Ms. Wand’s Fifth Grade: Language Arts Intergenerational Story Project

This project uses Design Thinking in Language Arts.

The goals of the project are for students to:

  • Listen to someone in your life share a story you haven’t heard before.

  • Connect with someone two generations above you.

  • Represent this story in a creative and truthful way through a project.

As part of the Understand phase, the students prepare and practice interview questions geared for the adult of their choice. They record the interview.

They learn about Multiple Intelligences and have to identify one that the adult they interviewed portrayed. Then they incorporate that intelligence into their project’s design.

Ms. Wand wrote about the project: “The idea is that they’ll be inspired by a story from the interview, then think about how they want to represent the story, while incorporating one of the intelligences. For example, if my grandpa talked a lot about how music played a big role in his childhood, I might choose the “musical intelligence” and write a song about childhood and use some of his memories as inspiration for the lyrics. If my neighbor talked about finding God as a teenager, I might create a project using “existential intelligence” that has the viewer consider questions about life and death through some medium.”

After the interviewing the adult (over Thanksgiving weekend), students are given this planning document template to complete for their project and we use this document as a first prototype. (See example.) They get feedback from their teachers from this planning document, make adjustments, then start construction on their project.

They spend four days of class time working on their project. Two days were in the eurekaLab and two days were in their Language Arts classroom, using materials from the eurekaLab.

Who do they get feedback from? Do they circle back to the adult to share what they made?

Fifth graders in Mr. Christiansen's Math class are delving into object-oriented computer programming using a javascript version of processing, called p5js. Our course page is changing everyday as we add more and more information to it. Stay tuned for their first math puzzle projects next week.


Fifth grade has spent an hour each week learning how to research and pursue their own interests and are getting ready to share all their new knowledge and ideas at Fine Arts Night. A collaboration between the library, the technology department, and the fifth grade teachers have made this genius-hour-like curriculum possible. In a study of architecture, an elevator, made out of a square dowel and inserted into the elevator shaft, became the means for connecting together the floors of this 3D printed three floor apartment building. Genius indeed!



Twenty-two Eighth Graders in Ms. Chandler-Ward & Ms. Bradley’s English classes read Frankenstein and learned about the fears of modern science advancing too quickly in the Victorian era, the theme of family and isolation, and the pitfalls of people acting like gods. The story addresses some deep seated fears of the society of that time. Students were asked to reflect on their own personal deep seated fears and come up with a robot that personifies that fear. The robot would become a character in their own story.

Over the course of 5 class periods, students learned how to:

  • install the software necessary to program an Arduino (a physical programmable circuit board)

  • write a software program to control the Hummingbird Duo (a robotics kit build around an Arduino)

  • Connect and control the electronics: various lights, motors, wheels, buttons, and distance sensors

They were then given three class periods to use materials from home or in the eurekaLab to build a mechanized representation of their fear. Their goal was to have one input, one output, and motion incorporated in their own personal “monster”. Some students also used a speaker to provide sound effects. They completed a daily reflection on their learning, progress, goals, and growth mindsets. The final class period was used to share their projects.


Uploaded by Susan Fisher on 2018-04-01.

Lion King Junior is Coming!

Costume and prop making has begun for the Middle School Musical, Lion King Junior. From elephants to impala, students are figuring out how to prototype them all. Sewing machines, laser cutting design, and lots of brainstorming is involved, as well as paint, plaster, chicken wire, and PVC.

Seventh Grade Science: Acoustic waves in instruments

The seventh graders studied the properties of waves in Science and designed laser cut acoustic instruments to show how the waves make sounds. The project description is here. These instruments involved many prototypes and revisions and students created posters of their progress, with many lessons learned at each step. The variety included ukeleles, lutes, lyres, guitars, a violin, and more.



The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is a third grade whole class reading book. The story is about a stuffed animal toy rabbit who travels the world getting lost and found by new owners and changing his identity many times. After reading the story the students have begun learning how to sew  so that they an make their own stuffed bunny, and eventually hope to write a story about his or her adventures and why their bunny looks the way it does. Sewing has involved, cutting out patterns, hand stitching, embroidery, and machine stitching. They work on it weekly and is based on this pattern.





Seventh Grade Latin students Research How the Roman people Built Aqueducts

In Latin class students learned about the Roman waterways, and came to the eurekaLab to try to create their own out of the materials we have available. Using their prior knowledge of design and laser cutting, some created their arches out of cardboard. Others chose to represent mountains out of chicken wire and felt, but everyone understood the concept of a reverse siphon and got them working. These projects were larger than in years past, I suspect because we have more room in the new classroom, and a larger laser cutter that can produce bigger pieces.



Second Grade Rain Forest Assembly

The second grade does an annual rain forest project where each student selects an animal to research. This year they used the eurekaLab to make their own costumes for the assembly. The attention to detail was incredible. Not only did the deadly spider have the right number of legs, but the sloth character took the time to cut green fabric into shreds to glue it in small clumps onto her brown fur so that it would look just like the algae that grows on their backs.


The fourth grade create giant masks that represent their favorite book characters. They use them in a whole school assembly where they host a quiz show for the school to guess who is their book character. This year a surprise mask was also made of our retiring headmaster, Mr. Hinds. At the assembly, Ms. Canella, our librarian, got the idea to have the students create scenes where their book character meets Mr. Hinds. We used Scratch to do it. Here, Gangsta Granny meets Mr. Hinds in the exhibit of the crown jewels in London.



The 7th Graders read Macbeth and created a garment for a character in the play. The garment had to reflect their character's personality in texture, style, color, and fit. Students measured models, created paper patterns using those measurements, and learned to use a sewing machine to complete this project. They also wrote an argument to substantiate their design decisions based on the text. English teacher, Ryan Tahmaseb, wrote a piece in Education World about this project based learning unit.

sixth graders learn design thinking through their science projects

Our Design Thinking process for students, with empathy at the heart.

Our Design Thinking process for students, with empathy at the heart.

Sixth Grade Life Science Classes start the year with a design thinking project to create something that will help teach the Junior Kindergarteners about the animals on our campus.

It begins with an in depth study of the animals, while at the same time getting to know their Junior Kindergarten buddies through assemblies and special gatherings called "buddy time". In October the project progresses to working in partners to definine needs, and imagining fun educational toys for our youngest people. Shortly thereafter classes move into the eurekaLab for a month or more of prototyping and trying these ideas with the younger students. The Junior Kindergarten classroom happens to be right next door to the eurekaLab while we're in our temporary home during the year of construction. This proximity provides an easy way to try out lots of prototypes.

The pond on Meadowbrook's campus - November 1, 2016

The pond on Meadowbrook's campus - November 1, 2016

  We've refined many parts of the Design Thinking process this year for our students. In the EurekaLab we created some mini-lessons for the students and interspersed them into the schedule as needed:

  • orientation to where things are in the lab & storage of projects
  • rules for using hot glue guns
  • introduction to all the various cutting tools available and how to use them safely
  • makedo for quick cardboard connections
  • website - our new favorite tool for designing files to lasercut and vinyl cut and how to send a job to the queue for the lasercutter

Also, every sixth grade student recently got the opportunity to make an account on the NVBOTS, our 3D printer with a web interface for queueing print jobs.

With these basic tools under their belt, the students learned that getting feedback quickly is an important facet of prototyping. Their first prototypes took only a day or two and were often paper and pencil based; just something to quickly communicate their ideas. They first met with teachers who teach Junior K to get their input on the early prototypes. With that feedback they revised their ideas and started building something to test a critical design question. Each prototype tests another facet of their project.

To help the students stay on track, be in collaboration with their partner, and keep the scope manageable, Science teacher Rachel Shuler, came up with a 1/2 page start-of-class planning sheet. It asks three questions each day:

  1. For your current prototype, what is your critical design question? (CDQ)
  2. What is your user's accurate takeaway? (Which means...what are you trying to teach the Junior Kindergartener about your animal with your prototype?)
  3. What is the first thing you will do today in the lab?

At the bottom of the page, there's a fourth question that they answer when they stop work at the end of the period: What is the first thing you will do tomorrow in the lab? This question has helped them stop what they're working on when time runs out. By asking that question at that moment, they are better managing the overwhelming need to rush and finish something after clean up time has begun. On the back of the daily 1/2 page is a formative reflection rubric that asks them to grade themselves at the end of the period. How did they do that day with engagement, collaboration, safety, and clean up? It's been a fabulous tool for keeping the projects manageable, having a chance to take the temperature of class each day, and making sure everyone on the teaching team understands the students progress and challenges.

Below are a collection of photos sampling what the sixth grade has been prototyping and trying so far this year with the Junior K. Many are teaching about birds but some are doing insects and mammals, too.

junior solar sprint car elective

During weekly electives class a group of 5th-8th graders designed and built their own solar powered cars as part of the Junior Solar Sprint Competition. Through teaching, iteration, and prototypes, students learned how to angle a solar panel for optimal power, what gear ratio to use, and how weight affects performance. The elective culminated in a local competition at a nearby high school track.


senior kindergarten dreams big about playgrounds

This was a design thinking project that brought tools from the eurekaLab to the classroom. The Senior Kindergarteners designed a dream playground based on someone else's dreams! The project began with groups of students brainstorming all different things a playground could have: from tunnels, digging areas, ziplines, water, and trampolines, to quiet spaces to be with friends, places to eat, drink, read, resting spots, and more! Each student recorded his/her dream ideas onto an iPad while simultaneously drawing their ideas. Then they shared their ideas with their partner, who could play back the resulting movie. Finally the playground prototypes were built by the partners, and the results shared to the group. 


junior kindergarten dreams up some cars

It begins with reading the picture book If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. And after hearing about Jack's dream car that is inspired by zeppelins and trains, and contains a pool and a snack bar, the JK students are off and running. They brainstorm ideas of their own dream cars in a prototype drawing book, then pick one prototype to build out of cardboard boxes, recycled materials, and paint. They pick out what types of wheels they want and those are cut on the laser cutter and attached with dowels. After the car is completed, it becomes a tool in a painting project in art class, and the students write a story about their own dream car. The grand finale is the "car show" where all the cars, art, experiences, and stories are out on display for families to see. 

artbot in third grade art class

Combining an electronics lesson with art class, the students in third grade each constructed an ARTBOT: an autonomous motorized cup that moves and draws as it goes around the floor. They were running around in the lobby for arts night.

design thinking picture books for young readers

In 6th grade English, the students interviewed Kindergarten faculty, parents, and students to find out what makes a great picture book. Then they set about writing and illustrating. After numerous prototypes (revisions and editing of the drafts) they produced their own books, learning how to make pamphlets, sew bindings and tape hard covers. The resulting books were shared with the Kindergarteners, who had their own books to share with the sixth graders! Visit the Meadowbrook School Library where you can find our young authors' titles on the shelves.

Electronics that help others: 7th grade design thinking

In 7th grade science during the electronics unit the students learn about circuits, LEDs, Ohms law, resistors, and switches. They also interviewed faculty to find out what problems they had in their daily work. From those interviews they brainstormed possible electronics projects to assist the faculty. The results? A wide variety of gadget prototypes, some experimenting with littlebits, a lot of soldering, electrical tape, wire stripping, and batteries, and some design-thinking experience under our belts.



The Eighth grade science classes learn about weather and create museum-like exhibits, inspired by a trip to the Boston Museum of Science. At the museum they take notes on what types of exhibits are most-engaging and educational. The design thinking process is used to explore about how best to teach these newly acquired weather concepts to their 7th grade peers. The project took them through the entire process and they completed numerous prototypes.  The project culminated with a pop-up science fair in the MacDowell Center where they showed their users and the community what they'd learned through the month-long process.



Does that beak fit?

Does that beak fit?

These photos are from a prototype sharing activity, where the science students are looking for feedback from their users.

The sixth-grade students have Junior-Kindergarten as their class buddies. In Life Science class the sixth-grade learns about the animals that inhabit our campus. In this design thinking project the sixth-graders are taking their knowledge about local birds and are learning how best to teach the 4 year olds about birds; they hope to do it through games, and age-appropriate toys. 

How about a playhouse that looks like a tree nest, complete with wings to try on.

How about a playhouse that looks like a tree nest, complete with wings to try on.

Hands for Hope

Student led group using 3D printing and empathy to create prosthetics for those with hand differences.

Meadowbrook Students have volunteered to help create and design prosthetic hands for children in need through the eNabling the Future foundation. The group focuses on creating prosthetic hands at no cost to our families. Each hand is made with care, close attention, and thought towards the children.

Geodesic Domes

Students created scale domes, then took the building fun outside, creating a 16 wide dome to serve as a greenhouse.

Students learned about geodesic domes, Buckminster Fuller and how we are all astronauts on this "spaceship earth". By building small scale domes out of straws and pipecleaners, they were ready to tackle a larger design problem - building a 8 ft tall by 16 ft wide dome to serve as a greenhouse in the garden.


Student-made experiments flown to the edge of space and returned, all inside a ping pong ball.

Meadowbrook students joined the PongSat space program by designing small experiments housed in a ping pong ball, which made the journey to the edge of space. Lower and middle school students created experiments designed to observe the effects of the near vacuum, extreme low temperatures and other conditions at 100,000 feet.

Bamboo People

3D design and printing meet the Burmese conflict as students design scenes from the novel.

After reading the book Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins, fifth grade students were placed in groups. After choosing a scene to recreate, each student took on the task of designing a three-dimensional object from their scene.

Students explored Autodesk's 123D Design software on their laptops and snapped together basic geometric shapes. Once their models were complete, they were printed using the school's two MakerBot Replicator 3D printers.

This exercise gave students the opportunity to analyze the physical details of a scene more deeply so they could make accurate replicas of the scenery. Additionally, students grappled with building in three dimensions and studying objects from various perspectives. The final products will be showcased in the classroom as a 21st century diorama.


Lord of the Flies

Themes and conflicts come to life as students create structures to convey this classic novel.

Inspired by the concept of Writers as Architects, the 8th grade English class tackled the challenge of building structures that communicate the concepts and themes of a work of fiction.

Drawing from William Golding's Lord of the Flies, students used both low-tech and high-tech tools to communicate some of the novel's themes, including the loss of innocence and the conflict between order and chaos. Each structure was accompanied by a writing piece which described the ways in which the student used architectural elements to convey the essence of Golding's timeless work.

NETS of a Prism

Volume and surface area become real as students design 3D-printable folding models.

While studying volume, math teacher Dotty Corbiere challenged her fifth grade students to use the 3D printer to create a net for a rectangular prism with a volume of 96 cubic units.

In teams of two students started by sketching their prism on paper. They peer-edited their work to ensure that the dimensions would produce an object with the assigned volume. Finally, the team designed their net on the computer using an online tool called Tinkercad. The creations were 3D printed and students used these physical manipulatives as models when creating nets for other shapes, such as triangular prisms. 

According to Dotty Corbiere, this project was instrumental to the learning process, as "the technology allowed students to quickly view and manipulate objects from every angle. The process stretched the fifth graders. They had to work through many steps to create a successful final product and engage in very careful measurement. The students have a much better understanding of nets and three-dimensional models because of this indepth work."

Make Elective

Students find, plan and create a project of their choosing in this middle school elective class.

Make! That's the challenge posed to students in the middle school Make elective. Meeting once a week for an hour, students select a project idea from a wide amount of sources. In this first year, students are building a computer from parts, designing laser cut balsa-wood airplanes, building a MP3 player jukebox, and assembling a kinetic chain reaction known as "stick bombs." 

The Saturday Thing

Making, tinkering and the pursuit of curiosity are all on display as part of The Saturday Thing, inspired by the MIT Edgerton Center.

Inspired by MIT Edgerton Center's "The Saturday Thing," the eurekaLab opens its doors to anyone looking to tinker, make and create. Initiated by Ed Moriarty, The Saturday Thing is known for "unstructured play in a constructive environment." 

In past Saturday Things, people young and not-so-young have learned to solder, designed and printed with 3D printers, experimented with high-speed photography, created laser-cut gifts for others. These project-based activities generate excitement and experience in the design thinking model we use when solving problems.

We'd love for you to join us for our next Saturday Thing - check our blog for upcoming dates!

Pay it Forward Project

Students tackle deep issues affecting our society by making a tangible difference.

The Pay it Forward project is an initiative of the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) curriculum in the middle school. In this challenge, students select an area of concern that affects society, and seek to make a tangible difference while recognizing the subtle ways that their daily lives can contribute to the issue. 

One team formed around the topic of pollution, and used the lab as a brainstorming location. While the project is still currently underway, the team is currently focusing on how to reduce the amount of natural resources the school consumes.

Bridge Builders

With an hour, 50 toothpicks, and 30 gum drops, student teams must build the strongest bridge.

In this one hour challenge, students worked in their buddy groups as middle and lower school students partnered together to create the strongest bridge out of a very limited supply of gum drops and toothpicks.

After first reviewing the common types of bridges, students worked through elements of the design thinking process to brainstorm, plan, prototype and test again and again until their bridge was tested under the weight of hundreds of pennies.

Students learned first hand the engineering concepts behind bridges, but also learned how to work in a group of varying ages to create a successful solution.


Middle school science classes attack a design thinking challenge over the course of a school year.

What happens when middle school science classes reorient the focus for an entire year on a design thinking challenge? Middle School Science Chair Rachel Shuler challenged her classes to map the trees and abiotic resources on campus. Students created prototypes, collected and analyzed large amounts of data, and showcased topographic maps of the campus at the annual science fair.


Over 100 students and faculty are 3D scanned and printed as they learn about the history of innovation at Coney Island.

The Great Fredini's Scan-a-Rama 3000 made a visit to Meadowbrook in the spring of 2014. To a packed student audience, Meadowbrook Alum Fred Kahl presented his 3D scanning project at New York's Coney Island. Following in the long history of technological innovation at Coney Island, Fredini's project seeks to capture memories in 3D. Students learned of the unique American art form that Coney Island protects, while getting the chance to pose for Fredini's scanning machine. After a long day of scanning, over 100 figurines were left to be printed. One of Meadowbrook's middle school students helped in the 3D printing load, printing figurines on his home 3D printer. The enthusiasm towards innovation was clear; students saw first-hand how a Meadowbrook education can prepare students for careers not yet imagined.

making and mesopotamia

Students bring the past to life as they create languages, ziggurats and vessels from Mesopotamia in Geography.

As part of their Middle East unit on Ancient Mesopotamia, 6th Graders in Social Studies class created and built authentic/working Sumerian tools. The Sumerians, who lived in Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Southern Iraq) more than 6,000 years ago, were master innovators who created countless inventions as well as forms of writing and mathematic achievements to help their civilization thrive. To better understand these achievements, students were tasked with making functional tools, structures, and language, including Ziggurats, Cuneiform clay tablets, plows with wheels, and boats with sails.