January 30, 2016

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge Events

5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8


Valentine's Day is coming soon! Are you feeling the love for STEM challenges?  I know I am!  I've been hard at work on lovely new set of challenges that will hopefully put you in the mood to share the love! 

I have created five (or eight - depending on how you look at it) Valentine's Day STEM Challenge events, listed below. I will be creating video walk-throughs of each challenge which will be linked in individual blog posts as they become available.  
  1. Cupid’sQuiver
  2. Heavy”Hearts 
  3. Candy / Confection Container 
  4. Cards in the Clouds
  5. FlowerFrenzy*  
* Flower Frenzy is comprised of four flower mini challenges:
- Floating Flowers 
- Fluff & Flatten Flowers 
- Functional Flowers
- Firmly Fixed Flowers




Materials for all challenges were procured at the Dollar Tree except a large box of craft sticks (Michael’s) and candy (Target).
5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8
Criteria & Constraints List from
Cards in the Clouds Challenge

Just by viewing the information below, you can pick up the simple materials and run the challenges with a bit of prep time on your part.  

Alternatively, you can save yourself time and energy (and use it to head over to your local dollar store!) by picking up the prepared challenge lessons, which include teacher notes/guide, modifications to increase the difficulty for older students, data recording & analysis handouts, NGSS Standards, extension ideas and more.

I recommend one challenge per day or week leading up to Valentine's Day, or even all challenges in one day-long 5-event pentathlon!  STEM challenges are always most beneficial when done in multiple iterations, but they can be treated as one-off activities as well.

A brief description of each challenge is available below, and more information is available by clicking on each challenge title.





Challenge: Cupid's Quiver

Basic Premise:
In groups, students will design and build a bow & arrow set for Cupid’s Valentine’s Day target practice.  (Designing the quiver is optional.)  Alternate Option: If you find bow & arrow too difficult, modify the challenge to make throwing darts instead.


Target



Students will aim for high scores as they take three shots each at a Valentine’s themed target. Final scores are taken as the sum or average of their personal and/or team results.
5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8

Stem Basics:

  • Give the students a list of criteria and constraints to guide their designs.
  • Post-build, students test their designs and record and share results.
  • If desired, give time for related research and extension activities.
  • Provide time for a second iteration for students to apply learnings.






Basic Premise:
Working against a criteria/constraints list individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build the smallest container possible to house a candy assortment. 

"Confection Container" alternative: students design and build the smallest container possible to house one or more cupcakes (keeping frosting on the cupcakes, not the box!)



Stem Basics:
5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8
  • Give the students a list of criteria and constraints to guide their designs.
  • Post-build, students test their designs and record and share results.
  • If desired, give time for related research and extension activities.
  • Provide time for a second iteration for students to apply learnings.















Challenge: "Heavy" Hearts


Basic Premise:
Individually or in partners/small groups, students will design the “heaviest” heart possible.

Using a criteria/constraints list, students create small hearts of various colors & sizes. Point values are assigned to each color group based on its size. Students arrange various configurations of their smaller hearts inside a large, outer heart in order to create the “heaviest” possible heart. 

“Heaviest” is in quotation marks because we are not measuring weight; rather, we are assigning point values to inner hearts.

This challenge can be run simply (focusing on shape creation & manipulation, measurement, addition, and symmetry), or you can add complexity (focusing on length/width ratios, multiplying & dividing decimals, percent contribution, etc.). 



Stem Basics:
  • Give the students a list of criteria and constraints to guide their designs.
  • Post-build, students test their designs and record and share results.
  • If desired, give time for related research and extension activities.
  • Provide time for a second iteration for students to apply learnings.





Basic Premise:    In partners/groups, students design and build the tallest “tower of love” possible using Valentine’s Day cards they were probably just going to throw away anyway! (Note: for older students or those who don’t exchange cards, use index cards or alternative love-notes handout from product.)


5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8
5 Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 - 8



Stem Basics:
  • Give the students a list of criteria and constraints to guide their designs.
  • Post-build, students test their designs and record and share results.
  • If desired, give time for related research and extension activities.
  • Provide time for a second iteration for students to apply learnings.



Challenge: Flower Frenzy


Basic Premise:
Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a uniquely talented bouquet of flowers! This STEM challenge actually contains four challenge prompts that can be taken separately or simultaneously in groups:

Floating Flowers
Fluff & Flatten Flowers
Functional Flowers
Firmly Fixed Flowers


Stem Basics:
  • Give the students a list of criteria and constraints to guide their designs.
  • Post-build, students test their designs and record and share results.
  • If desired, give time for related research and extension activities.
  • Provide time for a second iteration for students to apply learnings.







Example handouts: 
Valentine's Day STEM Challenges with modifications for grades 2 -8 included.
From: Cupid's Quiver

From: "Heavy" Hearts



Check out these other great ideas from some of my favorite bloggers!




January 16, 2016

Is Your Writing a Shack or a Mansion?_part 3

Part 3: Drafting

This is the third in a four-part series.  

Click to see Part 1: Brainstorming
Click to see Part 2: Outlining.

I used to assume I didn’t need to model drafting paragraphs from outlines with students in grades 5th and up.  They'd been writing paragraphs for 3+ years at that point, so they surely knew how to manage that piece, right?  What a foolish, na├»ve lass I once was!

How many times have you thought you had a good outline only to find when you started writing that ideas needed to move, be combined, or there simply weren’t enough ideas? Students need instruction in using their outlines and dealing with outline problems while drafting. Yes, you must model drafting!

Excerpt slide from Expository Drafting Lesson
Before you start drafting, you'll have already evaluated the quality of your outline, but just take one more opportunity to think about where you might support with additional details, and think of potential questions a reader might have.

Instructing whole-class, model and elicit help from students to jot down notes beside an outline regarding potential research questions and ideas to support the body paragraph.  (After whole-class practice, have students use some of the outlines they've been creating to practice this step in small groups and independently.)

Adding these extra points should only take a few minutes and serves to get the juices flowing, especially if you are picking up on drafting on a separate day from creating the initial outline. Don't belabor this part of the drafting activity! 

Let's get that draft on paper...or on a slide, if you please!


Excerpt slide from Expository Drafting Lesson.
The parts in blue font show areas the writer will validate accuracy or wants to support with research after the first draft.

You might read the sample paragraph from the slide above and be underwhelmed; this is by design!  An important consideration when modeling drafting is to remember to make mistakes and use ugly phrasing. As an adult with extensive experience writing, revising simultaneously as you write is somewhat second-nature. This amounts to sorcery in the minds of some students! Do what you can to catch yourself, and don’t revise as you write!  Make it sound choppy. Use repetitive sentence starters, sentence structure, and dull words. You want to get the base shack built with solid foundation and structure - no one is expecting a mansion yet! Think aloud, saying things like, “Hmm…I don’t like how that sounds, but I’ll fix it in revising. Right now, I’m just focus on getting sentences and paragraphs written (or: I'm focusing on content.).  It doesn’t have to be pretty yet.” 


Excerpt slide from Expository Drafting Lesson

The big take-away here is if you don’t make your draft a little rough, you’ll have nothing to improve upon when you go to teach revision! Leave yourself plenty to work with. Remember, it’s also beneficial for struggling writers to see they’re not expected to produce something amazing straight out of the gate!   


Happy writing to you and your class!



Coming soon (February 2016) Part 4: Revising & editing are two different things. Treat them as such & teach them as such! 

(Apologies for the delay! I'm shifting focus to Valentine's Day STEM challenges between now and then!)


Related Posts (clickable once posted):

Part 3: Drafting (you are here now)



PRODUCTS TO HELP YOU HELP YOUR STUDENTS BUILD SOLID WRITING, FROM TINY HOMES TO MANSIONS:


Expository Writing Unit


Persuasive Writing Unit