Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Total Package Tuesdays

This week's topic is BRIDGES.  Bridges naturally lend themselves to all things STEM.  From lessons on geometry to ancient architecture, this topic can be adapted to meet a variety of age levels by simply altering a few activities here or there.

This video from You Tube is set to classical music and highlights famous bridges around the world.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Bridge

Just was reading through The Bridge, a magazine for STEM education.  It has some great articles about how engineering for kids and the impact it's making for kids exposed in schools.  It is great no matter what grade you teach!  All of their issues are available online for download in PDF and are free.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Total Package Tuesdays

Today I'm introducing Total Package Tuesdays posts.  I wanted to have some of my posts reflect the need for more holistic lessons, like those that the Common Core Standards require.  Based off of the format I learned in a recent PD class, I will be presenting a topic with possible resources for rigorous reading, engineering, and math activities that can be tied together to create brief or more lengthy learning objectives.

This week's topic is biomimicry.  As I begin to plan for teaching adaptations, natural selection, and evolution, I've been researching how scientists are more and more often looking at animals as a solution to human problems.

Engineering/Math Problem Solving Component
Tryengineering.com has a complete lesson that provides students the opportunity to not only to read about the topic, but to work together to design a structure for the moon using biomimicry.  And this link at Engineering, Go For It,  provides a different lesson, activity and web source.   An additional resource is also available at Teach Engineering.  The format isn't quite as teacher friendly, but is extensive, providing assessment ideas and differentiation.

Reading Component
Making biomimicry relate to kids is as simple as taking a look at a peer that has already used the idea to create a new product.  In this article, a 13 year old student creates a solar tree that is patterned after the fibonacci sequence (ahem...math and reading in one article.)  How about looking at military fatigues?  The current pixilated pattern (hmmm...math?) isn't cutting it.  Use this article, or others like it, as a springboard for a study on camoflague.

Click for 9 examples of biomimicry in action

Other current events articles include: Science News for Kids articleBiomimetics -National Geographic article, Bioinspiration at the San Diego Zoo, and Biomimicry News

Additional Resources and Background Information
Biomimicry Institute curriculum

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Looking for Adaptation Lab Ideas

Anyone?  Anyone?  I'm looking for something to do with students that involve adaptation with art.  I'm actually looking for a specific lab where students have a bird that they begin with and through rolling dice, certain attributes change.  The purpose is to show how quickly characteristics can change in populations.  I can't seem to find it anywhere and of course someone borrowed my 4th grade binder and never gave it back...grrrrrr!

I've found some fab games however, if anyone else is looking for activities on adaptation and natural selection.

Exploring Symbiosis
Rain Forest Birds: A Study in Adaptation
Sea Bird Survival
Project Wild Activities

And, the LIFE series narrated by Oprah Winfrey, has a breathtaking segment that addresses plant adaptations in the rainforest.  I swear it is the best video purchase, EVER!!!  No matter what life science concepts you cover, there is something that you can use.  There are shortened clips on YouTube if you want to try before you buy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

21st Century Learners

Topic of last night's Engineering and the Gifted Learner was how to create 21st Century Learning in the classroom while still balancing the other requirements of testing.  We had long discussions of the balancing act that we are faced with everyday.  We also watched this clip by Sir Ken Robinson.

The second portion of the class focused on using CCSS.  We looked at multiple sources of finding quality, rigorous reading that can act as both a spring board for new topics or provide wrap up for a unit.  Zite is a free app that recommends articles based on others that you choose to read...sort of a tivo type of device for articles.  I've also liked Science Alerts on Facebook that find multiple stories everyday to post.  There are so many more reading sources available than just a textbook.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Design Squad

This year I inherited a club for the gifted and talented students that is patterned after the PBS series "Design Squad."  I know that this is wildly popular among teachers of GATE students and as I've been taking my first class toward my gifted certification, I found out just how many people utilize this STEM concept in their classrooms.  At my class on Thursday night, others at my table were discussing how to incorporate Design Squad activities into units on desert survival.

The structure our club takes on is that one day students will brainstorm, plan, design, and begin construction and the second day they will build and share.  Piggybacking off the Curiosity landing of the third Mars Rover, students made a moving rover.  They must decide if they will go with the prototype provided, or branch out into something new.  You can find the plans through the picture link below.

During the next meeting, students will be asked to construct a pedistal to hold a "priceless" sculpture using only sentence strips (no need for those in junior high) and 1 meter of tape.  This was an activity I did the first Saturday class I took for the Engineering for gifted students class. (I love my district for providing such great PD!!)  These are the examples that we came up with...

This was our design.  Probably could have done just as well without the sides cut.



The strongest tower.  Each square had additional reinforcement inside.

Strong base