Today Chris Simon, Adam Zodrow and I met with Felicia Adams and Stephanie Cerda over a Google Hangout to share ideas and experiences with elementary STEM classes. Felicia is the PreK-5 STEM teacher at the University of Texas Elementary School in Austin, and Stephanie is a 2nd grade math teacher there. Felicia currently teaches 304 students PK-5. Chris is the grade 4-5 STEM teacher at Independence Elementary School in Yukon, Oklahoma, and the sponsor of the after-school Scratch Club at IES. IES has almost 500 grade 4 and 5 students. Adam and I are both instructional coaches in Yukon. We recorded our 45 minute “Google Hangout on Air,” which you can view on YouTube. Here are some of my notes which I took from our meeting. This was a GREAT opportunity to learn from and with other elementary STEM teachers who are continuing to develop and build their programs amidst varying challenges as well as opportunities. Many thanks to Sandy Fivecoat, who connected me with Felicia following the EduBrawl! SXSWedu Conference session in March.
Here are some of the notes I took from the STEM curriculum and activities Felicia and Stephanie have done / are doing at the University of Texas Elementary School.
– They’ve played math pentathlon games with students
– The Austin Children’s Museum has been a huge help and even provides interns to assist with some lessons
– They have an A-B schedule they call green & blue days, so Felicia sees her students every other day
– some of their projects extend over 14 class meetings
– They’ve done digital storytelling integration with language arts
– Texas will have new math standards in 2014
– They’ve signed up for the Tinker Software beta, which is commercial software similar to Scratch, does have curriculum
– Tinker can be combined with Lego WeDo kits
– In May they received 90 Chromebooks through a Google Grant
– First Lego League starts at age 9, Junior First Lego League starts at age 6
– their digital storytelling project involved an interview with an elderly person and identifying a problem they could help solve for them
– Lego Simple Machine kits are great
— can give kids problems to solve, can work in 45 min lesson
– Have used Scratch software for students to create projects linking to social/emotional learning objectives
– students created projects showing tenacity, empathy, etc.
– Scratch has also been used to integratel language arts classes and lessons
– using design thinking resources from the NoTosh Design Thinking School
– Ewan and Tom visited their school after/during SXSW this year
– Stephanie has a brainstorming wall with students listing and organizing questions by whether they are “Googleable” or “Non-Googleable”
– they focus on non-Googleable questions in class mostly
– have 33 Chromebooks for language arts, so 1:1 in that class
– 2:1 for math studetns
– have just had the Chromebooks 6 days, amazing to see how fast the students took to using them and collaborating
– Students recently created presentations on Haiku Deck on the iPads
– Students recently studying habitats, identified the real community problem of Austin not having a real zoo, students discovered the problem and that made a huge difference for their interest, engagement and motivation to extend their learning
– Using Little Bird Tales for digital storytelling, costs $1 to download each story however
— app is $3
– Engineering is Elementary kits have been wonderful to have and use this year too
I recommended they check out WeVideo, which Steve Dembo demonstrated in his Feb 2013 ICE conference preso on digital storytelling
Some notes from what Chris shared about IES Stem projects
– The kids really like the “Dear Mr Henshaw” lunchbox burglar alarm project
– Prosthetic Legs project is the one which has received the most local media attention (see videos in Chris’ YouTube channel for more)
– Currently working on a rockets project
– A VA doctor and also veterans with prosthetics come to school to help students understand the need and the project
– iPad cart is used for some media production like eBooks using Book Creator
– Scratch Club has been huge this year, Scratch (according to Chris) is the IDEAL unit and software program to use with STEM students because of the ways it integrates not only math and computational thinking, but also language arts
Chris’ main STEM lessons website recommendation (which he uses all the time) is eGFI: Engineering Go For It (resources for teachers)
After our meeting we discussed possibilities for changing the STEM schedule at IES, since more TIME is needed: STEM Teachers must seek kids more often to have deep instead of shallow learning
I mentioned Mustang (a nearby OKC-area district) is starting a STEM Program
– apparently it’s a grade 5-6 program
Closing thought: This was a great opportunity to learn together! Many thanks to Felicia, Stephanie, Chris and Adam – We’re sharing this with our other YPS STEM teachers and I hope you’ll share your own STEM resources as you find them too!
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