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.
I will be the first one to tell you that I am not always the best at integrating Art into STEM. Many teachers can do this seamlessly, but I am not one of them. Recently I was invited to participate in "Art Discovery Day" at one of the elementary schools that I support. I jumped at the chance to open the STEM Lab for some "STEAM" and to challenge myself to create Art activities in the STEM Lab.
I decided that I wanted to include robots in the Art Discovery Day, so I grabbed some Ozobots and Spheros and came up with a plan. From my experience, students really love drawing the line codes for Ozobot to follow, and often don't get enough time in the STEM Lab to do so. So, with this in mind, I pulled some giant butcher paper and brought brand new markers. The paper was set up on the ground, with the markers, Ozobots, and a copy of the Ozocodes. The directions given to students were simply to draw line codes for Ozobot to follow, and work together with your group.
With the Spheros, I've always wanted to paint with them, but never had the perfect opportunity, until now. I put together a big box to keep the Sphero contained, and pulled more big butcher paper. With dots of paint scattered around the paper, students were told to drive the Sphero and spread the paint. I set a timer for 2 minutes for each student, and that seemed to work really well.
In addition to the Ozobots and the Spheros, I opened up a few computers for the "Ozobot Shape Tracer" game which is my favorite way to introduce students to Ozoblockly coding. Not all students want to get down on the floor and draw or paint, so offering a third option of computer coding worked out really well.
The Art Day sessions were successful and students moved between activities on their own, when they felt they were ready to change. I didn't hear any complaints from the students that attended my sessions, and it appeared that most of them were having a blast!
If you are planning to integrate some "A" in to your STEM, I highly suggest these open-ended activities that really give students the chance to create and play with the robots in a different and unique way.
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. Subscribe below!