Category Archives: Science

White House Science Fair

On Monday, March 23, 2015, the White House hosted it’s fifth annual Science Fair.  You can see some of the participants in the video on this site.  I haven’t been able to watch the whole video, but I enjoyed the segment that starts about 57 minutes in (I just chose a random place to start) where some students describe their experiences with their FIRST Lego League robots to Bill Nye.

White House Science Fair 2015
White House Science Fair 2015

If you visit the site, you can learn all about this year’s exhibitors – which include the 6-year-old darling “Supergirls” FIRST Lego League Team below.  Talk about STEM Inspiration!

The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK
The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK

You can find more coverage of the event here. And if you want some STEM resources, check out this Pinterest Board.

#ScienceWoman

Joe Hanson from “It’s Okay to Be Smart” and Meredith Walker from “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” recently teamed up to collect videos from anyone interested in making a tribute to a female science hero. You can view a compilation of some of the clips from the videos they received here.  The entire collection of videos is available in this playlist.  I have not viewed all of the videos, but the compilation one is a great way to give prospective young scientists a peek at some of the female role models that have inspired others to pursue a career in science.

While you are learning about some of the amazing women who have made significant scientific contributions you might also be interested in viewing the “Women in Science” series of art work by Rachel Ignotofsky.  These whimsical prints illustrate some of the admirable women from history who have made an impact in such fields as chemistry, engineering, and computer science.

Illustration of Rosalind Franklin by Rachel Ignofotsky
Illustration of Rosalind Franklin by Rachel Ignotofsky.  See more prints and purchase them here.

Because I have been collecting so many STEM resources in recent weeks, I have started a “STEM Inspiration” Pinterest Board.  Let me know in the comments section if you find any other links I should add to the board!

Makerspace Essentials – Little Bits

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials

Little Bits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits.  The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library.  You can see an introduction to the product here.

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg
image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg

Little Bits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators.  If you are unable to purchase directly through Little Bits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on Amazon.com.

If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide.  Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.

When we first got our Little Bits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces.  They were great for me to learn how the modules worked.  However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own.  You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead.  If you like those, here are some more.  Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.

Organizing your Little Bits can be a challenge.  I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “Little Bits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table.  I was thrilled when Little Bits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces.  One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the Little Bits containers.  As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.

Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of Little Bits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012.  She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world.  “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”

If you are given the opportunity to purchase Little Bits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!

For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”

Left Brain Craft Brain

Yesterday’s post about the “Engineering – Go For It!” website left me thinking that I should look for some good sites for younger students related to engineering, too.  Today I have one to share with you.  “Left Brain Craft Brain” is a blog by a mother who happens to be a chemical engineer who loves to craft.  She shares projects that she has done with her young daughter, and the activities are well-suited for PreK through 2nd grade children.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up for some of us, you might want to try the “Light Up St. Patrick’s Day Card.

image from Left Brain Craft Brain
image from Left Brain Craft Brain

There are many other St. Patrick’s Day activities on the site, too. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish to benefit from Left Brain Craft Brain.  There are plenty of other topics that will surely interest your young artistic engineer!

Engineering – Go For It!

When I realized that last week was National Engineering Week, the week was practically already over.  I tried to salvage things by doing some engineering with my 5th grade last Thursday – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Ironically, there are only 5 girls in my 5th grade class of 18.  But that’s still a higher percentage of females represented in my class than in the engineering workforce according to this article.

During my attempt to find an informational engineering website that would appeal to my students, I stumbled on eGFI (Engineering – Go For It!).  This site shows the many different professions that fall under the umbrella of “engineering.”  You can read about all of them, find out how to make a difference in each career, and “meet” engineering students as well as current engineers by reading their bios and major accomplishments.

eGFI

My students enjoyed just browsing the site and writing down 6 facts that they didn’t know about engineering that they learned from the site.  I wrote down 6 myself, and could have continued for another 50, I have a feeling!

The eGFI Magazine was a huge hit (but it seemed to work better on the tablets than on the PC), with articles about everything from movie-making to fast cars.

Of course, I didn’t have my students just read about engineering. We attempted to do our own engineering by designing the best ways to make straws fly through the air.  I gave them this activity from Zoom after they had tested out other options – some of which worked better.  (They are still reporting back to me on iterations they continued to create at home.)

On the way to lunch on Thursday, I overheard one student say, as if in complete surprise, “Engineering is really fun!”

I guess I need to do a better job at communicating that!

Leprechaun Traps and Other Shenanigans

A couple of years ago I posted about the cute idea that I’d found on several websites of having students build leprechaun traps.   Since my Kinders were learning about Inventor Thinking around that time, we tried it out.  They were very earnest about creating efficient traps, and I’m pretty sure at least one of the students was disappointed that he didn’t catch his prey.  You can see our class blog posts from that year here and here.

Here is an updated list of St. Patrick’s Day links in case you want to try to capture your own leprechaun this year – or, better yet, his pot of gold:

Not enough?  Technology Rocks. Seriously has way more St. Patrick’s Day links.

If you’re looking for additional resources, I also have a St. Patrick’s Day Sudoku Packet ($1) and a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet ($2) available for download on Teachers Pay Teachers.

image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr
Leprechaun Trap image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr

National Engineers Week

What does it say about my priorities that I started handing out Valentine’s Day resources in January, but I wait until National Engineers Week is practically over before I even mention it?

Not good.

Anyway, for those of you who didn’t know, National Engineers Week is February 22nd-February 28th.  If you don’t live in the United States, perhaps your Engineering Week is yet to come and this resource might prove to be helpful.

Of course, you shouldn’t leave the celebration of engineering to just one week a year.  And I’m pretty sure you won’t get in any kind of major legal trouble if you throw caution to the wind and try out some of these activities on an unofficial day.

Today happens to be Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  As you know, our nation has a very high deficit of females in STEM careers. Part of this is due to stereotypes which lead to little encouragement for girls to pursue these professions.  Educating young women about their potential in STEM could go a long way to eradicating the blatant inequality we see today.

You can find all sorts of lesson plans and activities for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day here.  Be sure to check out the playlist of short videos as well.

If you have a young daughter, Rosie Revere, Engineer, is a great way to celebrate this day.  And, if you have a child in middle or high school that shows even the slightest interest in STEM, then I would recommend How to Be a Rocket Scientist.

image from DiscoverE.org
image from DiscoverE.org