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12 Projects for your STEAM program

Office MixSTEAM–Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math–is education’s new STEM. By adding the creativity and problem-solving skills that are part and parcel to Anything Art, students have permission to use colors, images, and outside-the-lines thinking to address Big Ideas and Essential Questions.

I’ve written before on ways to use STEM every day in classwork. Here are twelve of my favorite STEAM projects where artistic thinking becomes the engine for unpacking solutions. I think you’ll like them.

Classroom Architect

1st-2nd grade; free

Use Classroom Architect as the canvas to redesign the classroom layout by dragging-and-dropping chairs, shelves, tables, computers, and more within a virtual classroom. A text tool allows students to label parts, add their name, and append notes that explain what they created. When done, students can take a screenshot and save/share/print.

With this project, students learn spatial layout, rudimentary engineering, and the importance of a proper room arrangement in their learning and class experiences.


Categories: Art, Math, Science | Tags: , | 2 Comments

3 Fresh Art and Music Apps for the Classroom

Fifty years ago, Albert Einstein warned ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ The ability to solve problems by thinking creatively is more important than knowing how they were solved in the past. Now, in today’s connected classroom, creativity has become the newest transformative tool, the buzzword that indicates a curriculum is on the cutting edge, that teachers are delivering their best to students and differentiating for varied needs.

Art and music have long been considered the doorway to creative thinking. Here are three suggestions that will help you across that threshhold painlessly, even if you aren’t an artist.


I teach technology, so I asked Lawrence Auble, a musician friend I’ve known for years, what he uses for tutoring. His recommendation: Smart Music. It’s one of the 2014 category award winners by School and Band Orchestra magazine and the industry standard for teaching band, string, and vocal of all ages and all skill levels. The app gives subscribers unlimited access to SmartMusic’s extensive library of over 50 method books, nearly 50,000 skill building exercises, and 22,000+ solo and ensemble titles by major publishers.

Here’s how it works:

  • Students sign into class and receive materials tailored to their needs by their teacher.
  • As the music appears on the screen, students play or sing along with the background accompaniment.
  • SmartMusic provides an immediate assessment.
  • When satisfied, students send a recording to their teacher who can assess, score, and build a portfolio to track their progress over time.

It is available on PCs and Macs as well as iPads.


Categories: Art, Music, Reviews | Tags: , | 2 Comments

A Holiday Card in Publisher

Greeting cards are easy enough for second graders–even early readers. Using MS Publisher, pick a template, add a picture to personalize, add their name–and they’re done. It takes about 15 minutes. Kids always feel great about creating these greeting cards: (more…)

Categories: 2nd, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, Art, Computer skills, Freebies/Discounts, Holidays, Lesson plans, Parents, Publisher/ DTP | Tags: | 1 Comment

Keyboarding with ASCII Art

I’ve written about ASCII Art (click for ASCII Art directions) and use it as an integral part of my keyboarding curriculum. It’s a fun way for students to use keyboarding in a creative, unique way. The way I teach it, it doesn’t take long to complete, say thirty minutes for a complete drawing like these:


[gallery columns="4" ids="45862,45860,45859,45861"]


Girlfriend Curious to the Max Judy posting this article on Extreme ASCII. Paul Smith creates drawings that look like this:

[gallery columns="2" ids="45857,45858"]

Here’s the story:

What a great story for my students–and me!


Categories: Art, Keyboarding | Tags: | 6 Comments

A Holiday Card in Publisher

Greeting cards are easy enough for second graders–even early readers. Using MS Publisher, pick a template, add a picture to personalize, add their name–and they’re done. It takes about 15 minutes. Kids always feel great about creating these greeting cards: (more…)

Categories: 2nd, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, Art, Computer skills, Freebies/Discounts, Holidays, Lesson plans, Parents, Publisher/ DTP | Tags: | Leave a comment

38 Art Websites for K-8

children-picture-184575_640If your children are eager to be creative this summer, but addicted to computers, try these wonderful art-oriented websites. For your youngers, start any visit to the internet with a conversation about safety, privacy, and good digital citizenship. Soon, they’ll know the rules and you won’t have to keep chatting about it:

Lots of art websites for K-8

  1. Art Online
  2. ASCII art picture generator–instant
  3. ASCII Art Text Generator
  4. BigHuge Labs
  5. Image edit exposure tool
  6. Image Edited? Check here
  7. PhotoCube



Categories: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, Art, Kindergarten, Websites | Leave a comment

Do You Miss Kerpoof? Try These 31 Alternatives

writing--with KPKerpoof closed down April 15, 2014. A staple in thousands of classrooms across the country, it is sorely missed by not just students, but teachers who relied upon it to guide students through writing, spelling, and a mixture and text and pictures to communicate ideas.

It’s pretty much a given that no one site could replace all the experiences Kerpoof provided, educators can cobble together a collection to satisfy the hole left by Kerpoof’s demise. Here are some ideas:

Mix Art and Text

  1. KidPix (fee-based)
  2. Paint (available through Windows)
  3. Tuxpaint (free software download)


  3. Graffiti Creator
  4. Mutapic
  5. Sketchpad
  6. SumoPaint
  7. Tessellate



Categories: Art, Writing | 13 Comments

Book Review: Photoshop Elements 12

Photoshop Elements 12: The Missing ManualPhotoshop Elements 12: The Missing Manual

by Barbara Brundage

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I love Photoshop CS, but my school will no longer support the cost of a license. At first, I refused to teach image editing, feeling like any program I used would be inferior to what I should be teaching. I continued with the decade-old CS (not the up-to-date CS 5). No problem with that. Students loved it, found it easy, extended learning to home–and that’s when the problem arose. They–of course–had to buy the upgrade and wondered why I was using such an old program.


Categories: 8th grade, Art, Images, Photoshop, Reviews | Tags: | 3 Comments

5 FREE Web Tools for a New School Year

When you were a child, your parents worried that the educational content you were learning might be out of date. Did history include the most relevant theories? Did science have the latest discoveries (and was Pluto still a planet)? When you became a teacher, you probably thought one of your big responsibilities was to stay current in your subject. You’re right–but today, ‘current’ is as much about content as how the message is delivered.

And delivery more and more often is powered by technology.

But when you read about tech tools used in cutting edge schools, your stomach churns. Is there enough PD time in your life to teach you all the tech you need to know? What if you can’t learn it?

Truth, you don’t have to know all 2878 (and counting) tech tools being used around the country. You just need to know five. Learn them. Use them with students. Expect them to use them. When those are solid, pick five more.

Ready? Here are your first five:


Categories: Art, Teacher resources, Web Tools, Websites, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Dear Otto: Use Tech to Differentiate Lessons?

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Ali:

I would love some information on differentiating tech lab lessons. I struggle with that the most in my lab.

I love tech for differentiating. There are so many software programs and online tools that speak to a student’s individual interests–Word (for writing-intensive), Publisher (for multimedia), PowerPoint (for multimedia), Voki (for video/audio), Big Huge Labs (for lots of choices). For 5th grade and up, I have a unit I co-teach with the grade-level teacher. I introduce students to about 18 online tools, then they pick one for a class project (whatever inquiry is going on in the classroom at the time). Here’s a link to my collection. You will want to those that suit your group. Favorites are Voki, Poll Daddy, Animoto, Photostory, a mind mapper. In all the years I’ve taught this unit, I am constantly amazed at student choices. those I would have predicted loved writing pick video tools, and vice versa.

Here are some more ideas for differentiating instruction in your classroom:


Categories: Art, Classroom management, Dear Otto, Education reform, Lesson plans | Tags: | Leave a comment