Monday, January 9, 2012

And we are back!

Welcome back, STEM fans! We've had a good break, somehow those 16 days off do not quite seem long enough, but I'm excited to be back in school for the second half of the school year. (Well, not quite - the semester ends on the 20th.) I had a couple of wonderful workshops on the teachers' first day back, Twitter for Teachers, and Balsa Wood Bridge building. We also had a special guest engineer join us for TSA today, but more about that in the TSA blog.

We are down to the final two weeks of the Engineering Design Process. I have a couple of groups who would love to spend the whole year just working on their project, but we have to move on. I'm past where I should be and still have 3 more units to get through before the end of the school year - time to get moving!

Most of the classes are finishing up their write up in their journals this week. This is a challenge for some of them, I've noticed, but I have been allowing them to complete this part as a group, in discussion, but each one responsible for writing it down in their own journal. The students are writing and explaining to me the process they took (their group took) to create their solutions/projects. I'm tying this into their Language Arts by having them work on process writing. Since this class is only about 35 minutes long (at the most) and they see me once a week, the students will not be able to fully go through all of the writing process on this piece in their journals. But I'm looking for complete thoughts, standard writing elements (capitalization and punctuation in the lower grades; detailed explanations in the upper grades, along with correct grammar), and the ability to take their words, if they were to verbally explain it to me, and retell it in written format.

Although the students will not be able to physically complete the Improvement part of the Engineering Design Process, they will be completing this part in theory in their journals. I've asked them to tell me, if they were able to make improvements to their pieces, what would they do to make it better, and how would they go about accomplishing this.

First and fourth grade classes are also taking the Engineering Design Process test this week since they missed time during the week we were in the Cafeteria for Christmas program practice. They have already taken a pretest several weeks ago, before the break, and are reviewing before the test, so it should still be fresh in their minds.

A snowflake ornament made from spoons and painted craft sticks.
A few of the groups are still working on completing their creation step this week, like a group that is working on creating the London Tower Bridge from a plastic tray used to hold an laser printer ink cartridge in shipment - they have been gluing the towers and supports for the suspension cables, after painting and trying to cover up the bright orange plastic before Christmas. Another group is working to complete their garden, using plastic straws for the fencing. One of the first grade groups finished working on their snowflake made from plastic spoons this week. I can see the likeness of their finished project to their blueprint drawing they made months ago in their journal.
Its difficult to make out the writing in this picture of their journal
but on the left it says, "Engineering DP Loop
1. Ask the problem - How can we build from a straw popsicle craft stick?
2. Imagine - Brainstorming - See Jasmin's journal (Jasmin recorded
the brainstorming list for this team, but was not the one who recorded
the written plans as in the drawing of the snowflake on the right page.)

Kindergarten is beginning on the Simple Machines unit this week and touring the school looking for examples of Simple Machines in action. They all got so excited when we went up to the front and saw the flag pole. They all recognized the pulley on the flagpole and expressed how it saved the patrols from climbing up and down the pole each day for the flags.


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