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PBS in the Classroom

Planting the (Pumpkin) Seeds of Learning with Technology

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November 21, 2016

I’m always amazed when I walk into a kindergarten classroom. Kindergarteners are the most energetic students in the district, where everything to them is new and exciting and they have no fear of trying a different app or activity.

This fall, our kindergarten classes were studying the plant life cycle within the life science unit. Each kindergarten class started with a pumpkin. The classroom teachers carved the pumpkins and remove the seeds, and yes, the class also decorated the pumpkins for Halloween, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

After the seeds were dried, the students planted the seeds with potting soil into a small cup. The classroom teachers then discussed the importance of sunlight and watering their seeds. I was asked to introduce technology into this activity, and I thought this was a nice opportunity to try some simple journaling with this eager group of students.

To help spark interest and set up the iPad activity, I used PBS Learning Media to find a short video for my class. After a search, I found a few resources that fit the bill:

Video: Between the Lions Poem: Little Seeds

Video: Between the Lions Poem: You Never Hear the Garden Grow

Video: Sesame Street: Strawberry Mouse

Video: From Seed to Fruit

For the iPad resource, I downloaded and installed an app called “StoryKit” on all of the kindergarteners’ iPads. This app is for the iPhone, but it works well for iPad Minis, which is what we use in our kindergarten classes.

The StoryKit app comes with some preloaded stories, but for this activity we used the feature that allows creation of a simple book. Students can take and add pictures to a page of the book, then decorate the page with a simple paint tool, add text and also do an audio recording. The recording appears as a speaker icon on the finished page. It’s a simple but functional app, perfect for young students, and a great way to record and document the growth of their pumpkin seeds.

The classroom teacher asked each student to get both their iPads and the cup containing the pumpkin seed. After everyone was seated, we started. I showed students how to open the StoryKit App, take a picture with their iPads, and add that picture to their new story. The classroom teacher and I could not believe how quickly the kindergarteners could do this, and in no time we were ready for the next step, decorating.  I showed students how to access the simple drawing tools and soon the pictures were sitting on highly decorated backdrops.

For the last step, we used the audio recorder feature in StoryKit and students recorded the steps involved in planting the seeds, how they were going to care for their seeds and what they were going to do when they took the seeds home. This part of the activity will take some practice to put the observations into words, but I have no doubts they will develop this skill with practice.

What's next? I plan to visit the classroom again in a week and we will add another page to this story, and hopefully take pictures of pumpkin seed growth, record more observations and of course, paint another page. So with a few creative resources – PBS Learning Media and the App StoryKit – I was able to introduce a basic science journal to the kindergarten classes that inspired fun and learning.

Andy Hopkins is an Instructional Technology Specialist with Harper Woods Schools in Harper Woods, Michigan. Andy conducts regular teacher in-services on technology use and mentors best practices for classroom implementation. He also works with students in buildings across the district as they create and share creative, multimodal projects.

Andy Hopkins

Andy Hopkins Instructional Technology Specialist Twitter: thebighop

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