Exploring Frank Lloyd Wright in the YSI Makerspace

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you…it is necessary to learn from trees, flowers, shells—objects which contain truths of form following function.”

~ Frank Lloyd Wright


“Ms. Alicia, can we tell our parents about what we learned this week?” asks Matteo – a young kindergarten student – as he sketches his skyscraper inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

“What a great idea, Matteo! I’m going to ask kids to tell me about what they’re learned in the young Steam Inventors Makerspace this week.”

“Awesome! Ms. Alicia,” says Matteo.

Last week, all the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students learned learned about Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect. Here is what these Young STEAM Inventors wanted you to know:

1. “When he was a kid, he used blocks to build with.”


2. “He liked to draw circles, rectangles, cubes, hexagons and other shapes. He liked bright colors too.”


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3. “He liked to take walks in the forest and look at trees and what animals were doing. Some of them were making more babies and some of them were getting food for the winter.”


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4. “He said a skyscraper was like a tree that escaped from the forest.”


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5. “He was inspired by nature. He looked at a yellow butterfly in the forest and came up with the idea to make a butterfly stained glass window.”


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6. “He designed more than buildings and houses. He designed rugs, chairs and dishes you could eat out of.”


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7. “He had his own ideas like Zaha Hadid did ,who was an architect, too. He wanted to be different.”


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8. “He became famous and rich. It costs millions and zillions to buy one of his houses.”


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9. “The Price Tower, which he designed after he saw tall trees in the forest, is the only skyscraper that he ever designed in his whole life.”


East Boston EEC Architects Learn About Zaha Hadid


This year, our Young STEAM Inventors are getting the chance to study two influential individuals in the exciting world of architecture. There are multiple curricular tie-ins with this project to our Foss Units, included geography, environmental studies-STEM, language arts, and art to support the development culturally responsive curriculum interwoven into Paper and Wood (PreK and Kindergarten) and Grade 1 Solids and Liquids Foss Units. The Engineering Trajectories for Preschool-Grade 2 Standards were used to guide my curriculum. We first read books about Arabic culture architecture – such as The Storyteller about Morocco – for background information. As a quick aside, this is a great book that has been leveled for Grades 1-4. The School Library Journal published the following review on this book:

Folktales involving water abound in all cultures, but this tale is unusual in using water as a metaphor for story: just as we need water to nourish our physical selves, we need stories to feed our spirits. In Turk’s fable, a lone storyteller remains in a Moroccan city where the water sources have all dried up. When a young boy seeks water, the water-seller has only a bowl to give him, but the storyteller tells him a tale that miraculously fills the bowl. In a series of nested stories, the boy’s thirst is quenched, and by retelling the stories Scheherazade-style to a sandstorm in the form of a djinn, he is able to save the city and also replenish its water supply. The author successfully melds two equally important concerns of our time—the need to keep storytelling alive and the need to protect and conserve our drinking water.

~ Susan Stan, Professor Emerita of English, Central Michigan University

Stan, S. “The Storyteller by Evan Turk | SLJ Review.” School Library Journal, 31 May 2016. http://www.slj.com/?detailStory=the-storyteller-by-evan-turk-slj-review.

I also invite you to read the following excerpt from The Storyteller, titled “The History of Storytelling in Morocco”:

Morocco’s public storytellers, or blaykia, havebeen learning, preserving, and sharing stories for nearly one thousand years. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation and have become a part of the cultural fabric. The power of these storytellers lies in their audience, or Hlaykia , meaning “circle”, “ring”, or “link”. With the Hlaykia in the center, the audience forms an expanding circle and is linked with the generations who came before them through the stories. Recently, there has been a resurgence in storytelling in Morocco. It is up to all of us to preserve our many cultures stories to pass on to the next generation of storytellers.


We then read The World is Not a Rectangle about Zaha Hadid, a female architect from Iraq who was a pioneer and who won international awards for her work. Please enjoy the following quotes from Zaha Hadid and photos of our East Boston EEC Architects in action.


“The world is not a rectangle. You don’t go to a park and say, ‘My God, we don’t have any corners’!”

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“I can’t sop thinking of ideas.”

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“I still believe in the impossible.”

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“You should do what you like.”

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From Ellie, an East Boston EEC architect:  “I designed and built a building that looks like glasses you wear. I was inspired by Zaha and her ideas. This is my idea. I thought about building like little bridges first and then I thought of putting squares for the glasses and then Little Rock’s for eyeballs. Then Kampala blocks like a bridge and rope to hang down.”

From Zaha Hadid:  “Never give up.”


The Importance of Reading Interesting Books and Young Readers


On Sunday morning, I read a powerful article by one of my heroes, Dr. Jane Goodall. I was very fortunate to visit her center in Kenya, East Africa several years ago as a Fulbright Scholar. I was able to meet the scientist and researchers who work with her and witness their dedication to animals and our environment.

In this article, she speaks directly to children and the importance of reading books. Please read this with your child/children and borrow books about her work from the neighborhood East Boston Library, or purchase from an online bookstore. These titles include The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps; The Chimpanzee Lady, Jane Goodall; and Jane Goodall: Champion For Chimpanzees.



Dear Children,

I want to share something with you — and that is how much I loved books when I was your age. Of course, back then there was no Internet, no television — we learned everything from printed books. We didn’t have much money when I was a child and I couldn’t afford new books, so most of what I read came from our library. But I also used to spend hours in a very small second hand book shop. The owner was an old man who never had time to arrange his books properly. They were piled everywhere and I would sit there, surrounded by all that information about everything imaginable. I would save up any money I got for my birthday or doing odd jobs so that I could buy one of those books. Of course, you can look up everything on the Internet now. But there is something very special about a book — the feel of it in your hands and the way it looks on the table by your bed, or nestled in with others in the bookcase.

I loved to read in bed, and after I had to put the lights out I would read under the bedclothes with a torch, always hoping my mother would not come in and find out! I used to read curled up in front of the fire on a cold winter evening. And in the summer I would take my special books up my favorite tree in the garden. My Beech Tree. Up there I read stories of faraway places and I imagined I was there. I especially loved reading about Doctor Doolittle and how he learned to talk to animals. And I read about Tarzan of the Apes. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

I was ten years old when I decided I would go to Africa when I grew up to live with animals and write books about them. And that is what I did, eventually. I lived with chimpanzees in Africa and I am still writing books about them and other animals. In fact, I love writing books as much as reading them — I hope you will enjoy reading some of the ones that I have written for you.

~ Jane Goodall



I’ve provided links to three additional children’s books entitled I Am Jane Goodall, A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader and Me…Jane. If you are personally interested in reading more about Jane Goodall, I have also included below some readings from Dr. Goodall herself.



Happy reading!

~ Alicia C.

Onward Young STEAM Inventors – Welcome Back to School!


  “Science talk leads to understanding and helps young children process what they are learning. Yet talk, like reading and writing, is a major motor- I could even say the major motor-of intellectual development.”

 ~ Calkins (2000), p. 226

For our first week of the Spring 2019 semester, we continued to learn about engineering and the engineering design process. We did this by stepping into the shoes of an engineer and discussing their job, the steps that engineers use to solve problems (the design process, and how they record their thinking. I encourage you to read the following articles for the kinds of research I base my practices in:

1) “Putting the ‘E’ in STEM for the Littlest Learners”

2) “A Look at Science and Engineering Indicators in the U.S.”

Lelani (preschool student pictured below) said to me, “Hey, Ms. Alicia, I’ve always been an engineer, but I just didn’t know it. I’m an artist, too. I’m going to change the world.”  You can see her working with her classmate problem-solving an engineering challenge  based on the children’s book, Ricky the Rock That Couldn’t Roll.


Students across the grades used their problem-solving skills through the engineering process to figure out how to turn a flat rock into a round circle or sphere that would roll down a hill that they would construct. This week, we will continue to use the story, Ricky, the Rock that Couldn’t Roll, to explore with clay. Students will write story frames in their science journals using speech bubbles to explain their scientific thinking.

Check out photos from the first two days back!

Engineering Challenges Based on the Children’s Book, Ricky the Rock That Couldn’t Roll

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Preschool Engineers Problem-Solving with Maze Bots; Creating and Constructing Mazes Using the Engineering Design Process

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Girl Engineers Constructing and Problem-Solving on How to Get Their Robot Through the Maze Without Having to “Touch” It

Here are the other explorations we will be making this week:

Kindergarten and Pre-K Young STEAM Inventors

We will dive into our next Foss Science unit  on “Wood and Paper”. Young STEAM Inventors will be introduced to a variety of woods and papers in a systematic way. They will observe the properties of these materials and discover what happens when they are subjected to a number of tests and interactions with other materials. Young STEAM Inventors will learn that wood and paper can be recycled to create new forms of paper or wood that have new properties. Finally, they use what they knew about properties of these marvelous materials as they change wood and paper into a variety of products.

Pre-K students will also explore a STEAM curriculum unit developed by The Mass Audubon Society named “Tree-mendous Trees”. They will investigate the following questions:
  •  What are the parts of a tree? •  How are trees classified? •  How does a tree grow? •  How does a tree make pine cones or acorns? •  Why do leaves change color in the fall? •  Who lives in trees? •  How do trees help us?

Students will also continue to explore through open centers that are based on their interests.

Grade 1 Young STEAM Inventors

Our first graders will launch into a Smithsonian Science Unit entitled “Liquids and Solids”. Students will expand their awareness of the properties of solids and liquids in the YSI Makerspace and within the schoolyard. They will discover that some properties of solids, such as size, color, and shape, are readily identifiable. We will observe properties unique to liquids hat include viscosity and drop shape. As their work continues, students will discover that other properties of solids and liquids – such as magnetic attraction and ability to sink or float – must be determined on the basis of scientific tests that often involve the use of science tools.

Our investigations will introduce two key concepts of physical science:  1) Solids and liquids represent two states of matter, and 2) Each state of matter has properties that they will recognize. YSI will compare and contrast solids and liquids, sort solids into groups on the basis of properties, conduct experiments and communicate their ideas in writing, drawing, and scientific discussion.


~ Alicia C.


Photo Gallery of the YSI Classroom in December 2018

Happy New Year to the families, friends, and supporters of the Young STEAM Inventors classroom! Even though the Spring 2019 semester has already begun for Boston Public Schools, I wanted to be sure to leave you with photos of the highlights for the final weeks of Fall 2018.

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Parent University STEM Conference This Saturday!



Boston Public Schools has announced its first Parent University STEM Conference for parents and students, to be held THIS Saturday, December 8th. This event will happen from 8:30 AM until 1:00 PM at Northeastern University Curry Student Center (360 Huntington Ave. in Boston).


During the learning conference, there will be a hands-on STEM Café and workshops for parents and students from grades K-12. Topics include Learning and Loving Engineering with Robots; Anatomy, Surgery & X-rays, and what it’s all about; and Family STEAM for Young Learners. Free parking and lunch will be provided for Boston families.

To register and find out more information (including the workshop schedule), visit bostonpublicschools.org/parentuniversity. If you are seeking interpretation services in Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Spanish and Vietnamese, request it when you register. Please call BPS at 617-635-7750 if you need any additional assistance with registration.