Welcome to the third quarter in EXCEL! What a crazy first month of school we have had. We’ve had snow, we’ve had missed days of school, and we’ve had, unfortunately, many sick kids. We have finally found our groove, though, and we have been having fun!
Our theme for the quarter is that we are learning how to be spies! I chose this unit because not only is it fun, but the students are able to work on some of the soft skills that are often weaker in much of the gifted population: cooperation, collaboration, observation, perseverance, and other important social/teamwork skills.
Different classes have participated in different activities at different times, but we all started out the same….working on our observation skills. It is the tendency of many students, but especially gifted students, to try to rush into judgment/answers/action, so this was a bit eye opening and difficult for the students. We started out with identifying the differences between two pictures.
We also played some games in the classroom where they spent one minute really looking at the room, and then closed their eyes. I would remove or move one item, and the students would have to identify what had changed. This was SO hard for them and many were frustrated, but it did press the point that it is important to really attend to the details. We also checked out the CIA website and played some games in their Kid Zone. Check it out by clicking on the link above!
We also had to develop our spy covers. This included taking our pictures for our special spy badges. If you don’t see your spy below, it means that they were not in the classroom when we took their pictures….I’ll get everyone this week! Look at those serious faces!
It also involved putting our fingerprints on file and developing a cover. Each spy’s cover included their code name, their special spy skills, their surveillance photo, last known residence, known affiliates, and career.
Then it was on to learning all about what it takes to be a spy. The students used their devices to research and present the difference between terms that are typically used interchangeably but actually have much different meanings: codes/ciphers, encode/encipher, decode/decipher, cryptology/cryptography. They also looked up brush passes and dead drops, NSA and CCS, steganography and cryptoanalysis.
Then it was time to get started deciphering and enciphering codes! We started with lego codes. Each student created a cipher where each letter had a lego color/configuration that would stand for it. Then, they created a secret message and a friend had the chance to decipher it!
After we did an easy cipher, we made it a little bit more difficult by making and using cipher wheels to encode and decode messages.
Finally, because engineering challenges are our favorite, each student had the opportunity to solve a mystery challenge, where they used their creativity and the engineering design process to solve an individual problem outlined in a challenge card.
What a great few weeks we have had. More fun is yet to come!