Category : STEM

STEM – The Testing Phase

I really have enjoyed having a STEM filled summer! It’s so great to see my children, nephews and niece really get into science, especially the whole design process. It was awesome to see their projects come to life! The hardest STEM project we had was to build a piece of playground equipment. My nephew was a little frustrated because what he wanted to design didn’t work. Or it would work for a second and then fall down. We had to do a lot of testing and revisions to help his project work at last! Here you can see it!

STEM - The Testing Phase

I really liked using the journal aspect of STEM design because it allows students to have a little quiet time and really think about what they are trying to accomplish. Here’s a sample page of the journal for the Testing Phase.

STEM - The Testing Phase

Here is one of the two apple school houses that they made.

STEM - The Testing Phase

I loved the testing phase of my oldest nephew’s backpack. His test was to make sure it was wearable. Because he said, “Why build a backpack if it isn’t functional?” This STEM project was a complete success.

STEM - The Testing Phase

If you’d like to add some STEM into your classroom, check out: STEM Center Challenges – Back to School STEAM

STEM – Imagining

I had more STEM fun with my nephews today. I wanted to get in some quality time with them before they went off to summer camp. I live pretty far away so I wanted to make sure we spent our time wisely, and we did. We created posable sculptures out of tin foil. The task was that they had to make the sculpture show how they feel about going back to school. Their school starts in about 1 month, so needless to say their sculptures looked a little sad. What I loved most about this project was their me blocks. I got to learn a little about them that I wouldn’t have regularly asked like, what is their goal for the upcoming school year.

The design process that I had them do had a step called imagining. During this step I asked them to brainstorm three things that they wanted to incorporate into their sculpture. My youngest nephew wanted to make sure his had two legs and two arms, a sad head facing downwards, and he wanted it to sit on his me cube. Imagining is important it gives the students fuel for the next step of the process. It’s important to encourage students to go wide so they can think beyond obvious solution. You should encourage variety and volume – the two Vs.

You can see here that he accomplished one of his goals of his design right off the bat by quickly making two legs.

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I loved this activity but it is a good solo activity and it doesn’t have any competition in it. I have to admit I love competition, but sometimes it’s good to just have fun without seeing whose creation is the tallest or throws the farthest, etc.

Here’s a picture of my youngest nephew’s final project. You can grab your own Back to School STEM printables here: STEM Center Challenges – Back to School Edition

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Apple Schoolhouse STEM Challenge – The Planning Stage

I was spending time with my nephews and they had a problem that they could not solve. I asked them if they had ever heard of the design process because I thought it would be helpful to them. They had not heard of it. I explained how the design process is used in engineering, but is now more commonly being applied to school projects as well as combatting everyday obstacles. Simply put, the design process takes a problem and makes it more manageable by breaking it down into pieces.

The problem they were trying to solve was, who could build a catapult out of lego bricks that could fling a minifigure across the room the farthest? We sat down and started to talk about the design process.

After we spent the afternoon talking this, I decided this would be a useful document I could make for my TeachersPayTeachers store. I decided to base a series of STEM challenges around the design process. The first challenge is to make an apple schoolhouse.

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We had fun getting the materials together. I cut all of the apples so that they would have to work with the pieces given. I did this as an extra challenge, once I heard they wanted to slice the apples thinly and use them for shingles. I even gave them the apple core, as you never know what they might want to do with it.

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My nephews had a lot of fun designing the house together and brainstorming what they wanted to add to their house. My youngest nephew insisted on a door that would open.

The planning stage is important! Planning helps students narrow down their thoughts and focus on the best solution. In this case they needed to focus on the details. This is why I encourage the students to not simply draw out their plan, but to create a diagram: a detailed, labeled blueprint.

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There are other steps to the design process, but I’ll focus on those in future posts.

Here are a few more fun pictures of my nephews working on their Apple Schoolhouse.

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Here is the finished product! They were so proud of their accomplishment and it was a fun way to teach them a lot about the design process. I love the fact that they managed to create a door out of apple chunks and pipe cleaners that would open and close. I especially love how they used part of the paper plate as the roof of the schoolhouse!

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You can get this product here: STEM Challenges Back to School

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