January 25, 2017

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: "Heavy" Hearts

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: In "Heavy" Hearts, students fill an outer heart with inner hearts based on certain criteria & constraints in order to design the “heaviest” heart. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.





Do you remember Frosted Forest? "Heavy" Hearts shares a few similarities; consider them cousins! This challenge is heavy on math and has a very wide range of difficulty level options available. One of the best parts -- you probably already have all the materials you need at your fingertips!

Premise

In "Heavy" Hearts, students fill an outer heart with inner hearts they create in three unique size/color groups. Each heart is given point values based on the criteria & constraints and measurement standards set by the teacher. Students are aiming to find the configuration that creates the "heaviest" heart.


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 "Heavy" Hearts. 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 two of the Valentine's Day STEM challenges. This week, we are talking about Heavy Hearts. This challenge is very heavy on the math and it is a 2D challenge. The premise of this one is the students are attempting to fill an outer heart with inner hearts that are worth points in order to make the heaviest heart. Before I get any further, let's 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 card to that video here, as well as a link in the description.

Just like frosted forest, this challenge has a very wide range of difficulty available in both the criteria and constraints that the students build against and how they measure their results. I'll be giving you some ideas to keep it simple for younger students and then add some difficulty for older students. First things first, you're going to need to create an outer heart. You can just give an outline template the way that I've done here on regular printer paper. Another idea is to cut off butcher paper or use poster boards and have the students create their own outer hearts. If you do use something like butcher paper or poster board, you can put students into groups rather than partnerships, but if you're gonna keep it on a regular 8.5 x 11-inch sheet, you're definitely gonna want to keep partners. Because otherwise, students can't really get in there enough to manipulate and work with the materials and they'll lose impatience.

The basic criteria and constraints that I start with in this challenge, you need to have three different sizes of hearts. The hearts need to be symmetrical and they need to share a side or point with another color of heart. Hearts can contact each other but they may not overlap. They may not go outside the outer heart border.

There are several different ways to handle the inner hearts. One is to use the traditional symbol and another is to use overlapping rectangles. Something you can do to make this a little simpler is to give students pre-cut different sizes of construction paper. If you're going for a traditional symbol, you're going to want to give them precut squares and if you're going for a geometric heart, you're going to want to give them rectangles instead. The ratio here is about two to one length to length. My preference is usually just to give full sheets of construction paper in three different colors and let the students figure it out for themselves on their own and develop their own systems.

While I think it's definitely appropriate for younger students to give them some support, you don't want to give too much. Otherwise this runs into a territory of craftivity which is not what we're going for with the STEM challenge. If you're gonna give them the paper cutouts, don't show them how to make the geometric hearts. Or if you're going to show them how to make the geometric hearts, don't give them everything already precut out. You want to have them make some of these decisions on their own. The inner heart production is an important piece, so if when you walk around you see partners and groups developing efficient systems, make sure that you note that down for yourself so when you get back to the class discussion, you can bring it up.

It's one of those things that might get overlooked, but it's an important part of the challenge. One of the reasons some groups are more successful than others. I'm going to be talking a lot about the length and width of the hearts. What I'm talking about is the length at the longest part of the heart and the width at the widest part of the heart. It might be helpful to show students how to put a heart in a box, real or imaginary, in order to find out what is the longest point of a heart and what is the widest part of the heart in order to take their measurements.

One thing you can do to add more difficulty is to require that each time you move up from one size of heart to the next, that it must be at least 50% longer than the previous size. You can also set a criteria or a constraint about the ratio of the length to the width of each heart so you might say that it can be no more than 2:1. Another thing you can do in length to width ratios is just require that each color group has a unique ratio of length to width.

You can set up a criterion for percent contribution by color group, so the pink hearts have to comprise 30% of the design. The purple hearts another 30% and then the red hearts would be the remaining 40%. You can do the percent contribution by the total number of a color group as compared to the whole set of inner hearts. Or you can do it by point values which we're gonna talk about shortly. Of course another way to make it more challenging is to make the outer heart larger.

Now let's talk about assigning point value. You can keep this super simple by just assigning an arbitrary point value for small medium and large. Small hearts are all worth one point, medium worth two and large worth three. The next thing you can do is teach students to take the length and width of the heart and the point value can be based on either the length or the width or the sum of the two if you'd like. If you want to make a little bit more challenging, you can multiply the length times width or multiply and then divide by two. One benefit of going with the geometric hearts is you can assign point value by the true area. Maybe you're practicing multiplying decimals or percents right now. You can just assign an arbitrary role, like the point value is 60% of the length x 30% of the width.

To extend on this one, you can have students do a second round where they go from the traditional symbol to a geometric symbol or vice versa and see which one was more successful. One graph that's a great fit for this is a stacked bar graph, if that's appropriate for your age group. The total bar would go to the total points for the heart and then within that, the students would break up how many points were their purple hearts and their pink and their red. Another great thing to do to extend is to line up everybody's Heavy Hearts with the point values, put them on a bulletin board and have the students go in their groups and start to pull out some observations. Try to analyze what approaches work well and what did not work as well. And of course since we're talking about hearts, anything about the circulatory system or the human heart would be great.

You have the basics you need in order to conduct this challenge on your own, but definitely check out the resource because it's got some extras and goodies and it's gonna save you some time.
Love is in the air. 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 the Heavy Hearts 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, you'll get an outer heart template, student directions and data recording sheet. There are two versions of design analysis handouts. 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 editable task card templates, examples, answer recording sheet, and tips as well as process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of a discounted Valentine’s and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

One of the best things about this challenge is that you probably already have all the materials you need, so this is a really quick print and go. Don't forget to like and subscribe. I'm gonna be back next week with candy container. See you next time.

January 19, 2017

#KINDNESSNATION Campaign



No matter where you stand politically, if you are in the classroom, you have undoubtedly noticed signs that the world is sorely in need of a littlemore kindness, empathy, and willingness to listen and learn from each other, even if (or maybe especially if) the other person holds opposing views and beliefs.

I was so pleased to be invited to join a campaign with a group of sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers to create forever freebies for this purpose. We aim to make it easier for teachers to access resources on important topics like kindness, empathy, and civics in order to create positive classroom communities that we hope will extend into the greater community. 

All you have to do to find these free resources is go to Teachers Pay Teachers and search #kindnessnation or #weholdthesetruths.

My freebie offering is listed for grades 5 - 8, but if you like to encourage personal reflection and critical thinking, it could work potentially work for 4th as well. It's free, so there's no harm in checking to see if it's a good fit for your kiddos, regardless of age:






What you see below is a small sampling for elementary, followed by secondary resources. More free resources are being added to TpT all the time, so be sure to check it out!  You can also check my Facebook page where I'm posting great free resources I find all weekend long!



Check out these elementary resources (secondary resources follow the elementary set):






An InLinkz Link-up


Check out these secondary resources:



Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: Cupid's Quiver

Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: In Cupid’s Quiver, students design a bow & arrow - or darts - to help Cupid deliver love potion (paint). Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.




Valentine’s Day just feels too soon after winter break to have another class party! STEM Challenges are the perfect alternative! Teachers tell me all the time that they use them this way and their kids love it! So you can still embrace the holiday, but forgo the party! Cupid's Quiver will keep your students engaged, thinking critically, and working on hands-on problem solving -- happily!

Premise

In Cupid’s Quiver, students design a bow & arrow to help Cupid deliver love potion (paint). If you have young students, you can just have them design the arrow portion and throw them like darts at your target.

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 Cupid's Quiver. 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, it's time to start the Valentine's Day challenges. It seems like just yesterday I was doing Back-to-school, unbelievable. In this one, students are designing a bow and arrow for Cupid in order to help him with target practice and delivering that love potion, also known as paint. Before I get ahead of myself, let's 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 card to that video here as well as a link in the description. 

This target is nine pieces of paper put together. You can really use anything. I've seen teachers just use one sheet of paper with the heart and there's no problem with that. I just recommend using a large panel, because more students can be successful in that case and it's really exciting in that case when you hit the target. No matter the age group, you're gonna want to use washable paint.

I recommend putting students in groups for this one. You're gonna want to have the groups make at least one bow and then every student should make an arrow. They don't have to be different from each other, they can each make the same design if they'd like, but each student should have an arrow. If you'd prefer to have one student work on the bow and everybody else do an arrow, then the person who did the bow should just borrow someone else's arrow when it comes time to do the testing. 

Now if you have young students, attempting to do a bow and an arrow could be a little bit tricky, so you could modify this and have them do darts instead. You're gonna also want to think about where to place your targets so you don't get paint where you wouldn't want it. Also, a place where you could retrieve any errant arrows. These are the arrows or darts that I have left. I started with four but two of them are presently in my neighbor's yard and then these are the three bows. Of course before you start, you want to do your basic safety dance. Remind students not to point arrows at each other. Of course on your criteria and constraints, one of the constraints should always be that there will be no sharp edges to their arrows or their darts, because Cupid is a lover not a fighter.

The distance that you have students stand away from the target is probably gonna correlate with their age group. Typically, I'd say start with maybe five feet. You and your students are gonna want to pack your patience for this challenge. Oftentimes it takes a little bit of practice in order to get a rhythm with shooting the bow and arrow. Sometimes there's absolutely nothing wrong with a design, but it's how the students are using the design that's causing the arrows not to go any further than they should. I will show you a few examples.

So some that you just saw being unsuccessful were the very same arrows that later were successful. In fact, one surprised me because one of the arrows I had been using was pretty effective. It was going five to 10 feet, but one of the times it had to be 20 or 30 feet.

Typically, students really enjoy this challenge, but it can be frustrating when you're trying to shoot your bow and arrow and it's not working. One thing you can do is ask students, what's happening or what's not working? Sometimes just when the students verbalize well, the paint is making the arrow heavy and so it won't shoot. Hopefully that gets them to a point where they realize they don't need to use quite so much paint or they could use a smaller portion of a sponge or cotton ball in order to dab in the paint. Or maybe they need to work on the bow in order to deliver more force to the arrow. If they don't make that next leap on their own, then you follow up with well, what needs to happen or what could you try next?

If they aren't as successful as they'd like to be, definitely have students try to analyze what is wrong. Is it the design itself, is it the way they're using it, is it the combination of those factors? Then another option, if you are working with a bow and arrow and it's not working as well as you'd like it to because you can always switch it to darts or allow the students to move closer to the target. But don't give up too early, I'm telling you it takes a little bit of trial and error.

When you get to the point where you're going to actually be measuring results, again make sure that you've given students lots of time to practice. If you are using one target for the entire class, try to give each group a different color paint so it's easy to tell who hit what part of the target. Each of these symbols has point values attached. The lowest point value picture is the hearts that are in the corner are worth five points. I would make hitting anywhere on the paper worth maybe two or three points. Assuming this is on a fence or a wall, I would even probably give students a point for just hitting the wall.

When they're tallying their official results, I have each member of the team take three official shots, whether it's with the bow and arrow or if it's throwing the dart. They can either sum their points or take an average.

A few things you can do to add difficulty; first thing is stand further away from the target. Second thing is you can add a secondary challenge to create a quiver for Cupid to hold his arrows. Of course Cupid flies so it needs to be lightweight and he needs to have easy access to it but it also needs to be something that won't allow the arrows to fall out. You can use darts rules as inspiration and you can change the goal, rather than being the most points or the highest average score to hitting the four corners or hit all of the cupcakes in the fewest number of shots, or have students come up with their own version of rules.

To extend on this one, of course you've got potential and kinetic energies. You could ask students to write a story or a comic strip in which Cupid uses their designs which could be quite comical depending on how good their designs were. You can have students create their own math problems based on their designs or anything to do with the challenge.

You have the basics, you're ready to do this challenge on your own, but definitely check out the resource, it's gonna help you out a lot.

You're going to fall in love with this resource. It contains everything you need to guide your students through the Cupid's Quiver challenge 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 Cupid's Quiver 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 get targets in color and black and white.

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 as well as two options for recording results. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find cause and effect notes, a practice activity with three versions and answer key as well as 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.

Okay, that's it for week one. Next week, I'm going to be back with Heavy Hearts. Make sure you like and subscribe, I will see you next time.



January 12, 2017

Winter STEM Challenge: Frosted Forest

WINTER STEM Challenge: In Frosted Forest, students aim to build the "iciest" tree possible in their class's Frosted Forest!  This challenge is all about triangles and has a VERY wide range of difficulty options. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.



Mid-January already? Time just flies by, doesn't it? I am happy to share another winter STEM challenge with you this week: Frosted Forest. This one is heavily weighted toward math, so I think of it as more of a STEM Challenge!

If it's not winter where you live, feel free to call this Triangle Tree. There's no need to wait for winter to try this challenge out!

Premise

In Frosted Forest, students aim to build the "iciest" tree possible in their class's Frosted Forest!  This challenge is all about triangles and has a VERY wide range of difficulty options. You can keep it very simple by just measuring sides and assigning points to icicles based on the longest side, or you can add layers of complexity to tailor this challenge to your students. I cover all the details in the video walk through, so read on!

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 Frosted Forest. 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! For those who are familiar with my work, most of my challenges are available in bundles of 5. This will eventually be true for Frosted Forest, but it won't be ready this winter; I have three of the five challenges planned, and just enough time to complete two. Snow Scoop is already completed, and you can find it here.

What I do have ready is the Winter/Christmas Bundle you see to your right.You can find the overview of each on this blog post. I'll also be posting at least one more brand new winter challenge in the next couple of weeks. Snow Scoop is also available as part of the Mega Bundle you see below.


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




Video Transcription

Hi there. It is the best day of the week: STEM Challenge day, and I have a brand new one for you. It is called Frosted Forest. It is yet another winter challenge. If you are not in the market for a winter challenge, feel free to call it Triangle Tree and use it any time of the year.

This STEM Challenge should have an extra special capital M, that's maybe twice the size of the other letters in STEM Challenge because it is heavily weighted toward math. The premise of this one is the students are trying to make the "iciest" tree possible in partners or groups. Before I get any further, let's take a look at the materials in the STEM Challenge Cycle.

This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I have defined each step in another video. I have added a pop-in card to that video here, as well as a link in the description. A quick note about the materials. You don't necessarily need to provide everything that I showed you, but the more materials you provide, the more variety there will be in the students' designs.

I would not constrain the tape on this one. I just give the students the full roll, and if you are concerned about aesthetics, then you will probably want to use scotch tape or clear tape instead of masking. You can see, I am not too particular about that.

You might want to think about doing this challenge over two lesson periods. In the first lesson period, you can have the students build the trees, and begin designing and measuring their icicles. Then, in the second lesson period, you can have them actually assemble the trees and complete their data recording and analysis. A quick note: if you do spread it over two days, it's really helpful to give the student groups page protectors or envelopes, where they can store the icicles that they have already created, as well as their data measurement sheets.

There is a very wide range of difficulty possible with this challenge. Let me start with the simplest version and then start working up. You can take or leave whatever you like, based on the age and ability of your students.

The basic criterion constraints, no matter which version you do: start by saying that the icicles must attach to a branch. They may not extend beyond the branch, and they have to connect along a full side. They should not be dropping from a branch by their vertex. Icicles should not come in contact with the ground, or the trunk, or another branch. If you are keeping it simple, they should also not touch any other icicles. As we add difficulty, you will see we add an exception for that.

And you will want some version of criterion that the triangles need to be at least different sizes, and again, there is a way to add difficulty for that too. If you find that one of the icicles breaks one of the criteria or constraints, then its points don't count. If, for example, and icicle is touching the ground, it doesn't count.

Okay. So, the simple version of the challenge. The first thing you are going to do, is you are going to want to help the students with their icicle creation by providing them with triangle templates. This way they don't have to create their own. They can just cut and choose from what's available. Now you can set up a constraint, that the students are only allowed to use one icicle per branch. You can set a minimum or maximum of icicles that can be used, as well as branches if you like.

You might also want to think about limiting the time that students have to select their icicles from the template. So, maybe take 10 minutes, and in that 10 minutes, the students have to cut and have selected the ones they think they are going to use. Don't get rid of the extras, though, because when you actually get into the build, I think it's all right to give them an opportunity to go and pull from something that will work better than what they initially selected. It's just meant to keep things moving along, so they don't get mired in that step.

Before the students actually attach their icicles to the tree, they will be taking measurements. Now, if you have young students, you are probably going to have them measure each side of the triangle to the nearest, maybe centimeter, or half inch. In order to give the icicle a point value, you can either have them add up all three sides, so take the perimeter, or if they are very young, you might just have them select the length of the largest side.

So now, if you want to start increasing difficulty, what you can do first of all is think about the icicle creation. Have students create their own icicles in PowerPoint or another program. Or they could even hand draw them. If you allow your students to design their icicles in some program, then definitely set a constraint for how many pages they are allowed to print. So, I would say three to five pages, and then when they do the build portion, I would give them maybe one extra blank page of paper, in case they want to hand draw any extras, because they will see when they begin to actually assemble and put the icicles on the branches, that some of the initial icicles that they thought they were going to use, turn out not to quite work so well.

For older students, I would not have a constraint for only one icicle per tree. I would allow multiples, as you see going across here, this is a branch. It is an odd one, but it is, and one rule is that the icicles may contact at the vertices, but they may not overlap on a branch. If you want to go a step further, allow icicles to be connected to other icicles. So, I have an example right here, where I have one, two, three, four icicles are actually cascading one off the other, and I basically treat a secondary icicle by the same rule as the primary to the branch. So, what I mean by that, is the secondary icicle cannot extend past the edge of the icicle it is attached to, and it has to connect on a full side.

One criterion I would be sure to add for older students, if it's age-appropriate, is to provide examples on their icicle tree of every type of triangle. I want to see a scalene, equilateral, isosceles, and I am also going to want to see an acute, obtuse and right triangle, and obviously some triangles will count for both. If you want to take it a step further, you can add a per cent contribution criterion, so right triangles must comprise at least 30% of the tree, or some variation on that. If you want to get really intense, you can replace the triangles with cones, and turn this into a 3D challenge.

So now, we need to talk about how students are assigning point values to their icicles. As I said before, you are going to have your students taking various measurements. Whatever is appropriate.

And I even have an option in my resource, where I have a bonus point line. You also want to have students record all their measurements before they actually attach the icicles to the tree. It's much easier to do it first.

Now, you will find that if you have the students label all their measurements and information on the actual icicles, you might not like the way that it looks. And if that bugs you, feel free to turn this into a steam challenge. You can have the students come up with color coding, for the different kinds of triangles. So, maybe just a small, little circle colored in, or maybe a pattern or something, that might make it look a lot nicer. So, as soon as you are going to record all the information of all of their icicles, when they go to build, they might not use them all. They are tracking all the information in a data table, ahead of time. It's helpful to actually number the triangles as well, so that if they decide one doesn't really work in their design, it's easy for them to take it off, and then cross it off of the data table, because obviously you can't use the points, if it's not on the tree.

For extensions on this, obviously anything to do with triangles. You can also ask students if they think they might have been able get more points, had the icicles not needed to be triangles, but some other polygon. And then you could repeat the challenge using that other polygon. You can also study plant adaptations in the winter. You could also do a little bit of research about stalactites and stalagmites, and then compare and contrast with icicles.

You have what you need in order to conduct Frosted Forest on your own, but there are a lot of extra goodies in this resource, so make sure you check it out.

Save your most precious resource time. This resource contains everything you need, including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You will still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the hard parts are done. You will 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 Frosted Forest Materials list. In Teacher Tips, you will 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 will find two levels of editable Criteria and Constraints lists, so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts there are two versions: a four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space, paper saver version. You will also find a set of group discussion questions. You will also get four versions of editable data recording handouts: seven triangle templates, and one cone nets template.

In the Extension Handouts, you will find classifying practice with the answer key, as well as math extension and process flow templates. 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.


Just a quick reminder again: if you are taking photos of the challenges in your classroom, I would love to be tagged. My social media is linked below. Make sure you don't forget to like and subscribe. Next week, I am back with the first of the Valentine's Day Challenges. See you next time! 


But imagine, if it had been the same tree. That would have been pretty cool!

January 4, 2017

Winter STEM Challenge: Snow Scoop

WINTER STEM Challenge: In Snow Scoop, students essentially build a snow shovel, aiming for the most efficient removal of "snow" possible, with a couple of tweaks added in! Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.



Winter Break goes by too fast, doesn't it?! By now, you're either already back in school or getting pretty close. I hope your break was restful, joyful, and rejuvenating! Because I don't want the rest of your winter to feel long & dark, I'm creating a couple of new challenges to keep the enthusiasm for learning up this semester! This is the first!

Premise

In Snow Scoop, students essentially build a snow shovel, aiming for the most efficient removal of "snow" possible, with a couple of tweaks added in!

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 Snow Scoop. 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! For those who are familiar with my work, most of my challenges are available in bundles of 5. This will eventually be true for Snow Scoop, but it won't be ready this winter; I have three of the five challenges planned, and just enough time to complete two.

 What I do have ready is the Winter/Christmas Bundle you see to your right.You can find the overview of each on this blog post. I'll also be posting at least one more brand new winter challenge in the next couple of weeks. Snow Scoop is also available as part of the Mega Bundle you see below.


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 the very first video of the brand new year. Happy 2017! Since this is the first video, let's just talk a little bit about what's coming soon. So, I do have a brand new challenge for you today as I promised a couple of weeks ago. For sure I have another brand new winter challenge coming as well. I'm gonna try to get that out by next week, January 12th, but I'm not gonna promise it. If it's not out by the 12th, it will be out by the 19th. Following that, I'm gonna get straight into the Valentine's Day STEM Challenges, and then it's Saint Patrick's Day, Easter, Earth Day, and then I have some really great summer STEM Challenges coming for you as well.

So the challenge for today is Snow Scoop. It's essentially a snow shovel that the students are designing with a few tweaks. But, before I get ahead of myself, let's 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 card to that video here, as well as a link in the description.

There are a couple of options to set up the yard and the snow. So, for the yard what you see here is about a 12 inch by 8 1/2-inch pan. And you can also just take a cereal box and just cut off the top. You do need to tape where the box opens. Another option is just to take a gift box lid and separate those out and give each student one half of the box.

As far as the snow goes you can see here I've used mini-marshmallows. And you might have some left over if you did the Frozen Fortress Challenge, or if you're going to, you can double up. In this tray I'm using rice as my snow, and that is my favorite to use. You can use basically anything you want. Confectioner's sugar, salt, confetti. For confetti, there's no need to buy anything. Just empty out the contents of your three-hole punch and maybe ask a couple of your teacher friends down the hall to do the same, and you'll have what you need.

I strongly recommend doing this challenge with partners and not in groups. The reason for that is the designs are going to be pretty small, so if you have four students trying to work on one snow scoop at a time, there's just really not enough for everybody to be able to stay engaged. On the flip side, you could do this as an individual challenge, but I find I enjoy having a partnership there, because the students can still bounce ideas off each other, and get all those benefits of collaboration. 

I start the criteria and the constraints pretty simple on this one. Basically the students have to design a scoop that efficiently moves snow and is operated with only two fingers on one hand. Now, I can choose whichever ones, and I don't distinguish the thumb from the rest of the fingers.

Just a note about the two finger constraint, so trying to sort of manage for the scale issue. This is a snowy yard, and these are snow shovels. If we allow students to build snow scoops that are maybe as big as their two hands, not only would it blow the scale way out of proportion because you wouldn't have a snow scoop half the size of your yard. And it would also not be something realistic that a person could operate in their own yard, because the amount of snow it would lift would be far too heavy. I will demo each of these snow scoops in just a couple seconds.

You have a couple of different options here for how you can measure results. The simplest way to measure the efficiency of the snow scoops is to take one single scoop and the students will be aiming for as much snow as possible. So, the largest single scoop. Definitely let the students take turns so that each of them gets an opportunity to use the snow scoop.

Another way to measure results is a little more challenging. You can treat this again, as a snowy yard, and the students have to clear a one-inch path from end to end. Now, in this case, they'll be measuring not the weight of the snow, but the amount of time it takes to clear the one-inch path.
So, what you can do is either give students timers, or if you have a projector in your room, and you have internet access, you can go online, just search online timer, and you can set it off at the same time. And since the students will be in partners, one can be keeping an eye on the clock. Do allow the students to switch roles. Because it's a lot more fun to scoop the snow than it is to watch the clock. And in that case, they can either average the two times, or they can take the better of the two.

Okay, so if you want to make this easier, then you can remove the constraint that they are only allowed to use two fingers on one hand. Either make it two fingers on two hands, or just remove that constraint altogether.

So, a few ideas to make the challenge more difficult. I just came up with this one as I tried to use the snow scoop with my left hand, which is not my dominant hand. It was much more difficult. So, one thing you can do is to add a constraint that they have to use their non-dominant hand in order to scoop the snow. You can change the challenge goal to be clearing the entire yard of snow. But, you're gonna have to have some extra time if you want to do that. You can remove the index card from the materials and you can either require or constrain certain shapes, whether that be polygons or 3D solids.

To extend on this one, this is a great opportunity to study levers and classifying them into first class, second class, or third class.

So, not all snow is exactly the same. Some of it is more dense, some of it's more hard-packed, some of its lighter and fluffier. So, you can repeat this challenge with different types of snow and see if the same shovels work best in each of those different types. What you'll probably find is that some perform better in some types of snow versus others. From there you can use that as a jumping off point to talk about cell specialization and organelles and how they're formed specially to do their special jobs.

And of course, you can have students graph their data and even whole class data.

So, you have everything you need in order to do this on your own. But, I always give you extras and goodies in the resource, so check it out.

Save some time, 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 Snow Scoop 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 Handouts, you'll find classifying levers, notes and practice with answer key, comparing snow shovel lever classifications, as well as math extension and process flow templates. 

This resource is available individually, and as part of the Mega STEM Challenge Bundle. Links can be found in the description below the video.

I have a special New Year's request from you. If you are doing these challenges in your classroom, and you're already posting on social media pictures of the student's designs, I would love to see them, please tag me. It brings me so much joy, and I have all my social media linked in the description below.

With that, I hope you are off to an excellent new year. Don't forget to Like and Subscribe. I will see you next week. See ya next time.