This post will be heavy on photos, but you are going to love seeing little glimpses of our work, our projects, and the amazing inventiveness of kids.
1 – Hands-On
2- Problem Solving
This is a huge part of STEM projects. Kids have to find ways to make things work. The photo below is a perfect example.
3 – Materials Are Easy!
To be honest, yes, sometimes the materials are complicated. But, on the other hand, a lot of our challenges use materials you likely already have in your classroom.
4- Add Some Reading
This turned out to be the best idea ever! With my smallest engineers, the key to grabbing their attention was to read them a book first.
“I don’t have time to read to my kids!”
Take that five minutes at the beginning of science time, read a book or a part of a book, and dive into your project.
Truth: Classroom teachers are busy. Too busy. Whenever we can tie multiple subjects together and knock out a lot of standards in the process it becomes a win-win. Read a book and try a STEM Challenge- you are covering reading, writing, teamwork, science, and engineering standards. (And maybe some math!)
5 – Creativity of kids is astounding.
I cannot say this enough. Kids think way differently than I do. I tend to think about the aesthetics of a project and I am very symmetrical. I would never think about using a foam cup to make something, but just check the photo below.
6 – Teamwork is the key and is essential!
I cannot say this enough either. Teamwork. Teamwork. Teamwork. Nothing else I have ever tried has brought groups together like STEM challenges.
7 – STEM tasks are highly engaging.
I mean this, seriously. Kids are engaged with STEM projects and it is all-hands-on-deck.
8 – We learn from mistakes.
Boy, do we! Take a look at the Newton’s Cradle below. See those little blue marbles. If they are not lined up perfectly then Newton’s Law just doesn’t work. I have watched kids create these and then discover they needed to adjust the marbles or the strings and have to start again.
Last example – take a look at the bridge. This is the drawbridge challenge again. The requirements did not say kids had to build ramps on each end. But, inevitably some teams will do this. I watch and let them make this simple mistake. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that making those side ramps creates so many problems. They will eventually take it all apart and start over with a flat bridge!
9 – Kids learn to make decisions.
This is one of the most fun things! I give the kids an array of materials and they have to pick the items that they think will work best. It is so fun to listen to them talk about the merits of getting extra craft sticks versus straws.
One of our favorite things to do is add a budget to the challenge. Kids have a certain amount of money and must spend it wisely. This means being even more careful about the materials and how they use them.