My first unit every year is "What is STEM?" during which we review what STEM stands for and do activities that are related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When I decided to incorporate team building activities and classroom expectations into this unit, the most logical place was the "E" of STEM because engineers work with other engineers ALL THE TIME in order to solve problems or improve products.
We started by doing a few activities where students reviewed what they had learned in fourth grade about engineering.
Yes - I am the adult. Yes - I act like a ten-year-old sometimes. No - I'm not sorry.
here. The unit includes several great activities that can be used with students.
If you're thinking of doing a similar challenge, here are a few tips:
1. Present the challenge at the end of class and refuse to answer any questions. Trust me. Students are DYING to ask a million "what if" and "can we" questions. Just smile and repeat that you're not answering any questions yet.
2. Give students 5-10 minutes of individual brainstorming time. I "force" my students to use this time to write down their questions, list supplies they might like to use, draw some simple sketches, and generally think to themselves about how to possibly solve the problem that was presented. I love walking around the room and seeing their ideas in their notebooks.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE watching them in all of their excitement start to build their prototype. I alternate between walking around and visiting groups and sitting off to the side quietly observing. This is when I can see how well they can communicate with each other.
This year our school was asked to bring a team of students to one of the local high schools to share what they have been learning in STEM class. I thought this challenge was the PERFECT way to show that students are already actively participating in challenges where they can implement the Engineering Design Process to solve real-life problems. I selected one student from each class to bring their prototype and share it with the visitors. My goal was to choose students who had worked really well in their group, had not given up even when it was difficult, and whose ideas were unique.
In the past I have had students compete to build the tallest tower. While they worked hard and had fun constructing a tower as a team, I found this challenge really motivated them. I had students asking me how strong I was as they determined what supplies to use. Some asked my height and arm length so they could be sure their device had enough reach. One student asked me how good my balance was before deciding that the idea he had might be feasible.