We have a wonderful Guest Blogger! – Aimee Imbeau
Aimee is an HCOS Teacher & STEAM Mentor. She has a heart for igniting a passion of learning in our students. Here are some of her thoughts and tips on STEM / STEAM / STREAM to get you going on a learning adventure.
I love teaching STEM (or STEAM…or STREAM). Why? Because the kids LOVE it! I have been doing STEM with students for quite a few years now and I never get tired of seeing the excitement that explodes when I say that special word!
However, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) can feel overwhelming and daunting for many parents and teachers alike. I think one of the reasons is because it doesn’t really feel like ‘school’. The kids are having fun and they are more than willing to engage. And school is usually a fight, right? At least in my house it can be sometimes. So, when kids are willing to learn, it ‘feels’ strange!
Another reason STEM can be intimidating is that we aren’t sure if we are doing it right. There isn’t a scripted lesson plan. We don’t know what the end result will be. We are stepping into the ‘unknown’, so to speak. STEM is not structured like we are used to.
A third reason we shy away from STEM is the fear of failure. We really want our kids to be successful – to not fail. And the thought that they may fail is uncomfortable for us.
To help quell the fear of failure, I let students fail. I know, it sounds strange. But our kids need to stop being afraid to fail. They need to understand that failing is ok. Because that’s when rich learning occurs – and that’s when they will begin to jump out of their comfort zones and maybe even make a difference in the world.
One video I love to share with students is about Hudson. Hudson’s story is quite sad, but also heartwarming – and it’s a great example of STEM and failing – and perseverance. You can watch the video here. After watching the video, students and I chat about how many times Derrick failed in creating his prototype (and we talk about what a prototype is). We talk about how Derrick already had considerable knowledge about creating prosthetics for animals, but he still failed several times when he tried to make one for Hudson. Then we talk about the result of the prosthetic for Hudson and what Hudson started to do once he was ‘free’ – how he brought joy to others. However, failure was a huge part of the progress towards success – and the success was more meaningful when it occurred!
To help you launch into STE(A)M, I have come up with a simple project for you to do with your child(ren). Have fun constructing this MEGA Straw!!
Simple STE(A)M Project: Crazy Straw
The goal of this project is to make the longest working straw.
- A package of bendy straws
- Drinking glass
- Water or juice
- Brainstorm some ideas – what are the possibilities?
- On paper, design your longest straw. Include labels and measurements.
- Gather your materials. In 10-12 straws, cut 2 half inch slits at one end of each straw. The 2 slits should be across from each other – this will help the straws fit together. If you need more straws later, you can always cut more.
- Referring to your design diagram, begin putting the straws together (one lit end to a non-slit end).
- Use tape to seal the joints.
- Test your prototype as you build, fixing any problem areas as you go. *Remember: it’s ok to change the prototype as it is being constructed!
- Did the water reach your moth? Why or why not?
- What problem(s) did you run into during the construction phase?
- How did you solve those problems? Or what would you do differently?
- What did you need to change as you worked through your plan?
- Why does it get more difficult to suck up water as you make your straw longer?
- What happens if you bend your straw at different points?
- How long can you make your straw before you can’t drink from it anymore?
- How did the length of the straw affect how much water got to your mouth? What about the seals at the joints?
Change it up:
- Create a price list for each item ($1 for 2 straws, $1/12 inches of tape) and give your child play money to purchase items. Once his/her money runs out, no more materials can be purchased.
- Older students – do not cut the straws yourself. Allow them to problem solve this.
- Offer different types of tape (duct, electrical, etc).
- Test different types of straws.
Straw flowers (link to Pinterest image)
HCOS Teacher & STEAM Mentor