STEM Design Process Simplified

October 22nd, 2014 by Heather D.

STEM projects can sometimes be challenging to incorporate in the classroom. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending the annual CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference. I learned ideas for projects if a teacher has no budget, a low budget, or if they are fully funded. This proved that there are budget-friendly STEM resources available. Teachers can use project-based STEM books to incorporate activities year round. There are also various websites that students can use to help in the researching process.

Many of the sessions at the CUE Conference were full to bursting, and the “Integrating the T into STEM Design Challenges” session was no different.  The presenter was Cari Williams from the Tustin Unified School District.  She has been designing STEM for years, and focuses on grades 3–5 curriculum design, specifically robotics programs. Here is the simplified Engineering Design Process model Cari uses in the classroom:

STEM Engineering Design Process Simplified

Indentify the Problem

Cari mentioned that in younger classrooms, the teacher would define the problem and give specific instructions. Older students should come up with their own problems to solve.

Brainstorm

The students should brainstorm without a computer first, as otherwise they will just find pictures of other peoples’ solutions and will make their design just like what they see.  This limits creativity.

Design

Another creativity piece is to have students draw and/or use other art mediums during their design process, thus incorporating the “A’ in STEAM.  It is important for those students who want to give up and might not otherwise have a lot to show for their project.  At least this way they have this component.

Students can integrate the “T” in STEM by doing research online, and this is where programs such as Haiku, a site where teachers can organize their content online, come in handy. The teacher can set up sites all in one place for them to research.  Another program that helps is Simbaloo, a bookmarking site, or even making a wiki page.

The students then develop ideas by sketching with pencil and paper. (They can move on to CAD programs such as Auto Desk or Google Sketchup, if budget allows.)  They then choose the best idea from their group by creating a survey/decision matrix to vote.  This includes the necessary criteria for the project:  can the project be made by the deadline, which one takes the most expertise, which one has the lowest cost, etc.  This is great not only for teaching about how projects are decided upon in the real world, but it’s also good for teaching social skills.  Some students just want their own project no mater what, and this helps force them to think about it from a group’s point of view.

Build, Test & Evaluate, Redesign & Share Solution

Once the project is decided upon, the students build a model or prototype, and then test and evaluate it.  They must write down their process, and this can be done in journal entries in a notebook or online, or using a program like Excel to organize the different trials, etc.  The students then work on improving the design, and can have an online discussion about it, take photos of it, and graph the results.  They must communicate the results in some way, not just by building the finished product.  They also create a presentation for it at the end.

I really liked how technology was incorporated into each project, even when the budget is smaller.  I think as time goes on, more and more resources will be available to teachers online that will be free to low-cost and immeasurably helpful for integrating STEM in the classroom.

Fall Crafts: Leaf Fox & Fall Tree

October 13th, 2014 by Brenda Stickland-Guest Blogger

Fall Fox Craft TCR Blog

Fall is in the air in Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, and we’ve already started making tons of creative fall crafts!

Leaf Fox

To create this fall leaf craft for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students, I picked some leaves from my yard. My students made foxes just like this using different colored leaves. The fox head was made out of a maple leaf. The fox ears were made out of rose leaves, and the nose was made out of a clover leaf. The students added some stickers for the eyes. For older students, you could have them make all sorts of different animals out of leaves.

Fall Tree Craft TCR Blog

Fall Tree Craft

Another easy fall craft is making a fall tree craft out of pretzels and crumpled pieces of tissue paper. Each student glued a pretzel rod to a piece of paper to make the tree trunk. Then they glued smaller pretzel sticks coming out of the tree trunk to create the branches. The leaves were made out of small pieces of tissue paper in all the warm fall colors-orange, red, and yellow. See more fall activities and ideas here.

5 Tips for Establishing Strong Parent-Teacher Relationships

September 30th, 2014 by Brent F.

Teacher Created Resources Blog

Building a strong relationship with parents is one of the most important steps a teacher can take towards establishing a productive and rewarding school year.  As a teacher and a parent, I have learned to appreciate the value of a strong home–school relationship and the positive impact it can have on a child’s educational experience.  Below are just a few tips for simple things you can do to help build a relationship with parents.

1)     Daily Classroom Updates – A quick email to parents at the end of the day can be one of your most powerful tools for getting families involved.  In your email, highlight the major accomplishments of the day, new concepts learned, and maybe some areas that may need some extra attention at home.  Include a few questions about the day parents might ask.  Don’t make the questions too difficult.  Your goal should be to generate conversations at home, not frustration.

2)     Weekly Newsletter – If a daily email sounds too ambitious (It’s actually easy, I promise!), or if you try to spend as little time behind a computer as possible, a weekly newsletter (printed or digital) is a great tool for keeping parents updated and informed.  Similar to daily email updates, a weekly newsletter can include an overview of what’s being covered in class, follow-up questions for parents, and any relevant news (such as important dates, upcoming events, etc.).

3)     Be a Strong Communicator – During the first few weeks of school, request as much contact information as you feel you need.  I recommend collecting at least two phone numbers, a mailing address, and an email address from each family.  In return, make sure to share your contact information as well, including times when parents can drop in unannounced, or an email address where they can expect a quick response.  (Check your email daily!  Before school and early evening are optimal times.)

4)     Use the Contact Information! – Now that you have phone numbers and email addresses, reach out and get to know the parents.  Do your best to learn their names and faces.  During your first contact with the parents, share something positive about their child.  It’s amazing how powerful a two-minute call can be.

5)     Invite Parents into the Classroom – Make parents feel welcome by inviting them to volunteer in the classroom or participate in special events.  Additionally, give parents an opportunity to voice their input and help be a part of classroom decisions.

This is far from a complete list, but implementing even a few of these tips early in the school year should help to foster a stronger parent-teacher relationship. Find more teacher management resources here.

Border Trim Pumpkin Lantern Tutorial

September 22nd, 2014 by TC Bear

Border Trim Pumpkin Lanterns - Teacher Created Resources

Have you started thinking about Halloween decorations for the classroom yet?  If you have leftover border trim around, this easy hanging pumpkin lantern is a great way to transition your classroom into October.

Materials:
(3) 36” Orange Border Trim
(1) Green Border Trim
Ribbon
Scissors
Stapler
Glue

Pumpkin Lantern Tutorial - Teacher Created Resources 

Instructions:
1) Cut your orange border trim into the following strips:
-13 inches (x2)
-11 inches (x2)
-9 inches (x2)
-8 inches (x1)

2) Stack the border strips altogether. The 8” strip would be in the center and then sandwich them from shortest strip to longest strip. Push the stack of strips down to make the pumpkin shape and staple. Push the bottom strip up and staple.

3) Draw or trace two leaves using green border trim and secure to the top of the pumpkin with glue.

4) Attach a piece of ribbon (brown burlap ribbon looks great) and hang a bunch of pumpkins lanterns from the ceiling.

These border trim pumpkin lanterns are also a great craft for students. Each student can make their own pumpkin lantern so you can use them to hang them above their desk or students can take them home to their parents. For more Halloween classroom crafts see our Halloween Classroom Ideas Board on Pinterest.