December 29, 2016

STEM Challenges: To Assess or Not to Assess...

Have you been wondering how, or even if, you should assess STEM Challenges?


The main thing I want to put forward today is that we shouldn't assess for sake of assessing or out of habit. Assessments should always be thoughtful and serve a worthy purpose. So, before making any decisions about assessments, ask yourself why are you doing STEM challenges in your classroom? What do you hope to achieve? What are your goals? 



Watch the video version of this post below. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.


My Goal List (more or less in order of importance): 


- I want students to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

- I want to truly challenge students, so they will encounter frustration and potentially failure. Then, I'll facilitate the analysis & fixing of failure points. Ultimately, I'm hoping these experiences lead students to not to fear failure, become more resilient and adopt a growth mindset.

I want to provide opportunities to demonstrate creativity.

- I will facilitate, not lead, so students know I believe in their ability to solve problems without my help, and they will build confidence and self-reliance.

- I want students to practice working collaboratively, making their ideas heard, and being willing to compromise and/or accept when the group wants to move in a different direction. 

- I want students to make connections to how STEM skills are used to solve real-world problems.

- I want to address Next-Gen Science Standards.


Should we Assess?

Once you have your list, you can determine if you want to assess, and if so, how you want to go about it. My goals would be undermined by assessing the design itself after a single iteration, so I simply don't do that. (More on this in a bit.)

Can I just ask, don't we have enough assessments already?! I'm not eager to add new ones. However, I understand that we want to make sure our students are accountable for participating, and in some cases, we need to justify use of class time for something that looks to the lay person like "fun". 

Regarding participation, I've only encountered two issues that led to issues with participation: 1) group size was set too large (my mistake) and there wasn't a way to actively participate for all in the group. 2) Someone shuts down because their idea wasn't chosen. This is an issue I try to work through with the group as I walk around and facilitate the challenge. Neither issue is helped by assessing the design.



What I Do:


- I look to see that students have made an honest attempt to adhere to the Criteria & Constraints List I provide to guide the challenge. 
- I listen to their discussions as I walk around observing their build time. I probe their thinking with my own questions. I take a few notes on this, but mostly so I remember points to bring up in discussion later, or for anecdotal evidence for conferences and report card comments.
- I take note if there are arguments or anyone is having difficulty working with classmates. I try to facilitate a cease-fire during the challenge (I only intervene if needed; they often work it out on their own) and I use class discussion/meetings to continue to further work on these issues.
- I have all students complete their own design analysis handouts, so I can see how each individual reflects on their designs. This is the only grade I record in the grade book, and it's a completion/effort grade.



Why I NEVER Assess a First Iteration Design:


I know how I was as a student. If I knew the design would be graded, I would play it very safe in order to protect my report card. Secondly, the first iteration is timed. If you were ever going to assess a design itself, it isn't fair to do so on the first iteration. As the teacher, I can't say out of one side of my mouth: Be creative, try new things, take risks, don't worry about failure and ten minutes later, give them a grade that says: J/K...not good enough. Your actions are telling. Make sure your actions support what you say you believe.

I wouldn't give students 10 minutes to write a story and then grade that rough draft as though it were a final draft. I also wouldn't teach a brand new concept in math and grade their practice like a final test. I treat first iterations of STEM challenges similarly. 

Frankly, none of my goals are well-supported by grading the actual design. I don't grade designs beyond their attempt to address everything on the Criteria & Constraints List because I believe all my goals are better met by focusing on the analysis of designs rather than the designs themselves. But if you insist on grading the design anyway, you should only consider it on a second or third iteration with lessons/research time in between. 


Final Thoughts:


I have given this a LOT of thought, but you might disagree with my conclusions; I don't mind that! Your goals may differ from mine, or maybe you have an opinion about supporting my goals through assessment that I haven't considered yet. I'm not so much trying to convince you my way is the right way as I am asking everyone to think through their goals and how they may - or may not - be supported through assessment. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter! We always improve through collaboration, so please share what you think about assessing STEM challenges in the comments or contact me via email (icon at top of the post). I'm all ears!



Video Transcription

To assess or not to assess? That is the question. My gut reaction to the question is, "No, don't assess," but it's a little more complicated than that so let's get into it. The main point that I want to get across is that we don't want to assess for the sake of assessment or simply out of habit. We need to really evaluate, what are our goals in conducting STEM challenges and then how or even if assessment helps us evaluate and meet those goals.

The first thing then is to think about what are your goals. Why are you conducting STEM challenges? I'll share my list with you. I conduct STEM challenges because I want to build problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in my students. I want to give them true challenges where I am pretty certain they are going to be met with frustration and potentially even failure. Then, what I want to do is facilitate the analysis of the failure points and fixing of the failure points.

I'm hoping that through doing STEM challenges that they learn not to fear failure and to develop growth mindsets. I want to give them opportunities to develop their creativity and display their creativity. I want to make sure that I'm facilitating, not leading challenges so students know I believe in their ability to solve problems, and then I want them to have the experience of solving the problems on their own, so they can build their confidence and self-reliance.


I want them to learn to work collaboratively with their peers. I want them to be able to voice their own ideas and defend them, and then I also want them to learn to negotiate and work within a group, even if that group chooses to go in a direction that they didn't necessarily want. I want them to make connections with STEM skills in real-world problems and situations, and I want an opportunity to address Next Generation Science Standards.

Once you have your list, you can decide how or even if you want to assess STEM challenges. Based on my goals, STEM challenge assessments should really be sort of informal. I'm looking to see that groups made an honest attempt to meet the criteria and constraints list they were provided to guide them on the challenge. If you've ever done one of my challenges, you know I always have handouts to record and reflect, and I give those to each individual student, even when they're working in groups because I want to see that each student is analyzing and thinking about the challenge.

I want to give them an opportunity to share their ideas in case their group didn't go with one of their ideas. As I'm looking around while students are building, I'm listening their discussions. I'm probing with my own question. That is also something I informally take notes on, but in terms of what grades go in a grade book, for me, it's really just the handouts, the record and reflect handouts. I don't really believe in grading the design itself, but if I were going to do so, I would recommend never, ever do that on the first iteration of a challenge.

I don't feel like it's a fair thing to do because that first iteration is timed and I know how I would be as a student. If I know that I have 15 minutes to build something that is going to be graded, I'm not going to take any risks, and I'm not going to be terribly creative. I'm going to do what I think is most likely to be successful and neglect everything else. I also think it's sort of akin to having students write a rough draft piece of writing but then grading that as if it were a final draft.

I just feel like in general, grading the design itself undermines my stated goals, so I don't do it. For me the most important thing is that the students are making an attempt to build to the criteria and constraints list and then they are thinking about how that went and processing that information and then applying it to the next iteration. If I were ever going to grade a design, I would not do it on the first iteration. I would consider it on the second.

I wrote a blog post to sort of elaborate on my thinking behind assessing STEM challenges, and I will link that in the description below. The main thing I want to get across is just to make sure that if you're going to assess any part of the STEM challenge to just be very thoughtful about which parts and whether or not your assessments support a worthy goal, and just try not to get caught up in the assessment madness that is our modern school system.

If you have thoughts and comments on whether to assess STEM challenges or you want to share how you assess your STEM challenges, please share in the comments or reach out. All of my social media links are in the description below. Thanks so much for all the work you do, and I hope you are enjoying your much-deserved Winter break. Do not forget to like and subscribe. I'll be back next week. I'll see you next time.

December 21, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenge: Frozen Fortress


WINTER - CHRISTMAS STEM Challenge: In Frozen Fortress, students build a fortress wall, aiming for the biggest - and most stable - wall possible! Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.




By now, I hope you're home enjoying a well-earned Winter Break! Maybe you're sipping on some hot chocolate, looking for some engaging ways to get your kids thinking deeply when you return to school. Keep this challenge in your back pocket! Wait for one of those tough days when you and your students need to shake the winter blues, and bust this out! It's a terrific change of pace your kids will love -- even if you choose not to go the messy route!

Premise

In Frozen Fortress, students build a fortress wall, aiming for the biggest - and most stable - wall possible! Size can be measured by # of marshmallows used, area, or volume. Stability will be tested through a "snowball" attack from an opposing team.


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is the best way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Frozen Fortress. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post. 









Are There Other Challenges Like This?


Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the fifth of the individual posts. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

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




Video Transcription

Hi there, and welcome to our final official winter Christmas STEM Challenge, although I do have a few new ideas kicking around, so I think I might have some new ones for you in January, but for today we are going to be talking about Frozen Fortress. In this one, the students are building to two main criteria. The first is about area, or you can choose just height or length, or you can even go for volume, but basically we have a size criterion. Then we're also looking for a stability criterion, so it needs to be able to withstand a snowball attack, but before I get ahead of myself, let's take a second to look at 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 card to that video here, as well as a link in the description. One thing you might want to think about is if the students are building on their desks, is to wrap those desks maybe with newspaper or construction paper. You could also just use a 9 by 12-inch construction paper. What I've done here is taken one of these pans, and this one is 12 and 1/4 inches long. I've found that this is a fun thing to build on, so it gives them an option of sticking something through to add a little bit more support.

This one can become sort of a sticky mess, but there are ways around that. First of all, if you're just going to go for it, that's awesome. Just go for it. If you don't have a sink in your room, make sure you just have some wet wipes on hand, but if you don't want it to become a sticky mess and you're worried about that, add a constraint to not be able to pierce the marshmallows, or to only have a certain number of marshmallows that they are allowed to actually pierce through with wire or toothpick, or whatever other materials you might be using. That will add to the difficulty, but it will decrease the mess.

You'll notice I added a few other materials here. I don't think I had pipe cleaners in the picture, and the reason for that is pipe cleaners, if I'm piercing the marshmallows, just makes it stickier and messier, more difficult, so I used wire when piercing marshmallows, and they aren't all pierced. I was also thinking since it is the Christmas season that Christmas hooks might be a really good material to add to this. These ones that I got from the dollar store are pretty flexible and pliable, and they aren't too sharp, so I think this is actually a really good alternative to buying this kind of wire.

In terms of size of marshmallow, you can choose to give them a mixture of the big marshmallows and the small marshmallows, or just choose one or the other. Let students know ahead of time that they are going to need to reserve a few of their marshmallow snowballs for the attack. They won't use all of their marshmallows built in the wall, because if they do, they won't have anything left to attack. Once the wall is built, the students are going to be teamed up with another group, and they will attack each other's walls with snowballs.

Now, there are a few different ways that you can measure the results of this challenge. First of all, the easiest way probably is just to have students count the number of marshmallows that are used in a fortress wall. You can also have students measure the area of the wall or the volume of the wall, if that's age and grade appropriate. You're going to want to have the students measure their wall before and after the snowball attack, and they can measure the results of the stability of their wall either based on a percentage of the wall that is still standing after the attack, or they can just measure simply how many marshmallows there were pre-attack, and how many they still had standing post-attack.

Similarly, if you are having the students create an offensive weapon, and you're having them measure results on that, they can calculate how many total marshmallows from the opposing team's wall they were able to knock down, or again, they can use a percentage of the wall they knocked down. To make this challenge a little bit more difficult, I would definitely go with using volume measurements, percentage of the wall that is standing pre and post attack. I would add an offensive tool as part of the challenge, and you can even think about adding a criterion to have a working drawbridge, or at the very least, an entrance.

To extend on this one, this is a natural fit for studying medieval times, the castles, the tools. I think it's also fun to take a look at how igloos are constructed and put together, maybe using some of the information they learn from studying medieval castles and igloos in their second iteration. This next one is a little bit more of a stretch, but when we look at the way that we build shelters and defense mechanisms, that's a behavioral adaptation of humans, so I would think to use this as a jumping off point to study the physical and behavioral adaptations of polar animals.

If you're looking to integrate some Language Arts in this, I would have students try to generate a list of synonyms for cold, and then work those synonyms into a writing piece that can either be describing the great snowball battle between the two teams, or they could describe a winter scene or write a poem or something like that, but using their synonyms for cold. Maybe even in the writing, you don't allow them to use the word cold.

If you have students create offensive tools in order to conduct the snowball attack, you do want to be very thoughtful about where you are having them set up and where students are allowed to stand. In this case, this is a modified slingshot, and you don't want students standing where they might get hit with a snowball from a slingshot. I'm going to stand a little bit off camera and attack this fortress wall, and we'll see how we do.

A couple of things I just realized I forgot to mention about the snowball attack is whether or not you're going to just give each team let's say 10 seconds or 20 seconds, and they're all attacking at the same time, or if you're going to give students a set number of throws or tries. What you might do is each person on a team gets 3 opportunities to attack. You probably noticed that it was a lot more effective to hit the wall with bigger marshmallows, but depending on the tool that the students create, if they are doing an offensive tool rather than throwing, it could go either way, so I would allow the teams to choose.

With that, you have all the basics and you are ready to conduct this challenge in your classroom, but I always like to give you just a little bit more, so check out the resource. Defend your time. This 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 hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge, the Frozen Fortress 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 an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts, there are two sets based on your challenge goal, defense only or defense and offense. Each set comes with two versions, four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find a polar animal adaptations research log sheet, synonyms, antonyms, and figurative language handouts, as well as math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Winter/Christmas and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Make sure you don't forget to like and subscribe. I will be back next week to discuss how or even if you should be assessing your STEM Challenges. See you next time.

December 11, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenge: Snowman Stretch

WINTER - CHRISTMAS STEM Challenge: In Snowman Stretch, students build a snowman designed for maximum height or volume. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.





You are almost to Winter Break, or maybe you're visiting after break and looking for a way to ease those late winter blues! This challenge is perfect if you're looking for very low-prep and very simple materials. In fact, all you really need is a few sheets of copy paper, tape, and scissors for this one. You can always add more, but you likely already have what you need already!  

Because this is so low prep, it's great for last-minute plans, sub days, indoor recess, etc.

Premise

In Snowman Stretch, students build a snowman, aiming for maximum height or volume. You can use this all winter long, changing out the base materials and tweaking the Criteria & Constraints list to keep it fresh!


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is the best way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Snowman Stretch. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.








Are There Other Challenges Like This?


Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the second of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

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




Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to week four of the Winter and Christmas STEM challenges. This week we are talking about Snowman Stretch where students build the tallest snowman possible. This is a really straight forward challenge, very simple criteria and constraints unless you choose to adjust them and you can do it with very little materials. Just really a few sheets of copy paper and some tape is all you need. Everything else is kind of gravy on this one. You'll notice with the copy paper snowman, I had to put the tier with his head down here so you could see him. Later, I will put a photo in so you can see the entire thing. He's out of frame when I put his up there.

Let's take a minute to look at the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle. Remember the STEM Challenge Cycle? I just had a new video made on that, so make sure that you click and check it out if you didn't last week. 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 card to that video here, as well as a link in the description. 

You saw the materials picture that there was tissue paper, copy paper, and cotton balls. You don't need to use all of those. In fact, you could do the challenge a few different times and a few different ways using different materials as the primary source. Criteria's pretty simple on this one. I have the students have no more than three levels to their snowman and they can have an optional hat. The hat does not count as a tier and when they are measuring the height of the snowman, I let them measure to the top of the hat. The major constraint on this one to start is that the snowman must be freestanding. Can't lean against anything and the kids can't balance him up.

If you're looking to make it a little bit trickier, there are a lot of different things that you can modify on this. One thing you can do is have the students, rather than measure the tallest snowman, have them measure for the greatest volume. Another thing you can do is just choose a percentage at 75%, let's say, and tell the students that each successive tier must be 75% or less of the previous tier. You can also require that the students make each new tier a different geometric solid and you can have them mix and match the primary material used within each tier. If I used tissue paper on the bottom tier, I can't use it on the next one. I would have to use either the copy paper or the cotton balls or if there's something else you provide, use that.

Measurement's pretty easy on this one, obviously. We're measuring for height. We're going to measure from the bottom to the top of the hat. If you've chosen to have students build their snowmen for maximum volume, then they're probably going to need to use some estimates because they're probably not building in perfect geometric solids. My bottom tier here is spherical, sort of. I will have to take some estimates. My second tier is cylindrical and my top tier, although you probably can't quite tell, it's closest to a triangular prism. The students will have to calculate the volume of each tier and then add everything together and they should have a buddy team assigned to them so they can check each other's calculations.

The first extension activity that comes to mind here is anything to do with states of matter, but particularly changes in state. Obviously, Frosty the Snowman's big problem was that he was melting. You can have students design an experiment in which they're trying to figure out ways to either speed up the melting process or slow down the melting process and I would use ice cubes in that case. If you choose to do that, of course, in any experiment where you're waiting for something to melt, there will be lulls where the students need to take observations but maybe only every five or 10 minutes. If you're looking for something to do in those lulls, I would recommend the Reindeer Relay. It's a good time to run that race or any of the other challenges. If you're going to be doing a second iteration, you can have students working on their second iteration and also following up on the melting experiment during that time.

Just a quick note. You might already have my Keep It Cool, Make It Melt challenge that's part of the summer bundle. This actually might be a really interesting thing to do. Just do your first iteration of that challenge in the winter and the second in the summer. Just a thought. I haven't tried it yet. So that's all the basics there for you, but, of course, I always have more for you. Check out the resource.

Do you want to build a snowman? This 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 hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge and a Snowman Stretch 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 an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts, there are two versions. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the extension templates, you'll find a set of handouts for students to design their own experiment to speed up the melting of ice with sample answer key. You'll also find math extension and process low templates.

This resource is available individually and as part of a discounted Winter/Christmas and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video. Be sure you don't forget to like and subscribe. I will be back next time with Frozen Fortress which is our fifth and final Christmas winter STEM challenge. See you next time.

December 10, 2016

The STEM Challenge Cycle

STEM Challenge Cycle shows how to break a STEM Challenge lesson down into parts.


How long should a STEM challenge take?

Is there more to STEM challenges than just designing & building?

How do I plan a STEM challenge? How does it break down into smaller parts?

If you’ve found yourself asking any of the questions above, you’re in the right place! Essentially, you’re wondering how to best approach the lesson/activity flow. Like so many things in life, there’s more than one way to get the job done well, but I’d like to share with you a tried and true approach that worked for me. I have named this approach the STEM Challenge Cycle. Hopefully, it will save you a bit of time in finding/tweaking the flow that works best for you and your kids!

Below, you can find a short, animated video of what I have more-or-less transcribed below.




Overall Timing:

If you follow the same approach, the first iteration of a challenge typically takes 60-90 minutes with presentation, discussion, and reflection time factored in. Follow up lessons, research, and second iterations will occur on subsequent days. 

What follows are the steps of the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every STEM Challenge:

1. Plan

Give your students 5 – 10 minutes to plan what they’re going to design. You can let students think silently for a time, draw their ideas, discuss with their teammates, or use a combination of approaches. Consider mixing it up and not always using the same approach so students gain experience with different methods of planning!

2. Build

Students build their designs using a Criteria & Constraints List as their guide. Depending on the complexity of the challenge, the build phase can last anywhere from 15 – 40 minutes. During this time, the teacher acts as a facilitator by walking the room, checking in with groups and asking questions. Be careful not to be too leading or solve design problems for the groups. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but it becomes easier with practice.

3. Share

Give groups 2-3 minutes to present, explain, and demonstrate their designs. For those not finished, groups share how their designs will look and work when done. Groups can also take questions from their peers.

(Note: Sometimes, especially on tough challenges, I'll pause the build phase and interject a quick gallery walk/share session in the groups. This gives students a moment to walk away, see a few alternate ideas, and it can take the steam out of any building frustration (either due to the complexity of the challenge or of working with certain teammates! If you ever feel you've got a STEM Challenge going south, try this!)

4. Record & Reflect

Allow 10 – 15 minutes for students to record the results and reflect upon the challenge. All of my STEM challenges come with handouts for this purpose.

5. Discuss

Students should hold a broad discussion about the challenge either within their groups or the whole class for about 10 minutes. My challenges come with a set of 8 discussion questions – 7 are standard and one is a different quote to analyze and apply to the challenge at hand.

6. Extend

In the days that follow the first iteration, teach standards-based lessons that apply to the challenge, or have students conduct related research to aid in their next designs.

7. Next Iteration


STEM challenges work well as both introduction and culminating activities to both inspire students to learn about the content you wish to teach and to prove they have learned the content well enough to apply it in their designs. Holding a second or even third iteration is like creating drafts in the writing process: each iteration gives students an opportunity to refine their designs, apply new learning, and take new risks.

December 8, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenges: Sleigh/Sled & Slope

WINTER - CHRISTMAS STEM Challenge: In Sleigh/Sled & Slope, students create a ramp and sled designed to transport cargo safely and travel the maximum distance. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.




You are almost to Winter Break! Excitement is in the air, but you still want to be somewhat responsible. After all, there really isn't any instructional time you can afford to waste. And there's the dilemma: how can you have fun and enjoy the holidays without wasting instructional time? STEM Challenges ... the answer is always STEM Challenges! :) 

Premise

In Sleigh/Sled & Slope, students create a ramp and sled designed to transport cargo safely and travel the maximum distance. This one comes with 2 versions: winter and Christmas, so if your school says Christmas activities are a no-no, I've got you covered.


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is a great way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Sleigh/Sled & Slope. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.








Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the second of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

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




Video Transcription

Hi there, welcome to week three of the Winter and Christmas STEM challenges. This week we are doing Sleigh & Slope or Sled & Slope, or you prefer the winter version. I'm going to be using Sleigh and Sled interchangeably for the rest of the video. In this one the students design a combo ramp and sled designed to keep the cargo inside and the sled to go the maximum distance. For Sleigh and Slope, we're going to play up the Christmas angle pretending that it's Santa's sleigh and that we're trying to keep the gifts inside. The gifts can be symbolized by either little bows or little ornaments and it will say these tubes of 15 ornaments I just got this weekend at Dollar Tree. It's a good deal.

If you don't want to use the Christmas version, then just call it Sled and Slope. Instead of keeping gifts inside, we are going to keep riders inside. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's check out the other materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle. Just so you know, I did just have new video made for the STEM Challenge Cycle. It's a little more descriptive that the one I had before, make sure you click on the pop-in link when it comes in.

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 card to that video here as well as a link in the description. For a lot of challenges having cardboard scraps is really helpful. This one obviously it's pretty important. I love using cereal boxes and Kleenex boxes because the card board is firm enough but it's also easy enough for the students to cut.

Some things to think about before you start the challenge would be where the students build. Now I would recommend having them build on the actually floor of the classroom. The reason is if you're on the edge of the desk as I am, if your sleigh actually a pretty good design it's going to fall off of the edge of the desk. Which brings me to the next thing you need to think about. Will you allow the students to connect their ramps to the desk in any way? Even if it's on the ground they might want to prop it off it of the table leg. You just need to decide if that's okay with you or not. If it's not, you need to put it in the constraints that it has to be a standalone ramp, that it cannot be leaning against a wall or a desk.

Now another thing to think about because the cargo has to stay inside, students might want to build it as an enclosed sled. If you don't want them to do that, then you need to have a constraint that says something like has to be an open air vehicle or it can never turn end over end, so that maybe they wouldn't think of making a sphere.

Usually start with the criterion of containing two gifts or two riders. But it might be an interesting thing to do, rather than giving them the two bows or the two ornaments, is to have a variety of options and let them choose what they like candy canes, bows, ornaments, whatever. To allow them to choose whatever amount they want as long as they have at least two. What that's going to do is, it's going to change the mass of the sled and that then in turn should impact their design and how far the sled will travel. The same thing would apply to riders. The more riders, the more mass. It should make some sort of a difference.

But you might want to be keeping it a little bit more simple and not introduce too many variables, that's up to you and of course the age group of your students. Another thing that I've seen teachers do before is to actually make the ramp for the students and all the students use the same ramp. I'm not really a fan of that idea but I understand there would be cases where it's appropriate. However, you miss a lot of options and variables in terms of the height, the length of the ramp, and the angle of the ramp and it gives students a lot of different variables to test and to try out. I don't like the idea of taking that away.

The way the students are going to measure is from the beginning of the sled before the release and after. Students are not allowed to push the sled down the hill. It is a constraint that they can release it but they cannot push. May need to note before they release the sled, where is the starting point? Where is the furthest out point of the sled? Then once the sled stops they need to measure it and that will be their total distance.

I think I've just demonstrated why it's important to build on the ground or a very long table. When I'm having students measure, if the cargo falls out of the sled, it's an invalid trial. You can have students either record their final result as their best achieved distance or as an average of the valid trial distances. Now I always have students sketch their final designs and where it's age appropriate, I would have them label the length of the ramp, the height of the ramp and the angle of the ramp. If you're looking to make this just a little bit more challenging, you can increase the amount of gifts or riders that have to remain in the sled.

You can add a weather resistant criterion and a couple of ideas for that would be to expose the sled to very strong winds that are oncoming winds. That will force the students to think about the aerodynamics of their sled as well as making sure if they have light materials inside that they're somehow secured inside. You can also introduce some rain with a spray bottle and require that those gifts and riders remain dry. Another way to increase difficulty is by the extension activities that you choose. Let's talk about some of those.

They're a lot of variables that play here. We have the materials used for the sled and the slope. We have the height, length and angle of the ramp. We have the surface area of the sled. Friction of course is at play here. You could have students choose and isolate a variable to test and create an experiment or investigation around it. For younger students, they could study simple machines especially ramps. You could explore forces, friction, potential and kinetic energy. There are a lot of extension opportunities. Now you have all the basics but of course there's always more. Check out the resource.

Don't waste time recreating the whole this resource contains everything you need including modifications for use with 2nd through 8th graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course, but the hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge and the Sleigh and Slope 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-circular extension suggestions. You'll find two versions of editable Criteria and Constraints list, so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts, they're two versions in color and black and white. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students and two-page condensed space paper saver version. A Sled and Slope set of handouts is provided if you need or prefer a winter non Christmas version of the challenge.

You'll also get a data recording sheet and a set of group discussion questions. In the extension templates, you'll find a set of handouts for students to design their own reducing friction experiment with sample answer key. You'll also find math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Winter/Christmas and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Don't forget to like and subscribe. I will be back next week with snowman stretch. You don't want to miss it. See you next time.

December 2, 2016

November Recap




I know you are going to miss some of the things going on in my blog, YouTube channel and TpT store. Who has the time to keep up with their own lives, let alone someone else's whole deal?!  Hopefully, these monthly updates will make it easier to catch all the updates and teaching tidbits to make your teaching life that much better! (Click: October Recap to see last month's updates.)

VIDEO ON TPT

TpT launched video. While it's still in beta, I've been loading the same library I have available on YouTube to TpT. I'll continue to use both YouTube and TpT to host my libraries, so you can access them in whichever place you prefer!

Click here for the winter/Christmas STEM challenge walk-through playlist.

Click here to see my video library on TpT.


PRODUCT UPDATES

I completed the final winter/Christmas update: Sleigh & Slope or Sled & Slope, depending on the version you choose. You are definitely going to want to re-download this if you own it or the Winter/Christmas 5-in-1 bundle, because  I added a lot of new goodies! You'll find new primary response pages with expanded room for response, new cross-curricular extension ideas and handouts, and more!



BLOG POSTS AND GUEST POSTS










LIFE

I was able to travel for Thanksgiving and met my 7-month-old niece, Maddy, for the first time. She is crazy strong, full of energy, and amazingly content. She is adorable and sweet and I can't get enough of her ridiculous, halting giggle!

COMING IN DECEMBER

I'll be posting video walk-throughs for the remaining winter/Christmas challenges on YouTube and TpT. I'm also hoping/planning to final finish at least one resource for the Speak, Listen, Draw series. I'm also planning to take a little time off to enjoy the holidays.


WHAT ELSE?

If you want to receive notifications of these monthly recaps, you can follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers. I send a monthly note linking back to this post so all the links are easy to find (see the image below)! You can also follow this blog.