End the Year with a BANG! (not a fizzle)

Some blog posts come like flashes of inspiration – lightning fast. Others are slower, sometimes months in the making. When we started thinking about the end of this particular school year, we were knee-deep in Michigan snow. June was just a glimmer in our eyes. We jotted down the blog title, “Finish Out the Year with a BANG (not a fizzle) on our calendars, and thought to ourselves, “Wouldn’t it be great to share with readers some tips and tricks that we use to end the classroom year strong?” How dewy-eyed we were… How naive… How wet behind the ears… Okay, you get it. We didn’t see what was coming. Who could have?

So here we are, sixty-one days into quarantine, sixty-one days into emergency stay-at-home-learning with 4th- and 5th-graders. Have we been forced to eat our words? Has the world beaten us down enough over the last sixty-one days (who’s counting?) that we, Zach Rondot and Grayson McKinney, have to end our school year with a fizzle and not a bang? Well… that remains to be determined. Just writing this is making us feel all the emotions. The last day of school is always such an emotional and bittersweet day for all. So how can we make the end of this year not feel so anticlimactic? Well we’ve never done this before so, we don’t have all the answers but here are sixty-one ideas to end your year on a high note with your students (just kidding, we narrowed it down to our top five!)

Continue reading “End the Year with a BANG! (not a fizzle)”

The 5 Hidden Treasures I Found on the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Every year, our family makes the trip up north to Traverse City from our home in Rochester Hills. A short drive away from our home away from home is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. From there, we get to take in the amazing view of Lake Michigan from atop the dune. Last year, my wife, Briona, and our oldest son, Lochlan, traversed down the sandy face of the Pierce Stocking scenic overlook, a place from which you can see paragliders regularly jumping off the sheer drop, and made their way back up to the top again. While doing this can normally take up to 2 hours to climb, this daring duo climbed in about 45 minutes while I waited at the top with our younger son, Dempsey, and new puppy, Bucha.

This year, however, it was my turn to climb with Lochlan while my wife waited at the top with Dempsey and our 4-week-old daughter, Madigan. While I did not set any world records with my ascent time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, I feel like the experience was worth writing home about, and one where there were definitely some life lessons to be shared!

Continue reading “The 5 Hidden Treasures I Found on the Sleeping Bear Dunes”

Minecraft Education Edition: Opening Pandora’s Box

Think Big, Start Small

 is an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving where the only limit is your imagination. The number one concern that we hear from teachers through Twitter, Facebook, conferences, and face-to-face conversations is, “That’s great for you, but it won’t work in my classroom.” Whether this trepidation comes from a lack of content knowledge, classroom management skills, significantly needier populations of students, or simply feeling like there’s too much to get done to allow time for projects and other big commitments, our advice is this: Think Big, Start Small. While this may seem like nothing but a trite expression, it’s really true and a savvy bit of wisdom.

Let me give you an example of TBSS in action (catchy, right?). I have a few students…. Several students, actually… who are really into video games. If there was any wiggle room in our schedule of the day, the free minutes would inevitably devolve into a one-sided conversation about Fortnite. Wanting to harness this passion and excitement for video games, I started looking into ways I could use Microsoft’s’ MineCraftEDU in the classroom to spice up some social studies content. Continue reading “Minecraft Education Edition: Opening Pandora’s Box”

Entrepreneur Day

Let’s change that, shall we?

What is Entrepreneur Day?

Entrepreneur day is one of our favorite projects of the year because we get a front row seat to amazing creativity from young innovators… our students. From the outside, Entrepreneur Day may seem like an afternoon of 20 minutes rotations through each of the participating classrooms where students are come through to “buy” each others’ “products”… cups of slime, drawings, and bookmarks… but for the teacher who has gone through this process four years and counting, there is so much more going on below the surface that you might miss at first glance. We’re happy to introduce you to this process which has become a mainstay of our 4th-grade approach to innovation for education. Continue reading “Entrepreneur Day”

Dear Future Teachers…

I hope you realize how special it is to become a teacher. Teaching is challenging, exhausting, demanding but on top of it all, it’s worth it.

This job is more than just teaching division or the War of 1812. This job is about raising the potential of humanity. You are making the world a better place. You are important.

Continue reading “Dear Future Teachers…”

World on Wheels: The Mobile Skype Cart

Last May, I attended an #EdCamp in Detroit (@edcampDetroit) and went to a session on Skype in the Classroom led by Andy Hopkins (@thebighop). Andy shared his idea of writing a grant to build a mobile Skype Cart for his school and I was instantly hooked.

He shared the thinking behind building such a device and made available a list of the items he had gathered in order to build the cart. Fast forward a few months and I was awarded the same grant through the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (@MACUL)! We at Costello (@Costello_tweets) were finally able to build that which we now affectionately refer to as the “World on Wheels”. This blog post will share how The Mobile Skype Cart has changed teaching and learning in our school. Continue reading “World on Wheels: The Mobile Skype Cart”

5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To

5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To

One of the greatest life hacks I’ve ever learned came from Darren Hardy in his book, The Compound Effect, where he encourages readers to “Enroll in Drive-Time University.” Now this isn’t just any school… This means transforming your car into your own personalized mobile classroom by listening to inspiring and educational audio while you drive.

Have you ever thought about how many hours you spend driving? I spend about 50 minutes in my car every day just driving to and from school. Multiply this by five days a week and there’s 250 minutes a week. Prior to enrolling in Drive-Time U, I was spending those minutes unconsciously zoning out, listening to mindless garbage on the radio! The AAA Foundation did a study and found the average person spends 17,600 minutes a year driving! Imagine if you spent those minutes learning instead of daydreaming… Continue reading “5 Podcasts Every Teacher Should Listen To”

5 Life Lessons Learned from the #CardboardChallenge

One of our most passionate beliefs when it comes to teaching is that school should be more than just a place for content delivery and instruction. School should be a place that inspires creativity and innovation and prepares kids to be successful in whatever they choose to do after their schooling. One way we set out to do this with our 4th graders throughout the year is through creating epic learning experiences with Project-Based Learning.

The first week of school Grayson brought up the idea of doing the Cardboard Challenge inspired by the viral video, Caine’s Arcade. If you don’t know Caine’s amazing story of how he turned his father’s car shop into a cardboard arcade over summer vacation, watch the video below to learn his story. This video went viral and has started an entire movement in schools to foster creativity and innovation by taking place in the Cardboard Challenge. Continue reading “5 Life Lessons Learned from the #CardboardChallenge”