February 7, 2017

Flower Frenzy STEM Challenge

 Spring, Easter, or Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: In Flower Frenzy, students create a bouquet of flowers with unique attributes within four challenges! Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.

The Flower Frenzy challenge is actually four challenges in one and works well for spring, Valentine's Day, Easter, or Mother's Day! 


In Flower Frenzy, students create a bouquet of flowers with unique attributes within four mini challenges: Floating Flowers, Functional Flowers, Fluff & Flatten Flowers, and Firmly Fixed Flowers. (If alliteration is a problem, I need to join a 12-step recovery program!)

You can set this challenge up in groups, in centers, or with partners over a period of weeks or days. 

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 Flower Frenzy. 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 have five Valentine's Day STEM Challenges ready to go! You can find an overview of each on this blog post.  Each individual challenge will get its own video walk through and blog post starting with Cupid's Quiver on January 19, 2017 and ending with Cards in the Clouds on February 12 (all but the last will post on Thursdays).

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 four of the Valentine's Day STEM challenges. Today we are going to be talking about flower frenzy. This is actually four mini challenges in one. Now, because we're dealing with flowers, you don't have to do this for Valentine's Day. It's good for Easter, Mother's Day, or really any time in the Spring.

But before I get ahead of myself, let's check out the materials in 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.

Now, there are a couple different approaches you could take to this challenge. The first one is to have students in groups of four where they are attempting to complete each of the four challenges within the same time frame. They'll be most likely to divide and conquer. Each student will take one of the four flowers. They come together to form a bouquet.

Another option would be to put students in partners rather than groups and have them complete each flower collaboratively over a certain period of time; so maybe each day of the week of Valentine's week they're making a different flower. Or maybe it's once a week throughout February.
Another way to do this is to set up centers where each center is a different flower challenge and students travel with their partners. The reason I am saying partners is that when the designs are going to be something rather small, partners is usually the better approach. However, you need to make that call based on your students in your classroom.

The criteria and constraints are going to vary obviously by each flower challenge but there are two things that I keep constant. The first is you're going to want to constrain on size. I like to constrain size because we're going to be trying to put these together to form a bouquet in the end. So you can either constrain size based on dimensions, maybe six by six by six inches or you can give students like a shoe box and ask them to make sure that no flower is too big to fit inside that shoe box or even that all their flowers in the end must fit in the same shoebox.

If I know my intent is to follow this STEM challenge with extensions on parts of a plant and photosynthesis, I'll require that each flower has a leaf present, stem, roots, so forth.

Before I forget, I want to talk about why I have this flower here. It actually isn't for any of the specific individual challenges. But just another way to demonstrate how the students could make flowers that's simpler than maybe using all this tissue paper. This is just a couple pieces of construction paper. It is helpful to have a brass brad, but it's not necessary. You could poke the pipe cleaner through.

So the first of the individual challenges is called Floating Flower. And it's pretty simple. They need to make a flower that's capable of floating in water. You can set the time limit for that. So it needs to remain afloat for one minute or 30 seconds and the petals of the flower need to remain dry. I actually do have a freebie in my store for just the floating flower. So I will link that in the description below. I will insert a couple of pictures where I tested this and another design.

So in Fluff and Flatten Flowers, students need to create a flower that they can flatten to no more than one inch and then expand or fluff that flower back out to at least three inches across. That actually needs to be repeatable. So students need to be able to fluff, flatten, fluff, flatten and the flower needs to remain fluffed or flattened independently, meaning the students can't hold it and say okay it's flat and then puff it out and hold it open and say okay, it's fluffed. So I'll demonstrate this one. It's a little over.

Next challenge is Functional Flowers. The students must create a flower that performs an actual task. The flower needs to be integral to the actual task at hand, meaning it can't just be stuck on as a decoration. And I always add in a constraint that they can't have a flower pen or pencil.  It's just too easy and they've seen it a million times.  So this example is meant to be a pizza cutter. You can say it's to aerate the ground, loosen up gravel and weeds. Clearly this is a model and not a working prototype. I couldn't actually cut pizza with cardboard and foil and I would certainly be hard pressed to aerate or dig up the soil with this. I feel like since the materials are quite limited, I don't ask students to make a working prototype but again your class, your decision.

Finally, we have Firmly Fixed Flowers. In this one, students need to design a flower that has a way to protect itself from being crushed when a weight is placed directly overhead. You can choose the weight, one pound, two pounds or to make it simpler you can choose either a workbook or textbook that the students all have as a common standard weight. The main constraint on this one is that the flower must always be in clear view. So let me go ahead and demonstrate this design. The stem leads through the straw here and you pull it down. And one thing to consider when you're having students get ready to test is rather than having one large weight, have a series of weights that the students will be using so they can find the failure point in their design and have a chance to be successful before they fail.

So in keeping with that, I'll start with a card game. Success. You can see the flower from all but the top angle and it is not being touched at all, let alone crushed. You can either add this on top, it is larger and heavier or I can remove this and just try this one on top. I did check. These two card games add up to just over a pound. And again, I can see this design is strong enough to withstand the cards but it's not stable enough. So that's an area where I can rework this design.

In addition, you might have noticed that this flower has a stem but it does not have a leaf. So we are missing a criterion. You always want students to self-assess when they are done building against the criteria and constraints list to see if they've missed anything. It is common when you have a time constraint to skip something and of course you want them to address that in the next iteration.

When the students have completed all four flowers I like to have them put it together as a bouquet and they shouldn't alter any of the flowers in any way other than you can give them an extra pipe cleaner or a little bit of tape so that they can actually keep everything together. Right now I'm using my hands to do that but ideally you'd want it to be able to stay stable on its own.

There are a couple different things you can do to increase the difficulty across the challenges. The first thing is if students use a material in one of their flowers, they must use that in every single flower in their bouquet. This can make things quite tricky as students will need to check in with each other in the group to make sure that they've accounted for all the different materials. They will also need to talk and negotiate resources because some of the challenges may need more of a certain type than others.

Another thing you can do is have students create a flower that works for multiple challenges.  So for example, a floating flower that is also functional. If you want to get really crazy, ask students to create one flower that meets the criteria and constraints of three or even all four challenges.

Of course, you can use this as a jumping off point for any plant based lesson; seed dispersal, pollination, how plants impact weathering and erosion, you get the idea. You know your standards. Another idea is to have the student groups, now that they've done four different flower challenges is to create their own flower challenge. If you choose to do that, make sure the groups come up with a proposed materials list as well as a criteria and constraints list for the flower challenge. After you take a look at what they come up with, consider having the students do one or more of the challenges or even just as an option for early finishers and you can decide whether or not to require alliteration in their titles. If you follow me at all, you can probably guess what I would do.

The Flower Frenzy 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 the Flower Frenzy 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 four editable Criteria and Constraints lists 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 Handouts you'll find a set of scientific method handouts to help students develop their own plan experiments, along with an observation log and sample answer key. You'll also get math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Valentine’s and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Makes sure you don't forget to like and subscribe. I'll be back next week with our final Valentine's challenge, Cards in the Clouds. Have a fabulous week and I'll see you next time. 

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