Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teaching Growth Mindset using STEM Challenges

The concept of a growth mindset was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck and popularized in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In recent years, many schools and educators have started using Dweck’s theories to inform how they teach students. 

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” writes Dweck. 

Students who embrace growth mindsets—the belief that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere—may learn more, learn it more quickly, and view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skills.

STEM Challenges are all about this idea of working hard and persevering.  In the course of doing a STEM Challenge, students see their failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skill at that particular challenge.  

As I approach the topic of Growth Mindset with my students, I use a pretty simple lab. Students must build a flashlight, but there's a catch, they must do it one piece at a time and no one student can do two parts back to back.  

Each group needs a disassembled flashlight (I get the mini flashlights from the Dollar Tree) with batteries.  You will need to take it apart into as many pieces as possible.  Students need to work together to build the flashlight in the fastest time.  While it seems easy, this lab takes students awhile to figure out, then even longer to get a pretty fast time.  The challenge of working together to build it, with each student doing different parts, is a tough one.

You can get the flashlight lab here.  Ready to open the world of growth mindset to your students?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

February is Dental Health Month

February is Dental Health month (among other things), so we decided to do some dental health science labs.  It was also a great opportunity to review variables.  The set-up is really simple (and not too expensive, either).  Did you know egg shells do a great job of mimicking your tooth enamel?

We are right in the middle of this lab, but we will be adding photos of our eggs throughout our five days of observations.  You can use any liquids, but we used: lemonade, diet coke, coke, fruit punch, orange juice, V8 splash, mouthwash, and water (as our control).  We cracked the eggs and covered one in toothpaste and left the other one alone.  We then placed each half into its own container of the same liquid (one liquid per table group).

Here are some of the eggs after just two days in the liquids:

The top picture is of the eggs in V8 Splash and the bottom one is in coke.  Can you believe that is after just 2 days?  Yikes!

Variables are so tricky for my students, so we are using this lab as a review of these concepts.  You can grab this lab pack here for under $2!  I am working on adding the variables posters to the lab pack right now!

Monday, February 1, 2016

School-wide January STEM Challenge - Build the Biggest Snowman

Every month, the classrooms in my building participate in a school-wide STEM challenge.  For January, we focused on the book, "The Biggest Snowman Ever", by Steven Kroll.  This challenge would work at anytime during the winter season!

As I was cruising down the hallway on my way out, I saw the most amazing snowmen in front of one of our 2nd grade classrooms!  These kids did an awesome job with this challenge!

This STEM challenge is deceptively simple in appearance, but it will really challenge the kids to think!  All you need is a 6 foot long sheet of white bulletin board paper.  Students must make the tallest snowman possible from that single sheet of paper.  These kids figured out how to use the round shape in the best possible way in order to optimize the paper.

If you are interested in this STEM challenge, click here!

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