I completed this kit with 3rd-5th grade students and thought it was age appropriate and captured interest for all of these grade levels. There’s a bit of information about matter, density, and volume, which fit nicely with the science content I had already taught this year to my fifth grade students. As the teacher, you are supposed to make up vials of materials ahead of time that students attach together to make their submersibles, but to save myself a lot of time, I had the groups make up their own as they needed them.
This month, I cracked open my second kit on agricultural engineering and students are in the process of designing hand pollinators. With such a long and challenging winter, talking about flowers has been a nice change! Although students haven’t finished their hand pollinators yet, they have been investigating materials that might have the right properties to pick up “pollen” and deliver it to another “flower.” Students are so far busily attaching pom poms to craft sticks and eager to try them out. I am completing this kit with 4th and 5th graders. Students seemed to really enjoy the reader’s theater selection that is part of a lesson, but I would say this kit seems geared a little younger than 5th grade. However, there is a focus on the properties of matter, which again does fit with the content I had taught this past fall so it still makes a nice review for 5th grade.
I’ve been itching for a chance to incorporate my 3D printers meaningfully into my science curriculum and finally came up with an idea! We have just finished a unit on gravity, and I could see several ways gravity is essential to the 3D printing process. Today, I introduced students to the printer, its parts, and how it works. Students have been watching it print from the spaceship lesson I did with my enrichment group last month, so they had some basic background knowledge, but this was a good way to answer questions whole group and talk about misconceptions. For example, they didn’t realize the spools of filament were a type of plastic. Tomorrow, students will compose paragraphs about how the 3D printer relies somewhat on gravity in order to work. We will be using the 1 paragraph templates from Writing Revolution (love this program!) to plan first. I have provided a word bank of the key vocabulary we learned about in our unit that students should be able to incorporate correctly in the paragraph.
A couple years ago at a MACUL conference (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) while wandering through the vendor booths looking for freebies, I came across the QBall. This is a ball roughly the same size and material as a dodgeball, but with a microphone inside. While holding a class conversation, students toss the ball to each other and speak into the microphone so everyone else can hear them. This speeds up the sharing process as opposed to passing around a traditional mic and adds value to the conversation because now everyone can hear the individual sharing.
With some of the grant funding I had received in the spring, I purchased a QBall and am excited about the possibilities it could hold for my engineering enrichment class and my own students. I am trying to really emphasize productive talks this year in my class, and this is one easy way to increase productivity of the talk just by the fact more people will have time to share, want to share, and I won’t have to repeat those quiet students who can’t speak up loud enough for everyone to hear.
Additional Note 1/21/19--The QBall sound system was extremely easy to set up in my classroom. I just had to plug in the box to my computer and that then transmits through the classroom speakers. I found that I did have to turn the volume up quite high in order for the microphone to pick up students’ voices, and that they had to hold the ball fairly close to their mouths while speaking. However, they seem to enjoy it every time I get the QBall out and I do have more volunteers to participate! The ball also seems to protect the microphone as it has landed on the floor a few times while being tossed from student to student.
This year, thanks to a grant from the Tuscola County Community Foundation, I am teaching an engineering enrichment class each morning during our school-wide intervention time. The class is for 3-5th grade students who are meeting grade level benchmarks in math and reading and have an interest in STEM. With funding from the grant, I have purchased two Engineering is Elementary kits (eie.org), various robotics kits students can build, and 3D printing equipment from Northwest Arkansas 3D (nwa3d.com). For more information about the grant “Students Today, Engineers Tomorrow,” check out the Stem Grants and Projects tab.
While I have worked with robotics and the EiE kits in the past, 3D printing was a new venture for me this year. I knew I needed to bring context to the printing students would be doing in addition to meeting the NGSS 3-5 band engineering standards and decided on a space-themed lesson, due to its wide appeal to students in this age group. The general premise was that we were traveling through space and unfortunately, 4 warning lights had come on. The issues on the ship included an unknown substance growing on the outside of the ship, a broken fan for circulating oxygen, a broken handle on an airlock door, and a small part had fallen into a critical engine so the engine was in danger of being damaged. Each group was handed a card that explained the issue and provided constraints for the task, one of which was a 3 hour time limit to design a solution and have it printed. Students also needed to fill out a sheet that showed their steps through the engineering design process. To most effectively meet the engineering standards’ mandate that multiple solutions to a problem are developed, I divided the class into 8 groups, so two groups worked independently on the same problem.
This fall, I again took my science classes across town to the woods for our annual biocube field trip. Cool days helped make the mile walk much more pleasant than last year’s trip! I was disappointed that someone had destroyed the cube from last year over the summer. In retrospect, I should have taken the cube back to school when we were done with it for the year. Thankfully, I had made a spare so we were able to proceed with the project. The great part about this project is that every trip is a new adventure of discovery. This time, students discovered a deer skeleton and hair close to our work area, and they had quite the time speculating why its skull was missing!
After running this lesson a second year, I think the project will work better if each group has its own biocube to bring to the woods. A lot of time is lost calling each group up to examine the class cube and then they have to wait while the contents is excavated and brought to them. The digital cameras are also of sufficiently low enough quality that photos really aren’t coming out well enough for students to post on iNaturalist. I think we would be better served with some iPods in durable cases so we could attach microscope lenses to the camera for clear and up close photos. I plan to reapply for the SVSU/Dow Corning Foundation summer program this year to revamp the tools I have and tie in what I learned in Washington D.C. this summer.
I now have pages of notes to sift through and determine what I can use in my classroom. Although not every topic during the academy fits into my fifth grade curriculum, I definitely walked away with a better grasp on how to inspire awe in my science class and am committed to better journaling practices in my classroom. The up-close photography and scientific drawings we practiced brought home to me how poorly I have been teaching the skill of observation. I look forward to sharing my photos and experience with my class. But first, I need a little rest and recovery from the action-packed week!
Kids often get asked what they want to be when they grow up, so after a year of immersing ourselves into the world of STEM, it only made sense to ask the students to choose a STEM career to research that sparked a personal interest. From underwater welders to cardiologists, students were eager to find out more about how a STEM career could be a potential goal some day. While the students were only asked to create flip books of basic information, some students went as far as selecting the university they would need to attend, looking up mileage on how far it would take to drive there, and listing courses they should take in high school to prepare themselves!
To create the flip books digitally, I had students use Google Slides. I created a template slideshow for students to copy into their own Drives, where each slide was the next page in the flip book. In order to ensure students didn’t delete parts of the template once they had copied it for themselves, I actually embedded the flipbook pages on the slides as backgrounds, so students only had to layer text boxes and photos on top. After students were finished with the project, I printed the pages, arranged them in order and stapled. We used Sciencebuddies.org for the information. This website has an amazing collection of information, videos, and photos about tons of STEM careers. The flip books will be included in the Schall Coding Club’s Spring Technology Showcase next week, so parents, staff, and other students can learn about STEM careers as well.
Using VR, the students traveled to Kathmandu, a temple, several villages, and the base camp of Mount Everest. Students had a great time and can’t wait to go on another adventure soon!
In honor of the holiday, students were invited to design a box for their valentines. The categories included the best use of 3D, the best use of hearts, the prettiest, and the most original. The amazing creations students designed included the Eiffel Tower, unicorns, a dragon scene, and Chewbacca. After the party, students researched catapults and created their own designs to see who could launch a candy heart the farthest. Students then presented their designs, along with challenges and successes to the rest of the class.
The STEM Sisters are Elementary Teachers working together on STEM related topics and projects.