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Unlike the class in the video that spent weeks on this project as part of their Science unit, I see my kids between three and five days, depending on snow days, holidays, professional development, and parent conferences. Needless to say, we can not get as in depth as the other class. That doesn't mean, however, that we couldn't make it work!
I also designed this project with third grade in mind, not middle school. At the third grade level, students are not exposed to concepts like kinetic and potential energy so unlike the class in the video, the transfer of energy was not our focus. Instead, our focus was on the design process. [Update: I also tried this project with Fourth grade and think it is perfect for them.]
The Design Process
How I "Wilburized" it
As previously mentioned, I used the Teaching Channel video as inspiration for the project, but had to adjust it for my younger kids, our time frame of a week, and the materials I have readily available. Another colleague of mine and fourth grade teacher at this school, Le'Toya Chisholm, had submitted a form on the Hot Wheels website for a free classroom Speedometry kit. When she received the kit, she donated it to my class, thanks again Le'Toya!! :) The kit includes: 40 Hot Wheels cars, 16 orange loop bases, 16 red clamps, 64 blue track connectors, and 100+ feet of orange track.
Because I had these materials readily available, I opted to use them instead of marbles and tubing insulation... and the mention of Hot Wheels perked the kids right up! They couldn't wait to get their hands on those orange tracks when we began the project. In fact, the materials caught their eye as soon as they walked in the classroom and were immediately wondering what they were going to be doing.
Designing on a budget
Another thing I loved about the video was the idea of the kids buying the materials and working on a budget. I have seven groups of four. I figured out based on the number of materials that came in the kit, how I could evenly split them between the seven groups. For instance, there were 16 clamps in the kit, so I knew that each group could have two clamps total, to be fair. Then I made two the limit for the amount of clamps they could buy. I repeated this process for all the materials.
Next I decided that I was going to use the same denominations of money that United States uses so that the buying experience was more realistic. I made $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills in "STEM money". I decided to make actual paper money instead of having the kids work off a spreadsheet to make the project more fun and kinetically pleasing. I priced out the materials kind of randomly, mostly by size and by how many the students would need. In other words, tracks and connectors are smaller and I knew their roller coasters would need a lot of them, so I priced them cheaply at $3 and $5 respectively. The loop base is much larger and the students could only buy two of them, so I made it worth $20.
To determine the budget, I figured out how much it would cost the students if they bought the maximum number allowed for each item. Then I rounded down so that they would NOT have enough money to buy everything. I wanted the students to experience trade-off when deciding how to spend their money. The number I landed on was $200 per group. An awesome moment for me was when one group realized they didn't have enough money to get everything they wanted. They looked so shocked and disappointed. What a great life lesson they were experiencing! Then they started again by talking about what items they needed for their design. "We don't really need two cars..." I overheard one of them saying.
I interviewed at Kathleen H. Wilbur Elementary School in Bear, DE and was accepted for the position. I am thrilled to be part of the #Wilburinspired family and start in my new position as the STEM specialist.
Wilbur Elementary is in Colonial School District, where I have been employed for the past five years. Prior to this position, I have taught sixth grade Science at Gunning Bedford Middle School. Throughout my time in Colonial, I have been heavily involved in all things related to Science and Technology, including Professional Development both as an observer and presenter and a multitude of committees and leadership opportunities. I believe all of my past experiences have prepared me for the STEM position that I face today.
I have taught a wide range of abilities at the sixth grade level but I will still be in for a rude awakening when I meet my new students... who start at five years old. That being said, my journey begins with PREPARATION. To prepare, I have been "pinning" anything and everything related to elementary STEM projects and Maker Spaces, looking for insight into what to expect and what I can expect the youngsters to be able to do at each grade level in the K-5 range, and looking for inspiration for STEM projects and Maker Space activities.
After researching the past couple days, I feel very strongly that there is a difference between Science experiments and STEM projects. And while any activity that incorporates two or more of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math could be considered STEM, I even find myself thinking about projects for my STEM class and activities for the Maker Space differently. Check out the differences in my mind in the chart below:
Preparing for STEM Class
To start prepping for my STEM course, I have started by looking up the Next Generation Science Standards for K-5, specifically related to the Engineering Process. It turns out there are actually explicit standards towards engineering! #winning I also bookmarked the Science and Engineering practices. Our district follows Learning Focused Solutions (LFS) curriculum design so next I will be creating a KUD (Know-Understand-Do) chart to establish objectives and then a Student Learning Map to show an overview of the Unit Essential Question, Concepts, Lesson Essential Questions, and Vocabulary for each grade level. Lastly, I will be looking for activities that allow students to meet the objectives for my unit, without overstepping into "regular classroom" teacher's science units.
Preparing for the Maker Space
My new principal is very excited about continuing her vision for the STEM Lab and has also entrusted with me the task of designing and creating a Maker Space. To prepare for that, I have researched ideas for Maker Spaces and started exploring in different stores. First I started by reading and checking out the resources curated by Ed Sheninger. According to Sheninger (2015), a High School Principal in New Jersey who is leading the Maker Movement, there are five essential questions you should ask yourself before you beginning:
Another great resource I've stumbled across was an article by David Rath (2015) titled, "8 Design Steps for an Academic MakerSpace". In the article, Rath recounts a presentation Russ Jarowski, a technology director, from ISTE 2015 Philadelphia. In the presentation, Jarowski lists "eight steps to work through in the creation of a successful child-centered academic makerspace" (2015). While explanations are given for each step in the article, they are as follows:
Lastly, I also came across "the Maker's Manual" that is embedded below. While the Manual is definitely higher level then what I plan for my elementary space, it does provide good insight into what we would eventually hope students would be able to do, which is to innovate their own creations and even go on to sell them.
Well ladies and gentleman, that's all I have for now! Stay tuned for pictures of both spaces and how I plan to organize them! ... Also which activities I choose to implement! In addition, I plan to use this blog to document both successes and reflections of obstacles that come from implementing both a STEM Lab and a Maker Space for the first time... after all, this will be quite a journey!
Want more? Check out what I've "Pinned" so far...
Your comments are welcome! I'd love to hear from you :)
Do you have a Maker Space or implement STEM activities? Are you thinking about it? I'd love to hear your ideas!
Ms. Sarah Cuje
Follow along on Ms. Cuje's journey towards creating and implementing a "STEM Lab" and "Maker Space" for grades K-5.