Lately I have been reading a lot about design thinking, as I begin to write new curriculum for the Burlington Technical Centerś Pre Tech and Maker Space programs. The most engaging and interesting information I have found so far live on Stanfordś design thinking site: dschool.stanford.edu and on NuVuś site: cambridge.nuvustudio.com. Both sites are fairly different as one school is a college and one a high school, but both bring to light some interesting thoughts when it comes to process and design thinking.
In the last month, second graders have been wrapping their heads around the idea of how seeds travel and why this affects why plants replication. We had a great adventure in the back field area of Flynn searching for ¨evidence¨ of how seeds do this. If students didn´t know what or were able to identify wild grapes, milkweed and burdock, they now do.
To fit in some design thinking to compliment this investigation, I asked students to design and create their own seeds that had to travel in a specific way. Most wanted to design seeds that traveled by air, while a daring few chose my personal favorite; explosion. Students dove into building, but soon realized that this task may be harder than they think.
One of the really great intersections of science and engineering in this challenge is the idea of properties (science vocabulary also present in the second grade matter unit). Students had to be aware of the properties of the real seeds they were trying to mimic in order to create one of their own that was successful.
Building my curriculum on the passions and wishes of my students is integral to my design. Last year, when asked, students overwhelmingly stated that they wanted more experiences with robotics. So, true to my word, I looked into purchasing and providing more time with robotics this year. The crux is, robotic sets are VERY expensive!
Instead of only looking into Lego Robotic sets, I ordered a new solar set that focuses on the building aspect, but was also tuned into Spheros by my colleague and Flynn math integrationist, Kevin Grace. Two weeks ago, fourth graders began a robotics unit. Our newly acquired Spheros were the kickoff.
Students became acquainted with them slowly, learning how to connect them to iPads, then learning how to move them and then program them. This week we were able to engage in a challenge. As you’ll see in the pictures below, students had to program their robots to follow a line of tape on the rug. These may seem simplistic at first sight, but students have to grapple with duration. speed AND angle within each programmable roll of the Sphero.
It was so amazing to watch students engaged and working together cooperatively! Our I can statement of the day was:
- I can collaborate and persevere with my partner through a programming challenge.
Students sat together in groups of fours and many worked together, building on each other’s ideas and learning from fails to produce a successful program. The incredible part is how organically these skills happen from a simple and fun task such as this. Most did not solve their challenge in one class, but I hope to build on these ideas and future classes.
Three amazing scientists from ESPCoR visited our Flynn first graders for a second year. They thought that the first visit was such a huge success that they would come back again!
When you ask a first grader what a scientist is you get a wide range of answers ranging from:
- a person who wears a lab coat.
- a person that makes potions.
- or my favorite this year; a person that carries handcuffs.
So in order to promote our wonderful study of science and debunk all the myths of what scientists really are, we brought three female scientists in to teach us. They taught us that:
- yes, we wear lab coats, but not that often. We usually wear ripped jeans when we’re doing field studies.
- we collect water samples and bug samples to check for the health of the lake.
- we use many tools, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes and vials.
- and we get to travel to other countries, like China and parts of the South American continent.
We also had some amazing ideas and questions come from our students about:
- zebra mussels
- blue/green algae
We will visit these questions and ideas in future STEAM classes.
What an amazing summer we had in Burlington this year! I don’t think I remember weather quite as good in the 15 or so years I’ve lived here.
Last Wednesday we had our first day of school and what an exciting and happy day it was! Students poured into our hallways with smiles and cheerful exchanges with both students and teachers. During STEAM we engaged in games that connected to our skills and practices that we will focus on during the school year. For fifth and fourth graders it was collaboration, while first, it was making observations. It was so good to see all those bright and shining faces again!
This year we have some exciting projects in the works. A few of these are:
- a fifth/third grade collaboration creating programmed weather stations with Dealer.com staff.
- creating and learning about vermiculture.
- lots of outdoor work and exploration time
- an integrated classroom/STEAM project with Generator
Enjoy your last few summer days!
As part of our blossoming partnership with the Community Sailing Center, fourth graders were visited by CSC’s educator Dayna McRoberts who taught an interactive lesson on geology and the evolution of Earth in connection with their water and land unit. Together, students created a timeline of the Earth’s history and learned many new important facts about their planet, rocks and the importance that land and water makes in our existence. The fact that surprised most students was that after the Big Bang, it rained on Earth for 500 million years!
Jen Guimaraes, director of CSC, Dayna McRoberts, Graham Clarke and myself have been working continuously on CSC curriculum this year to ensure that lessons coming out of CSC are integrated with the science units of fourth and fifth graders. These units will be taught in all elementary schools throughout the entire Burlington School District. I thank Jen and Dayna for their dedication and hard work to bring STEM lessons and lake experiences to the students of BSD.
Quite some time has passed since I last blogged so here’s a quick rundown of some of the exciting things that happened in STEAM this spring!
First grade: In connection with their math content from class, students discussed geometry and the connection of shapes in building design. They then created three dimensional shapes with gumdrops and toothpicks to test their strength. We discussed various building designs around the world, such as the One World Trade Tower, the Burj Kalifa, the Shanghai Tower and even ancient buildings such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Students were challenged to create and test shapes for their strength.
Fifth Grade: One of our community partners, the Community Sailing Center, has been to Flynn multiple times this spring to bring curriculum connected to the NGSS standards we teach and a goal of inspiring increased lake stewardship for our students. Dayna McRoberts, educator of CSC, allowed students to test various water samples, some out of our faucet, and discuss what pH, phosphorus, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity is. These scientific ideas were easy for students to grapple with as they did similar tests with EPSCoR earlier this year and during their ecosystem unit with Ms. Pecor. As a class Dayna discussed the implications of high turbidity in water or elevated phosphorus levels and what actions students can take to improve lake health.
Even more exciting, a few weeks after, all fifth grade students made trips to the Sailing Center to sail, test pH, turbidity and take the temperature of Lake Champlain. I was lucky to join Ms. Pecor’s class on the lake and was impressed by the knowledge they held about the lake. I said to one of our fifth graders, “Wow, you know so much about science! It’s incredible,” to which she replied, “We learn it all in your class Ms. Asaro!” I certainly can’t take full responsibility for the breadth of their knowledge, but it is remarkable to see how much of our integrated teaching is paying off.
I was really impressed with our fifth graders last week when each class completed the last challenge that aligns with our submersibles unit. Before entering into this challenge, they had to investigate and grapple with the idea of mass and volume in relation to sinking and floating. Some students even began to understand the concept of density.
Every team was able to complete the first challenge of creating a floating submersible with different density vials that served as the submersibles “instruments”. Almost every team after that, was able to complete the challenge of retrieving three different packages from our “sea floor”. In the end, I was impressed that most students were able to understand mass and volume in relation to sinking or floating. These concepts can prove confusing for students. Our fifth grade proved that when engaged and challenged they persevere and can learn complicated scientific understanding.