So…Your Principal Wants You to Add STEM!
“Welcome back to school! Guess what? This year I want you to add STEM to your classroom!” says your principal during that first faculty meeting. And, you like so many others, are already overwhelmed at the beginning of the year with a classroom full of excited new students, an overload of things to prepare and do, and now this!
Well, let’s see if we, the STEM Activities for Kids team, can help you out a little! Three simple things to get you started and help you achieve success. (Click on images to connect to linked blog posts or for more information!)
Let’s start with step 1!
As with any new curriculum, new reading series, new math program (does anyone remember when Go Math hit the scene?) or any new initiative, you have to begin somewhere. So, what about STEM? Start with your state and national Science standards. Take a look at what your science curriculum already has and how your standards cover those topics. Here’s a great example of standards based STEM:
A second grade national (NGSS) Standard concerns the dispersal of seeds in many ways. After studying about plant growth a natural STEM activity would be to build seed dispersal models. The photo shows my STEM students building an insect that will carry seeds to a new spot. We completed this as a culminating activity after the students worked through this plant unit in their regular classrooms. However, if you are the classroom teacher without a STEM lab, just add this little exploration to part of your normal science studies. Cover your standards and add STEM! That’s a win-win!
Brooke Brown from Teach Outside the Box has STEM bundles that are specific to Kindergarten, first, second grade, and third grade standards! Here are a couple of samples:
Here’s more on this topic from Claire at Vivify STEM: Bring your standards to life through connections with real-world STEM problems! One of our products that exemplifies this is our Space Math Activity Bundle that guides students through solving math problems on an impending asteroid invasion. This bundle includes four space themed activities that incorporate ratios, geometry, and algebraic expressions combined with STEM career connections. Each activity has engaging math problems related to the topic that are aligned to common core.
More from Vivify STEM: You can also connect standards through engineering design challenges. For example, a unit on the environment can conclude with an oil spill design challenge, described in this blog post:
Moving on to Step 2!
What if you don’t teach science weekly? How can you have STEM without science? Here’s a thought: Integrate STEM activities with other subjects. I know you do this all the time anyway! You spend a whole week learning about a topic and then culminate with a little project- so just make that project a building activity!
From Renee at Science School Yard: With the time crunch to get everything in the day to fit, I suggest using what you are already doing to integrate it into a fun hands-on STEM activity. For example, my first graders were working on Fairy Tales in class so for science we read a version of Princess and the Pea and then built on that…literally! In our story, the bed was 20 mattresses high. I gave my students simple supplies such as blocks, Jenga pieces, paper…whatever you have that can be stacked. I gave them a “blanket” or paper towel for the princess and a pattern of her. They needed to build the tallest 20 story bed that could sleep the princess safely. You can take a how to writing activity and turn it into a way for students to share “how to” build an instrument that would tie into your sound lesson. Your STEM Johnny Apple Seed book can have them building apple trees out of tape and construction paper and after that can be measured and recorded. Here is a blog post showing you just how fun STEM can be for littles:
If you are reading a story, solving math problems, or even writing something that can tie into what you are already doing it is half the battle. Find supplies you have, think of a way they can link the two together and you have a way for your students to not only get up and move, but collaborate, problem solve, and communicate effectively!
Definitely think about adding STEM to your reading program. From Meredith Anderson at Momgineer you can find so many fabulous STEM challenges that center around literature. Take a look at her Fairy Tale series:
You can even combine STEM with technology. Check Brittany Washburn’s post right here on STEM Activities for Kids for more about that!
Finally, Step 3, the best advice is this: don’t get overwhelmed with setting up STEM challenges by choosing things that use a lot of materials. Keep it simple!
Believe it or not you can do all this with a minimum of materials. Brooke Brown has a great post right here at SAFK about using items you already have on hand.
From Wendy and Cheryl of Get Caught Engineering: We know that many teachers do not have a special budget for STEM activities, nor the time to track down lots of materials. Being able to have students experience the engineering design process can be as simple as using one item that one already has in one’s classroom cupboard. We have begun a series, “What’s in Your Cupboard?” that focuses on one item per activity. We want every elementary teacher to feel that they can easily take those first steps to integrate engineering without a lot of fuss.
So, there you have some great tips:
1.Check your science standards.
2.Integrate with other subjects.
3.Keep it simple!
Have fun diving into STEM!