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Five Steps to Inspire Classroom Curiosity in STEM
USA Today Article Resources: Below, please find a copy of an article submitted for publication, including a wide variety of links that could not be included in the published article due to space.
Ready to inspire classroom innovation in a STEM world? Create experiences that that make applying STEM skills to real life problem-solving, ordinary.
"Learn Python coding," said my daughter's college professor. She struggled to learn. Did you know that Python coding is offered in middle school? Now, I ask "What if I had known?" Looking back, I'd take a few different steps as a parent and educator.
Step #1 – Nurture Problem-Designers and Solvers
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) helps students develop team-building in solving real life, authentic problems. Problems must be authentic engineering challenges connected to current life issues for students. They must be do-able and adopt an engineering design process. Working with robots at a young age supports this. See examples: iPotty, Oil pipleline fixer, Drunk/District Driving Restrictor.
Step #3 – Inspire Virtual Architects
Use solutions like Minecraft: Education Edition as a virtual engineering space. That's what NASA does. Empower students to re-design physical spaces online. Start as an urban planner, like the young women in Block by Block's video. Learners can graduate to space virtual engineers. Each exercise assists them learning computational thinking.
Step #4 - Construct Coders
Start with solutions like MakeCode.com, a free block coding language. Learners can use it to control the world around them. MakeCode makes programmable mini-machines (e.g. Micro:bit a la IoT) possible. Students use MakeCode to create coding agents.
Step #5 - Cultivate a Maker's Attitude
We need to cultivate in learners "a maker’s attitude." Makers blend high-tech with hand-made crafts. They explore many paths toward problem-solving. Makers embrace growing out of failure. It means understanding concepts in deep way.
Ready to inspire? Take the first step.
STEM Tools and Toys
These toys and tools present various approaches. Often, parents and teachers are looking for “turnkey” solutions or kits. There are many kits that can be used in a home or classroom setting. Here are my top three favorite tools and/or toys, along with links to websites where you can find more ideas. What would you add or include that I haven’t?
- Sunprint ($11.59): “The SunPrint Solar Paper lets you makes beautiful pictures by placing objects on the paper and exposing it to the sun. The paper undergoes a chemical change. The Sunprint paper can be used for a creative, solar art project,” says the Amazon description.
- Cubetto ($222.95): TCEA’s Ashley Weiler introduced me to Cubetto. Montessori-approved, this is a “coding toy for girls and boys ages 3 and up. Children help Cubetto, a friendly wooden robot, navigate a magical world by writing their first programs using hands-on coding blocks.”
- Tynker app + Parrot Mambo Minidrone ($): Learning to code with algorithms (sets of instructions that are repeated to automate and simplify coding) is fun with the Tynker app (Android/iOS) and the Mambo drone.
STEM Coder: Future Ready Learning
Project-Based Learning (PBL) in STEM
STEM Do It Yourself Projects Ideas
“Where did you get your idea for that project?” I asked a second grade teacher who was sharing a STEM project at a San Angelo, Tx TCEA area conference. “Pinterest!” she replied with a smile. “I find most of my ideas there.” To be honest, it had never occurred to me to look on Pinterest.
Yet you can find many DIY STEM projects appropriate for home or classroom there. Here are my top five favorite Pinterest boards:
- 1,008 STEM Projects
- 877 STEM Education Projects
- 201 Do It Yourself (DIY) STEM Projects
- 137 DIY STEM Projects for Kids
- STEM Projects
- Creativity Lab Project Guides