I am writing to you from a Brooklyn apartment where I am thinking about elementary STEM activities I can teach my students. Last week, I shared I was traveling to Boston to present at the DigiFab conference. So I decided to make a trip to New York since I have never been to this part of the country.
I enjoyed the conference! Fab Lab Hub is who put on the conference. One of their missions is to encourage schools to explore STEM with a particular emphasis in 3D printing. Fab Lab organizations provide educational programming for schools, afterschool programs, and other groups. Their goal is to give students not only access to technology and equipment but a way to learn design and fabrication skills through hands-on learning activities.
One of the common threads of the conference was the discussion of how educators are teaching STEM activities to elementary aged students. For example, the Keynote speaker was Rachel Ignotofsky who wrote the book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” stated students should learn in ways that were right for them such as through pictures and hands-on activities. She also discussed the disparity between boys and girls when it comes to pursuing computer science degrees. Her mission, through her books, is to educate girls about the women who were pioneers in their respective careers. She felt girls were not going into these fields because they couldn’t see themselves as scientists or engineers. However, one high school science teacher stated that many of his students have already made decisions related to their interests before they ever come to him.
It seemed to be a consensus for many that educating our youngest students in STEM are an important and missing piece to the puzzle. So the question is how do we encourage our young students, especially girls, to love science, math, and engineering? Honestly, I think the answer is quite easy. We teach it in the classroom.
I’ve learned from experience that students of all ages and gender LOVE hands-on activities! STEM is the perfect challenge for young minds and allows students to experience solving real-world problems for themselves. Students use the engineering design process to help them solve problems and are immersed in inquiry and open-ended exploration.
Another aspect of STEM I love is how students are encouraged to fail. I know that may seem strange but I don’t think we allow students to feel uncomfortable enough. Students need opportunities to come up with multiple answers and test and retweak their work. If you have never found
Elementary STEM Activities
Circuit Bugs – Recently, I started creating elementary STEM activities. The first one was a hit with my students as they designed a Leprechaun Trap while exploring simple machines. For April, I created an activity in which students learn about fireflies and circuits to help create circuit bugs. I’ll be writing more about STEM in the next few weeks.
5 Apps for STEM Lessons – Sandy shares 5 great apps to use when teaching elementary STEM activities in the classroom including TinkerBox and Hopscotch.
STEM/STEAM on the iPad with Stop Motion App – Love this idea from Erintegration! Erin shares how students used Stop Motion and cut paper to make moving models of the Lunar Cycle and the phases of the moon in science. Students are only allowed to use cut paper and the Stop Motion app to show all 8 lunar phases.
More STEM Activivities for All Ages
Fab@School Maker Studio – While this activity costs money, I still think it’s worth mentioning. They presented at the conference and shared all of the cool things they are doing with elementary students. While the software states it’s for grades 3-8, the presenter spoke of 1st graders having great success with their program. Beginning with paper, cardstock, and cardboard, Fab@School Maker Studio provides an accessible, low-cost way to imagine, design, invent, and fabricate 2D designs, pop-ups, and 3D projects like geometric constructions and working machines. One thing to note is the projects students design are cut out using a Silhouette cutting machine.
Tinkercad – Tinkercase is an online 3D design and printing app to make toys, prototypes, models and more. Best of all the resource is FREE! However, you do need a 3D printer to make your designs come to life! Here is a link to show how teachers are using it in their classrooms. I’m planning on talking to a few people to figure out the best 3D printer to purchase so stay tuned.
Have you ever tried STEM in your classroom? If you have any questions about how to get started let me know and I’ll answer them in future posts.