We did it! I'm so glad I went through this wonderful learning experience. It took me a while to write this because I was busy soaking in the wonderful notes students wrote of their learning experiences in science this school year. I also took a little time to relax and reflect on my next steps. I finished the last engineering lesson with my 8th grade students right before their graduation and it was a great way to end the year. Many stated they enjoyed science and they learned a lot. I'm just excited that they were engaged in learning science and they were able to demonstrate their understanding of the many science concepts I taught them. For example, the ultimate STEM lesson I presented on energy, students were able to show their understanding of potential and kinetic energy. Students made many calculations on distance, mass, and the amount of kinetic and potential energy generated by their marble coasters, which is one element I missed the first time around. I used the great insight my colleagues gave at the beginning of the MSUrbanSTEM training to incorporate mathematics as well as the science components into the lesson. Below are a few images of what students did, but it only conveys a small portion of the learning my students were able to gain from the experience.
Allen Distinguished Educators Grant: Glenn Corey's 52 Minute Challenge
more Report: 7/14/2016 Well I completed the challenge a few months ago and just got around updating my page. It was a great learning experience for my students and I as we plunged in together to learn about the three C's of design, customer, competition, and creativity. the hardest element for my students was understanding competitiveness. Luckily, during the time of our challenge our school planned a career day. I was able to asked Mrs. Dillon the CEO of Ulta Beauty, the guest speaker, to explain the concept of competitiveness, Thanks to her explanation was able to help my students have a better handle of what it meant.. A product that is affordable and of good quality that is accepted by customers. Students worked in teams of 3-4 to search for problems/concerns they found in or around the school. Students identified the problem, determined and designed an appropriate solution. Although the challenge was to take 52 minutes, I was able to give students a bit more time to polish and present their projects. It was a great challenge for my 8th grade students to take on as they were ecstatic to observe their community with a different lens. Many found the challenge to be on the best they had done all year, because they were "able to get out of the classroom." I must admit it was refreshing. Below is a presentation from one of the teams as well as more information into how I carried out the project. Enjoy!
Example of Student Work
Semi-Final ImagineIT Report 4/29/2016
Like the water in a river and the rocks that try to hinder its course, the design process is fluid, flexible, adaptable; refreshing. It is an experience in and of itself. I started this journey with a plan, a vision that changed over time and brought about many opportunities I am still experiencing. The first and second quarters of the school year I guided my students through making model parachutes, catapults, packaging design, and creating hot/ cold packs and homemade crystals. Furthermore, three 8th grade girls participated in Argonne National Labs Girls in Engineering Day, which fit perfectly into my ImagineIT project and the girls had a great experience. Through a Donor's Choose grant I obtained the book titled, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William KamKwamba and Bryan Mealer. My students learned of the engineering and science practices William, the main character utilized in building his own windmill that helped his family and the people in his village. Another opportunity came about when I applied for the Allen Distinguished Educators DIY Grant. I learned of Glen Corey’s 52 Minute Challenge through emails, Facebook and Twitter posts. I applied for the grant and was accepted to take it for a test drive and implement it with my 8th grade classes. In preparation for the challenge students created mashup designs and created carnival skill games with items they brought from home. This helped students practice working within limits, being creative, and teamwork, skills used in the design/engineering process. My student now have a more positive attitude towards science and have stated, they liked the different engineering challenges. I have enjoyed hearing the enthusiasm in my students voice when they say, “I got it”, the laughter of success, and collaboration on creating something they didn’t think they could. Overall, it was a fun, amazing, challenging, learning experience.
We’ve just finished our study of atomic bonds and will continue with chemical reactions by designing heat/cold packs using chemicals. This is an additional investigation because I was not able to successfully approach chemical reactions and heat through the crystal investigation. We will spend a week on this investigation and move on to our DIY project, 52 Minute Design Challenge. Questions to consider: What safe household chemicals can be used to make a hot or cold pack? What is a safe maximum temperature? A little behind, but not to worry, my students and I will prevail!
Winter Update 2/22/2016
8th grade students are still forming their crystals. Students and I found, through some research using borax powder, a laundry booster would form better crystals. This also provided students the opportunity to form their crystal by using pipe cleaners. There were a few students who wanted to try the other materials, salt sugar and alum. All students were able to form their own unique crystal using alum or borax. However, there were a few setbacks due to the time it took to boil water for 30 students. Some student's crystals formed while others did not. This provided an opportunity for students to discuss why their crystals did not form and how to make improvements for the next one. Students were pleased with the outcome of their crystal, An added bonus was having student make analogies: Bonds in atoms are like... What connections can you make?
ImagineIT Spring Timeline
The broad benchmarks I will establish in making this possible is to continue with my plan to incorporate engineering challenges. One challenge is focused on chemical reactions and heat through growing crystals. Working in teams of 2-3, students will grow crystals using sugar, salt, or aluminum sulfate. Students are to research about how to make their crystal, materials needed, and also identify the constraints/benefits of their materials. Their design must have a control and at least one variable. Though not in my original plan it does lend itself well to my focus on the effects of heat. Another challenge will focus on understanding force, motion, and energy transfer. In this unit students will apply Newton’s Laws of Motion. They will design and carry out investigations about collisions using marbles and ultimately make their own roller coaster with an emphasis on capitalizing on the rich mathematical data collection possible as identified with my Heike Crab teammates over the summer. It is here, students will have the opportunity to try different computer simulations such as Roller Coaster City and Roller Coaster Game to help them make the best roller coaster possible. Because of my ImagineIT Project, I took the opportunity to apply and was accepted to participate in the Allen Distinguished Educator Do-It-Yourself Grant. The grant I am assisting with is the Glen Corey: 52 Minute Challenge. Students will work in teams to identify a need in their community. It is through this project I hope to address one of my concerns, providing my students with the capacity to work together, collaborate more efficiently on projects which is the focus of the challenge, and attend to one or two engineering practices. An added benefit of this challenge is to have students apply the 3C’s of product design, cost, customer, and competition. It is through these challenges I hope to continue integrating engineering practices into my science instruction. However, I didn’t do very well in allowing my students to capture their learning with pictures and video or sharing their learning through other sources, such as Twitter or Facebook, I hope to be more intentional in doing this moving ahead. Finally, I will provide time for my students to give me feedback on how I can improve and change my project to make it more accessible and dynamic for other students in the future. Ultimately, I hope my project will be the seed that plants the desire for my students to be engineers, problem-solvers, and designers who can be the innovators of tomorrow.
Phase VI Update pt. 2
There are two lessons I’ve learned from the dilemmas book. One, there are some problems that can not be solved immediately. Two, there are some problems that must not be ignored.
One of my dilemmas/challenges is caring for students. I had identified one student, Kenneth, who was having difficulty completing design challenges because of his lack of attendance. Since confronting this issue I have noticed a change in his behavior. He is attending school more regularly and completing his class assignments. He has signed up for after school tutoring with me, but have yet to attend. I don’t think any of this would have happened if I had not spoken with Kenneth’s guardian. I often confer with other teachers to find out about his progress in their classes. Currently, all have stated he is making some improvements. Had we ignored this issue, Kenneth may have continued to do poorly in all of his classes.
The other dilemma I had to address was preparing my students for standardized tests. I was concerned about having my student ready for the required eighth grade science assessment. As of today, I have not been informed if my students will be required to take the assessment. After considerable thought, I decided to do as I had planned, incorporated the skills and concepts of science into my daily lessons over time. Also, take on the suggestion my focus group wanted, which was to provided practice items before class to familiarize them with the possible topics they will be assessed on.
Had it not been for my colleagues and the student focus group I would not have had the courage to take the necessary steps to speak with Kenneth’s parents. I had become complacent, believing there was nothing that can be done. They were able to provide me with another perspective to see Kenneth and the issue with standardized test prep in a different way. Since implementing my ImagineIT project, one insight is it is more beneficial to do less than more. One insight I gained from the focus group was students felt rushed and unable to complete each step of the design process. I had planned for projects to take a week, but they often lasted two weeks. I had planned five design challenges, but only had enough time for three. Thus, making this change should not be difficult. My next step is to incorporate at least two engineering design challenges into my instructional units. I will focus on needed engineering practices based on the outcome of their pre-assessment to determine what engineering skills they still do not understand clearly. Based on the findings from the assessment my students and I will tackle the two skills they need to work on the most as the focus for the upcoming design challenges. First up, hydrogels.
Phase VI An Update pt. 1
Phase IV. Problematizing Imagine IT In preparation for Phase V we read the book, What Should I Do? Confronting Dilemmas of Teaching in Urban Schools by Anna Ershler Reichert. I identified a few issues that may arise as I continue my journey to incorporate engineering practices into my science instruction. Of the dilemmas outlined in the book I identified two areas that may be an issue. Dilemma 1: Assessment-how to assess what my students know and can do. How do I tackle the challenge of preparing students for standardized assessment when my instruction is mainly focused on inquiry, not multiple-choice test items? Dilemma 2: Caring for Students How do you engage and care for students who are often absent, seldom complete classwork/homework and do not participate in class?
Phase V. Finding Solutions: Conferring with Colleagues and Students To find solutions to the described concerns I met with colleagues and students as thinking partners in finding some solutions. What follows is a synopsis of my conferences and suggestions provided. I also conducted a mini-lesson based on the suggestions provided on how to tackle preparation for the new standardized science test for 8th grade students.
Phase III The Plan
What follows is a roadmap of sorts of my STEM journey, My goals, what I will do, how I will get there, and how I will now when I arrived. A window into the key ideas, goals, lessons, activities, and assessment to using the engineering practice in my science instructions. The ideas outlined in Phase II and those that follow, Phase III, they all work together in starting the integration of science and engineering practices in my teaching practice.
Project: The Imagine-IT project will be carried out with two eighth grade science classes. Classes are conducted on a block schedule of ninety-minutes for four days and one thirty-minute class per week. For the purposes of this project the curriculum foci for eighth grade are material science, chemistry, and physics. This experience will be shared with 60 students from two classes: one class of 18 girls and 13 boys; and another class of 11 boys and 18 girls.
The goal of the project is to incorporate the engineering processes in my instructional practice. To have student apply the engineering process to demonstrate their understanding of science concepts and discover the connections between science and engineering. I have taken to heart the statement made in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas (2012), “...it makes students’ knowledge more meaningful and embeds it more deeply into their worldview. “ (pg. 42) This encourages me to make learning and understanding “stick” and “relational” to students. Combining the science and engineering practices more purposely in my daily instruction is one step I have to begin this process.
I plan to utilize the engineering practices coupled with the science practices in the areas of Force and Motion and Material Science/Chemistry. There are eight interlocking practices of science and engineering all of which lend themselves well to making learning highly engaging. For the purposes of this project I would like to emphasize only three practices in my instruction. These three elements were taken from the Next Generation Science Standards (Appendix F-Science and Engineering Practices). 1.) Develop and use models: have students evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool, develop or modify a model based on evidence - match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed. This element can be investigated through the use of paper airplane or boomerangs designs by applying different variables and analyze their effect on the flight distance of their device. 2.) Asking questions and defining problems: to have students define a problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions. This can be uncovered in our study of material science. For example, students will investigate the properties of shake-gels and other polymers to propose/design future uses for them. 3.) Engage in argument from evidence: make oral or written argument that supports or refutes the advertised performance of a device, process or system based on empirical evidence concerning whether or not the technology meets relevant criteria and constraints. This element can be uncovered in each unit of study as student investigate claims made by the media, such as the use of electronic cigarettes in helping people stop smoking.
My approach is to have students uncover scientific concepts and apply engineering practices through the inquiry process. I would be a guide and facilitator to support student learning as it pertains to the three areas of study. Learning will be student-centered by giving students choice in the topics they want to discover, dig deeper into. Technology will be used on a daily basis to have students create and design things such as their boomerangs. Computers could be used for research to find information about different types of materials and their properties. Computers and cloud computing will be utilized as a collaborative tool in order to work on projects and share their work with me and with one another. Furthermore, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways which may require technological tools such as powerpoint, video, posters and repurposing materials to design models.
These images capture the essence of my Imagine Project. The first is an image I feel most people experience when faced with the task of solving a problem. We often have most of the information, but feel unable to use it-apply it. For me, it was algebra and I still struggle with geometry. Its when I apply the concepts of algebra and geometry in my day to day life it becomes more meaningful. I believe once the knowledge is put to use we have broken through and can then see the full potential of what it can do. Yes, we may grumble like thunder and cry like rain, but just as clouds must gather to bring forth rain for the earth, our many facets of knowledge comes together to transform us. The Venn Diagram is a simple, yet elegant way to show how things are related. Science and engineering are two disciplines that can be married together to improve life for everyone. My favorite image is the nut and bolt. Its the connection between engineering and science. Both science and engineering are key foundational elements in keeping all things together. Coupling the engineering practice and process into science enhances life by asking what does it mean?, how can it be used?, and what problems can it solve?
Video Description: Big Idea: Students will utilize the engineering practices in science to enhance their understanding of the world.
“I did things I never did before” “Better than reading from the science book” “Lots of work and thinking, but it was fun”
These are just a few of the statements my students made at the end of the school year. What made this year different from previous years? I took a chance and provided them with opportunities to create, build, and design. At the time I just wanted to keep them busy since it was the end of the school year. Using video to represent my big idea came about as I thought about how to inspire my students to embrace science. To understand the many uses of science that are applied to make life easier. In the past students have often felt that science was difficult and was a task left to those who were smart. I would like to demystify this. I want to instill in my students how science and engineering enhance each other. I want to show and allow students to apply their scientific knowledge and interact with it. To encourage students and provide the time and space for them to be engineers. Ultimately to have students create, build, innovate, and design solutions to make the world a more productive and efficient place to live.