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
For the past few weeks, the 4th and 5th grade classes at Stuart Mesa have been building roller coasters in the STEM Lab, using mini K'Nex kits. I was able to purchase the kits for the STEM Lab with a grant from Genentech and the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. Building the roller coasters has been a fantastic experience for the students so far! There have been moments of frustration, perseverance, and celebration amongst the students. Some students even discovered a building talent which they didn't know they had!
The science concepts that we've been focusing on with this unit are some basic physics topics - kinetic and potential energy, gravity, inertia, friction, etc. We have also focused on math concepts, such as finding the mean speed of your roller coaster, measuring the track length, and the height.
The Ozobots have been a big hit at Stuart Mesa this year! I have used them quite a bit with grades K-2 to teach coding, problem solving skills, and the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking).
Mrs. Engel's 1st grade class has really taken off with the Ozobots!! I have been working with them about 1-2 times a week to practice coding with the Ozobots. One student in Mrs. Engel's class discovered that there is currently an Ozobot contest where you have to send Ozobot on Vacation!! Mrs. Engel's class decided that they would like to send Ozobot on vacation to Legoland. Using a map and images of Legoland, the first grade students worked so hard to recreate Legoland, then created a pathway "code" for Ozobot to move throughout the theme park. We (the teachers) created a short video of the Ozobots moving through the 1st grade Legoland, and will be submitting our video to the Ozobot on Vacation contest.
Check out the video below!!
Yesterday was Science Discovery Day at Stuart Mesa Elementary. Students in grades K-5 rotated through various science activities throughout the day. In the SmartLab, I challenged my groups of 3-5th graders to create art wiggle bots. Students were given specific materials, shown several online examples, then let loose to create with their partner. Communication and collaboration were an important part of the engineering process. Many students discovered that their bots did not work at first. They had to troubleshoot, problem-solve, and modify their bots until they had success. Check out the video below to see one of the art wiggle bots in action!
On May 26th, Stuart Mesa will host our first annual STEMfest. This event will be an opportunity for the Middle School students at Stuart Mesa to share the work they have been doing in the SmartLab. The ideas that the students have been coming up with are phenomenal! Projects range from video game design to solar powered vehicles to creating a new type of soap!
The STEMfest will be open during the day, for other students and teachers to walk through, and from 4:00 - 5:30 for parents and families to visit. Please come by for a visit. We hope to have a good turn out to support the work of our middle school students!!
I would like to add a new couple of new robots to the SmartLab at Stuart Mesa, and I need your help! Meet the Ozobot!! This little robot is en excellent introduction to coding and robotics for younger learners, but can also be used by students in upper grades. Students (K-2) can use markers and stickers to write a physical code for Ozobot to follow, or (3-8) create code on a computer or iPad to control Ozobot.
I have created a project on Donors Choose for 6 Ozobots. If students work with a partner, that means that I can have 12 students working and learning with Ozobots at a time. Since I work with multiple grade levels at Stuart Mesa, that means that potentially every student on campus could have an opportunity to write code and learn about robotics from the Ozobots. If you would like to donate to my Donors Choose project, HERE is the link. If you donate before March 10, 2016 and use the code word EMPOWER, your donation will be matched by Donors Choose. So basically a $10 donation will become a $20 donation.
If you would like to learn more about the Ozobots, HERE is a link to the company website.
Fifth grade is in the Lab this week, working on their very first Learning Engagement! I am so impressed with the creativity and critical thinking taking place in the Stuart Mesa SmartLab. Here are the projects that students are working on:
Learners use LEGOs to build a robot, then program their robot using code. This is one of the more visually exciting projects in the lab, and is always a favorite among the students. I was especially impressed with two students who were problem solving ways to modify their robot, and create an original design.
(Check out the two LEGO WeDo robots created in the lab today in the videos below).
Learners working on this project are tasked with completing a circuit to make something happen - a light bulb illuminate, a fan fly into the air, or an alarm sound. Students are encouraged to problem solve and communicate with their partner when their circuit does not work.
The sensors available to fifth grade students include the Temperature sensor, Motion Sensor, and Force Sensor. Learners today tackled the "Best Cup Design Challenge," where they were tasked with creating an insulated cup to keep water warm. They used the Temperature sensor to record their data.
The focus with K'Nex is building simple machines. Many learners are creating levers, pulleys, or wheels/axles.
Coding has become such a popular (and important) activity for students! Learners work on the website code.org, where they have their own account that keeps track of their levels of code completed.
Our middle school students are wrapping up their first learning engagements, and the work they are doing is absolutely phenomenal!!! We have Photoshop, snap circuitry, K'Nex, solar-powered cars, video game design, and clay animation taking place in our Lab, as well as many other projects. A big part of the learning engagement is the ePortfolio that students are responsible for. From day one, students in the SmartLab have had to keep a digital journal, recording and documenting their work in the Lab. This accountability piece is important to me, as the facilitator, because it shows the process of the projects, and requires students to explain their work, in detailed writing.
Elementary students are finishing up their Orientations this week, and next week I will have fifth graders begin their first learning engagement. For elementary students, they will get the opportunity to work on three learning engagements this year, which include LEGO WeDo, Snap Circuits, Vernier sensors, K'Nex, and Code.org.
Before opening the SmartLab at Stuart Mesa, I debated going through a detailed orientation or just jumping in to the Learning Launches. I chose to go through the orientation with every student that visits the Lab. Now, that I see how smoothly things are running, I am sooo glad that I chose to open the lab with the orientation. The Learners in the Lab are totally rocking the STEM projects that they are working on, and the Facilitator (me) is loving it!
We are having a ton of fun in the Stuart Mesa SmartLab! Each day, I am so impressed with all that the students can do, and I cannot wait for them to finish their first Learning Engagement!!!
In middle school, I have been challenging the Learners with projects that rely on a strong knowledge of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), and many of them are quickly becoming Google experts. From day ONE of the SmartLab Opening, I have required students to record their progress, findings, difficulties, etc. in a Google Slides journal, which is submitted through a Google Classroom assignment. This will make up their ePortfolio. Students are encouraged to describe their activity in the lab in great detail, and to make connections between the STEM activities in the lab and the REAL world! I, personally, felt that the assessment and accountability piece of the lab was very important, and that is why I made the decision to start the journal from the beginning.
In elementary, I have seen Grades Five, Four, and 2 out of the 4 Third grade classes in the SmartLab so far. Each class has spent four days, an hour each day in the lab. During that time, we focused on a SmartLab orientation, where I laid the foundation for procedures and routines, which will keep our Lab running smoothly throughout the school year. Even with elementary learners, I have been requiring a daily Google Slides journal and participation in the Google Classroom. Don't worry, the students have also done some hands on activities, experimenting with K'Nex, Code.org, and Vernier Sensors!
The SmartLab is such an exciting place to be, and I am thrilled to be able to facilitate this type of learning environment!
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.