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…
One of my colleagues pointed out a couple of weeks ago that Instructables offers free classes on many “makerspace” related topics, such as laser cutting, mold making, and 3d design. I’ve used the site for a few DIY projects, but never knew I could dig deeper with these lessons. I plan to investigate several of these for my own studies, and now I know that I can also refer some of my students to the site, especially if they want to learn more about something I may not have tried yet. It’s a good resource for DIY’ers, educators, and students.
While searching for ways to help my engineering students develop some desperately needed problem-solving stamina and spatial reasoning, I came across these wonderful puzzles that are in color – and provide solutions. (Did I mention I need to practice my spatial reasoning, too?) I gave them the TED Ed River Crossing Riddle last week, and I thought I was about to have a full-on mutiny on my hands when I wouldn’t reveal the answer right away, so I thought I would try some less complex challenges for the next few weeks 🙂
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!
Could the fact that I just noticed the title of this NBC show is a double entendre be in any way related to the fact that I now spend my days teaching teenagers?
It could just be that Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler hosting a show about amazing makers distracted me from any other interpretation of the title other than crafting incredible stuff.
If you are a STEMer, STEAMer, or STREAMer, you should definitely take a peek at this weekly show to get some inspiration. Though it is not directly related to education, you will get some ideas of what is possible with a little bit of imagination and a lot of glitter and balsa wood.
You can stream the episodes here if you don’t have NBC or Hulu. So far, my favorite has been Episode 2, in which the makers were challenged to design forts and corresponding toys for children. The versatility and creativity of each entry blew me away. I am really glad I’m not one of the judges.
If you love watching people rip each other apart or run naked through the woods, then this show might not be your cup of tea. But if you enjoy seeing people who appear to be genuinely nice and sometimes a little bit goofy produce amazing works of art with unusual tools and supplies, “Making It” should be your goal for tonight.
Okay, that didn’t quite come out the way I meant it. But you can take it any way you want. I’m not in charge of your personal life. Most of the time I’m not even in charge of mine.
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.
If you are looking for 3d printing project ideas and curriculum, Stratasys has many free educational resources – you just have to know where to look for them and be willing to give Stratasys your contact info to download the lesson plans and project ideas.
From what I can tell, Stratasys is a company that focuses on providing 3d printing solutions for industrial use. If you download any curriculum from them, you will probably receive an e-mail or two within a few days asking how they can help you with your 3d printing needs. The inquiries are worth it, however, in order to have access to the activities and lessons you can use with your students.
I have downloaded the Lessons and Project Ideas, Semester Curriculum, and 3d Printing Modules. Depending on the experience of your students, most of the resources are good for middle and high school students. You can integrate them into a STEAM curriculum, use them as stand-alone lessons, or make them accessible to students in your Maker Space to jump start some ideas.