Tuesday, March 25, 2014

STEM Training

Why is it when some people hear "STEM" they moan and groan or run away in fear?!?! Today, I attended the first day of a two-day STEM training held at my district office. I have to say that the training we had today was among the best I have ever experienced in my 10 years of teaching. First of all, it was almost all hands-on and conducted in the same manner one would expect teachers to use STEM with their students. It was also full of authentic, real-world reasons that it is crucial we integrate STEM in our schools. To make this training even more "21st Century Skills"-oriented, we collaborated via video teleconference with teachers in Korea and mainland Japan.

As an educator, sometimes I cringe at the thought of having to do group work during training. Today, my group was fabulous! Our first task was to build the tallest tower we could using only 15 sheets of printer paper. My group got to work quickly and created a tower that was 61 inches tall! Since we were given no time to really plan the first time, we did the activity again with time set aside for brainstorming ideas and planning, and we managed to get our tower to be an inch taller :) Below is a picture of the first tower:


Our other activities were awesome too! The second was creating a "pyramid" of plastic cups without using our hands. The only tool we had was 4 strings tied to a rubber band. That was an amazing lesson is communicating and using teamwork! Our first try, we were the first team to complete our pyramid. We had the opportunity to perfect our technique, but I think we were overthinking things, and it took us a bit longer. 

The final activity was creating a lunar landing module. We designed something great, but then we realized we were designing the module based on the Earth's properties, and not thinking about the moon. So, our awesome design with flaps designed to create wind-resistance would have done little to help our little module on the moon. It was a great way to show that sometimes, it is REALLY important to develop background knowledge before jumping in. 

I am so excited to go back tomorrow and learn more about the Engineering Design Process and all of the neat materials and activities we will get to use from Engineering is Elementary! I truly wish I could just teach every lesson the way we were learning today. I noticed integration of not only the STEM subjects, but several others as well!