Learning in Action

Controversial Science Topics

May 13, 2018

written by Kevin Murray

Project Overview

Every Spring, students at Lesher and Cache la Poudre middle schools complete an interdisciplinary project in their Science and English classes. Students choose from a wide list of topics such as nuclear waste storage, animal testing, genetic modification, artificial intelligence and research the environmental, ethical, societal, economic, and cultural implications associated with the topic.


Students use audacity to record a brief podcast that presents their research. A document provided in Google Classroom guides students through the writing process. Students are encouraged to use sound effects and tell a story, much like the podcast Radiolab. Students listen to one another's podcasts as they learn about and begin to shape their opinion on controversial science topics.

Designer Babies Example

Designer Babies Podcast 2016.mp3

GM Labeling Example

GM Label Pro Con Podcast.mp3

New Google Sites

Students also use this template to create a Google site that documents their research, presents their podcast and provides students with a chance to express their evidence-based opinion. As part of their research students use Google Forms to seek their classmates opinions on their topic before and after listening to the podcast. Students use Awesome Tables to create an advanced summary of responses which adapts live as peers listen to each podcast. Check out this example of a website and podcast.

Printing with a Purpose

April 17, 2018

by Dawn Donahue

Bike Wheels Solution 2.mp4

Laurel Elementary had a problem! Moving their stationary smoothie bike from one classroom to another for birthday smoothies was a drag! Literally! Teachers had to drag the heavy bike from one classroom to the other, taking lots of time and effort. Who could solve this problem? When the fifth graders in Mr. Donahue's class heard about this they jumped to the rescue. During their Genius Hour, students used the design process to research, imagine, plan, and print the wheels to attach to the stationary bike for easy movement. They printed the wheels on their 3D printer and when they realized their first set of wheels were too small they tried again. Watch the video for the successful launch of their solution!

Student used planning, measuring and writing skills to implement their solution.

Interested in using a 3D printer for your PBL solutions? Check out these slides! Click here to check out the 3D printer website.

3D Design in the Art Classroom

early childhood and Technology

March 19, 2018

by Debbie Powers

An Early Childhood Tech Fair took place on February 23 at Fullana Learning Center. All Early Childhood employees were invited to view exhibits of technology that is available to be used with younger students. There were 10 display tables giving everyone an opportunity to get a glimpse at how to use some technology tools in their classroom or with families.

The reason for technology is to enhance learning. It does not necessarily equal screen time. Tech tools do not have to equal screens at all. It might be an activity on a SMART Board, robots, e-readers, binoculars, coding board games, a tools that can collect scientific data. Members of the Early Childhood Tech Team, Educational Technology, and Poudre River Library were on hand to demonstrate and discuss.

Even our youngest students can benefit from technology being integrated into their learning. The key is to remember to remember human interaction and learning. Technology should promote conversations between students and students and adults. We have all seen very young children handle a smart phone. Let's give them technology with a purpose.

Peer Influence to Promote Growth In our Schools:

Leading and Learning in our Classrooms

February 17, 2018

by Kevin Murray, Mike Foster, and Laura Grissom

This month groups of teachers came together to identify ways they could build on the culture in their schools. They brainstormed what they bring to the classroom, who would benefit from their influence, and helped each other form plans for bringing it back to their schools.

  • CoSpaces in pro tool account application
  • Examples of student work
  • Testimonials from students and Hicks/Freemyer

Sharing the Eco Week Experience

February 2, 2018

by Dawn Donahue

Eco Week is an eagerly awaited event for many PSD 5th graders, and the memories of that amazing week often last for many years. The students at Olander Elementary not only have those memories, but they also have a personally created video to share with others. After taking pictures at Eco Week, Olander students each created a short video in WeVideo to highlight their experience and to share their learning. Click on the image to the right to see some of the students' videos.

While creating their videos, students had a chance to reflect on their time at CSU Mountain Campus, think critically to organize their thoughts, and creatively communicate their ideas to an authentic audience. Parents were thrilled to attend the Olander Film Festival one evening in October to view the videos and relive the week with their student. Students loved hearing their parents' feedback about their films on Flipgrid the next day.

Olander teachers, Josh Moore, Adam Thibault, and Christina Steele worked hard to create this memorable and powerful experience for both students and parents. They designed a website to communicate the learning objectives, share videos, organized the film festival, and created a Flipgrid for parents to share their thoughts about the films. The efforts were well worth it! To quote Mr. Moore, “It was a hit!”

The Olander students not only transformed their experience during Eco Week into a powerful message for themselves and others; it is clear that this week transformed the students to be empowered learners and creative communicators.

The New Literacy - Coding!

December 14, 2017

by Adam & Mike

Students across all grade levels participated in the annual "Hour of Code," a worldwide effort to get kids learning to think by using computer code as the basis for critical thinking activities.

Educational Technology developed a system of support to encourage teachers who had not yet explored coding to try it out in their own classrooms. Activities were structured by grade-band and even had activities for pre-readers, who were able to move the Star Wars BB-8 droid with block programming all the way to high school students coding directly in state-of-the-art programming languages, such as Unity or utilizing arduino circuit boards, such as these RMHS Lobos in action!

At the middle schools, students were making pixel art with Java as an extension of learning coordinate geometry. The activities were high-interest and the sense of accomplishment was profound as their creations moved from paper to screen with each additional line of code. Lesher math teachers Becca Spear and Beth Bauman are proud of all they've accomplished while boosting their understanding of graphing concepts.

Learning to code is truly becoming a skill that looks to the future. Students all around Poudre School District have really gotten a good start, especially during this year's annual "Hour of Code" the week of December 4-10th. Why code? "Students need to learn to communicate the way the world communicates, through texts, emails, and beyond," says Debbie Powers, Educational Technology Facilitator and primary coding-powerhouse. "Students need to be able to show their work creatively and to be able to think critically not by only solving problems but by also finding problems." Coding starting with robots in Kindergarten is a specialty of Powers, who not only teaches coding classes but also showcases demonstration lessons in partner classes around the district.

Seesawing with the 4 C's

November 29, 2017

by Debbie Powers

Bennett kindergartners are already experts at using Seesaw independently! They are able to talk about their shape design while teachers can assess the student's knowledge of shapes and even attributes. Their global audience still may be small, but their classmates and parents are able to see their work.


Learning is not just for students in PSD. During the month of October a group of elementary teachers joined together for a professional development opportunity to delve deeper into the 4 C’s and develop lessons to address them with Seesaw. While the 4 C’s (that’s creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) have always been part of education and teaching, they are evolving along with the skills our future ready students need to know.

A broader version of the 4 C’s was discussed after reading Jeff Utecht’s blog post, The 4 C’s of Learning. Communication is no longer covered by a turn and talk. Students need to learn to communicate the way the world communicates, through texts, emails, and comments. Collaboration should happen across time and space, not just in a small group project. Students need to be able to show their work creatively and not only to their teacher but a global audience. Finally, students need to be able to think critically not by only solving problems but by also finding problems.


Another group of kinder experts made a video to show appropriate behavior during Daily 5 routines. Again they are increasing the realm of their audience while reinforcing student behavior. This video could also be shared with other classes or used to teach next year's kindergarten students classroom routines.

Look at these kindergarten students go! On Halloween they delved into pumpkins in many ways. They measured, estimated, and counted all while collaborating and sharing their learning.

Super Connected Conference

November 04, 2017

by Heather Ko

Celebrating creativity, innovation, and technology in education, The Super Connected Conference was held at Fossil Ridge High School on November 4, 2017. The annual conference is a Northern Colorado collaborative effort from leaders in PSD, Thompson, Weld Re-4, and Greeley-Evans School Districts. Keynote speaker Stanford Fellow Mark Schreiber kicked off the event with an inspiring call to consider what we are putting "in kids' backpacks" to prepare them to be successful in the future.

The conference offered a variety of sessions, including Gizmos simulations, designing virtual worlds. coding, grant writing, capstone writing, and student-teacher feedback loops. Teachers were able to compete in a Demo Slam to share their best tech ideas. They also explored Maker Spaces with a Mini Maker Faire. Teachers saw demonstrations of compassionate maker spaces, robots, digital textiles, student-made 3D printers, and more. They had an opportunity to try out the Hour of Code and consider possibilities for their own schools.

Vernier Science Probes and 5th grade Ecoweek

October 06, 2017

by Dan Shinneman

5th grade students at Dunn Elementary, as well as many other elementary schools in PSD, have been using Vernier science probes to collect weather data before and during their EcoWeek field trip. Students are able to have an authentic experience as scientists in the field by learning about the changing weather conditions while gaining knowledge about the Colorado state standard 3.3 for Earth Science. “Weather conditions change because of the uneven heating of Earth’s surface by the Sun’s energy. Weather changes are measured by differences in temperature, air pressure, wind and water in the atmosphere and type of precipitation”

Below is the Weather Data collected at Dunn Elementary before going on their EcoWeek field trip and up at Estes Park, Colorado. It was a sunny and dry day at Dunn and a very wet and cloudy day up in the mountains. Students made predictions about the data they were going to collect and had rich discussions at each station about their findings. The students were amazed to see the differences in the data they collected in the two locations.

Air Temperature

Measure the surrounding air temperature using the thermometer.

Wind Speed

Measure the wind speed using the anemometer.

Light Intensity

Measure the amount of light intensity (brightness) using the light meter.

Ultraviolet Radiation

Ultraviolet radiation is part of the light energy that reaches the earth from the sun. These waves of energy are invisible to the naked eye.

Relative Humidity

Measure the amount of moisture in the air using the relative humidity sensor.

Soil Moisture

Measure the amount of water in the soil using the soil moisture sensor.

This experience helps support the Poudre School District Ends including Success in a Changing World and Above and Beyond, PSD ensures access and encourages participation in a wide range of experiences that reflect expectations of a changing world.

  • Students demonstrate college and workforce readiness.
  • Students have opportunities for authentic experiences.

Students are able to experience what it is like to be a scientist that collects and analyzes data to make predictions and gather observations. Resources and information about using science probes at your your school are on the PSD Science Curriculum website.

Coding Readiness across content

September 13, 2017

by Michael Foster

Here Sarah Weeks (Lopez) shows off the Segway people-mover she created to show innovation after building her 60-second duck (pictured).

This past Saturday, fourteen teachers spent the day working with a Lego League guru so that they could be better expert-guides for PSD students learning to code. The day was spent concentrating on how to draw out understanding the logic behind programming Lego EV3 robots, the platform used for "First Lego League" competitions where kids go up against other teams from around the state.

Right off the bat, teachers jumped in with a 60-second "6-piece duck challenge" to experience what it can be like for students faced with a new experience. The magic happened with the discussion after the build-time: none of the ducks were identical and EVERYONE was successful! Immediately tension in the room eased and everyone settled in for an intense, hands-on experience that will impact students across nine schools represented. When asked why it was such a great grounding activity, event sponsor Laura Bustos (Putnam) remarked, "everyone was able to communicate about the duck they built. We ALL felt successful!" After each activity, the team discussed how it connected to the classroom and reflected in journals how they would apply what they learned at their own school.

Lego trainer Matthew Collier referred to teachers throughout the experience as “engineers on staff” rather than talking about “playing with the Legos” to shift the mindset and engage them towards learning how robots can be infused across the content areas.

How are kids learning?

Alison Schutt (Shepardson): To represent how our students learn, I built steps to represent building on prior knowledge, the magnifying glass and shovel to represent that learning needs both exploration and discovery. It takes physical abilities (climb up the stairs of learning) as well as emotional abilities (the learner is balancing). There is another person here to show that there is a social/peer aspect to learning and the cog to show that creativity is an aspect of learning.

Lana Fain (Fossil Ridge): my model represents the two aspects of the media center at Fossil Ridge High School. The first character represents the book-aspect of learning available. The clear block and flower on the open-book represents how learning illuminates and reveals beauty. The shovel models how it takes digging into resources to learn. The second character shows the “maker” side of our media center learning opportunities. She has the hammer to show the hard work and determination it takes to learn while having a megaphone to communicate her learning.

Matt Perroni (Johnson) and Lorrie Maggio (Eyestone) prepare their EV3 robots for the next challenge.

Alison and Lana compare designs and how it connects to the way each organizes the library media centers at their own schools. Read what they had to say to the left.

Solar Eclipse 2017

August 29, 2017

by Kevin Murray

Get data from the eclipse to analyze with students here

On August 21, 2017 most of the continental United States was treated to a total solar eclipse. DeeDee Wright and CSU Little Shop of Physics secured over 30,000 solar viewing glasses and distributed them to students. While only high schools were in session, the eclipse was viewed by many PSD Students.

Members of the EdTech and CIA departments collected data that your students can view and analyze, you can find this data on eclipse.psdschools.org.

Adam McBride's telescope at totality.

Eclipse viewing parties were held across the district. Families and students were invited to schools like Tavelli Elementary, Preston Middle & Rocky Mountain High School. Check out a 360 view of the eclipse party at Poudre HS.

Adam McBride used a drone (available for teacher reservation) to capture this video.

What can I do with my solar eclipse viewing glasses?

Send them to the ITC c/o Kevin Murray- We plan to send to schools in rural Argentina and Chile for the 2019 total eclipse.

Vernier data collected by EdTech team.

Webber science teachers enjoy eclipse viewing

Preston Middle School students ready for the eclipse!

Adam McBride 3D printed this adapter for his smart phone and attached to telescope.