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Answers To The 5 Questions I’m Asked Most Often

I love hearing from my readers, especially when you have questions. Let me share the 5 questions I am asked most often!

I do have some very similar questions asked often, so I thought I would respond to the 5 questions I am asked the most! I totally understand when I receive any questions when you are considering a purchase! None of us wants to buy something and then discover it is not the right purchase!

Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

Just an Overview

  • Would younger students be able to do this?
  • How do you create teams?
  • How long will this challenge take?
  • I am new to STEM, so where should I start?
  • How do I solve these printing problems?

Are you ready? Let’s see if I can answer these questions?

Would younger students be able to do this?

STEM CHALLENGES: Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

This is a question that I have received a few times- either at my TpT store or as a comment on a social media platform.

The easy answer is… well, there is not an easy answer! Ha!

Let me explain. I have tested all of my STEM Challenges with third, fourth, or fifth graders. Some have been tested with all three grades. I have most of my resources labeled as grades 3-5. If a resource is labeled with all three grades, then I think each of those grades will be able to complete the challenge.

But, and this is a big but, you may need to make some modifications. This could be editing the student lab sheets to make the questions more age-appropriate. It could be changing the materials by adding more or less of something. It could mean adding a time limit or taking away the time limit. Ultimately, this is a decision you will have to make.

You know your students and what they can handle. You can make changes to any challenge to make them easier or more challenging. And, never be afraid to change something right in the middle of the challenge.

When I saw a group build a successful water tower in less than 3 minutes, I stopped everyone. We looked at what that one team had done and then we changed the rules. I never expected the towers to be built so easily, but after seeing the “loophole” in my rules, I changed them.

Also, don’t be afraid to stop a class and ask what else they might need to make the project work. I have done this many times and frequently hear that having more tape will help!

Now, let’s address the original question! Can this be done with younger students? If I have something labeled as grades 3-5 and you teach first grade, I would not advise the use of the challenge! Can you make it work? Maybe. I would advise grouping your first and second graders with older buddies or having parents come in to help!

How do you create teams?

STEM: Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

I can describe the ways I create teams, but this will vary for you.

It depends on the number of students you have and their ages.

I recommend groups of 3-4 for most challenges.

The most typical way I assign students on teams is to greet a class at my lab door and hand out colored cards. The colors match the labels on my lab tables. So, if a student is handed a red card, he or she goes to the red table. It’s a fairly simple system and it works!

But, if you try something like this you will need to establish the procedure first. My rules are listed below:

  • Students may not trade cards.
  • We do not express a dislike for our teammates that arrive at the table.
  • We trade teams for every challenge, so if your team is not the perfect one for you, then it might be better next time.

Do I ever move students after I see how the teams have been formed? Yes, I do. You learn quickly that there are just some groupings that will absolutely not work. I approach those teams individually and listen to their first conversations and if I see problems occurring I can quietly move a student or two. Sometimes they surprise me and are able to work together without being moved around!

I have a few other ways I choose teams and I have a blog post about choosing teams and jobs. I will link it for you at the end of this post. It has more details!

How long will this challenge take?

Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

This is always a great question, but it is difficult to answer!

There are so many things that must be considered when I respond.

Here’s a list of things you should think about as far as the length of time a challenge might take:

  • The experience level of students
  • The age of students
  • The time of year (Yes, this matters!)
  • The complexity of the challenge and the amount of materials
  • The testing and improving process
  • The use of lab sheets

All of these are important! Obviously, the experience and age level of students will make the challenge need a longer period of time. If it’s the first challenge ever completed, you can count on a longer time being needed. Younger students may need more background schema or mini-lessons on using materials.

If it is the beginning of the year, students may not know your procedures yet or each other. It takes time to “get in the groove”.

Complex challenges always take longer- for example, the Ferris Wheel. Even my upper-level fifth graders that have been completing STEM projects with me for 3 years need two class sessions for building the wheels!

Challenges that require testing and time to improve may take longer. One suggestion is to build, test, and make a list of things to try next. On the second day, students reassemble and use their notes to proceed. We do this a lot!

If your students are going to be filling in detailed lab sheets you will need more time! A suggestion here is to have each team complete one lab sheet and take turns being the recorder.

TIP: Check the resource description. I usually list the time frame my class used to complete the challenge. One-day projects can usually be completed in 45 minutes. When you note that time frame, think about all the things I listed above!

I am new to STEM, so where should I start?

STEM ACTIVITIES: Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

Easy answer- start simple and stay simple.

Establish procedures first and then try a really simple project. A five-minute build will let students practice procedures and gradually learn to work as a team.

Procedures first! Think of all the things you want to see happening and then plan for that. A few ideas:

  • Planning the design and making a decision
  • Assigning jobs in the group
  • Sharing time
  • Clean-up time

Those are just a few things to plan for. Now, let’s think about very simple projects you can use for “practice” before tackling a full-class project.

Another idea: Give each team a container with 2-3 items and have them build a tower or a bridge in five minutes. Share and talk about the results and repeat- just change the structure being built. This allows students to learn a procedure or two and work together under pressure!

So, where should you start if you are new? Procedures first, team-building and short projects, and then simple projects. I have some blog posts listed at the end of this post that may be useful to you!

What can do when students fail with a challenge?

STEM PROJECTS: Top 5 questions I get asked about STEM and my answers. Tips about each question are shared by a STEM Specialist for elementary students.

We certainly want our students to have standing structures following the task constraints. This, of course, just does not happen. STEM projects embrace failure- it is, in fact, the heart of the challenge.

From our failures, we learn to make improvements and try new things. When something doesn’t work as expected, this failure causes us to quickly problem-solve and tackle a new solution.

I find students are their most creative when their original thinking goes awry and they must adjust. When there is only one solution to a problem students have no need to think outside the box.

The growth mindset of cooperation, resiliency, accepting failure as an opportunity, and a can-do attitude make the STEM lab a comfortable place to learn.

More than anything remember that failure encourages growth. I emphasize this, “What did you learn that you can use on future projects?”

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 This post features the top 5 questions I am asked the most often on today's post! The questions all relate to my STEM resources or my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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