• What Happens When You Hit a Roadblock?

    Posted by HEATHER BROWN on 2/1/2018

    From the day Spark was born, our goal was to get the students and teachers of CBS fired up about using innovative tools in the classroom and to ignite engagement and learning for our students.  We were very clear that if the instruction was coming in the form of professional development from one classroom teacher to another. The Spark teachers would always have their number one priority as their classroom students.  I don't even really need to say that, because as a classroom teacher, your top priority is always to create a safe, engaging learning environment that nurtures learning as well as the social and emotional well-being of your students.  That will always come first.

    Spark started off with a bang, but as November rolled around, things started to get a little tricky. Our 3-4 grade facilitator was working as Enrichment teacher, JUNA Team sponsor, as well as directing the broadcast team, and was running into some time obstacles with Spark.  Our 5-6 grade facilitator was teaching 6th grade and getting our newly formed Robotics Team up and going which also lead to some issues with time management, etc.  I am the k-2 facilitator and I was teaching 2nd grade and working on a couple of other projects when a minor classroom situation with a student snowballed into a real life problem.

    When you teach a class of 17 7-8 year olds all day for a whole school year, you are more than just a group, you are a family.  You get to know each other and you are there for each other.  You are there for them as a teacher, but you are also a part time mom, doctor, cheerleader, coach and the list goes on and on.

    "You are only as well as your sickest child."  This is a quote that a few of my CBS mentors threw out to me as this situation unfolded.  That is true for families, it is also true for "classroom families".  I had to make a decision and the decision was to put k-2 Spark on hold for the time being.  I had to do what was best for my first priority as a classroom teacher and take time to nurture each and every one of them to get us through a rough patch.

    The timing was at the same time as excitement peaked for our teachers!  Everyone in these grade levels had already met our January goal!  These teachers were buzzing with excitement, K and 1st graders would pass me in the hall and thank me for the Osmos and Bluebots.  They were not from me, I was just the one who introduced them, but in their little eyes these were precious gifts and new and exciting learning tools and they wanted someone to thank.  They were truly fascinated with these new tools.  Teachers were emailing, calling and stopping me in the hall.  "When can they get on the spark schedule?" they wondered.  They were sharing their awesome ideas, they had many and it was so exciting, but I had to put that aside for the time being, and focus on the MOST important thing for a 2nd grade teacher and my 17 precious ones.

    We teach our students about having a growth mindset and not being afraid to fail.  Some people might look at this situation and say, "Why didn't you keep going?  This was a school wide project, you can't just let 17 students control 3 grades!"  No one ever said anything of the sort.  Part of growing, is being able to go through ups and downs, good times and bad times.  Although my facilitationg of Spark was put on hold for a while, teachers were now able to take matters into their own hands.  Teachers that I had not had the chance to work with took it upon themselves to bring these tools into their classrooms on their own.  They stepped out of their comfort zones and risked not knowing what they were doing to enhance student learning.



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  • Introduction to Coding Using Bluebots K-2

    Posted by HEATHER BROWN on 10/20/2017



    Our K-2 students are being introduced to coding using Bluebots.  Students and teachers used learning cards to physically build a path that their Bluebot would follow. Then, they programmed their bots using the code they wrote.  After students were introduced to these steps, they programmed their bots.  They were allowed to use any path as long as they reached three specific destinations on their journey.  Working in teams, students put their code on paper first, and then they programmed their bot using their plan and gave it a try.  Many times the codes didn't work at first, so we had to try again!  After students completed this challenge successfully, they designed their own pathways and experimented with them thinking of various ways to reach their destinations.

    Working through our professional development model which contains 8 levels: (1) awareness, (2) observation, (3) participation, (4) planning/mentoring, (5) practice, (6) reflection, (7) implementation, and (8) contribution.  Second grade teachers are in the participation phase.  Kindergarten teachers moved from awareness to observation and observed 2nd grade classes working with Bluebots.  As kindergarten teachers became comfortable and excited with these tools, they moved to participation and worked with their own students.  First grade teachers have now entered the observation stage and will be observing kindergarten classes working on Bluebots next week. 


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  • Giving Teachers the Freedom to Fail

    Posted by GEORGETTE (SANDY) RITCHEY on 10/6/2017 3:00:00 PM

    Teachers at Level 1- Awareness met to discuss an article called, "Giving Teachers the Freedom to Fail." The article focused on trust, collaboration, choice, and time. Most importantly, the article addressed how failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. 

    "If teachers are expected to design and build innovative learning cultures for their students, it is critical that they learn in trusted spaces that allow them to experiment and fail." (www.gettingsmart.com/2016/08/giving-teahcers-the-freedom-to-fail/)

    Before reading the article, our teachers were asked to respond to the following question, "What does failure mean to you?" (See responses below.)

    "big concepts or projects I start planning without thorough planning, big ideas that become too big to implement, try again, I can do this., What went wrong? How can I do better? Where do I go to learn more? Keep working. Ask questions. Learning new technology, marriage, parenting, posting eday, Try again! Zero, red, try again, why, How can I succeed? How can I get better? Hard, attempts, not knowing, is it too late to learn, When do I stop? fail-listen to what the process is trying to teach me"

    After reading the article, conversations took place around what the teachers noted as a powerful statement/message, a wondering or comment that they had marked.

    Teachers were asked again, "What does failure mean to you?" (See responses below.)

    "I need to fail with people I trust in order to grow as a learner and teacher!, learning, trust, collaborative, support, research, visual, My teams like to fail together! It's okay!! It is okay to fail."

    After this meeting, six teachers felt ready to move to the next level of SPARK, Level 2 Observation.

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  • Spheros In Action...Just Roll With It!

    Posted by HEATHER BROWN on 9/28/2017

    Our 6th graders are off to a great start using Spheros to integrate math and science!  


    ​Week One:  All students spent time learning to connect, drive and program a square.  Only a handful of students have experience using the spheros, so it was important to allow time for students to explore all of the options and various aspects of the spheros.  


    Week Two: Now that students know how to do basic coding and programming, they are going to collect data about the rate of speed and time for various distances that the sphero can travel.  Students will use this data and express their findings by first entering quantities on a chart, then graphing their data.


    Week Three: Students will use the rate of speed and distance to program the sphero to make it "through a maze".  The maze will be set up on the floor in the science room using blue tape.  Students will not have a "trial and error" time, but will have to program the sphero using the data they collected last week.  Students will have three attempts to make it through the maze.


    Week Four:  Students will use the previous data collection to complete a Mars Mission Activity.  Students will have a task to rescue our "Martian Miner" that is stranded.  


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  • Our New Learning Tools Have Arrived!

    Posted by HEATHER BROWN on 8/17/2017

    It was super exciting around The Bend this week as our learning tools began to arrive.  We started to unpack them and get them set up for students to explore.  My 2nd graders were mesmerized by the Dash and Dot, Blue Bots, and Ozobots that were glowing in the front of the room.  They were able to get their hands on them on Wednesday!  It was exciting to see their little minds working as they tinkered with this new technology.  We talked about coding and how our brain is alike and different from a robot's memory.  When people learn new things, they file it away and build on their experiences.  Robots can learn something new, but once we take it away or clear it from the robot's memory, it is gone until someone teaches (codes) it again. 

    Our SPARK team is eager to share more coding strategies and our new technology with all of our students at Cherokee Bend. 


    spark girls


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  • SPARK Levels of Participation

    Posted by GEORGETTE (SANDY) RITCHEY on 8/7/2017 9:00:00 AM

    Differentiated Professional Development 

    At this level, teachers will... 


    Level 1- Awareness 

    • will read articles and view videos about SPARK and STREAM.  
    • reflect together in order to learn more about SPARK and STREAM.  


    Level 2- Observation 

    • will observe SPARK and STREAM facilitators working with teachers in the classroom with students. 
    • will have the opportunity to reflect on their observations and ask questions about the process. 


    Level 3- Participation 

    • will work with a SPARK and STREAM facilitator in his or her classroom, using the tools available.  
    • learn alongside their students. 

    SPARK/STREAM Facilitators 

    Level 4- Planning/Mentoring 

    • will work with one or more of our coaches to learn more about which lessons and tools can be used to enhance current curriculum. 
    • will plan lessons with one or more of our coaches to use STREAM to enhance current curriculum. 





    Level 5- Practice 

    • will practice what they have learned from the observation, participation, and planning/mentoring levels. 

    Coaches as needed: 




    Level 6- Reflection 

    • will spend time reflecting on what worked and what didn't work. 
    • will choose whether he or she wants to cycle through Level 4 thru Levels 6 again or begin implementing on his or her own. 

    on your own 

    or with your team 

    Level 7- Implementation 

    • will implement new learning in his or her classroom. 

    on your own or with your team 

    Level 8- Contribution 

    • will become a SPARK and/or STREAM facilitator for the following school year. 



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  • Ready for the new year!

    Posted by ASHLEY CROSSNO on 7/26/2017

    Our Spark team has been working very hard this summer to prepare for the implementation of our immersive professional development model. Our model allows for teachers to experience professional learning with their students under the guidance of a lead teacher (Spark teacher). This year our focus in Spark will be on integrating STREAM tools into content standards and curriculum as well as practicing the principles of effective STREAM teaching and learning. We are so excited to finally make this a reality! We've ordered several exciting new STREAM tools to share with our students and teachers, and we have created some exciting plans to implement the first steps of our PD model. 


    I think I am proudest of our realization that all of our students enter the classroom at varying levels, and our teachers will be entering this new professional development model at varying levels as well. Our assistant principal, Sandy Ritchey, developed the diagram below representing the levels of readiness regarding our new PD structure, and we are going to support teachers wherever they may fall on this model. Our hope is that once teachers move through steps 3-6, they will take one of two paths. The first path would lead to mastery and independent application of the tools and instructional strategies learned in Spark. The second path would allow for additional teacher leaders to emerge and become contributing lead teachers in the Spark model. It becomes second nature to think of differentiating learning for our students, but we often neglect to remember that adults have varied experiences as well. We love how Sandy's model establishes a framework for varying entry points to allow us to support each teacher's learning! 


    We are off to a great start in our endeavor, and our Spark team is looking forward to learning and growing with the teachers of CBS and providing our students with powerful learning experiences using STREAM tools! 


    Spark Levels of Readiness



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    Posted by MELISSA (MISSY) BROOKS on 6/15/2017
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