Friday, 21 September 2012

Measurement & Mapping

Our PhotoPeach Slideshow: (Beware - some students are faceless/headless to protect their identities!)

We (the grade 6 teachers and I) have just finished our first, ubre-successful class showcase in the Learning Commons! The grade 6 students masterfully measured, mapped, modeled, displayed, and shared for the Learning Commons.

Phase 1: Hook

Our Learning Commons is a new and challenging concept for teachers and students in our school.  For each grade's beginning project students are working on lessons around belonging and ownership of the space. Each grade has created something that will stay in the space or that will enhance the space in some way.

After completing an iPad photo scavenger hunt of the space, the Grade 6 students discussed what was missing and what would make it better. Eventually they decided (with some guidance) that the learning commons needed a map - I was more than happy to work with them on that. ;)

Phase 2: Measuring and 2D Map

After printing out some architectural paper, students were introduced to the challenge criteria and set off to measure the space any way they wanted. We suggested 3 ways:
  1. Snap Cubes: Students put 1 snap cube on each tile, collected the snap cubes in sticks of 10 (or 5), and added up the sticks. 
  2. Post-it Notes: Students put post-it notes on every 5th square (or whatever multiple they felt comfortable with) and collected them while skip counting or multiplication. 
  3. Counting: Some just counted each tile as they walked from one side of the commons to the other.

Students counted the tiles and completed a map where 1 tile was 1 square on their paper.  Because we teach students with a range of skills, we wanted to make multiple entrance points and lots of extra challenges to keep them engaged. We organized the challenge criteria into 3 columns (below) to meet individual need. All students were expected to complete a Level 3, but should aim as high as possible. 

This was displayed at all times during the independent work times.
If students finished level 3, they knew to move to level 4, and then 5.

Phase 3: Mapping in 3D for future displays and proposals. 

Now came the fun part!  Students could take their 2D maps and transform them into 3D masterpieces using a computer program or a hands-on-material of their choice. We gave options to use Google Sketch-up, Plasticine, Minecraft, Lego Digital Designer, or whatever other way students wanted (as long as teachers approved it). 

We were shocked when a student discovered - and the enthusiasm for this program quickly took over the group.  We were also pleasantly surprised by the students using Minecraft and Sketch-up. And one group took on this project by re-creating the entire Learning Commons using paper! Actually, it was 2 groups that both realized they bit off more than they could chew and asked if they could team-up and work together to get the project done in time... We obliged.  Check out their amazing work below!

Phase 4: Show and Tell
It's hard to believe that we're 3 weeks into the school year with a 3-week-old learning commons. Our entire school community came during our showcase and were all blown away. We worked with the students and practiced talking about: 
  • Why we completed this project
  • How we mapped in 2D/3D
  • Who the maps are for (everyone in the school!)
  • Ideas they had to improve the space
The showcase was important for a number of reasons. The other teachers in the school were able to see what type of work can take place in the Learning Commons. It gave them a chance to talk to me directly and to ask questions. More than a few times I was asked about what the planning and teaching looked like, and how we made it work. 

Students were able to look up to the grade 6s, as each student completed an enormous amount of work and was a role model for the younger students. The younger children were also able to inquire about the process and to ask questions about the math (area, perimeter, ratios, etc.). Students wanted to experiment with the programs they saw the grade 6s use, most notably Keynote and

Phase 5: Where to now? 

We're going to have students take their current 3D representations of the Learning Commons and make proposals about how the space could be used. They'll also create proposals, sharing what they think would make the space better...I'm already running with the idea of building a lego wall - but more on that later!


  1. Many thanks for taking the time to write up this post to share with others and congratulations to your students for their creative work. Can't wait to see what happens next in your Learning Commons!
    Carol Koechlin

    1. Carol, please feel free to share what you see in here. We really want to collaborate on this and open the doors to communicating with other like minded educators and eventually students too :)

  2. Thanks Carol!

    We're really excited, too - the transformation has been whole-heartedly embraced at our school... I love the "buzz" of busy and productive kids... Actually, I wish I could put up pictures of the students to show how truly proud they were with their creations!

    Mike MacKenzie