Back to School! Make It STEM-AZING!!
It’s July and the ads on television and radio for new clothes, laptops, lunchboxes, paper and crayons mean only one thing – the new school year is upon us. Other people may view January 1 as New Year’s Day, but for teachers it is always the first day of school. Of course, as teachers, the new school year has never been far from our thoughts this summer. Whether school has begun or is imminent, this is the time when we are thinking about the best ways to bring the curriculum alive, engage students and empower them to take charge of their own learning and how to help them to see the relevance of what they are learning.
At Get Caught Engineering, we have always felt that integrating engineering into the existing curriculum meets all of those goals. If you have never tried an engineering activity, the time is perfect to look for ways to add it to your lesson plans. If you are a veteran of teaching engineering, now is the time to make improvements. No matter if you are a novice or a veteran of engineering education, there are a few easy suggested steps you can take to help your year run smoothly and STEM-tastically.
Let’s begin with a few basics for a STEM program …the nitty gritty of what is STEM is all about. We have a freebie you can download with the basics outlined and a list of materials to gather to get started.
As you are setting up your room, organize supplies that will be used for engineering. A dollar store or a hardware store is a great place to go for cheap containers to hold all the treasured STEM goodies that you are collecting. We did a blog a while back that shared what we learned about the organization of “STEM stuff”:
STEM Storage or What to Do after 538 Toilet Paper Rolls are Donated http://www.getcaughtengineering.com/stem-storage-538-empty-toilet-paper-rolls-donated/
- ADD A CENTER
Consider setting up an Investigation or Discover Lab in your classroom. If you need help there are numerous great books on the topic. One we really like is Exploralab by The Exploratorium Museum. Our STEM Sparks Maker Space Task Cards can help you get started.
Check them out in our Teachers Pay Teachers store https://wwaw.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-SPARKS-Maker-Space-Task-Cards-1633915
- ASK FOR DONATIONS
Send letters home at the beginning of the year asking for recyclables like plastic containers, empty cereal boxes and anything else that your young engineers may need. We have a letter that you can send home in our Ready-Set STEM Packet. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ready-SetSTEM-An-Introductory-Packet-to-Start-A-STEM-Classroom-1210120 Make sure that you have storage for the bags of supplies you will be receiving.
Look for ways to integrate into other areas besides Science and Math. Explore ways to integrate engineering into History, Health, Literature, and Language Arts. For example, if your kids have a research project, have them research famous scientists, engineers, inventions or engineering feats. As they explore various historical time periods, students will enjoy trying their hand engineering prototypes of similar architecture or inventions. And novels and picture books provide a wealth of ideas that can be explored. Who can invent a solution for a problem the main character is having?
- TRY A FREEBIE
Consider using engineering activities as part of class meetings, team building or as part of other planned special days. We have four freebies for you to try this month. Download them from our store. (Just click “FREE” on the left side banner at our store) Our favorite for the beginning of school is “Save Sam with STEM”.
- PLAN AN EVENT
Now is the time to begin to plan for a STEM or Engineering night. The earlier you set the date and secure the help of other interested teachers the smoother your evening will go. One of our favorite resources for an event is FamilyEngineering.org. We also have an article on this topic that we co-published in NSTA’s Science and Children Journal. We have a link to the article at our website: www.getcaughtengineering.com
- FIND SOME FUNDS
Look for grants that can help you pay for supplies needed in your classroom and STEM Night. Money is tight across all school districts and sometimes the best projects are put on hold because of a lack of funding. Check our Facebook page frequently as we continually post news of grants. https://www.facebook.com/GetCaughtEngineering
If you have ever watched children tackle an engineering problem you have witnessed students engaged in sharing ideas, considering and discounting possible solutions, and putting what they have learned into use. Everything we strive for in our classrooms. Although it can seem daunting, incorporating engineering can be stress free. Some planning and organization at the beginning of the year can help ensure smooth sailing and a STEM-AMAZING year.
We hope you Get Caught Engineering this school year!
Wendy and Cheryl
*Clip art by Krista Wallden