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STEM at Home – Step By Step

Let’s talk about STEM at Home! Can I just start by telling you how excited students are about this! Especially students that have been attending a STEM class weekly and love it. They are thrilled with hearing that they will be able to ‘do STEM at Home’! “Ah,” you say, “how does this work?” I know, I get it. How can it work? Well, let’s go through a little step-by-step and then you can grab a free STEM Challenge to try!

STEM at Home-Projects that can be completed by students at home with digital forms and help from families.

The Engineering Design Process

When I first decided to put together these STEM at Home packets I knew the resources would still need to follow the EDP. So, I made sure that the students’ sheets have those steps included and clearly marked.

How is this going to be different?

Here are some things I thought about!

  • There might not be a lesson before the STEM challenge. So, the background information might have to be delivered in a different form.
  • Students may not have the materials. I made sure to choose STEM challenges that use basic materials that students are likely to have at home and I have made sure the student guides mention substitutions.
  • They will be working alone. This is somewhat true, but I have also included challenges that will need some parental involvement. There are a few experiments or cutting tasks that students will need to get an adult to help with.
  • Sharing time is going to be different! Yes, it will! And this, as you know is my favorite part. I love watching groups share their final results with other teams. This is a do-able task, however. Students can upload photos to a Google Drive folder. They can share photos or the actual structures during a class meeting online.

So, let’s get going with some step-by-step directions and tips for you!

STEP 1 – The Purpose of the Task

The Ask step of the EDP is a way to set a purpose for the task.

STEM at Home Challenges- this post is a step-by-step listing of ways to use challenges as distance learning. A free challenge is included!

The student sheets for STEM at Home have the question at the top of each page. The free challenge you can grab has students thinking about rules they have at home.

Think about it- being at home all the time means more responsibilities for everyone in the family. I have seen social media posts from parents and teacher-parents that show their chore charts. Of course, you must add school responsibilities to this. Students that are using online resources and online class meetings have very different home rules now.

The first thing students will do in this Rules Challenge is make a list of household rules.

TIP: If you are able to talk to students before starting this challenge, involve the class in a discussion about new rules they have a home. They are likely to have some of the same rules!

STEP 2- Watch a Video

One of the major parts of STEM in my lab is the pre-loading for the task. I don’t always let students know the science behind a task (because I want them to discover it), but we do talk before the challenge. Our discussions are necessary to add background knowledge.

But, what about distance learning? I started looking for short videos to take the place of classroom discussions. And, I have found some really great videos!

STEM at Home Challenges- this post is a step-by-step listing of ways to use challenges as distance learning. A free challenge is included!
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The video for the Rules Challenge is about how engineers work. It is a great refresher for students that have not been in a STEM class in a while or maybe have never been.

More examples of videos I found:

  • For Building a Volcano Model- All about Volcanoes
  • For Roller Coasters – Why Roller Coasters are Awesome!
  • For Animal Adaptations – Animals with Winter Coats

TIP: Share your screen with online students and watch the videos together. The student sheet has a clickable link to the video so it can be watched at home independently.

STEP 3 – Imagine – What do you already know?

In this step I usually have teams talk to one another and then every team will share something that was discussed.

For the Rules Challenge, each student will think about the at-home rules and decide which one they would like to ‘teach’ to their classmates.

Students also need to think about what they can build that will help them teach the rule.

TIP: You might have to list a few ideas. If you have a class meeting (ZOOM, Google hang-outs, Facebook Live) you could start an anchor chart with student ideas. These ideas can help students that are struggling to think of a rule.

STEP 4 – Planning

Students will have a list of suggested materials on their lab sheets. These materials are likely to be things they already have at home and substitutions are okay.

In my STEM Lab, planning means that every student will sketch an idea and then share it with team members.

For at-home STEM this is going to look different! The lab sheets in my STEM at Home packets are digital or printable. If your students are using the digital version they can write about their idea or take a photo of a drawing and insert it on the google slide. If you are using a printed packet, students can draw their idea as usual.

TIP: This may be the first time students have planned for a structure individually. They may be accustomed to working within a team and find this part challenging. That’s okay- many of them will love working alone! For students that prefer to sketch an idea, this will be perfect. For those that prefer to write, they can fill in the google slide text box.

STEP 5 – Time to Build

Students will need to gather materials and then start creating their model of an at-home rule in action.

TIP: At this point, you will not be involved. Students will be working on models with a parent or older sibling. If you are able, you may want to set a time schedule for sharing pictures. Students could take photos as they are creating and share these action shots.

STEP 6 – Testing

To test their Rule Model students will share it with their family and explain the rule being taught.

The feedback from family members will lead to improvements.

TIP: Here is an example- A student builds a model of vacuuming his bedroom. He creates a figure (himself) and a vacuuming device and then shares it with his family. In his speech about the chore he says one sentence to his family. They have many questions. Those questions let him know he needs to explain more about how, when, and why he is vacuuming. Those are the details that will be needed to complete his lab sheet and share the model with classmates.

STEP 7 – Improving

In the classroom, we find that improving is an on-going process. As students are building a structure they will often have something that is not working correctly. They make changes immediately. This is likely going to happen at home, too.

TIP: If are meeting with students during this building process, you could schedule a time to talk about how they are improving their models. This could help a student that has not seen a need for improvement. After hearing classmates tell about the extras that have been added, students may add more to their models, too.

STEP 8 – Share Time

This will be your favorite part of this experience. Students that have completed the Rules Challenge will show their models and talk about the rule being shown. What a fun time!

TIP:  In the classroom, we limit each team’s share time. This is something you may need to do with STEM at Home. If you have 20 students and they each share for 5 minutes… do the math. It could be a long meeting. You may want to tell students at the very beginning that their speech about their rule should be no longer than one minute- but full of details! You can also split sharing time into several meetings.

How is online learning going for you?

I hope you are finding plenty of resources and ways to get lessons to your groups. I see photos of teachers standing in their showers and using the shower wall as a dry erase board. It seems funny, but we do what we have to do, right?

I have the Rules Challenge as a free resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I also have 3 sets that each include five challenges.

Set 1 includes:

  • Building Boats
  • Popcorn Containers
  • Marble Mazes
  • Pom-Pom Launchers
  • Index Card Towers

Set 2 includes:

  • Water Slides
  • Parachutes
  • Robotic Hands
  • Robots
  • Anemometers

Set 3 includes:

  • Animal Adaptations
  • Build a Bridge
  • Volcanoes
  • Roller Coasters
  • Bird Feeders
STEM at Home-Projects that can be completed by students at home with digital forms and help from families.