.This is part 4 of my STEM Lab Story. If you have not read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, please go back and read those first.
STEM Lab Schedule
For the 2016/2017 school year, the biggest change that I made to the STEM Lab had to do with the schedule. From the previous year, I noticed that the students in grade 3-5 were never able to complete a project in the STEM Lab, before having to clean up and move on. I made a huge change to the schedule, so that one (3-5) class would visit the STEM Lab at a time. This allowed students from that class to work on a project for one week (4 days). They could store their work-in-progress until the next day, if needed, and then clean up their materials on the final day (Friday).
You can purchase my sample STEM Lab schedule HERE. If you use Google Docs, there is a link within the sample STEM Lab schedule resource that will allow you to make a copy of my schedule. Once you have made the copy, you will be able to modify it however you need. If you have questions about the sample STEM Lab schedule, please leave them in the comments below!
STEM Lab Journal
In addition to the schedule I spent a lot of time working and re-working the journal that students would complete during their time in the STEM Lab. I wanted a journal that focused on reflection and goal setting, so that students could evaluate their own learning. I also figured out, very quickly, that a simple format was better, since I was seeing multiple classes each week in the STEM Lab.
I developed one journal template for grades 3-5 and a different journal template for grades 6-8. You can purchase my STEM Lab Journal/Reflection (Google Slides) Template HERE. You will need access to Google Slides to use the template, and I suggest distributing and collecting work through Google Classroom.
Advice for Getting Started with your STEM Lab
For those of you that are in the beginning stages of setting up a STEM Lab, I would highly suggest creating a set schedule and using some type of journal. There should also be some type of STEM Lab Orientation for students, prior to them working in the Lab. This establishes the rules, procedures, and expectations of the STEM Lab.
Also, remember that it is okay if you are not an expert on every kit or software in your Lab! I figured out many things in the STEM Lab alongside my students. Encourage them to search for their own answers, rather than asking you immediately. That could mean talking with a classmate, re-reading a manual, or finding a helpful video on YouTube.
I would love to support you as you begin your journey with STEM, either in a Lab, or in your classroom. Please leave a comment below with any questions or wonderings, or find me on Twitter @mrslovefleck.
This is part 3 of my STEM Lab Story. If you have not read Part 1 and Part 2, please go back and read those first.
Kindergarten - Second Grade
I finished out the 2015/2016 school year in the STEM Lab, having students rotate through the various activities in the STEM (Smart) Lab. K-2 students visited me weekly in the STEM Lab for a 45 minute lesson. They used materials including K'Nex, Zometools, and Ozobots, and they used computer programs like code.org and Pixie. We also used consumable materials like cups, string, tongue depressors, etc. to build bridges and towers.
Third - Fifth Grade
Students in grades 3-5 rotated through 5 islands: K'Nex, Snap Circuits, Vernier Sensors, Code.org, and Lego WeDo. One class would visit for 4 days, within one week (M, T, Th, F) for 1 hour each day, then would not return to the lab for 4-5 weeks. This was the best way for students to have enough time to build with their materials, however, it still made sharing the materials and kits a little bit tricky. For example, the students in Class A would come in for an hour, then Class B would come in for an hour following them. Class A and Class B were sharing the same materials and kits, so the students often had to build, then deconstruct their work before leaving.
When working through an activity, students referred to the Creative Learning Systems curriculum for instructions. Some of the directions in the curriculum were difficult for students in grades 3-5 to comprehend, so I would scaffold and support during these activities. Students completed a slide within their STEM Lab journal each day that they worked in the Lab. This was built into the clean-up/closing procedure and quickly became routine. We also looked at exemplar journals so that students knew what was expected of them and their writing. The journals were completed in Google Slides, and distributed and collected through Google Classroom.
Middle School students in grades 6-8 worked their way through 15 different activities, using their Google Slides journal as a form of goal setting, planning, and reflection. The students used the Creative Learning Systems curriculum to guide them through their activities, and for the most part, students were able to follow along with the curriculum independently. Students always worked with a partner and focused not only on the task at hand, but also on the 4C's of 21st Century Learning.
At the end of the 2015/2016 school year, we held our first STEMfest event, where students in middle school were able to show off their work from the STEM lab to their families. I highly suggest organizing an opportunity for students to share their work with an audience (parents, classmates, experts, etc.). The students really felt the need to step up their presenting game when they knew that they would be sharing their work, and fielding questions, from an authentic audience.
Following the STEMfest of 2016, everybody was excited about STEM education at Stuart Mesa!! I spent the last few weeks of the school year, cleaning, organizing, inventorying, and reflecting on the STEM Lab. I came up with some pretty exciting plans for the STEM Lab for the 2016/2017 school year. Stay tuned for "STEM Lab Story: Part 4" to hear about changes and improvements I made to improve the STEM Lab for the following year!
All thoughts, opinions, reflections, and ideas are that of Heather Love-Fleck, and not the school district that employs her. She reserves the right to change her thoughts, opinions, reflections, and ideas at any time.