Category Archives: Nordquist Blog

A Season of Change



Wow, it’s hard to believe that the days of fall have been replaced with the dramatic shift to snow, but that’s the reality of Nebraska I guess!  EY has been experiencing new and exciting shifts as well as the second quarter unfolds.

Our main focus in EY this quarter is on current events and their impact on us.  Through research, students will create a timeline to show world, national, and local events in a 20 year span, with their birthday being the center point.  Our lives are continually impacted by what is going on in the world around us.  This topic allows us to take a closer look at how these events play a role in who we are as well as in our daily lives.  We will be making connections with the past and looking at how that impacts our future.  EY students are also working on the E/I opportunities I present in their regular classrooms, as this is another part of their EY experience.

I have really enjoyed getting to know all 3rd-6th grade students in my schools through our E/I time.  I have introduced many different enrichment opportunities and am encouraging all students to own their learning by taking advantage of those opportunities that interest them.  Computer coding, independent passion projects, BOTB, and logic/critical thinking experiences are just a few examples.  We have also held seminars/contests for all 4th-6th grade students such as our Creative Problem Solving seminar, School Spelling Bees, and Quiz Bowl.  We have students studying hard for the upcoming District Spelling Bee and school Geography Bees that will be taking place soon.  If students are interested in an event/contest, they are asked to complete and submit an assigned task (quiz, story, project, etc…) in order to participate.  These opportunities are presented to students during E/I time.  Please keep an eye on the Events & Contests tab in this blog for more information on upcoming opportunities.

I am so lucky to work with such amazing students and look forward to another quarter filled with new opportunities for learning and success!

Enjoy this season of change!

Joan Skaggs






A House for a Mouse??


It was awesome to see all of the EY students again after the summer break!  This week we spent time jumping right into our first quarter concept:  Exploration!  This theme lends itself to a whole host of areas, but we are focusing on creative problem solving for now.  This will also lead us into our Creative Problem Solving seminar coming up on Friday, Sept. 26th (more details on that to follow shortly).

During EY small group, students were given the challenge of building a house (or room of a house) for a mouse and then had to present their house/room as realtors selling to a mouse family (played by Mrs. Skaggs).   The creative juices were definitely flowing as mouse structures were popping up everywhere!  Who knew mice these days enjoy refrigerators filled with cheese, cookies for life (with your house purchase), and even a mouse potty!  Check out the photos below for some amazing mouse-inspired architecture!

photo                            mouse 6                   Mouse 5     mouse 4         mouse 3         mouse 1

A Year of Opportunities!

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Another school year has begun and I am left wondering where the summer went and when the snow will begin.  I know, WAY to early for that, but it sure seems like time just flies right by!

This is an exciting year for EY as well as the school district!  We have made some changes that I am super excited about!  I will be working more closely with the teachers to provide enrichment opportunities for all students.  This means that I will be in all of the 3-6 classrooms during their E/I (Enrichment & Intervention) times once a week (or every 6 days to be exact :).  At that time, I will share ideas and resources for all students to use to explore and enrich their learning experience.  EY students will meet with me outside of the classroom in a pull-out setting during their E/I time once a week as well (in addition to the classroom E/I lessons).

Please explore the other areas of this blog site for information on the events & contests, weekly challenges, and other exciting learning opportunities we are offering this year.   Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions or thoughts you may have.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014-15 school year!

The End Is Here!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that the last day of the 2013-14 school year has come and gone!  We wrapped up the year with independent projects in order to dig deeper into our own interest areas.   There were projects completed on the history of favorite gaming systems, nuclear reactors, basketball, robotics, the Holocaust, and more.  We learned so much from each other and possibly found new interests for ourselves in the process!

The Oakdale 6th graders took “trips” to many different corners of the world and brought a piece or two back into the classroom to share.  We had a presentation day that included a world feast.  The food was delicious and such a great way to experience a new culture!  They encouraged us all to add a few new destinations to our bucket lists!  🙂

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It has been a great year full of new and exciting learning adventures!  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented individuals this year!  We are all learners in this process and I hope you all learned as much from me as I did from you!

Congratulations to all of the 6th graders on the close of one chapter in your lives and the amazing opportunities that await!  I am glad I was able to be a small part of your journey!

Enjoy your summer and always be on a mission to actualize your talents!

~Mrs. Skaggs



Culture Shock!

Well, the warm weather has finally appeared and everyone seems to be coming out of their winter hide-outs.  What better time to take a “trip” to explore lands far and wide?!

As we enter the last few weeks of school, many students are embarking on a journey to another country/region through independent studies.  These “trips” will be documented through products of their choosing and then presented to the class.  We hope to gain a wealth of information connecting us to the world and it’s cultures.  It has already been quite an adventure!  🙂

Check back for a full list of places we visited and the products that were created…


3rd Quarter Review

Wow!  I know I’ve said this before, but this quarter sure flew by!  There is definitely some truth to the old adage “time flies when you’re having fun”!  I love science, so this quarter was a lot of fun for me, and hopefully for my EY students as well!

We started off the quarter with our SCAMPER exploration and tasting – yum!  Then the inventors of long ago and today, such as Thomas Edison, Rube Goldberg and Maya Penn, began to kindle the inventor flame in all of us.  We went on to create our own inventions to solve simple problems such as getting a ping-pong ball across a zip line, or building the strongest straw bridge from 25 drinking straws.  Some of the EY students with an interest in robotics took a trip to the high school to take part in a robotics class.  Other students spent time programming the CEENBoTs to follow paths they designed.  We also got to explore science related apps on the iPads such as Chemist and Froguts (virtual frog dissecting).

Our culminating project for the quarter was either researching and creating a report on a favorite inventor, or becoming the inventor.  The path of the inventor was definitely the road more traveled!  We have had some amazing inventions created by these innovative students!  They have been presenting this week and I believe these students have ideas that can change their world!  Just ask them!

photo 01                         photo 02                         photo 03  photo                      photo 04              photo 05photo 07                   photo 06

This quarter wraps up with conferences on Tuesday the 11th and Wednesday the 12th.  I will do my best to attend as many conferences as possible, however with 3 schools it has proven to be a challenge…I might need to create my own invention to solve this one!  For those conferences that I am not able to attend, I would be happy to chat through email or over the phone.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.

I truly enjoy working with your students and look forward to a great 4th quarter!

Science Burrito

Hmmm…do those two words even go together?  They do in EY!  This week we took a turn from inventions and moved towards science.  We explored the seven layer density column (or “science burrito”) to test the density of various liquids.  Prior to the testing phase, we researched density and how it affects an item.  The students were presented with 7 different liquids and then asked to make their own hypothesis about how the liquids would “stack up”.  When making the hypothesis, we took into account the weight and thickness of each liquid.  After the hypotheses were made, we tested them.  Here are the results…

photo 05                              photo 04


Honey, Karo syrup, dish soap, water, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, and lamp oil = SCIENCE BURRITO!

Inventions Invented!

We have been turning out some amazing inventions over the past couple weeks.  From Natural Powered Robo Hands to zip line drink carriers, we have broken into new frontiers in the world of invention!  One of our focused invention builds was based on “junk” items found around the house.  The students were asked to use at least 10 items and create a unique invention from those items.  It is amazing to see what can be produced from the simplest of objects!

photo 02                          photo 03         photo 01                       View “junk” invention in action:  IMG_2933

The students  jumped into the role of structural engineers in order to design and build the strongest bridge possible from 25 straws, tape, and paper clips.  We focused on the engineering design process (an 8 step process) to find a solution to the challenge.  Their design creations were all so unique and all withstood the test of weights ranging from washers to dictionaries!  Here are a few examples…

photo 06            photo 07    photo 09



Not a verb for mouse-like actions, but rather an acronym for innovation!

Substitute, Combine, Adapt or add, Modify maximize or minimizePut to another use, Eliminate, Reverse or rearrange

SCAMPER is a creative brainstorming tool used in a variety of settings including companies looking to create new ideas and products.  Virtually anything around you can be put through the SCAMPER process.  We put the process to work on various everyday items to see what new and innovating products we could create.  One group of students were given an umbrella which soon became a boat for small animals.  The everyday baggie was turned into a biodegradable icing design bag.  We also SCAMPERed the Oreo to create many amazing new products definitely worthy of the famous cookie’s name!  Some of our most popular products were:  The Oreo Popsicle (winner in one group), Oreo dispenser hat, computer software to create and order your own personalized Oreo, giant sized Oreos, cream on the outside Oreos, an Oreo dispensing machine, an Oreo sphere, and an Oreo burger.  Oreo definitely has some competition on their hands…or some future inventors!


scamper1       scamper2scamper3



Problem + Solution = Innovation!

So many problems in the world…so many solutions yet to be discovered!  We have spent the first part of the 3rd quarter jumping into the topics of science and innovation.  With so many topics falling under the science umbrella, we are focused on narrowing the field to ideas that intrigue and inspire a quest to know more.  During the past week, students were given a problem and asked to be solution innovators.

The problem:   Take a ping pong ball from one end of a zip line to the other in 4 seconds or less.

They were given a variety of materials such as cups, tape, cardboard, washers, straws, fishing line and more to combine together to create the solution.  It was amazing to see the variations that emerged through the same set of materials…many solving the problem.  This was also a lesson in determination and perseverance, as often times the first attempts failed.  Sometimes a hard lesson, but one that even the greatest of innovators have learned.

See video examples here:  zip line     zip line Oakdale       zip line Oakdale 2Oakdale 6th zipline

zip line