Sunday, 16 August 2015

STEM in Kindergarten

My Kindergarten class has been participating in STEM type challenges for the past 4 weeks. I'm loving it and so are the students!

I should probably clarify that I am no expert, all that I know about STEM is from reading blogs and looking at Pinterest. It caught my eye because it looked like a lot of fun and my students seem to really enjoy hands on science and math activities.

For our first challenge we did 'Build a house that the Big Bad Wolf can't blow down'. For this challenge, students could only use masking tape, paddle pop sticks, matchsticks and rubber bands.
The Big Bad Wolf was myself and my support teacher. We created a wind by frantically flapping a plastic document wallet.

As this was the first session, I didn't really go into the design process. I just wanted to see if this would actually work in my room; would anything be built? would it cause fights? would it cause tears? I also wanted to see what we needed to work on in order for this to become a weekly activity.

Overall the first session was a success. The houses that were built were pretty stable. Only 2 out of the 10 fell over. I was quite proud. Though one thing that we needed to work on was the concept of "working together as a team" and the notion of a growth mindset.

So I whipped up this resource to tackle the teamwork problem.

It's a poster set with each social skill and what each skill actually means. It's all good to say "you need to work together" but what does that actually look like? What needs to be done? This pack makes it pretty explicit.

Our second challenge was 'Build a boat that will carry two teddies'. Before starting this challenge, I went through the skill cards and we discussed what each one meant and what it looked like. I hung up the prompt cards on the board as a visual reminder. I also introduced two Growth Mindset phrases which can be found on these two FREE posters. Click on the picture to get your own copy.
We went into the challenge chanting these!
Introducing the social skills before the session made a difference. I noticed that there was a lot more sharing, communication and teamwork during this session. Success!

For the boat, students used foil, straws, paper cups and masking tape. For the two teddies we used teddy bear counters.

Some of the boats were pretty fancy, I was not expecting them to be so elaborately designed. Most floated but some started to sink after a while.

At the end of the session, we walked around and looked at each boat. Then we came to the floor and talked about what we discovered. For the boats that sunk, I asked the groups why they thought it happened and what could they do next time to fix it.

Our third challenge was 'Build the tallest tower you can using only pipecleaners'. Once again, before starting, we talked about social skills and got into the notion of a growth mindset "I can! I can! I can!".

In this session, I noticed more students working on fixing their existing designs rather than just starting again all the time - which is part of the 'improve' phase. Not that I have explicitly taught these phases yet! That will be the next step now that the teamwork aspect has been covered.

I should also mention, that while students are completing the challenges I go around to each group and we have a brief discussion about what is happening. This is a great way to hear student thinking and prompt them in improving their design.

We have a STEM wall in our classroom. I take photos during each session and while we are having our reflection at the end, I scribe what the students have discovered. It's then hung up on the wall.

My display :)

This week I'm going to go through the Engineering Design Process and get some planning down. I'm thinking of doing this on the mini-whiteboards as this will allow them to change and rub out easily. Especially as this will be the first time and I'm anticipating that there will be a lot of rubbing out! This will link in perfectly with what we have being doing in maths - recording our working/thinking.

The only problem is deciding on what challenge to do next! There are so many awesome ideas!

If you are thinking of doing STEM in your classroom, go for it! It has a number of benefits including;

1. Fine motor skills
2. Teamwork
3. Problem solving
4. Critical thinking
5. Creative thinking
6. Communication & reasoning

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