Before I was back in the classroom as a 3rd grade teacher in TN, I was a TOSA in southern California. For those of you unfamiliar with the term TOSA, it is a teacher on special assignment. The focus of my TOSA role was to support classroom teachers with EdTech and STEM. My position was grant funded, and included support with the STEM curriculum Project Lead the Way (PLTW). I loved working with teachers, and I quickly became familiar with the PLTW curriculum, including all of the K-5 modules.
One particular PLTW module that I had a lot of experience with was the 1st grade “Light and Sound” module. It included a ton of really cool hands on tools that the students were able to explore and experiment with, while learning about the characteristics of light and sound.
I created the Light & Sound Task Cards as a tool for teachers to use, either following the PLTW module, or along side it. The resource includes 20 task cards that provide students with the opportunity to explore specific materials. The materials that are included in Task Card material list are ALSO all included in the PLTW “Light & Sound” module box. So if you have the PLTW box, these materials are already in your classroom.
If you do not have the PLTW module box, many of the items required can be purchased on Amazon, if they are not already in your classroom. The instructions on each card are very simple and students should be able to read them independently. However, if you have parent helpers, having them support students with the cards would be a great idea too.
Are you planning to incorporate robotics and computer coding in to your classroom, STEM Lab, or makerspace this school year? Before handing the robots over to students, I like to give them the opportunity to explore robots in the real world and to learn a little bit about the history of robotics. I feel like this gives students a little more background into the world of robotics and provides some important real-world connections, showing students how the skills gained in my classroom could be applied to their lives.
I begin my “Robot Research” project with a video that quickly outlines the history of robotics. I like this YouTube video, by SciShow. Yes, the guy in the video speaks quickly, but my students have never had difficulty understanding him, especially the older kids.
Following the video, I have students read an article about a specific type of robot, in order to discuss the steps of the engineering design process, and to think about the purpose of that robot and what problem it was invented to solve. I really love using the cockroach robot article, that can be found on NewsELA. If you have a NewsELA account, you can change the reading level of the article for your students. There is also a YouTube video, by UC Berkeley, that shows the cockroach robot in action. So gross and cool at the same time!
I then assign students to research a specific type of robot, usually with a partner or a group of 3. Students watch videos about their robot, and read an article or two. They they create a presentation (Popplet or Slides) that gives a brief overview of their robot. They share their presentations with the rest of the class.
I like incorporating a Robot Research project as an introduction to robotics for a few reasons:
I have created a resource in my teachers pay teachers store “Love-Fleck EdTech” called Robot Research, which includes all of these steps, outlined for easy implementation in the classroom. The resource includes links to several YouTube videos, so be sure that your students will be able to access those videos - either independently or whole class.
Professional development opportunities for teachers can usually go one of two ways. Teachers find value and are excited about the learning during the PD, or teachers are bored as they sit through a PD that they either do not need or have heard before. part of my role this school year is to plan PD that is meaningful for teachers at the three school that I support. Much of the PD will revolve around Project Lead the Way (our new science curriculum) and the transition to Google Apps.
This month I organized an EdTech Professional Development for teachers at my three sites. The PD took place in the afternoon of a minimum day, and provided three sessions with lots of variety for teachers to choose. My goal was to give teachers choice in their learning so that they can take what they need and apply it in the classroom immediately. Organizing an event like this can be overwhelming, especially if you are doing it alone. Below I will outline the steps that I took to plan my EdTech PD event.
I began by surveying the teachers about what they needed/wanted in a PD. I created a simple Google Form for teachers to fill out that would show me what sessions I needed to include. I asked the principals at all three sites to send out the Form for me, so that (hopefully) more teachers would fill it out. I gave teachers about 1.5 weeks to complete the form, sending out a reminder email (or two).
Part of the Form included a questions about presenting a session. This was my call for volunteers, or at least my way of seeing if anyone was interested in presenting/leading a session. There were about 8 teachers that volunteered to present a session or two. That was great! I contacted those teachers to confirm the sessions that they would be comfortable leading. I even reached out to a few district level coordinators to ask them to present too!
Once I had my results from the Form and had confirmed with my presenters, I began planning the session schedule. This part was a little tricky, since I wanted to keep presenters doing multiple sessions in the same classroom. I moved the sessions and presenters around like a puzzle until the pieces fit. I also created descriptions of the sessions, so that the attendees could choose the session that was right for them.
I shared (emailed) the Schedule and Description with the teachers who would be attending about 5 days before the event. I wanted them to start planning out their afternoon, so that they could make the most of their time.
A few days before the event, I confirmed the room numbers and double-checked the technology available in those rooms (projector, connections, desktop, etc.). I also worked with the administrator at the hosting site to purchase snacks (water bottles, trail mix, granola bars) and chocolate for the day of the PD. Once everything was planned and set up, I sent a final email out to teachers (the morning of the PD) with all of the attachments they would need - schedule, descriptions, kick off slides, self-paced learning slides. I spent the morning of the PD organizing the snacks, printing out signs and maps, getting Chromebooks ready for teacher checkout, and organizing last minute details. Then, all that was left was to wait for the teachers and the PD to begin!
May 19th was the 2nd Annual STEMfest at Stuart Mesa elementary. This event provided an opportunity for 6th - 8th grade students to share and present their learning with family and community members. The STEM-focused projects ranged from Virtual Reality to Scratch coding to Aeronautics. Students displayed their STEM notebooks, model or prototype, and a tri-fold board with information about their project and their process. As visitors approached the tri-fold board, students were expected to share their work for approximately 2-3 minutes, answering questions and demonstrating their prototype. The event was overall a celebration of the students' hard work and learning this school year.
Special thanks to community members at the event, including representatives from Oceanside Unified School District, the Marine Corps General of the Camp Pendleton base, and Assembly member Rocky Chavez. You helped to provide an authentic audience for our students to present their learning, and we are grateful for your attendance.
Are you wanting to try Design Thinking with your students? Would you like some guidance with creating and implementing a Design Thinking unit? The James Dyson Foundation provides a kit called the "Ideas Box" that can help you implement a Design Thinking style unit with your students in grades 4-6.
The "Ideas Box" contains a Teacher Manual, 6 brightly-colored, engaging posters, a DVD with informative videos, and a Dyson Air Multiplier fan. The box is on loan to the teacher for 4 weeks, then must be returned with the included mailing label. The Teacher Manual walks you and your students through the steps of the design process, providing real world examples and ideas along the way. The lessons can be taught as is, or easily modified to meet the needs of your students.
I just finished using the "Ideas Box" with two 5th grade classes. Some modifications that I made include choosing items from the STEM Lab that needed to improved. I also wrote a letter to the students about each item, explaining the issues that the items have, and what I would like to be improved. This helps to bring in the EMPATHY piece, so students understand that design engineers must consider the needs of others when designing. I also allowed students to use Tinkercad to design in 3D, and then 3D print their prototypes. Some students also created cardboard prototypes to communicate their ideas.
The students were engaged and empowered to make a better product that others could use in the STEM Lab. They were so creative and loved designing their ideas in 3D. I would HIGHLY recommend reserving an "Ideas Box" for your students!
Here is the link to the Jame Dyson Foundation for more information.
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.