This Week in the Classroom I’m going to explore a variety of design challenges that I use in my classroom. I designed each of these projects to prompt students to explore the engineering design process, learn basic scientific concepts, such as forces and loads on structures, learn executive functioning and soft skills, and develop presentation skills in a variety of media. These projects are designed to be super flexible in practice. I can extend these projects, compress the time, develop thematic elements. None of these projects use expensive materials or electronics. Some of these project briefs I use nearly every year, in nearly every course. They are simply that good.
The last five years have seen an explosion in Maker Edu-themed products geared for the younger set. Young kids make enthusiastic makers. They love challenging puzzles, approachable crafts and as long as you put flames on it, they think everything you do is amazing! What’s not to love about teaching the pre-K through 3rd grade set?
Little makers also need encouragement, support and developmentally-appropriate materials to be successful. Many of us think Makers means 3D printers, microcontrollers and fancy toys. Young makers will feel left out (though amazed) at all those cool gizmos and flashy parts because the concepts, skills and tools are all too complex. Instead, we can broaden our definition of making (to include art, crafts, woodworking, cooking and more) while developing technology tools that teach at their level. Technology tools can empower our children through exploration and discovery.
Robot Turtles and the BeeBot/BlueBot are two MakerEd platforms you can use to promote foundational computer science concepts and coding skills to the very young learners.
As a teacher of mostly teenage boys, I can say my kids want to see three things: something on fire, something crashing, or something flying (and then crashing). I love teaching middle-school science because I get to teach motion, which sets things crashing and stuff flying. As written by Jim Steinman and sung by Mr. Loaf, two out of three ain’t bad. So how do I go from standards to a project idea to a curriculum unit?
Personally, I take a five step approach:
- Reference standards,
- Pick a project,
- Choose an excellent essential question,
- Find cross-curriculum opportunities,
- Generate weekly Maker labs.
After the jump, I’ll expand on each of these points and share some of my curriculum planning tools. Come on in and see how the engine of a classroom might work.
You’ve been to a science fair, right? Tri-fold boards, volcanoes and blue ribbons. This month, my colleagues and I shepherded the “STEM Fair” into existence. The STEM Fair is a showcase for any Science, Technology, Engineering or Math project our students produced over the course of a month. My school produced forty to fifty blog posts, hundreds of digital pictures, a dozen two minute videos, thirty presentations and about ten individual physical showcases. I have a room filled with Japanese art-chemistry, rocket cars, rockets of various propulsion methods, a small robot, a Lego-Branded robot, paper gliders, a seesaw and more. … Continue reading Technology in Education: The Digital STEM Fair
Spring 2012 is here! I have just a (few) new classes. A quick rundown after the jump: