Sunday, March 29, 2015

Finding the S in STEM...with a Freebie to Use Today!

I am often asked about the science behind the STEM challenges and while I could write a quick blurb to explain it, I feel like we may be losing an authentic opportunity to give students the chance to do some real research based on what they are actually learning!  Talk about real-world learning, rigor and critical thinking!  All three are wrapped up in this natural extension of doing a STEM Engineering Challenge.

I think we are moving away from the teacher being the one with all of the knowledge and all of the answers.  Our students are more than capable of doing a lot of the WORK, so why not let them do it? When we finish a STEM Challenge, I ask the students to go to work on our Google Chromebooks to find the science behind the challenge and you know what...they kinda surprise me every time by doing such a great job!

Here is the sheet that we use to record our research.  It is pretty easy to follow and we usually hang them up with our STEM Challenge data sheets (another part of the challenge that the kids design and create themselves).

Why not let your students do some of the work by finding the science behind the STEM challenge?  We share our results and then defend them as necessary with evidence.  The kids are immediately engaged and they retain the concepts much easier than if I just explained the science to them after the lesson.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

STEM BREAK with Color Chromatography

My students always have trouble coming up with testable questions.  I am always looking for labs that naturally generate a lot of questions and this one is a good one!

Students need the following materials:

- coffee filters
- assorted markers (not permanent)
- plastic cup with about an inch of water

Just draw some designs on the coffee filter with different colors of markers.  Then fold the coffee filter in half and then in half again.  Place the triangular end into the cup of water and wait...

The water travels up the coffee filter and....WOW!  Can you believe it?  The kids go crazy!

Now for the fun part, ask the students to start writing ANY questions they may have down on a large sheet of white bulletin board paper at each group.  Once you have a bunch of questions generated, you can discuss the difference between testable and non-testable questions.

As an extension, you can have students conduct some of the tests.

Here is a link to the google doc of the STEM break sheet!

With some cheap and easy to find materials, you can get a lot of questioning done!

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