May 19, 2017

STEM Challenge: Card Towers

If you're looking for a straight-forward challenge with the simplest of materials, Card Towers will be right up your alley!  This one is a classic, but I've got a few ideas to make some tweaks to fire up the imagination and engagement! And this is a special post for the blog/vlog because it means I've finally caught up! All 45 challenges (to date) have a blog, complete with video walk-through!  

I'm not done yet, but I am thrilled to have finally caught up! Definitely stay tuned; I have more challenges in the hopper for 2017-2018!



STEM Challenge: In Card Towers, students will make a tower designed for height and/or stability! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.




Premise


Working against a Criteria & Constraints List individually or with partners, students will design a tower for maximum height and/or stability. Already been there, done that? I have a few new challenge goals to shake things up. 



Where Can I Find Out More?


If you're familiar with my work, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read it, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post. :)


Check out the video below to see Card Towers in action:






Are There Other Challenges Like This?


Of course! I can't help myself! While this is a stand-alone challenge, I have created 45 challenges for the entire school year! Most are themed to accompany the seasons. And, as I mentioned at the top, each has its own blog post and video walk-through. You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.



PIN ME

STEM Challenge: In Card Towers, students will make a tower designed for height and/or stability! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.




Video Transcription



Kerry Tracy:                           Hi, welcome to the very best day of the week, STEM challenge day. Today we're going to be talking about card towers and today's a little extra special because about a year ago I started making these video walk throughs with a goal of creating some STEM professional development videos as well as a video walk through for all of my 45 STEM challenges. And this is the 45th STEM challenge.

                                                      Now this might look a little bit familiar to you, you might remember that back in February we did a version of this called Cards in the Clouds. I'll put a link to that video walk through in the description below. You might want to take a second to check that out either before this video or after, just so that you get a full sense of all the different options available to you. The main difference between this and the Valentine's Day version is this one has options for deeper data analysis. It also has different ideas for the extension activities and, of course, I'm gonna give you some ideas today to make this a completely different, unique version of the challenge so that you could have done both in your classroom.

                                                      There are three areas you can look at. These three areas are gonna be the criteria and constraints list, the materials and the extensions. You can modify all three or just one or two. With that, let's get started. The first thing you always want to look at is your criteria and constraints list. So, if in Cards in Clouds you built only for height, you might want to add in the stability challenge, again, its environmental conditions, like earthquakes, wind or rain. That's pretty sturdy.

                                                      But what if you've already done that? Of course, I'm bringing you some new ideas today. You can provide students with some little plastic people or candies that have to be incorporated every six inches in the tower or at various levels of the tower as you see in these examples here. You could also change the main goal to be the tower with the highest volume. If you do that and you still want it to be a vertical tower, you'll probably want to set at least a minimum height requirement so that they don't build it out as much as they build up. And as in the Valentine version, one of my favorite things to do is to give students and uneven surface on which to build. That definitely adds a lot of difficulty. So before I said something about putting a book on the table and their towers had to straddle the book. A small variation on that would be to have students build over an obstacle, maybe a river, so that each side of the tower would be on either side of the river.

                                                      For materials, the original version of this used just 3x5 or 4x6 index cards. And this is an area where you can really change the challenge up. As you can see in this example, I've used business cards and if you just put a call out to your non-teacher friends or the parents of your students, I guarantee you just about every office in the country has outdated business cards that for whatever reason, they just never seem to throw away. Now, if you get a lot of these donations, you're gonna find that, of course, the business cards are not all created equal, some are sturdy, some are flimsy, some are slightly different sizes. Make it a fair challenge. You'll either need to divide out sort of an equal amount of each type of card for each group or you can allow the students to choose the business cards from whatever is available and that material selection becomes part of the challenge.

                                                      Another thing you can do is give students two full pages of card stock, either letter size or maybe even 12x12. You could do the same thing with just copy paper. Something I think that would be really interesting that I haven't had a chance to try it yet, is to give every group one full size poster board and see what they come up with. I have a feeling that it would generate some very different looking towers. In that case you'll probably want some step stools available or just make a decision if you're okay with students stepping on their chairs, because I think that there's a good chance they could build quite tall towers starting with the poster board.

                                                      If you have the time for it, it could be really great to have the students build a tower every day, Monday through Thursday using a different primary material. Every day is a great day for a STEM challenge. Of course, they're gonna have to make some adaptations and changes to their designs as they go because something that works well with one of those materials probably won't with another. And then you'll save your major analysis for the end of the week.

                                                      For the extension activities, one thing you can do is have the students analyze their towers and all of the towers for the class. And try to come up with what they think is a list of the most critical factors affecting how tall you can build your tower. So we'll want to take a look at things like, does the shape of the tower matter? Does the shape of the base seem to make and impact, or the perimeter area of that base? And they can pick one of those factors and design and experiment around it, walking through the steps of the scientific method.

                                                      Of course, this lends itself very well to doing some graphing of class data. You could have students find out the height of the worlds tallest building, tree, mountain, and then create a relative scale drawing of those objects then have them create a scale for their tower to make it fit in with the items on that list. Either to make it taller than all of the items or somewhere in the middle of those items, or maybe just a little bit shorter. So, for example, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet, if my tower measures 30 inches than I would set a scale to say one inch is equal to ten feet. And if think my tower, in real life, soars above the Statue of Liberty, then perhaps one inch is equal to 20 feet. If you want to tie in some ELA, you can have students read or watch different versions of Rapunzel and then create their own unique, modernized version.

                                                      So between this video and the Valentine's one, you have all the basics you need to conduct card towers in your class on your own, but as always, I have added a lot of extra goodies in the research, so take a second to check it out.

                                                      This time saving resource contains everything you need, including modifications for use of second through eight graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the rest is ready and waiting. You'll get aligned next gen science standards, links to my STEM challenge how to videos to help you get the most from each challenge and the tower building materials list. In teacher tips you'll find premise and set-up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results and cross curricular extension suggestions. You'll find two editable criteria and constraints lists so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For student design analysis handouts there are two versions, five page expanding room for response for younger students and a three page condensed space paper saver version. You'll get one set for a height challenge and a second for height and stability.

                                                      You'll also find a study group discussion questions. In the extension handouts you'll find class wide data analysis, graphing templates and a design your own experiment activity, as well as additional math extension design report and process flow templates. You'll also receive a detailed teacher guide and everything that comes with the holiday version of tower building, Cards in the Clouds. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted mega STEM challenge bundle. Links can be found in the description below the video.

                                                      As I mentioned before, this video means I am now caught up with my back library. Every challenge has a video walk through. But, I'm not done. If you've been watching my videos you might have picked up that I try to post once a week. Over the summer I'm gonna give myself a little bit more flexibility, because I have some big projects in mind and they're gonna take a lot of focus. This means it's more important than ever to be following my store and teachers pay teachers and subscribe on YouTube so that you don't miss anything when I pop in and out over the summer. And I'm so excited to share with you all the things I have in store for you this summer and next year, so make sure you stay tuned. Until next time, have a great week. 



May 6, 2017

STEM Challenge: Boat Building

Ah...the boat building challenge -- a total classic! I remember doing this myself in elementary school, though the grade escapes me. The thing is, I remember making my clay boat and trying to get it to hold as many pennies as possible. I do not, however, remember a whole host of worksheets throughout my school career, and that speaks to the power of using STEM challenges in your classroom. If you're new to this world, I always say boats, bridges, and towers are a great introduction, so you're in the right place!

Or maybe you're a STEM challenge veteran.  You may have already done a boat challenge for capacity, and maybe even for speed. Never fear; I've got some fresh new ideas to take your boat building to a whole new level! 

Summer STEM Challenge: In Boat Building, students will make a boat designed for capacity and/or speed! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.



Premise


Working against a criteria & constraints list, students will make a boat designed for capacity and/or speed (new twists included in the newly-updated version of this challenge)!

I think of this as an "anytime" challenge, but it's perfect for the end of the school year and summer. 


Suggested materials. Add in your own ideas;
more varied materials yield more varied student designs!


Where Can I Find Out More?

If you're familiar with my work, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you do prefer to read instead, you'll find the video transcription at the end of this post.


Check out the video below to see Boat Building in action:











Are There Other Challenges Like This?


Of course! I can't help myself! While this is a stand-alone challenge, I have created 5 challenges for summer/the end of the school year! You can find the overview of each on this blog post. Each challenge is described in the post linked above, so be sure to check it out! 

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.


You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!


PIN ME


Summer STEM Challenge: In Boat Building, students will make a boat designed for capacity and/or speed! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.


Video Transcription

Kerry Tracy:                           Hi, there. Welcome to the very best day of the week, STEM Challenge Day. The last time, I told you we were all done with the summer STEM challenges, and it turns out that was not entirely true. I didn't mean to lie to you. It's just that I think of the Build a Boat Challenge as an anytime challenge, but of course it's great for summer. You might recall back in November, we did a boat challenge called Mini Mayflower. You might be wondering if this is really any different, and the answer is yes, I have a lot of new ideas for you. Mini Mayflower is basically a holiday-themed smaller subset of this challenge, so today I'm going to be giving you some new ideas. I'm going to assume you're already familiar with the Mini Mayflower challenge, so if you're not, you might want to pause this. Go ahead and watch the Mini Mayflower video and come right on back. I'll link that down in the description below. There are basically three categories that you can adjust and shift to make this boat-building challenge an entirely new experience for your students.

                                                      Now, if you've already done a capacity boat challenge with your students, the most obvious thing to do differently here would be to focus on sailboats and have the students design boats built for speed. If you've already done a capacity and boat speed challenge with your students, don't worry. I'm going to give you some new ideas you can use today. Since the other video focused on capacity, today I'm going to be focusing on the sailing challenges. Now, if you're doing a sailing challenge, you're going to need a larger container, so if you have a stream table, that's great. Another idea is to use under-the-bed storage bins or kiddie pools, and, of course, you're going to want to get those in place before you fill them up with water. Figured that one out the hard way myself. A straight sailing test would just be to time the boat from the start to the finish line. Well, let's say you've been there and done that, and you want to try something different.

                                                      One idea is to focus on the relationship between mass and inertia, so you can tape just with masking tape a line in the bin before you fill it with water and have the students power the boat up until that point, and they stop. Then they see how much the boat drifts on its own past that point, and they measure that off. If you're going to do that test, you're going to need a scale so that students can determine the mass or at least the weight of their boat. One idea I love to shake this challenge up is to create an obstacle course within the sailing container, so what you can do is just drop some bottles or some vases in, and the boats can either need to sail through them or around them, or you can even create ports where the boats have to sail up to them and touch, and then they either need to load cargo or unload cargo before proceeding to the next port. In terms of measuring results, you can do it one of two ways.

                                                      You could either measure how much time it takes the boats to complete whatever the obstacle course is, and the other way to do it is to give students a set amount of time to collect as much cargo from the ports as possible, so they would touch one bottle. They would collect one piece of cargo, proceed to the next one, collect one piece of cargo, and they could go back and forth to as many different ports as there are and collect as much as they can within the allotted timeframe. Another idea is something I call capture the flag, though it doesn't really need to be a flag. Over the sailing container, you can rig up just a piece of string, or you can even have two students hold either end of the string. Have something dangling, maybe even just a pipe cleaner formed into a circle, loosely over the string, and task students with designing a boat that can sail past and capture one or more rings.

                                                      Another way to make this boat challenge very different from one you may have already done is to think about the materials you provided and change them pretty dramatically. So if the students all used foil sheets in their first iteration, don't provide foil this time. Try using wax paper or clay, or even some other kind of paper, or whatever you can think of. Each of these materials comes with its advantages and disadvantages, so a design that works well with one doesn't always translate well to another. Just a quick note on materials. They are always suggested places to start. You can always add in other ideas, and you should, and you'll see here some ideas that were not in the picture. The wax paper, that's a shower cap down there, and I didn't have the types of cargo that you're going to see here today.

                                                      Even if you're not planning to do a capacity test, you're only going to do sailboat speed, you want to make sure you still have some marbles or some pennies, some kind of weighted materials available, because some students will find, when they put their boat in the water, that it's sort of off-balance, but they can fix it by adding weights in certain points of the boat. Assuming you're doing this challenge outside, you're going to want to pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing so that the students aren't working against the wind. Now, you can let the students power the boats. You can let the wind do it naturally, or you could even bring in a small fan. Even if you choose to use a fan or natural wind, I would still always give students an option to have either a straw or a balloon, some way that they can get their boats unstuck without actually touching them, because I usually put that in the constraints list, that they're not allowed to touch them physically once they're in the water.

                                                      It's also nice if you have smaller plastic containers, maybe shoebox size, to let students have with their group, so that they can give their boats a balance test before they get out and do the main test. One thing to think about if the students are powering their boats with their own wind power is to make sure that each team has an equal number of students who are allowed to participate in powering the boat to sort of even the playing field. And the final idea to make this challenge unique against all other boat challenges is to focus on what you do in the extension activities. I recommend a deeper, class-wide data analysis activity. You could have students graph different types of results. Older students could calculate speed, and design their own experiments where they use the scientific method to figure out what changes can they make to impact the speed of sailboats. You have all the basics to conduct boat-building in your class on your own, but this resource just got a crazy update, complete overhaul. Take a second to check it out. It's going to save you so much time.

                                                      This time-saving resource contains everything you need, including modifications for use with second through eighth-graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the rest is ready and waiting. You'll get aligned Next Gen Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge how-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge, and the boat-building materials list. In Teacher Tips, you'll find premise and setup, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results, and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You'll find two editable criteria and constraints lists so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For student design analysis handouts, there are two versions. Five-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a three-page condensed space paper-saver version. You'll get one set for a capacity challenge and a second for capacity and/or speed. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the extension handouts, you'll find a class-wide data analysis activity, graphing templates, a design-your-own-experiment activity, and calculating boat speed handouts, as well as additional math extension, design, report, and process flow templates.

                                                      You'll also receive a detailed teacher guide and everything that comes with the holiday version of the boat building challenge, Mini Mayflower. This resource is available individually and is part of the discounted Mega STEM Challenge Bundle. Links can be found in the description below the video. So much goodness, right? Make sure you're following my store and Teachers Pay Teachers, and subscribed on YouTube so you don't miss anything. I hope you and your students have a fantastic time building your boats. Have a great week. I'll see you next time.




May 4, 2017

Summer STEM Challenge: Amphibious Phone

Here's a problem none of us want to have -- you've dropped your phone into pool, and now you've got to leap in after it and hope it hasn't been fried before you can rescue it! In this challenge, students will try their hand at designing a summer-proof smartphone case. (Don't worry, paper templates will be used instead of phones -- I'm not crazy!)

Summer STEM Challenge: In Amphibious Phone, students will make a summer-proof smartphone case that makes the phone waterproof and retrievable when dropped into a lake or pool (or bucket, as the case may be)! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.



Premise


Working against a criteria & constraints list, students will make a summer-proof smartphone case that makes the phone waterproof and retrievable when dropped into a lake or pool (or bucket, as the case may be)!

Suggested Materials

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you're familiar with my work, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.



Check out the video below to see Amphibious Phone in action:













Are There Other Challenges Like This?


Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 challenges for summer/the end of the school year! You can find the overview of each on this blog post. Each challenge is described in the post linked above, so be sure to check it out! 

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.


You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!


PIN ME


Summer STEM Challenge: In Amphibious Phone, students will make a summer-proof smartphone case that makes the phone waterproof and retrievable when dropped into a lake or pool (or bucket, as the case may be)! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.


Video Transcription

Kerry Tracy:                           Hi, welcome to our fifth and final Summer STEM Challenge, Amphibious Phone. In this one, students are trying to design a summer-proof case that allows the phone to live in land and on water. Don't worry, we're not going to use a real smartphone. Let's take just a second to check out the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle. This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each step in another video. I've added a [pop-in 00:00:28] card to that video here, as well as a link in the description.

                                                      A few quick notes about the materials. First of all, do not give your students Ziploc bags. That makes this challenge far too easy. Instead, you can get the fold over bags, and I actually usually like to cut them along the seams. That does take a little bit of extra prep work, but I just usually do that while I'm watching TV the night before the challenge. You could also just use plastic wrap.

                                                      An average smartphone weighs somewhere between 4 and 6 ounces, so the students need to weigh down their design around that amount. If you don't have a class set of weights, you can use paper clips, pennies, nickels, a combination of change, or even bread. You'll have students place weights in an envelope, and then you can simply have them fold it into a rectangular shape like the phone, and then you'll just put the cutout of the phone right on the front. If you don't own the Amphibious Phone resource, you can just look up smartphone clip art online, or you could even students draw their phone.

                                                      A few optional materials you might want to consider are balloons, foil, and a variety of kinds of tape, duct, shipping, Scotch, and masking. Once the weighted phone is ready, before the students start designing the cases, it's helpful to have them use some water-based markers to just make some markings around the front and the back. When they do their waterproof testing, it makes it a lot easier to tell if there was a leak, because those marker colors will run.

                                                      The students are aiming for two main goals here. They want a waterproof case, and they want the phone to be retrievable if dropped into a body of water. I also add a criteria in that the screen of the phone must be visible. For younger students, I say the case has to remain waterproof for 5 seconds. For older students, I would increase that to 10, 15, 30. You make the call. For constraints, of course you have time and materials. In addition, the phone needs to weigh between 4 and 6 ounces. With the case, it should weigh no more than 8 ounces, but if you don't have a scale in your classroom, I would just remove the weight constraint.

                                                      To increase the difficulty, you could require that the phone be able to fit inside a pocket. You can require that the phone case be reusable. That is, that you should be able to test it, take it out of its case, and use the same case again for a second test. As I said before, you can increase the amount of time that the phone will spend in the water and has to remain waterproof. You can require students figure out on their own how to weigh down the phone 4 to 6 ounces, without giving them easy materials to do so, or you could give them a mass of paperclips but tell them the amount that they use has to keep the phone within 4 to 6 ounces, but the number of paperclips must also be divisible by 2, 3, and 4.

                                                      To measure results, students will record whether or not the phone was retrievable, yes or no, and whether or not the case was waterproof, yes or no. You'll want to do your testing outside because there is going to be some water splash. That's because students are not going to gently place the phone inside the bucket. That wouldn't be terribly realistic. Instead, you're going to have them do a drop from at least a foot. Whatever the distance is that you want to use, just make sure that you either draw or tape a line on the wall behind it, or do as I did and tape a ruler above it.

                                                      After the phone has remained in the water for the time that you set in the criteria and constraints, students will remove it, dry it off with some paper towels, and carefully remove the phone from its case. They'll check carefully to see if there's been any color run in the markers, and if they can see any evidence of any leaks.

                                                      To extend on this, you can have students do some research into the technology. How do touch screens even work? How do text messages work? How does your phone always know exactly where you are? You could also have them look into why water ruins electronics. Ask students if water is a conductor or an insulator. It's kind of a trick question, and maybe you even tell them it's kind of a trick question and have them report back to you on why.

                                                      Ask students to explain to you why they think this challenge is called Amphibious Phone. You can follow up by having students do some research on other classes of animal, and then see if they can come up with a challenge for another class. They'll do this by identifying unique factors of those classes of animal. For example, fish can breathe underwater, but what would that mean for a phone, if a phone could breathe underwater? Maybe they'll interpret it to mean the phone has to be able to be powered underwater, or powered from water. You can allow them to choose just one class or try to come up with a challenge for every class. You could simplify that and simply have the students do more of an art activity where they create designer phone cases for each class of animal.

                                                      If you want to tie in a little bit of ELA, I like to have students write a fantasy short story about the day the smartphones arrived under the sea. It's great for personification and characterization, and I like to also have students brainstorm ahead of time what the different reactions of the sea creatures might be to the smartphones' arrival. You might have acceptance, reverence, fear, distrust. Have the students write their stories collaboratively, and you can either let them choose one of the reactions, or assign different reactions to every group and then compare how different the stories are at the end.

                                                      You now have all the basics to do Amphibious Phone in your class on your own, but as always, this resource is packed full of goodness for you, so take a second to check it out. This time saving resource contains everything you need, including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the rest is ready and waiting. You'll get aligned Next Gen Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge how-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge, the Amphibious Phone materials list.

                                                      In teacher tips, you'll find premise and set-up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results, and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You'll find an editable criteria and constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. You'll also receive smartphone templates. There are two versions of design analysis handouts, 4 page expanded room for response for younger students, and a 2 page condensed space paper saver version.

                                                      You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the extension handouts, you'll find an animal classes activity. You'll also receive an under the sea writing prompt with handouts, as well as math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Summer and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

                  I hope you and your students have a great time with the Amphibious Phone. Make sure you're following my store on Teachers Pay Teachers or subscribed on YouTube. Have a fabulous week. I'll see you next time.