STEM Project Stations
Support the ongoing STEAM project with a permanent station and construction materials. Recycled and upcycled materials should be available for use along with tools, paper, pencil, and data collection opportunities.
Art, Music, Drama
Encourage discussion of STEM subjects through the arts as well as investigations involving art inventions, art history, genres, musical instruments and sound. Create a “stage” where students give skits, give presentations, and teach.
Keep blocks available all the time along with small scale toys at different scales. Add books about world architecture, habitats, and building projects.
Facilitate the transition from fiction and storybooks to gleaning facts from informational text. Fill your library with fiction AND non-fiction. Encourage students to write informational text and to keep journals for science and math.
STEAM Career Role Play
Take the “dress up” area to a higher level with career oriented materials. From stethoscopes and lab coats to telescope, and microscopes, incorporate the tools of trades in a career role-play option.
Some great Pinterest Boards offer STEM station ideas. Links to multiple blogger and education pins can help with designing stations.
Art of STEM's K-8 Board https://www.pinterest.com/theartofstem/k-8-steam/
Build Realistic Math Modeling
Education separates experience from the learning process. We could learn a few things from our own history. Math development progressed along its slow, continuous track: caveman to calculus. Here, in the early 21st century, we expect second graders to operate at abstract levels using a symbolic language that took mathematicians thousands of years to develop. Educators are asked to start with the algorithm –the abstraction- and work backwards to the concrete. We wonder why math is such a dreaded subject. Neither the teacher nor the student knows where the symbols are supposed to take them.
Math Modeling uses data collected to extrapolate new knowledge. A STEM classroom (or STEAM) makes the esoteric hands-off subject focused learning an interactive experience. You are building synapses and connections to give rote learning longevity in context.
Example: Measure the height of chairs in the room. Match height to chair color. Create a math model to decide the height of untested green chairs. You can predict, with some accuracy, that the untested green chairs will measure 3ft in height. The math model for young students works well if chairs are measured in person. Remember, move from concrete to symbolic with few exceptions. Kids have just connected the Common Core measurement to objects in real life. Simple.
Take it another step and have kids design a scale model of a real seating option using the measurements they've collected. The seat must not cost more than $20. Assign all materials a cost, say a dollar per inch of cardboard. Students re-engineer the concept of seating to match their own requirements. and test the object's ability to hold weight. Using cost of materials as your graph's X coordinate and weight held as the Y coordinate, you give them a math model (coordinate graph) to determine the best design. The "best fit" or optimal design is the one that holds some amount of weight without going over budget.
Math Model for a Seating Challenge
Anyone dictating a one-stop solution is trying to sell you something from a catalog. Beware the sales spiel you will receive from companies and nonprofits pushing STEM programs and curriculum. Including mine. I'm not scared.) Take a look at a short list of criteria that we use to evaluate aSTEM program's
Yes, I do recommend programs, professional development, and products to clients, parents, and teachers. I just don't limit myself to a set mix. I don't even limit myself to recommending personal favorites. Every school benefits from a variety of solutions.
Curriculum and programs should bring teachers from all common core subjects together in an integrated effort. Programs in the CTE department collaborate with teachers in the math department, technology classrooms, and science labs to reach a greater number of students. While programs like PLTW (Project Lead the Way) and the various strong robotics programs offer a solid platform, they are not able to meet the needs of most of the school's students. These programs are usually limited to the CTE, after school, and gifted programs. In other words, you're grabbing the attention of the kids already interested in STEM futures.
What do we do to capture the attention of other groups in the school? We talk a lot about multiple representations in various subjects, so why do we rely on a single STEM program to "do it all" for the entire student population? To deliver a message that reaches more than the white male population, a program will need multiple options. AND I DON'T mean giving girls lesser programs like designing clothes on computer screens.
Take a look at the Change the Equation STEMworks Database of strong programs. Be advised that not all are STEM programs. Many are listed as fantastic math or science or STE without the M. Consider a mix of options across multiple classrooms including core subjects and art. Don't assume that you need a ton of materials or expensive machinery. Some of the strongest platforms are built on fantastic professional development, because in the end ANY investigation could become a "STEMvestigation" with a little background knowledge and teachers that work together to solve the problem. And, yes, I do offer professional development, and I do have a catalog. I just don't assume that the ones I offer will meet the needs of EVERY student or teacher. It's why I choose to deal with public-private partnerships and meld with existing programs in the schools. You know what might solve this STEM professional crisis we are facing? Start working together instead of worrying so much about sales.
Here are a few links to help with the search.
Change the Equation
Ten80 Education (Disclaimer: I co-developed quite a few of these.)
Girls Who Code
Makers are a little savvier about measurement, a bit further along with reading, and ready to get serious about problem solving.
Let's start with solving a classroom problem. Making paint is a blast and really useful.
The goal here is to have an actual problem that needs an actual solution.
"We are out of paint, and we need to make something non-toxic that doesn't drip when hung to dry. With the basic ingredients available, teams will develop a recipe that can be used to make paint for the class. Assign a color to each team.
Project based learning and the make movement are good starting points. Don't wait for certifications or special grant funding. It doesn't take much to boost a simple cookie cutter lesson to the level of problem solving the requires critical thinking and data based decision-making, the foundation of STEAM to STEM programs. Today's post focuses on the tinkers. Start those little monsters off right with a few easy changes to your day. Focus on building critical foundations in numeracy, place value, size, scale, and technology with literacy focused challenges. Keep it simple and full of numbers.
Teach them to analyze, question, and make decisions. Start with the simple problem of lining up for lunch. Let them choose various ways to get in line (shoe color, by alphabet, table location).
I am a partner in Art of STEM and co-developer of many K-12 STEM pipeline programs. I love teaching teachers, and I am really patient with kids (sometimes not so patient with adults). More importantly, I am mom to an 8-yr-old and owned by 2 cats. Here is my little family and my awesome Art of STEM partners.