Our First Ever PARENTS Only Open House!


This week was our first ever Parents Only Open House at the Hubbard Woods IDEA Lab. Last year was an overwhelming success!  We had students manning each station and the response was overwhelming.  While fewer people attended this session, those who came were curious and enjoyed having the chance to see the tools and resources their students had access to.  They were impressed and looking forward to seeing how Seesaw Digital Portfolios played into the documentation of the learning of all students in the space.  They can’t wait for me to grant access to their student’s portfolios!

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We set up several stations for the parents to explore:

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Parents seemed drawn to the 3D printers; for many this was their first time seeing one in action.  It was fun describing some of our plans for them this year and explaining how they work.  They also enjoyed meeting Mr. Codell, our new tech associate who demonstrated how Bloxels worked.  Bloxels was one of the most coveted raffle prizes of the night!

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The most dazzling station was, however, the Augmented Reality Sandbox.  If you are interested in building one yourself, you can visit the University of California Davis website where Professor Oliver Kreylos has everything you might need!

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The students built a ‘house’ for the open house.   They used their absolute favorite tool, Rigamajig.  Rigamajig was the unanimous resource by both older and younger students through the first year of our IDEA Lab.  We are so excited that Rigamajig has decided to share with us two of the first sets of new tool extensions for the building sets: they are gears, cranks, chains and more.  In two weeks, our first grade students will video chat with Cas Hollman, the creator of Rigamajig, to share their ideas for ‘tweaking’ the carts that we use to store the building tool.  It’s been amazing watching some of the youngest students working through the design thinking process.

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On October 8th, we are hosting our second annual Cardboard Challenge.  I have been constructing my Halloween costume and am using it to teach the students a few ‘tricks’ of the trade when it comes to ‘joining’ cardboard together.  We love the tool Makedo because it essentially lets you ‘rivet’ two piece of cardboard together.  There are some amazingly cool tools that come with the kits: a combo saw/punch and a screwdriver that can both take rivets out as well as crank them in.

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The parents were curious how I had built it so I put the top piece of my robot samurai costume on to show them.  The chest piece fits on like a suit of armor.  I slide it on from the back and need my ‘armor paige’ to help me by fastening velcro loops on the back.  The velcro loops are conveniently hidden by my empty cheese ball containers that are painted to look like rocket packs!

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The final station I want to highlight was the collaborative string art project.  This idea came to me after a mission trip to Detroit this summer with my own children.  At a church where we stayed, there were two beautiful nail art projects that got my mind racing.  I knew I had to have our students make something like this at Hubbard Woods.  The result was a large, rectangular ‘canvas’ that had nearly 200 nails in it.  The idea is that each person will tie off on a nail and then make ten random connections to other nails.  It will take us quite a while to get every student, parent and teacher to add their connections to it, but the finished product is sure to be stunning.


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The whole point of the evening was to get parents in the space and see what’s possible.  We also hoped to encourage parents to sign up to volunteer with their student’s class.  We had tremendous parent participation last year.  Parents learned to hang back and watch their students learn and I modeled effective intervention (only as last resort and even then pose questions to kids rather than telling them ‘how’ to do it.)

I would say it was a fantastic success and it gives me tremendous hope for what is possible this year!  Thank you to all the fantastic parents who came and volunteered!

How Treating Custodians, Associates and Parents as Colleagues Can Impact Community

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have a conversation with our custodians about a project I’d like to make happen.  Sometimes I wonder if they avoid me because they know that I’m probably thinking about something that would require efforts above and beyond their daily work. Nonetheless, they greet me with big smiles and grateful hearts.  These folks are typically the first to arrive and the last to leave; often (and I’m not saying this is always the best approach) but it might be just ‘us’ at school early or late in the day.  It’s those times when I feel like I’ve learned the most from my colleagues.  I’ve taken the time to learn more about them and they’ve listened to stories about my family and my dreams for the Hubbard Woods School.  Both our ‘daytime’ and ‘nighttime’ custodians have their very own ways of interacting and communicating with the staff.  One is outgoing and incredibly gracious; the other is introverted and extremely observant, but hesitant to begin a conversation.  I can identify with both of them.

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My dad once said to me that you should treat the custodians in the school like you would the principal.  Actually, I think his reference was more along the lines of like the CEO; but he was a businessman.  A businessman who ended up at the top, but started at the very bottom.  He started sweeping up and loading packages at United Parcel Service.  By the end of his career, he was a Chief Maintenance Engineer for the ENTIRE midwest.  He was a hard worker, but he never lost touch with the folks who shined the floor and polished the brass.


I took that same approach with me into my first teaching job in a school in North Carolina.  I remember Mr. Fritz, our custodian.  He loved to chat.  He thought I was crazy, trying to find all sorts of ways to reach my students.  One of which included hanging ‘thought bubbles’ I had created with positive sentiments to encourage students to change the soundtrack in their minds.  There were many early mornings when he and I were the first in the building and we would chat over a cup of coffee.  I remember him once saying something along the lines that he enjoyed talking like ‘equals.’

That’s been a theme in my life.  I was a janitor for a wacky company in high school.  We cleaned all sorts of businesses and honestly I got into more trouble with my good friend in the packaging rooms of businesses than we did much cleaning.  The point is, I had experience at the ‘bottom.’  I never made it up the ‘ladder’ too far in that job but did eventually work for a temporary agency in college where I did everything from working in a shoe factory to a plastic bag plant.  Glamorous!  It did more to encourage me to complete my college degree than any counseling my guidance counselor offered.

At each and every one of the schools I’ve worked at, I’ve befriended the two most important people in the building: the custodian and the secretary.  Both have saved me numerous times.

Recently, I’ve added parents to this mix.  When the IDEA Lab began to take shape, I knew I needed help.  I invited parents and kids in to help paint, clean, organize and create the space.  When I was badly injured in a fire, they continued the work we’d started under the guidance and steerage of the custodial staff.  Again, they saved me!  Now, parents are a permanent fixture in the library and IDEA Lab.  They are welcome and present to help with just about all aspects of the learning and growing process.  They might be painting green walls one day and documenting learning the next.  I like to keep them on their toes!  The point is, they are there because they feel valued and part of the process.

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All of this is to say that treating all of these folks as colleagues have totally transformed the way I see school.  I’m no longer anxious about making a mistake in front of a parent.  I know it’s part of the learning process and what better way to model it than by making mistakes, lots of them.  It’s what we do with them that actually matter.


I do my very best to treat the other ‘team members’ as equals as well.  My technology and library associates know that I could do NONE of the crazy and amazing things we do without their COMPLETE patience and attention to detail.  They make it all look effortless; well, at least a bit more effortless than otherwise.  True observers know anything that ‘looks’ effortless is actually incredibly well orchestrated and practiced.

THANK YOU to all of you who have and will continue to help make learning exciting, engaging and limitless!