Tag Archives: STEAM

Art Jumpstart

Darrell Wakelam (@DarrellWakelam) is an artist who shares his considerable talent by doing workshops with children at schools and museums.  During the quarantine I have noticed Wakelam’s tweeting free #ArtJumpStart activities, and I asked him for permission to write about them on this blog.  I had no idea that he had so many available on his website!

Each #ArtJumpStart consists of a pair of pictures.  The first one shows his completed project, and the second one gives instructions.  As you can see, the materials should be fairly easy to find in most households, making these works of art ideal projects for students staying at home.  The hope is that these will inspire students to create and innovate no matter where they are.

You can download the full gallery of #ArtJumpStart projects here for free.  Also, be sure to check out Wakelam’s photos of his art on this page of his website.

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Cardboard Fly Trap by @DarrellWakelam, https://www.darrellwakelam.com/
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Cardboard Fly Trap Instructions by @DarrellWakelam, https://www.darrellwakelam.com/

Lego Quarantine Build Challenges

Aaron Maurer (@aaronmaureredu), a STEAM educator who blogs at Coffee for the Brain, is hosting a month of Lego challenges during May, 2020.  Each week is a different theme, and each weekday he posts a new challenge for that week’s theme.  Before beginning the challenge, participants are asked to select 100 pieces from their Lego collection and post a picture of those pieces.

You can view the instructions from Maurer in the video below, as well as on this page (which includes a link to a form).

For the week of May 4th (this week, can you believe it?!!!), the theme is, “Movie Genre.”  Each day is a different genre, with the first day being science fiction (of course!).  You can see the builds for Week 1 that have been assigned so far on this page.  Clicking on each build card will take you to the page with guidelines and pictures of builds that have been submitted so far.

Maurer already did a different Lego challenge last month, and used feedback he garnered from those participants to create this month’s lineup.  Based on that input, he is also doing some livestreaming this month, so be sure to click on that button at the top of the website if you are interested.

I think this idea is really going to blow up, as Maurer had hundreds of participants from all over the world for the last challenge.  (You can see the map when you scroll down on the Home Page.)  If you’ve got kids who love anything Lego-related, this is their opportunity to be inspired and get creative!

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Image by M W from Pixabay

 

Dear Data

This is another example of one of the great internet wormholes that I fall into when I read Twitter.  I was fascinated by a Tweet from Nick Sousanis (@nsousanis), which led me to an amazing book so I could interpret his Tweet, which led me back to the work of his students and a bazillion ways remote learners around the world could have fun with his assignment or other permutations of it.

Let’s start with the book.  Dear Data began as a pen pal project between two information designers on different continents.  As they explain on their website, “Each week, and for a year, we collected and measured a particular type of data about our lives, used this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then dropped the postcard in an English ‘postbox’ (Stefanie) or an American ‘mailbox’ (Giorgia)!”

Each postcard consists of their data and the explanation of its depiction.  The women chose all sorts of topics to record, such as a week of laughter or a week of complaints.  Though they would be collecting data for the same topic during that particular week, their pictograms would be dramatically different.

They learned a lot from this year-long project, which resulted in a book, a postcard kit, and a journal.  As Giorgia and Stefanie explain in this video, “We learned to pay attention, to live in the present much more, to be more aware of our surroundings, and empower behaviors with new lenses.

So, back to Nick Sousanis, who Tweeted that his visual communications students had come up with their own “Dear Data” projects, and gave examples of some of the results in his Tweet.  I asked Nick if I could share these on this blog and he graciously agreed. (You can click on each picture to enlarge.)

I see all kinds of potential for this with students.  For example, one of the Depth and Complexity icons is “Trends,” and it would be interesting to ask students to analyze one of these postcards, and determine what trends they see.  Using, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a great start. In addition, as Nick found with his class, assigning students to develop their own data sets can invite self-reflection and creativity.

During these unique times, when data has become a fixation for much of the world, students can also examine its importance and reliability.  As the women who completed this ambitious project say in their video, “Finally we both realize that data is the beginning of the story, not the end, and should be seen as a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us instead of seeing it as the definitive answer to all of our questions.”

(For some other fun ideas for looking at data, check out my posts on Slow Reveal Graphs and What’s Going On in This Graph?)

Maker Playbooks

Patrick Benfield (@McLemoreAve), who is the Innovation Director at the Magellan International School in Austin, has created a website called, “i.Make@Home.”   The website includes several “Maker Playbooks.”Each playbook has several projects that can be done at home to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.  Examples (including some videos) and directions are provided.  Many of the projects require basic materials that can usually be found at home, such as cardboard and scissors, or even out in nature, but there are some that call for hand-tools and/or adult supervision.

Currently, there are five Maker Playbooks available on the site, beginning with one from March 30, 2020.  You can add your e-mail to a subscription list to be notified when new ones are added.  If your children or students make something from one of the playbooks, be sure to post it to social media, and tag it #magellanmakers so Mr. Benfield can see that his hard work in curating these ideas for using design thinking at home is paying off!

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Foldscope

I briefly mentioned Foldscope way back in 2017 after our Stanford tour guide pulled the amazing paper microscope out of her pocket to demonstrate the type of innovation you can find at Stanford.  I always meant to do a separate post on this tool, but life got in the way and suddenly I am here, three years later, finally getting around to it.

Foldscope is an inexpensive, portable, durable microscope that you can carry around with you pretty much anywhere.  It was invented at Stanford, and you can watch Manu Prakash speak about the evolution of this idea in the video below. (Linked here in case the embedded video doesn’t work.)  Of particular note during our current coronavirus fears is the portion at 5:23 where a student declares how the Foldscope highlights how important it is to wash your hands to avoid dangerous diseases.

You can also view a TED talk with Prakash from 2014 here.

For $35, you can purchase 20 Foldscopes for your class to make, which is a steal, in my opinion.  Imagine sending every student in your class home with one of these tools!  Since I know how purchasing can be in some districts, I wanted to point out this link to their distributors in the hopes that you will find one who is on your approved vendor list.

And don’t forget to visit the Foldscope Community to see some of the awesome microscopic images that have been shared from around the world!

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STEM Cookbook

Who says that Robotics can’t be tasty?  If you believe that, then the L’Essor Secondary School Robotics Team, Team 6331 SaBOTage, would disagree with you.  The team has produced a downloadable STEM book of recipes titled, appropriately, How to SaBOTage Your Kitchen. The students researched and published this guide to preparing delicious dishes. It includes scientific health tips and explanations, and has recipes that will appeal to a variety of taste buds, ranging from “Big Bang Caramel Popcorn” to “Exploding Bacon Pulled Pork.”  To learn more about this FIRST Robotics team, located in Canada, you can visit their Robotics website.  This unusual perspective on how STEM can even enhance our cooking is a great resource for families and students who may have a more narrow view when it comes to the usefulness of math and science in their everyday lives.

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay