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!
This is Part 2 of my STEM Lab Story. If you have not read Part 1, you can find it HERE.
Let's head back to December of 2015 for a few minutes. That is when I decided to leave my tenured 5th grade teaching job in Vista and take a grant-funded "STEM Lab" job in Oceanside, working with K-8 students on a military base. Kinda crazy to leave so much security and take a risk with a new position. However, I needed a change and felt like I was hitting the ceiling in my self-contained 5th grade classroom, as far as STEM related activities and innovation. So, long story short, although it was a risk, it definitely worked out for me and my teaching career.
When I first arrived at Stuart Mesa Elementary, the STEM Lab wasn't even completed yet. I actually was able to watch Creative Learning Systems build the STEM Lab (SMART Lab), set up the islands, and unpack the materials. And, how lucky was I that the Lab came with all the technology and supplies!
Check out the Google Earth Photo sphere of my STEM Lab HERE.
Once the STEM Lab was installed, I went through a week of training with Creative Learning Systems, then had a few extra days of support from them. I spent about a month organizing and learning as much about the Lab as I could, before ever seeing students. That is one thing that really helped me to be successful with the Lab, taking time to create a plan and familiarize myself with the kits, software, hardware, etc. If you are just beginning a lab or slowly piecing one together, take as much time as possible to develop your plan for success!
Creative Learning Systems also provides a curriculum, which I spent time getting to know. Since I was at a K-8 school, I had to figure out a plan for K-5, as well as a plan for 6-8 (the STEM Lab was an enrichment option for them). I familiarized myself with the curriculum for all grade levels, and methodically mapped out what K-5 and 6-8 would work on in the STEM Lab.
In addition to learning as much as possible about the STEM Lab, I also developed quite a bit within the Google Apps for Education (G-Suite) to supplement the lessons and activities. This included a STEM journal, which I created in Google Slides. There was one journal for grades 3-5 and another one for 6-8. The journal was my way of holding students accountable for their work in the STEM Lab. Each day students had to take a picture of their work, and write a reflection on their activity. They recorded the things that worked, as well as their failures and plans for next time. I distributed and collected the STEM journals through Google Classroom.
Since it was January 2016 by the time I officially opened the lab (Read about the Grand Opening HERE), I developed a plan for the remainder of the 2015/2016 school year. The 6-8 grade students would work through 15 different activities (one at each desk/computer) with a partner, spending about 3 days on each one. Students in grades 3-5 would work through 5 activities (one at each island) with 6 students working on the same activity at once. They would also work with a partner and spend 4 days on each activity. My little ones in K-2 visited the STEM lab once a week, and would have a 45 minute activity, whole class. The teachers in grades K-5 stayed in the Lab with the students, which was extremely helpful!
That's it for Part 2 of the STEM Lab story. Keep looking out for Part 3 to come out soon!
Have a question? Leave a Comment Below! Thanks for Reading!!
When I first accepted a position in Oceanside, it was to facilitate a STEM Lab as an EdTech TOSA. It was the greatest job! I was able to inspire students to discover new things, facilitate meaningful learning experiences, and basically play with robots and K'Nex all day (Haha!). I've learned so much in these past three years and have really had the opportunity to refine my teaching practice. I've been able to discover and explore innovative teaching and practice integrating technology in the classroom for multiple grade levels.
My role as an EdTech TOSA in Oceanside has changed since beginning my position in Oceanside. I am no longer in the STEM Lab, but rather support teachers and students at three schools in Oceanside. I still get to support the work in the STEM Labs at these sites (my favorite thing), while also pushing in to classrooms to model tech-infused lessons and co-tech PLTW, our new engineering curriculum.
I think that I will eventually go back to the classroom, so that I can use all of my new-found ideas with a self-contained K-5 class. I'm also interested in exploring ways to infuse technology with all subjects areas - language arts, science, social studies, and math - and the best way to do that is as a classroom teacher.
For now, I'm loving my time working with classroom teachers and students to support their learning!
Follow my work on Twitter: @mrslovefleck
I recently wrote a guest Blog post for SDCUE. You can read about it below!
The #GoOpen movement has been recently sweeping the education community, as well as the twitterverse! The #GoOpen campaign was conceived by the US Department of Education in 2015. School districts that participate in the #GoOpen movement have committed to providing open educational resources (OERs) and materials for teachers and students to use. The campaign encourages districts to use open licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning. Learn more about the #GoOPen campaign and the participating districts at the newamerica.org website.
Besides the twitter hashtag #GoOpen, another great way to learn about OER is to attend a summit or conference that focuses on using open educational resources in the classroom. On April 13th, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd annual #GoOpen Summit in Oceanside, CA. The summit was a excellent opportunity to learn more about OERs and the various ways that local districts have been implementing these materials in to their curriculum.
To kick off the #GoOpen Summit a welcome keynote was given by event organizer, Erin English, Sara Trettin from the US Department of EdTech, and Kristina Ishmael, a Tech & Ed Policy Fellow from DC. The message from the welcome keynote was that OER is meant to disrupt how we view and use curriculum and learning materials to encourage equitable, personal learning experiences for all students. Some of the other benefits of #GoOpen is that it increases equity, keeps content relevant and timely, empowers teachers, supports collaboration, and enable reallocation of district funds.
Following the welcome keynote, participants at the #GoOpen Summit were able to attend various breakout sessions. I attended a session that was led by Carlsbad Unified superintendent, Dr. Ben Churchill, and assistant superintendent, Dr. Rob Nye. They shared the Carlsbad Unified journey into using OER, as well as the powerful message that implementing OER is much less about the materials, and much more about what we expect kids to be able to know and do. I also attended a very informative session by representatives from CK-12, a website that focuses on creating a personalized learning experience with customizable flexbooks. The best part about CK-12 is that it is completely free to use!
The closing keynote was given by Dr. Devin Vodicka, chief impact officer of alt school and former superintendent of Vista Unified. Dr. Vodicka focuses on creating a personalized learning experience for all students. He uses the analogy of traditional education being similar to riding a train, with a set destination and one way to get there. Personalized learning, however, is more like driving a car, with many route options and the ability to make turns based on the driver’s needs. His advice for jumping into the #GoOpen movement included: have a clear vision for learning; connect and collaborate; and start small to set the stage for big change.
The #GoOpen movement encourages teachers to create their own content, and seek out free, open-licensed educational materials, rather that relying on a textbook in the classroom. Teachers are the subject matter experts, and have already been seeking out these types of materials to be used in the classroom, whether they realize it or not (think - Google, Pinterest, Newsela, etc). The #GoOPen campaign supports districts in reallocating funds from purchasing textbooks and instead compensates teachers to find and create relevant and engaging content for students. The movement is an excellent strategy to support teachers as grade-level and content experts, rather than relying on outdated, expensive, and often irrelevant textbooks. Find out if your district is part of the #GoOpen movement today! Start searching for OER materials HERE.
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!
I recently volunteered to write a BLOG post for the San Diego CUE organization. I focused on some easy ways to create virtual reality content in the classroom. Check out my BLOG post HERE.
On May 24th, the Classroom of the Future Foundation held their annual Innovation in Education event, where teachers, schools, and districts from around San Diego were honored. The event was hosted at Sea World, with incredible food and drinks, raffle prizes, student displays, and a fabulous award ceremony. It was really exciting to hear about all of the innovative programs happening in and around San Diego county and to network with other like-minded educators.
I was extremely honored to be chosen by SDCUE as the (1st ever) Innovative TOSA, and received my award at this event.
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.
Today was Science Discovery Day at our school, which is an annual event, organized by an amazing third grade teacher at our site. Students in grades 1-5 get to attend 3 hands-on science sessions and are in small mixed grade level groups. In the STEM Lab I had the 3-5th grade students create squishy circuits, for their Science rotation with me. If you have never heard of Squishy Circuits, you are missing out!!
Students used conductive dough, battery packs, and LEDs to create series and parallel circuits in the STEM Lab. I did a mini lesson (10-15 minutes) describing a circuit and the flow of electricity. I modeled how to create basic circuit, discussed safety procedures, then let them loose!
If you would like to hear more about how I use Squishy Circuits in the STEM Lab, leave me a comment below. You can also check out the Squishy Circuit website.
Last year (2016) was the first annual STEMfest for Stuart Mesa elementary students. The event was an opportunity for Middle School students to share their learning from the STEM Lab with parents, classmates, and the community. It was the first time that I had ever organized a student showcase, and although it was highly successful, I have some ideas for improving this year's event.
Today in STEM Lab, students began to think about and research their projects for this year's STEMfest. There was a lot of excitement and brainstorming happening, and I'm really excited to see the projects that the kids are planning. I gave students a link to sciencebuddies.org to help them brainstorm and check out possible project ideas.
The students do the bulk of the work for the STEMfest. However, as the organizer of the event, I have my fair-share of work too! Some changes that I will be making to the event this year include:
Friday, May 19th from 5:30 - 7:30 pm
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.