Thursday, June 20, 2013

STEM Conference 2013

Last year I attended a two day conference at our regional Math Science Innovation Center for grades K-3. Afterwards I blogged about the keynote speakers, the writers of Picture Perfect Science Books. If you haven't read that post, hop on over and do that now, Picture Perfect Science. I learned a lot from that conference and was able to used what I learned to create Children's Engineering Design Briefs for my Social Studies content and got some great ideas on picture books for Science content. I had the opportunity to attend another conference this year geared toward 3-5 and loved every minute of it.

The author's from Picture Perfect Science came back and showcased some additional lessons. We even received a free book of our choice. Last year I purchased Teaching Science through Trade books (my favorite of all 4) and More Picture Perfect Science. My colleague, the one who's actually taught Science to my students the last two years, purchased Picture Perfect Science. Since I had access to the previous three books I chose the new book...Even More Picture Perfect Science. Since my colleague is moving back to second grade I've decided to take on the science instruction of my own students. So I'm looking forward to integrating my curriculum even further using lessons from all four of these books.

I hit math really hard this year... it was my professional goal. I read the book Number Talks and implemented monthly number sense quick checks (blogged about all that here) and my students number sense increased 100%! But they still struggled with Fractions so I was excited to hear about this book, Beyond Pizza and Pies: Supporting Fraction Sense. Guess this will be my summer read. I was looking for a professional book and I think I've found one. I'll keep you posted.  

Last but not least I learned about a company that creates a cross-curricular way to teach Children's Engineering (to those of you who don't know, I teach in a Children's Engineering and Design Technology School, I'm required to do engineering activities). It's called Engineering is Elementary and each kit ($50) comes with a multicultural storybook and teachers guide. I actually won the Balances and Forces kit at the workshop! I think I'm going to donate that to the 5th grade team, I could use it for sure, but it really ties in to their Science Standards. I looked at the 20 units and decided to purchase one for each strand (Physical, Life, Earth and Space)/one for each quarter. I settled on Ecosystems, Water, Simple Machines and then Solids and Liquids as a fun 4th quarter review. Below is the lesson plan structure:

Preparatory Lessons (20-30 min): The preparatory lesson is designed to prompt students to think about engineering, technology, and the engineering design process. If teachers have done little with engineering and technology in their classrooms, we suggest that they start an EiE unit with this short introductory activity.

Lesson 1, Engineering Story (60-90 min): The first lesson sets the context for the unit through an illustrated storybook. A series of questions to promote student reflection before, during, and after the story encourage students to reflect upon the story and its engineering components and reinforce literacy skills.

Lesson 2, A Broader View of an Engineering Field (30-40 min): The second lesson focuses on helping students develop a broader perspective on the unit's engineering field of focus. Through hands-on activities, students learn more about the types of work done by engineers in these fields, and the kinds of technology they produce.

Lesson 3, Scientific Data to Inform Engineering Design (40-50 min):The third lesson is designed to help students understand the linkages between science, mathematics, and engineering. In this lesson, children collect and analyze scientific data that they can refer to in Lesson 4 to inform their designs.

Lesson 4, Engineering Design Challenge (1-3 sessions of 40 min):The unit culminates with an engineering design challenge. Following the steps of the engineering design process, students design, create, and improve solutions to an engineering problem. Design challenges are used as the final project because they allow students with varying academic abilities to succeed; they are easily scaled to meet the needs of all students.

So I have fallen in love with these units and the fact that they explore all types of engineering (environmental, civil, biomedical, ocean, agricultural) and that each story is set in a different country. I'll probably do the majority of the lessons during my language arts block, as there is more flexibility there and a larger block of time. I may do the design challenges during our actual 45 minute Science block.

Any thoughts? Comments are always welcome!


  1. My colleague and I made improving math scores our goal this year, too. I thought we had done a great job until I saw the test. I will be very interested in seeing if you find the fractions book helpful. Based on what I saw, I have suggested we spend a lot more time on fractions!!! I start attending a design brief professional development on Monday. I have bookmarked the units above for future reference. Thanks!

    1. Last year I had 9 students fail, this year only 4. I taught most of the curriculum in small groups, using a guided math format. Plus I implemented Number Talks and hit number sense really hard. Most of my students got perfect scores (50) in Number Sense on the SOL. I hope increase Fraction Sense this year and hit Problem Solving really hard.