FABClassroom: Tiny House Revolution at Stem Launch K-8

The sixth graders at Stem Launch K-8 in Thornton, Colorado started a revolution - a Tiny House Revolution. Every year, students engage in a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) model and are motivated by inquiry-based, hands-on learning.

Best Model-Group 22 Ms. York

Best Model-Group 22 Ms. York

Katherine Klaver, STEM coordinator at the school explained that the students, "are immersed in authentic problem solving and they present their learning to expert panels made up of community experts multiple times throughout the year. " 

This year, about 170 sixth graders used Fab@School Maker Studio to tackle the Tiny House Challenge. We asked Katherine to share a bit more about the program and how the school is applying the digital design and fabrication software into their curriculum. 

Can you share a bit about the Tiny House Revolution and the Sixth Grade Math PBL Panel?

Our sixth graders’ math PBL was called, "Living Small: The Tiny House Revolution." Check out the link to the site, here. Students were asked to consider the following

Context: The cost of housing is skyrocketing. This is causing people to lose their homes or not able to afford them in the first place. There is currently an affordable housing shortage in the Denver Metro area and alternative solutions are necessary.

Problem: How do you create housing that is both affordable and sustainable for a family of four using the specific parameters of the tiny house model (250-1,000 square feet)?

Task: Students will design a tiny home that is cost effective, energy efficient, and can fit a family of 4.

This PBL was rooted in math. Here are some of the standards that were taught:

  • Geometry plays a role in our everyday life.
  • Mathematical models can be used to solve real-life problems.
  • Students are able to reason about relationships among shapes to determine area, surface area, and volume.

At the end of March, we brought 170 sixth graders to the Denver Home Show. Deek Diedricksen from HGTV's Tiny House Builders talked to us and we got to tour about 12 tiny houses.

The kids researched the current housing situation in the Denver Metro area and the need for more affordable options. They utilized their math skills to create tiny house designs that they then created in Fab@School and used the fabricator. Students also build physical models.

Can you share an “aha moment” working with your students Fab@School?

I think the best way for me to answer this question is with some direct quotes from sixth grade students! 

"FabMaker Studio is easy to use and understand. It's one of the best websites I've used for 3D printing! I love how if I needed a shape I could just grab it and move it. TinkerCad is too sensitive for me." ~Logan S. 

"It's easy to see and to run this program. I love how you could see what it would look like before you folded it."  ~Dejanae W. 

"This program helped us figure out the measurements and we determined how to scale it down by a third. We really liked the visual that the program gave us." ~Eric D. 

"I love the magnet tool. It really helped us construct our physical model." ~Jeff D. 

Is your classroom a FabClassroom? We would love to feature your school in an blog post! To be featured in an upcoming post, send an email to info@fablevisionlearning.com. You can also tweet your photos with the hashtag #FabMakerStudio! For more posts featuring Fab@School Maker Studio, click here.

FableFive with Matthew Beyranevand, K-12 Mathematics & Science Department Coordinator at Chelmsford Public Schools, MA

Dr. Matthew Beyranevand is the K-12 Mathematics and Science Department Coordinator for the Chelmsford Public Schools in Massachusetts

Matthew is an ambassador for the Global Math Project, supporter for the With Math I Can campaign, and a member of the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council. He also serves as an adjunct professor of mathematics and education at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Fitchburg State University.

Through his website, mathwithmatthew.com, he provides visitors with his podcast, blog, math music videos, and more resources to help increase students’ interest and engagement in the learning of mathematics while building conceptual understanding. 

FableVision Studio's Shelby Marshall was a guest on Matthew's podcast, Math With Matthew. Where he shared how the power of technology can enhance and support math education by developing mathematical thinking through concrete modeling, problem-solving, simulations, fluency through scaffolded practice, and applying understanding in real-world situations. Give a listen

Matthew has been featured on WBZ news WBUR radio and the news magazine Chronicle. Finally, Matthew's first book Teach Math Like This, Not Like That: Four Critical Areas to Improve Student Learning will be published in July through Rowan & Littlefield.

Matthew recently chatted with FableVision Learning about his creative work in the classroom. 

You work with students to create music videos about Math, how did this whole idea begin?

I started my own public access television show in Chelmsford five years ago to help inform the parents and community about all the wonderful things related to mathematics in the district. It was mostly interviews with teachers and students but after some time, we began to get creative and started making comedy skits and then music videos about math topics based on popular songs.

What is the process for creating the videos?

It is a collaborative effort of students, teachers, administrators, and the local public access television station, Chelmsford Telemedia. Each video takes about three months to put together. It begins with brainstorming sessions with students and teachers for the song and topic for the video. Next, we write the lyrics and record the song in a studio that one of my high school math teachers works at. Then the fun begins with making the music video. Many students participate in the shoot both on and off camera as it is a great learning experience. The final part is the video editing which takes place as part of a course at the High School with students.

Can you share some highlights from working on these videos?

Here is a sizzle reel of all the different music videos (at left) that we have done together. My favorite video to date is “Girls are all about that math” as it shares a very important message about the importance of girls entering the STEM field. Also, my nine-year-old daughter, who is an aspiring mathematician, helped write the lyrics for the song. The most popular song that we have done is “What is the value of Pi?” with almost 100,000 YouTube views.

What is your professional mission within math education?

I am working to help increase students conceptual understanding of mathematics, while learning in a joyful and engaging manner. Within the STEM field, the science, technology and engineering, students authentically enjoy learning. Mathematics is the ugly step sister that students are forced to take but rarely enjoy. We need to work to help increase students interest in math.

Did you have anything like this when you were in school that inspired you to do work like this?

Unfortunately, I did not and I did not have a wonderful experience learning math in school. I was very good at it but frequently bored and uninterested. Using the music videos as well as many other ideas, we can change this.

FableFive: David Smith, creator of Mapping the World by Heart

“When our children leave our classrooms, we need to make sure they have a sense of their own community, and also an appreciation of everyone else's,” explains David Smith, creator of Mapping the World By Heart

His award-winning geography curriculum gives students a means to picture the world beyond shapes on a page. Mapping the World by Heart provides a way to bring the world closer, because we can’t all travel the globe, but we can take steps to learn more about it. 

David was a classroom teacher with over 25 years' experience teaching English, geography, and social studies in grades 4-12 and used that experience of teaching 7th graders to draw maps of the entire world from memory, to create his highly successful curriculum, Mapping the World by Heart

When it was first released, Mapping the World by Heart was awarded the “Breaking the Mold,” by the U.S. Department of Education and to match the ever-changing world, David has revised the curriculum nine times since. 

David is a full-time consultant, providing lectures and workshops on geography and global issues, and on IT issues, to teachers, parents, student groups, and others in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia, and Asia.

For this FableFive post, we connected with David to learn more about Mapping the World By Heart and the stories from the journey. 

How did you connect the dots with FableVision Learning?

When Mapping the World By Heart was first published in 1992 by Tom Snyder Productions, Peter Reynolds did the illustrations and we became friends; when Tom Snyder was bought by Scholastic and MTWBH needed a new publisher, I called Peter (H. Reynolds) and he jumped at the chance to publish it.  He’s done some new illustrations, and helped with all the prepress issues.

 Can you share the story behind the creation and development of Mapping the World by Heart?


My grade 7 students in Cambridge, MA were sadly unaware of world geography, or even local geography. I didn’t want to send them onto their next teachers without helping them master at least some human geography and locations.

You speak regularly at schools in the US and Canada, can you share a few highlights from these visits?  

I’m always happy when kids know my books, and have questions about them – and some of the questions are very common, such as “where did you get the idea for…” or “do you have to revise often”, but some questions can be surprising; “do the details about children living in hunger make you sad”, “how many countries have you visited”, and sometimes “how old are you."

Where do you see Mapping the World by Heart’s place in the classroom?

I don’t see it as necessarily the central activity for a classroom for the year, but as a very useful tool. If a class is studying US or Canadian history, or Asian languages or cultures, or European history, then mapping that region by heart can be useful for so much of what students will learn – the thing that is easy to forget is that history actual always happens somewhere. And knowing the human and political geography of a place can help a student understand what happened there.

Do you have any Mapping the World by Heart stories to share? 

I’ve visited schools in 56 countries.  At 10 of these schools, I’ve helped students prepare an outdoor playground map – of their country, their continent, or the world. At the International School of Windhoek, Namibia, the students created a map of Namibia in the entryway of the school; at the International School of Geneva, the youngest students, with their teachers and parents, created a world map in the main door to the playground – every time a student passes through that door, they have a chance to check out the world.  The point is that the curriculum isn’t just about memorization, but it’s aimed at getting students to think about the world, about the world’s people and places.

Curious about how other schools are using Mapping the World by Heart? Check out these other posts!