STEM in the Real World
Written by: Terri Adams
Along with teaching Preschool through 5th grade students, part of my responsibilities at Tri-Central Elementary (TCE) is being on the STEM Leadership Team. In 2018, we made the decision to include STEM in our curriculum when we saw how project-based learning activities made a true impact on how students were engaged and remembered what they were being taught. To further this hands-on practice, we developed a community partnership with the local manufacturing company, FCA/Stellantis in Tipton County and started Work Study trips to their Academy. At the Academy, they train their employees on best practices in the workplace. When our students visit they light up with excitement as they tour the facility and view all the working robots and assembly lines. Each student is tasked with using teamwork, collaboration, communication and hands-on skills to assemble a bike in the most efficient and timely manner possible. During these hands-on activities, the classroom teachers, administrators and I saw a difference in students that normally are not engaged in the classroom. They took on leadership positions and felt proud of their accomplishments which gave us more reason to incorporate STEM in our curriculum. It started with the Leadership team applying for STEM grants, creating a STEM Lab and having our very first STEM night in March 2018. It was a huge success with our entire building buzzing with students, their families, local businesses, community partners and TCE staff. Everyone was doing STEM activities: drones, robots, 3D printing, STEM book sales in the library, green screen filming, solar field demonstrations and so much more. It was a night to remember.
“They took on leadership positions and felt proud of their accomplishments which gave us more reason to incorporate STEM in our curriculum.”
Problems Are All Around Us
The STEM Leadership Team has decided to go for recertification in the fall of 2024. As part of the recertification process, we decided to give our students a Real World STEM problem to solve. Oh, did I also mention, I am in charge of our 4th and 5th grade Newscast teams? They film the morning announcements each day for the following morning. The Leadership Team thought that giving our students a Real World STEM problem to solve using our morning announcements would be a great way to get the Preschool – 5th grade students involved in real world STEM problems. We started out slowly with our STEM problems. Each week our Newscast crews film a problem and show it on the morning announcements. The younger students have a simple math problem on a video – if you had 3 rocks from the playground and a friend gave you 4 rocks then how many rocks would you have all together? The Newscast crew also films a video for the older kids (groceries that might be used in the cafeteria and their prices.) The older students were challenged to come up with the entire amount spent on the groceries. As we progressed with our Real World STEM Problems, our principal proposed a challenge to the students to solve the real life problem of rocks from the playground getting caught in our outside doors and keeping them from closing properly.
“Will we ever use any of their suggestions? Maybe, maybe not, but our students are problem-solving ways to make their lives better. And isn’t that what we want as educators?”
Film It, Show It, Brainstorm Solutions
The Newscast crew filmed it; we showed it on our announcements and had students brainstorm with their classmates to come up with the best solutions. To our surprise, there were some great suggestion! Each were read on the announcements the next day and then displayed in the hallway for all to see. We heard about a Rock Rumba that automatically removes rocks from the door jam, something as simple as placing a broom by each doorway and having a student sweep after each recess, and replacing the rocks with sand which would provide drainage but wouldn’t keep the door from closing. Such great ideas. I’m so proud of our students! Some of the suggestions were very elaborate and costly, such as installing steps so that the rocks would not be knocked into the door jam. Will we ever use any of their suggestions? Maybe, maybe not, but our students are problem-solving ways to make their lives better. And isn’t that what we want as educators? Students that can use procedures they have been taught to help solve the small (and large) problems of the world! My principal has already taken one of their suggestions. We now have brooms by the doorways! I’ve continued to reach out to other parts of our school: the IT Director, Basketball Coach, the Cafeteria Director, our Maintenance Staff and Transportation Director for other problems to propose to our students. Recently our IT Director asked us to solve the problem of broken ipad charging cords. They are always breaking off or getting damaged and stuck in the ipads. A suggestion from one of our classrooms was to design a different case that extends past the charging port. Great idea! The Basketball Coach suggested giving them the problem: how to inflate the basketballs on the rack so that they are all pumped up before practice. I think we could use STEM to solve it! I can’t wait to see what the kiddos come up with. Someday these kids will be given a bigger problem in their life and be expected to come up with solutions. I hope they remember the practice and procedures that they learned at Tri-Central and are able to be successful because of it. To watch our Morning Announcements with Real World STEM Problems, go to our YouTube Channel: Tri-Central Community Schools. https://youtu.be/YTD2cn2RSB4 To see more of our Real World STEM Problems and other STEM projects, follow me on Twitter @MrsAdamsTCETech.