Building BrickLAB Bridges with Sonia Galaviz

Earlier this month, PCS Edventures had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Sonia Galaviz, a 5th grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School who's been busy making a name for herself in the education world. In 2009, she was named Idaho Woman of the Year by the Idaho Business Review, and in 2011, she was one of five educators nationally chosen to receive Teaching Tolerance’s award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, and this year, Galaviz’s devotion to her students has again been recognized.

(Left to right: Jim Schmidt, Michelle Fisher and Sonia Galaviz stand behind the BrickLAB products PCS Edventures donated to Ms. Galaviz and Garfield Elementary School.)

In February, Galaviz will be traveling to the NEA Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C., to receive $10,000 and the NEA Foundation’s Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. As one of only five recipients in the nation, this prestigious honor really reinforces Galaviz’s commitment to continually go above and beyond for her students, something that begins long before the start of the school year. Every summer, Galaviz goes door to door, meeting with the families of her incoming students. As an educator, she believes that really knowing her students, their family dynamic and their home life, helps her be a better teacher. “I don’t know how to do my job without the families,” she said. “It’s a blessing to get to know them and hear their story and how I can best teach their student. It’s a partnership.” A partnership that PCS Edventures is very excited to help extend.

As a proponent of STEM education, Galaviz builds cross disciplinary knowledge by working math and science into every subject her class studies. From collaborative learning inside of the student’s clusters of desks to hands-on lessons in STEM discovery, Galaviz is continually working to push the STEM envelope at Garfield Elementary. She also hosts a Saturday STEM club for 4th - 6th graders, and recently, through a two-year grant funded by NASA and a partnership with Boise State University, she has trail blazed even more “at-home” learning opportunities for students. For K-6, each classroom has the ability to take STEM backpacks home over the weekend. By choosing from three different lesson plans, students bring STEM home, experimenting, creating and learning with their families.

In order to help Galaviz’s STEM efforts, PCS Edventures donated a massive amount of our hands-on BrickLAB products to her classroom and to Garfield Elementary. From learning the science of unique animal adaptations to the different technologies that helped shape the world, we can’t wait to see what Ms. Galaviz’s exceptionally skilled hands can build with BrickLAB.

From everyone here at PCS Edventures, we want to congratulate Sonia Galaviz on receiving such a prestigious award, and we want to thank her for everything she does for our community. Congratulations, Sonia! We’re excited to see everything else the future has in store for you.



Garfield Elementary. (2016, December). December Newsletter - Garfield Elementary School. Grizzly Tracks. Retrieved from

Jones, K. (2016, October 6). Garfield Elementary teacher wins prestigious national teaching award. Idaho Statesman. Retrieved from /article106468497.html

Sonia Galaviz. (2016). Retrieved December 15, 2016, from Teaching Tolerance, http://www.

Swindell, J. (2015, September 28). “Amazing” teacher makes learning a family affair. ID ED News. Retrieved from https://www. -a-family-affair/

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Long before Alan Turing or Noam Chomsky were even twinkles in their parents’ eyes, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace was shaking up the British aristocracy as a beautiful and flirtatious mathematician. Her mother Anabella suspected she inherited this sort of “insanity” from her father, the equally colorful Lord Byron, who is remembered now as an acclaimed poet. In an era when women were typically discouraged from pursuing the hard sciences Ada’s mother, also a mathematician, suggested just the opposite (Riddle, 2016). Lucky for the field of computer science, Anabella thought the zestful tendencies Ada inherited from her father could be counteracted through immersion in logic and mathematics (Riddle, 2016). Endowed with the powerful combination of her natural curiosity and her mother’s expressed sentiment, Ada launched into a course of education that would eventually earn her the title the “Enchantress of Numbers.”

While attending a party, young Ada was introduced to Charles Babbage, the inventor of the difference engine, which was capable only of calculating numbers. While Ada found this machine captivating, she later collaborated with Babbage to develop the features of what we would eventually come to know as the modern computer (then called the analytical engine). Although the analytical engine was technically never fully finished, Ada compiled a series of notes that detailed the essence of both a computer and software. Her notes included the first published description of a process of operations used to solve math problems, rightfully earning her the title of the world’s “first programmer.” She conceived of a computer that would “have the input stream in the form of a deck of punched cards, a store for saving data, a mill for arithmetic operations, and a printer that made a permanent record” (Masters, 1994).

Ada’s developments paved the way for the eventual introduction of the analog and electronic computers. By the 1960s, integrated circuits became a part of the manufacturing process, which allowed for a reduction in price, size, and failure rate of computers. From the 1970s on, the notion of a personal computer has been continuously perfected, as advanced programming, machine, assembly, and high-level languages are implemented. Currently, trends in computer developed lie in micro-miniaturization, which simply means an effort to reduce chip size (Masters). While today’s computers are capable of much more than processing a series of numbers, the contributions made by pioneers like Ada Lovelace can't be overstated. Ada and Charles were pioneering dreamers who could see beyond the technological limitations of their time and conceptualize the idea of a computer, a device so central to our day-to-day lives today. Ada's legacy is more than microprocessors and Boolean scripts; the second Tuesday of each October, Ada Lovelace Day celebrates the achievements of the Enchantress of Numbers in hopes of inspiring the next generation of women scientists, engineers, technicians and mathematicians. Advancing down the road that Ada helped to pave, what will they discover, invent, program and create?



Masters, G. (1994). History of computers. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from

Riddle, L. (2016, June 10). Ada Byron, lady lovelace. Retrieved October 6, 2016 from

What Will a Classroom Look Like in 2026?

Recently, the American Institutes of Research (AIR) released a 73-page report regarding the need for innovation in STEM education. This timely report details the issues and complexities of educating students in the 21st century and how these challenges can be addressed through STEM learning. A careful look at STEM 2026 reveals a vision of education very different from the rote recall and isolated textbook learning that’s defined science classrooms for generations.

In their report assembly, experts at AIR relied heavily on statistics gathered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which showed that roughly half of the students taking math assessments in eight-grade scored at proficient levels. A staggering average of only 16 percent of minority students was able to meet the same demands. While the notion that public education essentially equalizes the proverbial playing field for students who come from diverse backgrounds, which is consistently perpetuated by politicians and even some well-meaning educators, the numbers show a different reality: despite attempts to level education opportunities through universal access, there is still a variable level of unaccounted influence that continues to hinder the progress of some students.

The STEM 2026 Report suggests that these challenges can be overcome through six interconnected components that the contributors believed to be essential for success:

    • The creation of mentor communities established by schools and STEM professionals
    • Time allotted specifically for “intentional play and risk”, which incorporates games that allow students to express ideas in a creative fashion while still engaging them in complex, difficult content
    • Tackling large-scale problems that impact society
    • Innovative forms of assessment that gauge learnedness beyond core content knowledge while identifying skillsets related to overall academic prowess and competence
    • New types of learning challenges that are flexible and technology-enabled
    • Actively working to demolish stereotypes and overcome biases that have curbed the growth of STEM fields will guarantee a pathway for all students to be successful (Schaffhauser, 2016)

Given the AIR report and numerous findings which show that students who interact with STEM concepts on a hands-on basis are more likely to perform better on standardized assessments and are subsequently more likely to pursue STEM-related careers, PCS is excited to continue developing flexible learning spaces where students to free to take risks and personalize their learning. Diversifying the settings in which students can interact with STEM naturally leads to greater student engagement and excitement. By fostering an environment of inquiry and curiosity, we can support a new cohort of students equipped and inspired to solve the big problems of tomorrow.


Schaffhauser, D. (2016, September 15). New air report offers vision for accomplishing stem for all. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from

Self Driving Cars and the Need for STEAM Education

While new technology typically excites and generates interest, there are some leaps forward that leave individuals skeptical, questioning either the relevance of the invention or even the advisability of its usage in terms of ensuring overall public safety. Such has been the case with the development of the autonomous car. Uber, which recently unveiled its design of the driving pilot, is rivals with the company Lyft, an organization that has been allocating funds to researching and projecting the widespread incorporation of self-driving cars. In January of this year, Lyft announced that its design of self-manned vehicles would be available to the average citizen for use beginning next year, vehicles that will be able to drive along fixed routes safely navigated (presumably) by the car’s installed technology.

Although this invention would appear to be inherently beneficial, as it would create jobs in manufacturing and research and potentially minimize auto accidents, opponents claim that the inverse is actually more accurate. That is to say, the push for self-driving cars would reduce the amount of jobs available, particularly for those who depend on transportation services for employment. Additionally, the prospect of having self-driving cars rely solely on computer programming, whose certainty in operation is not always guaranteed, could result in a larger amount of accidents and traffic fatalities.

The idea of self-manning machines is not novel. In fact, in the early 1900s, there was a great outcry at the widespread introduction of the passenger elevator. Until this time, elevator operators guided the cars to level stops by hand, but with the incorporation of the man-less operator and its mode of self-service, the public was immediately frightened by the prospect of a self-guiding box and strikes leveled by elevator operators swept large cities like New York. To quell the anxiety and bitter sentiment against this new invention, advertisements reminded users that automatic elevators were indeed safe. This claim was reiterated by the soothing recorded voice which was played in many commercial elevators, a voice that assured the public that, if anything went wrong, a big red button could be pressed which would immediately bring the elevator to a halt. Today, few of us feel anything other than casual claustrophobia when we step into a self-moving box and travel up or down a few floors.

While the actual techniques and mentality motivating the invention process of the self-driving car were largely rooted in the application of STEM knowledge, the integration of this mechanism into society will only be successful with the aid of other disciplines, particularly that of psychology. This makes us reflect on how to prepare the engineers of tomorrow. While many educators have celebrated the progress of STEM education and its focus on preparing students for the 21st century with skills in science, technology, engineering and math, others have worried that this high-tech push has come at the expense of the humanities and liberal arts. For the innovation that brought us the self-driving car to continue, students need a robust STEAM education (with the A standing for the arts). Technological literacy includes understanding human behavior and its impact on the reception of inventions as technology emerges. As in the case of the self-driving cars, manufacturers must provide sufficient education as to the operation of the vehicle, in addition to the reassurance that this invention is an overall positive societal advance. Continuing to invest in both the humanities and sciences will only foster greater creativity and inevitable astounding discoveries and inventions.

Transforming Learning with Technology: New ISTE Standards for Students

Education is constantly evolving thanks to technological advancements. In order to provide structure to this evolution process, the International Society for Technology in Education (or ISTE) has developed and released its newest set of standards for students. The goal of these standards is to equip students of all ages to succeed in a global community that is becoming increasingly digitized. This newest set includes the creation of an empowered learner, digital citizen, knowledge constructor, innovative designer, computational thinker, creative communicator, and global collaborator. Each of these categories collectively sums the ISTE Standards evolutionary process, which has moved from the initial goal of learning to use technology to the previous standard of using technology to learn and now on to the ambitious idea of transforming learning with technology:

  • Empowered learners are able to effectively utilize technology to help them meet their learning goals; these students understand the fundamental concepts of technology.
  • Digital citizens can safely, legally, and ethically interact with the interconnected digital world.
  • Knowledge constructors are able to think critically about digital resources and can leverage resource tools to construct knowledge.
  • Innovative designers can utilize a variety of technologies to design and create new, innovative solutions to problems.
  • Computational thinkers have the ability to apply the power of technological methods and test solutions based on personal strategy development.
  • Creative communicators can express themselves over a range of platforms, tools, styles, formats, and digital media.
  • Global collaborators are able to broaden their perspectives via working and collaborating in teams both locally and globally.

Students who can skillfully adopt each of these traits are able to accurately assess the value of technology and its implications for the learning process, which includes the ability to utilize technology in a way that allows for successful problem solving. Additionally, students who meet the aims of the standards can design and implement solutions in unique and fascinating ways. The skills and qualities engendered in ISTE’s newest standards can be taught across multiple disciplines and in varying age groups, and can be definitive of all learners when expressed and relayed in an engaging fashion.

Given the rapidly changing technological landscape, these standards are valuable in ensuring that students are able to meet the demands of the 21st century. PCS is excited about ISTE’s developments and strives to provide creative supplements to learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Such supplements often include technology mediums. Further, while technology is only one portion of STEM, technology provides the platform necessary for best understanding other scientific endeavors.