom. Newly enrolled ELL students have been enjoying them outside the library as well.
One exciting effect of the Vox books is that they ignite interest in the regular print collection. Students often want to check out the regular print copy of the book they have just listened to. The Vox books have expanded interest in new topics that students may otherwise have overlooked. The Vox books also increase student independence. Everyone who listens to a Vox book can fully access a text even if they are not yet reading. Students are able to comprehend and retell a story after listening to it.
As a librarian, it has been so heartening to see students engage so deeply with a new material that does not involve a screen! High quality narration and high quality literature are so captivating for a young audience. I love when the students walk into the library and ask, “Can we listen to the talking books today?”
Fourth Grade Flexible Seating
The fourth grade team at Mitchell had experimented with flexible seating a little bit last year but wanted to really give students the opportunity to have more choice in their learning. We needed more seating and work area options for students. In addition to giving students choice, we also wanted to create a stronger sense of community within each classroom. Flexible seating requires students to share materials and work spaces. We were also thinking about modern work spaces and offices when choosing their materials. We thought that fourth grade would be a great time to implement flexible seating and are pleased that the NEF grant we received is allowing that to happen.
Currently, our students are loving the ability to have choice in their learning! Most students are able to appropriately use each of the workspace options. We are collaborating to help students adjust to this new way of learning. Students have also discovered that they may need a different space depending on the activity or lesson. For example, most students have realized that a tabletop surface works best for writing workshop. Flexible seating allows students to get up and move or move while sitting, so movement breaks are happening continuously throughout the day. We have also found that students are on task most of the time and are enjoying each other’s company and working together.
In the future, we would like to expand on the workspace and seating options in our classrooms. We would also love to share what we have done with other teachers, so that more students can have the opportunity to take on more ownership of their learning.