Tuesday, September 25, 2012

STEM Exploration During Overtime

At my school we have a 45 minute period during the day called Overtime.  Our school is a STEM focus school so we usually use this period to do STEM-related activities.  For those of you not familiar with STEM it stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

I am very proud of the activity my students worked on for the past two weeks so I thought I would take a break from a literacy-based post and share a science activity.  Of course this science activity does have writing integrated into it!  If you use Smart Board software, you can click here to find the entire notebook file titled egg marine challenge.

I also planned out how to use cooperative group strategies during the activity.  One of my professional goals this year is to improve my use of cooperative groups.  I know I need to have defined roles and procedures for group work so I did research them before introducing this activity to the students.

These are the roles I chose to use for my students. The opposite sides of the tents have a short description to remind the students what they are supposed to do.  The students each chose a colored stick. The color of their sticks matched to their role.  I did a random selection for roles this time, but I intend to do planned roles next time. You can click here to go to the link for the cooperative group placards.

I use a simple class roster to record what role each student played in the activity.  This way I can make I sure I do not repeat roles until each child has a chance to perform each one.  There is also room where I can put notes about how a student performed that particular role.

The student who has the role of encourager completes this number line by crossing off points if his or her group is not cooperating.  This file is found is found in the same link as the role placards above.

The group leader reads and discusses this rubric with his or her team at the completion of the activity. You can click here to view the file that contains the collaborative work skills rubric.
Now for the STEM activity...the egg marine challenge.  I learned about this exploration through Camp Invention. I thought it was simple enough for the beginning of the year, yet interesting enough to keep students focused. The scientific principle of neutral buoyancy is explored in this activity.  Before I explained the activity, I used Discovery Education to teach the students some background information. They watched clips about real-world situations that use neutral buoyancy such as submarines, scuba divers, and robot fish. They learned how a fish bladder keeps them from floating to the top or sinking to the bottom. 
Their goal for the activity was to create an egg that had neutral buoyancy by filling it will materials or attaching materials to it.  The egg could not float above the water or touch the bottom of the container.
Students looked through the bag of materials and described their predictions before they began the activity.

Some of the initial eggs floated and some of the sank to the bottom.  Students did a wonderful job of redesigning their eggs after each try when the egg did not achieve neutral buoyancy.

As you can see, the students designed some very creative eggs. They never gave up and they squealed with delight when the eggs almost suspended in the water.  The students have been doing research at home and sharing their ideas with their teammates each day.  They have not completed the activity yet...who knows if they ever will!  They have been fantastic scientists who do not give up!

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