Monday, September 26, 2011

Spotlight on STEM

It is the sixth week of school and our STEM classes have all gotten under way. The students have been learning a lot of background information about engineering, technology, and what engineers (in general) do. Almost every student now has their own STEM science journal. We use these in each class to write down keywords, vocabulary and definitions, processes, blueprints and diagrams, and reflections. The students are all becoming acclimated to a more scientific style of writing over the more creative style of writing they have become used to in their language arts times. This is a more direct and specific style of writing based on observations.

Kindergarten students while practicing their headings with the date at the top of each entry have been working on going through a modified engineering design process as they take a page from Dr. Seuss and have been designing their own version of the Cat in the Hat's moss-covered, three-handled family gredunza (cleaning machine). Some of them are quite ingenious with separate compartments for soap, window cleaner, paper towels, hoses, and ice-cream cones (for when they are finished cleaning).

First, second, and third grade students have been concentrating on the engineering design process using the Manatee County Design Process model for elementary students: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. They are learning that engineers are problem solvers, and need to identify the problem they are trying to solve first, before brainstorming solution ideas.

Meanwhile, fourth and fifth grade students have been learning about problem solving as they have been working in teams trying to devise a plan to escape an island in which they have been shipwrecked on with only one precious item each. Many of the items the students wanted included video game consoles, iPods, computers, televisions, beds, books, and their families, including family pets. They are learning to work together and realizing its not as easy to text their way to help without any electricity, cell phone towers or internet connections.

Finally, today marks the kick-off of our Technology Student Association (TSA) enrichment club. This is the school's second year for a TSA team, and our hopefully, our first full year of a year round club dedicated to the enrichment and extension of technology, science, mathematics, and engineering skills. A couple of our planned competitions for the year is the catapult competition at TSA Districts in December, and a Water Tower competition for 5th grade elementary students in April. Other competitions are in the works, but not confirmed for the moment.


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