In the past, I have taught students about biomimicry/biomimetics, in which designers use inspiration from nature to create new products. (The Youth Design Challenge is a great place to find resources for this.) Biodesign takes things one step further by actually incorporating nature, often still living, into innovative artifacts that can be purely for decoration or serve specific purposes.
I first became aware of biodesign when I ran across a website for The Nest Makespace. The unusual images on the home page intrigued me. (I admit that I thought the “bioyarn” designs were actually made out of worms, but it turns out that it’s probably more like this material.)
The Nest Makespace offers some fascinating project ideas here. I am hoping that more lesson plans will be linked soon. In the meantime, you can find more suggestions on the Resource page.
For a “Peek at the Possibilities of Biodesign,” click on this link, or watch the embedded video below.
There aren’t any fancy graphics on this video, but I love the message that Katie Correll gives in this short presentation. I keep trying to convince my students that engineering is so much more than math and science, that’s it’s not just about following formulas and rules but about learning how to use them to innovate and sometimes even break those rules. One of my students pointed out that Katie’s message about thinking outside of the box to problem solve can really apply to anyone – not just engineers.
Whether you call it STEM, STEAM, or STREAM, engineering is part of each of those acronyms. In an incredible leap that still surprises me, I found myself teaching Principle of Engineering to students in 8th-10th grades this year. (I taught elementary school for 27 years before this, for those of you new to the blog.)
After nearly falling asleep reading the course curriculum, I started to hunt for ideas. There is no textbook; this is all project-based learning. And just because the subject was new to me didn’t mean that I had to read from boring PowerPoints all year.
During my quest for ideas I discovered a UK site for STEM Learning. Even more helpful for my specific interests, is the “Year of Engineering” portion of the site, which offers an incredible number of free resources for all grade levels.
Of course, I immediately dove into the secondary resources. From the initial page, you can narrow down your engineering interest to a particular subject by clicking on a “Choose Your Inspiration” button – which perfectly describes the effect the enormous number of ideas had on me. My favorite rabbit hole to leap into is the “Engineering in Design and Technology” one, which offers subcategories like “Sports Engineering” and “Humanitarian Engineering.”
You will need to register for a free account if you are interested in downloading any of the lesson plans or activities on the site. Just give yourself plenty of time to explore each time you visit…
My engineering classes have been working on helping to design the new playground at Advanced Learning Academy. On Thursday, the architect, landscape architect, and district Director of Constructor visited the students to explain the process and answer questions.
Sonya Terborg has a great blog post about questioning here, and I love the quadrant example she gives.
My original plan was to use the image in a Padlet. However, as seems to be the case too often recently, our internet has been wonky. So, I went somewhat “old school” and had the students use Post-Its on our whiteboard.
I changed the wording a bit, and flipped the labels on the y axis so that the more they cared about the answer to the question, the higher up it would be on the axis.
Although the concept appeared to be difficult for the class at first, they soon got the idea. As always, some questions were “deeper” than others. “What is the budget?” was asked more than once, but, “What is your idea of a playground of the future?” got high marks from the students.
The guests wanted to project a presentation, so they were able to pull PostIts off the board as they answered each question while their slides were on the screen. It turned out that our primitive method of using the whiteboard was a good call after all!
I’ve been combing the internet for projects to do with my engineering students (grades 8-10), and ran across these lessons from Design Squad. They don’t quite fit my curriculum, but I thought I would share them since I know a lot of my colleagues are working on incorporating STEAM into the curriculum. If you look on the left side of the page, you will see other lessons and activities that you may be able to use in areas that range from electricity to structures.
I have included Design Squad in posts since 2013, but I don’t think I have mentioned this particular page before. Even if I have, it bears repeating! This site offers a lot of creative challenges and videos that are great for any STEAM classroom. And it’s not just for elementary students. I used one of their videos today with my secondary students on isometric drawing, and it was the perfect introduction to a brand new topic for them. After you browse the site, click here to visit their YouTube channel, chock full of videos on all sorts of design topics.
Long ago – during the first semester – my GT 3rd graders decided that they wanted to do their Genius Hour project on volcanoes. (My 3rd grade class is only 3 students this year, so they are doing their project together.) To narrow things down, we decided to learn more about shield volcanoes. Specifically, Kilauea.
You can probably see where this is going. After months of research, writing a script for a newscast, dealing with many device issues and lost footage, we finally had everything together.
Then Kilauea erupted.
Actually, of course, Kilauea has been erupting. For years. But in the last few weeks it has been more insistent on being noticed. A neighborhood needed to be evacuated because lava flowed into it, and the toxic fumes aren’t too hospitable either. In addition, more violent eruptions may happen in the near future.
Our video needed to be rewritten and re-filmed. Again. The students, of course, wanted to keep all of their “humorous” sections. I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like we were making light of a serious situation that has caused Hawaii’s governor to declare a State of Emergency.