What happens when you give students a random assortment of materials (rice, popsicle sticks, straws, tea bags, glue, jelly beans, and toothpicks... to name a few) and challenge them to create something? Magic! Magic happens! This year, I've really embraced STEM challenges in my science classroom and I strongly believe you should do the same. I can't take credit for these incredibly creative challenges. SmartChick Teaching has been my source of inspiration! I highly encourage you to check out her TpT store here.
Here's a recap of the there projects we've competed in 2016:
While studying animal adaptations, students were challenged to create a bird's beak. Their beak could be designed to pick up rice, beans, lentils, or seeds. As you can see below, some groups wanted to "be the bird" and truly experience this STEM challenge!
My students are currently in the midst of their American Revolution unit. I wanted to join in on the fun in science... so we created structures to keep tea bags dry when dumped in the Boston Harbor. Originally the task was to create a "crate", however... I was flexible with different designs that were presented. I couldn't crush the creativity happening in the room!
We even had a live stream of the Boston Harbor playing through our Apple TV. We decided it wasn't the best idea to stand in a semi-circle around the table for the rest of the day, so we played a live feed and continued about our business.
By the time the end of the day rolled around, all of the tea bags were still dry... we had to sink them. It was very exciting!
Our latest project was building geodesic domes out of jelly beans and toothpicks. Students had to build the strongest structure. To find the winner, we put chapter books on top of the structure. The current champion held 13 chapter books! It was incredible.
During this project, I felt like I was the host of a cooking show. Bouncing around from group to group, channeling my inner Giada De Laurentiis, asking each group to tell me about their project and asking, "why did you decide to use a jelly bean that way?"
At the conclusion of each project, we've debriefed and had great conversations about what went well, what didn't work out so well, and what we learned about engineering. After every project, each class has commented how powerful it was to work as a group because everyone offered great ideas and contributed to the genius of the project.