The Mifflin’s Feather Friends Program: A Libraries Ready to Code Project

Kristin Brumbach

This month’s blog post features guest blogger Kristin Brumbach. Kristin helped to curate resources, developed content, and piloted strategies for coding as part of the Ready to Code (RTC) project. Kristin is the librarian at the Governor Mifflin High school in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Kristin collaborated with other educators and librarians to implement a citizen science program that engaged K-12 students in the design thinking process.

Design thinking is a problem-solving process. It has a five-step process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, n.d.). Challenges are addressed through a humanistic approach that encourages designers to think of the needs of others. Similarly, citizen science relates to problem-solving as well:

In citizen science, the public participates voluntarily in the scientific process, addressing real-world problems in ways that may include formulating research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, developing technologies and applications, and solving complex problems. (CitizenScience.gov, 2019)

The title of the innovative program was Mifflin’s Feathered Friends. While the program required students to be eager to learn, students only needed a limited knowledge of coding. You can learn more about the work of libraries for the Ready to Code project in the report “Ready to Code: Connecting Youth to CS Opportunity Through Libraries” (Braun and Visser, 2017). There was is another article about the project in American Libraries (Dankowski, 2018).


The Mifflin’s Feather Friends Program

You might think that kids coding in school would keep them inside, alone, and staring at screens. But, our Ready to Code program, Mifflin’s Feathered Friends, sent student outdoors and collaborating with peers. We had an ambitious vision of a program that combined computational thinking, multi-age collaboration, and citizen science. The key to bringing all these elements together was creating an authentic experience centered on the client-engineer relationship.

A Feathered Friends engineer interviews a 4th grade citizen scientist about technology tools to improve their annual bird count.

Governor Mifflin School District’s six school buildings are located in Pennsylvania where chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, and woodpeckers like to spend their winters. Our elementary school innovations teachers participate with students in an annual backyard bird count. With Ready to Code, we were able to harness our elementary students’ role as citizen scientists. They thought about their jobs as bird counters and how technology could make them more effective. That’s where our secondary students came in. We gave lessons about the Design Thinking process and interviewing clients to our students in grades 7-12, who were involved in an after-school coding club. We brought all our students together so that the engineers could interview their clients to empathize, ask questions, and gather information about the kind of technology they needed as citizen scientists.

After gathering all the clients’ ideas, the student engineers returned to the library after school to figure out what was possible and how to go about making solutions to fit their clients’ needs. They decided to build a motion-sensing camera, a game that teaches players facts about local birds, and a website where our citizen scientists could post their findings.

The Process

Then the work began. Our budding engineers needed help to complete their projects. They needed skills like using a 3D printer, designing games, coding in Python and Swift, and setting up a website. We recruited volunteers from the community who had professional experience in technology and engineering. These volunteers mentored and guided our engineers through prototyping, testing, and yes, even through failing and trying again.

Student engineers show clients how to design an object on the 3D printers at the Feathered Friends Product Show. The engineers used 3D printers to design parts for the motion-sensing camera mounted near bird feeders.

Student engineers show clients how to design an object on the 3D printers at the Feathered Friends Product Show. The engineers used 3D printers to design parts for the motion-sensing camera mounted near bird feeders.

We went through the iterative process many times through the cold days of winter and early spring. But with the power of pizza and the promise of warmer weather to come, our engineers pushed ahead and improved their designs. They were ready in time for a Feathered Friends Product Show in early May.

During the product show, our clients visited the high school library and our engineers proudly displayed their work and the skills they learned all year. They introduced the elementary students to coding with an unplugged activity and demonstrated their 3D printer skills. They showed off the autonomous vehicles they built to learn about how to use infrared sensors. Then they showed other students how to play their game “Birdhouse Empire.” Students were able to zoom in on the location of a bird feeder at their school using the Feathered Friend’s website. We were also able to have a local wildlife expert come and share some more information about the birds in our area.

Here Innovations teacher, Mark Engle, shows Ready to Code participants where the bird feeders are located on the rooftop garden of Mifflin Park Elementary School.

Here Innovations teacher, Mark Engle, shows Ready to Code participants where the bird feeders are located on the rooftop garden of Mifflin Park Elementary School.

Our engineers’ pride in showing off their work was evident as they demonstrated what they learned and accomplished during the show, and so was the clients’ glee at seeing their ideas come to life. The authentic experience gave students a taste of how design thinking and computational thinking are part of a real-world situation. By working with peers, our secondary students exercised empathy and teamwork to get the job done.

Here is a screenshot from the website (not live at this time) showing the locations of the bird feeders at each district school and at the local public library. The website also displayed a Twitter feed where our motion-sensing camera sent the pictures it took when triggered by a bird at the feeder.

Here is a screenshot from the website (not live at this time) showing the locations of the bird feeders at each district school and at the local public library. The website also displayed a Twitter feed where our motion-sensing camera sent the pictures it took when triggered by a bird at the feeder.

Conclusion

As librarians and teachers, we faced a lot of challenges from recruiting and retaining students, to rescheduling around inclement weather. It was nerve-wracking not to have readily available textbook answers and not to know if students would complete their projects in time for the show. We learned a lot from this iteration of our Ready to Code program. While Feathered Friends may be a once in a lifetime experience, authentic opportunities to find problems and solve them is one that students will see again both in school and in their future endeavors.

References

Braun, L. and Visser, M. 2017. Ready to code: Connecting youth to CS opportunity through libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/pp/Ready_To_Code_Report_FINAL.pdf

Citizenscience.gov. 2019 About Citizenscience.gov. Retrieved from https://www.citizenscience.gov/about/#

Dankowski, T. 2018. Connected learning meets computational thinking: What the Ready to Code initiative looks like in libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/connected-learning-meets-computational-thinking/

Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. (n.d.). An introduction to design thinking process guide. Retrieved from https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf


May 2019 Professional Development 

Organization Date & Time Professional Development Title
edWeb.net May 6, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Use Google Tools to Make Any Curriculum Collaborative and Dynamic
May 6, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Micro-credentials to Support Powerful Use of Technology in the Classroom
May 7, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Know Your Truth: Using Data as a Key Driver of Learning Contexts in Equity-Based MTSS
May 9, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Principles to Action: Evidence-Based Strategies to Engage Students in Productive Struggle
May 13, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Strategic Technology Planning and Investment

 

May 14, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Educators
May 16, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Innovative Technology for Individuals with Autism
May 16, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Maximizing Literacy Acceleration in K-12 Schools
May 21, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Students’ Use of Google Docs: Managing Inappropriate Communications
Simple K12 May 4, 2019 – 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm EST 3 Ways to Increase Creativity in Any Class

 

May 4, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST Best Ways to Integrate Video into Your Classroom
May 4, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm EST Great Ways to Use Google Slides for Student-Driven Learning Projects
May 4, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST Using Google Sites for Student Portfolios and Authentic Assessments
May 11, 2019 – 10:00 am – 10:30 am EST 7 Tools That Make Google Classroom Even Better
May 11, 2019 – 11:00 am – 11:30 am EST Strategies and Tips for Student Collaboration in Google Classroom
May 11, 2019 – 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm EST Work Smarter, NOT Harder with Google Classroom
May 11, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST Use Experiments with Google to Spark Discussions and More in Google Classroom
May 21, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST Motivating the Reluctant Reader through Technology
TeachersFirst May 7, 2019 – 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm CST Cool Chrome Extension: Insert Learning
May 21, 2019 – 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm CST Authentic Assessment with Flipgrid, Sway, and more!
May 28, 2019 – 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm CST Fostering Accountability: Media Literacy in the Classroom
InfoPeople.org May 7, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST CELEBRATE. SERVE. COLLABORATE: Partnership as a strategy for immigrant engagement
VolunteerMatch.org May 7, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Creating a Culture of Volunteer Engagement
May 9, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Telling the Story of Volunteer Impact
May 16, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Creating a Comprehensive and Engaging Volunteer Training Program
May 21, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Playing by the Rules: Creating an Effective Volunteer Handbook
Early Childhood Investigations Webinar May 1, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST Kind, Empathetic Classrooms that Build Bridges & Create Community in a Diverse World
May 23, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST How to Create Experiences with Young Children Rather Than Planning Activities for Them
School Library Journal May 7, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST

and

May 14, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST

Evaluating, Auditing, and Diversifying Your Collections

 

Texas State Library and Archives Commission May 16, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm CST Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Texas School Standards Supplemental Resources, OH MY! 

 

American Association of School Librarians May 7, 2019 – 6:00 pm CST Collaborate with Content Areas for Deeper Learning (AASL)
May 14, 2019 – 6:00 pm CST Computational Thinking in Your Library: Systematic Problem Solving in School & Real Life (AASL)
Booklist May 7, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm CST All Things YA

Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently an associate professor at the University of North Texas.



Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development, STEM/STEAM, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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