For this new edition of #HowWeGotThis, Anton Ritzu, our Innovation & Technology teacher and coordinator, explains how he had to adapt his teaching approach because of the Covid-19 pandemic and tells us more about his upcoming new STEAMworks adventure: “Around the World in Eighty Days” .
LFSF : Hi Anton, could you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your role at the LFSF?
Anton: My name is Anton Ritzu. I've been working at the Lycee for the past 20 years, and am the LFSF Innovation & Technology teacher and coordinator. My background is in robotic engineering : you could say that Star Wars movies made a lasting impression on me! I grew up on a farm and travelled between countries, so early on I developed a deep respect for nature : I love growing stuff and the world has always been my playground. My mom was an Italian street comedian and she passed on her appreciation for music and singing! I can see how these different facets naturally influence my approach to teaching and that’s how I invite my students to dream and tap into my passion to develop their passion for Technology .
Anton with students during the LEGO League on the Ortega Campus (2017)
LFSF : We understand you’re currently working on a project with some students : “Around the World in Eighty Days” (“Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours”). It sounds like an exciting and well-rounded project. Can you tell us more about it ?
Anton: I strongly believe that passion and dreams should fuel and propel education. Before starting anything, when preparing a lesson, I always first look for the angle, the catalyst that could trigger the desire to learn new skills.
In Cycle 3 (Gr 4, 5 and 6), our STEAM curriculum is about energy, mouvements, simple machinery and electricity. Steam energy was an incredible technological innovation during the era of Jules Vernes, so his novel of fantastic travels came naturally to my mind to not only get students but also teachers excited to participate in the project. Part of my job is to plan and coordinate STEAM projects with teachers, so that they can implement them in their classroom, with their own students. I am very excited because so far, besides Technology teachers, Spanish, English and History teachers are joining the adventure! Each of them will tie their lessons to Jules Vernes and the industrial revolution, so that the project becomes multidisciplinary!
Hot Air Ballon decorations on the Ortega Campus (December 2020)
The full project will develop over the course of one full semester and will be divided into three activities:
- Build a crank rod mechanism using cardboard
- Study and understand how a hot balloon works, and experiment with building one
- Create a multi-color bedside lamp
Learning has started remotely and students can easily apply the notions and skills learned online at home, until our campuses reopen. I really hope that they will be able to finalize the project on site!
LFSF : What are your pedagogical objectives when organizing this type of activities ?
Anton: I really want to entice students to ask questions like, in this case,: "Why does a hot air balloon go up?" or "Is it strange that water and fire can make a locomotive move?", "What's energy exactly?", "Why is a bulb so hot? Is it a waste of energy?” . Their curiosity will feed their appetite for learning. Step by step, as they learn more, they start to really grasp the concepts of energy, electricity and forces, conceptually and then experiment to fully understand these notions. This year, the concepts of energy and forces will be studied with the crank rod and the hot-air balloon activities. Students will be able to make a mini hot air balloon in paper, and actually make it fly, using a hair-dryer. They will apply their learning about electricity into the making of their final project: the multi colored decorative lamp.
Student showing her own hot air ballon creation (2020) + video showing the construction process.
Finally, Design Thinking will bring these creations to the next level, and 3D editing will be used to create blueprints used to laser cut the basket of the hot air balloon. It will all come together beautifully!..
LFSF : How did you have the inspiration for projects like this one?
Anton: Creating projects like this one as well as helping my colleagues to use technology in their class is part of my Innovation & Technology Coordinator’s mission. For the past 5 years, I've been working at the LFSF to develop and promote STEAM in K-12. Our students discover concepts of algorithm, engineering and technology through a spiral shaped curriculum starting in Kindergarten.
Anton showing the basics of computer programming to Kindergarten students on the Sausalito campus (2017).
LFSF : How would you say the current COVID crisis has affected your work? In planning for a project like this one for example, how do you see yourself having to adapt to the new conditions?
Anton: Prior to the COVID crisis, I primarily worked in our ILabs located on each one of our campuses. There, we have acquired and store all the necessary equipment and tools for our students to make amazing and fun experiments. So naturally, when the Covid-19 crisis happened, it was very hard to adapt since we could no longer access those labs. Almost overnight, we lost the fundamental benefits of having hands-on projects using our ILab machines and resources. Also, to comply with the current spatial distancing requirements, the labs on our two primary campuses have been converted into classrooms. Only the Ortega one currently remains accessible. However we managed to move STEAM projects online, by making it possible for students to do them at home, using equipment and material easily available. I was also amazed to see how strong and resourceful the LFSF Community truly is.
I was able to invite parents, with incredible skills and experience to our architecture and design Zoom classes, so students could see the practical applications of their learning. This was very beneficial for them to exchange with adults and professionals from within our community - other than teachers! Inviting parents into the zoom classrooms is something we naturally wouldn't have had to rely on in normal times but that has proven to be a really strong and positive learning experience for students. I can see how I will continue to use this approach in the future, once the COVID-19 crisis is just a memory, as a way for our students to showcase their creations to professionals in the field. It's such a great way to boost their motivation and self-esteem!
Anton and students on the Ortega campus for the year end celebration (2018)
#HowWeGotThis is our series of testimonials showing how our teams and community are pioneering, reinventing themselves and imagine new ways to operate in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.