Monday, April 25, 2016


I had heard about Osmo several months ago, but it wasn't until I went to FETC in January that I had the opportunity to interact with one.  After the conference, I decided to research how I could use the device in my classroom.  When I learned about some of its features, specific students came to my mind, and I knew this could be a beneficial tool for us.
With parent help (each student brought in $5.00), I was able to purchase an Osmo Genius Kit a couple weeks ago, and we have been enjoying using it in class!
Osmo is an educational technology tool that connects with the iPad to create an interactive game system.  It is compatible with almost all variations of the iPad, but it doesn't currently operate with Android devices.
Included in the kit is a base/stand for the iPad and a red plastic apparatus with a mirror inside that covers the front-facing iPad camera (This is used to "see" objects that are placed on the surface, in front of the iPad, and respond with them):

The Genius Kit also comes with the following games, and users must download five (free!) apps in order to play: 

1.  Tangram--Players use the seven colorful wooden game pieces to complete puzzles on the screen.  There are over 600 puzzles with varying degrees of difficulty so that students from K-6th can play.  Okay, even I have been challenged by some of the puzzles!   
 2.  Newton--This physics game drops spheres from the top of the screen and kind of reminds me of a pinball machine.  Players must guide the spheres to different locations in order to hit targets on the screen.  You can draw lines on a piece of paper in front of the iPad or even put down real world objects (like your hand, a ruler, pens, etc.) to guide the spheres to the targets.  I've also used the Tangram pieces before.  There are 60 levels, and the levels progressively become more challenging. This game can help students with spatial relations, cause and effect, and problem-solving skills.
3.  Words--Reminds me of Hangman and Wheel of Fortune.  Players are provided with a visual clue and then they must guess a hidden word by placing letter tiles in front of the iPad.  This is great for spelling/vocabulary review, and the neat thing is that teachers can create their own word games by uploading specific pictures/words.  I've already customized a Word game that relates to our space unit.
There are four levels of difficulty, so students from ages 5-12 can play on their level.  Honestly, I've even been stumped on the "Impossible" category!  This game really encourages outside-the-box thinking because the picture may represent a noun, adjective, or adverb.  It can get a little tricky! Students use the provided letter tiles and slide them in front of the iPad to correctly spell words.  This can be done individually, cooperatively, or in a Versus mode.  
 Here are a couple clips of my students playing in Versus Mode.

  4.  Numbers--This fun, aquatic-themed math game provides practice for several math skills: number recognition, addition, subtraction, multiplication, ordering numbers, and creating equations.  There are multiple ways to solve each puzzle and students are given immediate feedback.  The math challenges become increasingly complex the longer one plays.  Osmo has partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in order to make Numbers compatible with their Go Math! and Math Expressions programs.
5.  Masterpiece--Allows you to draw an image by "tracing" the lines you see on the screen.  This sounds easier than it actually is!  With this app, you have the option to take a photo to draw, upload an image already stored in your photo album, choose from provided drawings, or even search online.  There are many possibilities!  While drawing, the iPad records all movements and at the end, it is able to show you a time-lapsed video of your artwork.  Artists may then share the video on social media or via email.  I love that this app also provides outlines of numbers and letters so students can practice their handwriting (both print and cursive!).  Masterpiece definitely helps with fine motor skills.
Click here to see a time-lapsed video of one of my student's drawings.

Besides using this app in art class, I could see teachers using it for geography (drawing maps), math (numbers, shapes, geometric concepts, etc.), language arts (print/cursive practice, book reports, writing in another language, etc.)...there are numerous possibilities! 

As you can see, the Osmo promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, fine motor skills, word play, and math fact fluency.  Masterpiece helps students develop stamina for completing tasks that are challenging and require more focus, and it can inspire students to become better artists.  I have a very creative bunch this year, so Masterpiece is their current favorite app.

One of the things I enjoy most about the Osmo is that it's a tech tool that actually encourages interaction.  When I use it with students in the classroom, they are sharing ideas, talking, solving problems, and even laughing together.  This isn't just putting a child in front of another screen; students can interact with real objects and each other.  This game play goes beyond the screen and encourages social interactions.  It's been a wonderful addition to our classroom!  

This post contains photos from Google images. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Space Camp 2016

I now have eight years of Space Camp under my belt.  As usual, we had a wonderful time on this 3-day, 2-night field trip and came back with lots of interesting stories to tell!  On Wednesday morning, we all met together at 6:15 a.m., loaded our stuff on the bus, prayed in a circle, and were on the road by 6:30 a.m.  We were ecstatic that we got the bus driver we requested!
I did something a little different this year.  I instituted a quiet time for the first hour and a half of our trip.  Everyone was encouraged to go back to sleep until 8 a.m., and no one was allowed to talk or get noisy.  Because we gain an hour due to the time change (and the fact that our camp schedule is so jam-packed), I thought this requirement was beneficial.  The kids are always so exhausted by the end of the first day of camp, so this extra rest time helped with that a little. 
I do not allow my students to bring any electronics on the bus because I'd rather have them socialize than focus their attention on a screen.  We do watch a movie after lunch, however, and we even do a group scavenger hunt and license plate game for fun: 
After stopping at the FL/AL state line (and getting a photo op with the famous peanut) and taking another break to stretch our legs, we arrived in Huntsville around 1 p.m. CST. 
We stayed in Habitat 3 this year, the dorm that houses Aviation Challenge.  There were different types of aircraft on the grounds, which was pretty neat! 
Because it is located a mile or so from the main campus, we would take a Space Camp shuttle bus back and forth.
On Day 1, we had Orientation, took our team picture, rode outdoor simulators, built rockets, created our mission patch, trained for our team mission, learned lessons in the Davidson museum about rockets and the Gemini Program, and sat through a presentation called"Space Shuffle."  We were so exhausted by the end of the day that the students began high-fiving each other when the counselor told us it was bedtime!  Ha!  
My class was divided into two teams.  I was in Team Jemison (named after Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space), and my principal's group was Team Lovell (named after astronaut Jim Lovell).  We were able to see each other at different points throughout our Space Camp trip, but mostly stayed separated due to our different schedules. 

Each year, we come up with a team chant.  We wanted to come up with something clever, like years past, but it was a challenge to think of a word that rhymes with "Jemison."  Therefore, we just stuck with a basic chant:
Counselor Nick: "When I say 'Jemi,' you say 'son.'  'Jemi!'"
Our team:  "Son!"
Counselor Nick: "Jemi!"
Us: "Son!"
Nick: "What team are we?!"

On Day 2, we woke up around 7 a.m., boarded the shuttle bus to the main campus, ate breakfast, and began the day's activities in the rain.  Team Jemison was scheduled to launch rockets; however, we were unable to because of the rain.  Instead, we went to the Astrotrek building, made paper rockets, and held an indoor rocket launch "race" with those.  
Eventually, a Space Camp official came to the building and informed us that we were under a flash flood watch and needed to remain in the building.  No worries; we just enjoyed riding the MAT until the watch had ended.  
The rest of Day 2 activities included two presentations about the future of space exploration, visiting the Davidson Museum, watching an IMAX movie called "Journey to Space," going to the gift shop, riding the 5DF chair, placing a banana on Miss Baker's grave, learning about the Apollo and Shuttle programs as well as the ISS.
As I said before, our schedule is packed!  We barely have time to eat.  Seriously.  I finally got smart about mealtimes and made the adults get in line ahead of the students.  The children didn't like this at first, but they soon got used to it.  I told them, "Look, we are bigger than you and require more fuel." We definitely needed more time to eat.
After dinner on the second day, Team Jemison began our simulated space mission.  We were doing very well but soon had to evacuate our area and move to a safe zone due to a tornado watch. Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish our mission.  I was a little bummed about that since I was aiming for "four years in a row" winning Best Mission.  I feel confident that we would have won had we been able to complete our mission.
Finally, the weather cleared up enough for our team to drive back to Habitat 3 and prepare for bed. Eventually, as the girls were getting ready to climb into bed, several counselors came through the hallways, yelling for us to all take cover in the bathrooms.  So, we did!  We hung out during a tornado warning for about 45 minutes.  We were all extremely tired once we were cleared to return to our rooms and go to bed.  
On Day 3, we woke up early and loaded our stuff on our charter bus.  Then, we met together for a group devotional.  I always read Joshua 4:1-7 and give each student their own Space Camp "memorial stones."  We were able to share aloud what our stone meant to us (e.g. a specific praise/answer to prayer; a favorite memory from camp; how we saw God on the trip, etc.).  I always enjoy our group devotion time.  It's very special and a great way to wrap up our trip.  
I even had one student comment, "Mrs. Bowman, this doesn't even feel like a field trip to me!"
Me:  "What do you mean?  What does it feel like?"
Student:  "It feels like a family vacation, but without my family....but it's with my school family."

Aw!  That was the sweetest remark!  I agree; this trip is very special and provides a unique bonding experience for us.  It's part field trip, part mission trip, and all-around fun!  I love leading this each year.
Selfie with "Scott Kelly."
Team Jemison won Best Mission Patch!