Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Learning Science Our Own Way

When we first introduced our STEM project to the third graders, Mrs. Sayre and I had no idea where it would lead. We first explained the acronym STEM to the students and briefly experienced with science, technology, and engineering experiments, as well as discussing the ways math is integrated into all disciplines. After exploring these topics, the students chose one discipline to dig further and each chose a topic they wanted to research. They prepared a proposal for approval to be sure that each idea had an end product and success criteria that deeply explored an area of science, technology, or engineering. Then students began research to learn as much as they could on their topic. Students chose to research topics such as building design, animals, the human body, weather, electricity, and computer coding.

Students dove into this research to be sure they were ready to begin their creations with more passion than I had seen all year long! Students were able to work together on the research and creation, as long as each student had their own individual proposal and their own final product. Students really helped each other along during the entire process, helping their peers with things they had learned themselves.

Some students learned the coding program, Floors, and learned how to program a video game. While the students worked together, they each created their own design and then perfected and fine-tuned the game on their own. Not only did they learn the technique of drawing directions, they also learned how important it is to be precise and neat in your design or the program wouldn't accept the plans!They also have a game on the iPads to play alone or share with friends.

Other students researched how buildings and bridges were constructed and then created their own. Aside from learning about the construction of bridges, they also learned a lot about themselves! While some ideas may have failed at first, redesign and new ideas created success. I continue to be impressed by my students in how helpful they were with each other, giving others ideas on what worked for them!

Some students decided to learn about electricity and created light-up headbands and bracelets using conductive thread. In addition to learning about circuits, they also mastered the skill of sewing by hand using a needle and thread! Not an easy task for a third grader but these girls became masters!

For being the first attempt at Genius Hour for both students and teacher, this project has proven to be highly successful in so many ways! Many topics were chosen and explored totally based on student interest, most definitely increasing the level of interest and dedication! An increase in level of independence was highly noticeable, even by the students themselves. This surely caused students to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment whether their success criteria was met or not.  And, finally, students helping and teaching others was the greatest success of all!

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