For my final post about my Intro to STEM class, I wanted to sum up what we learned about designing a STEM lesson.
Never forget that students are the center of the learning process, and every lesson should be guided discovery. Be careful of giving them the answer or telling them what they should be getting out of the lessons. Make projects central rather than peripheral to the design – projects aren’t an aside, but rather ongoing and central part of the learning process.
Make sure that projects are broken down into manageable pieces – the younger the student, the more breaking down/scaffolding needed. Structure it and tier it in the classroom (not “here’s the big project, go do it, turn it in three weeks from now”). Projects must have real-world relevance. Start by taking an idea and building a unit around it. Projects should conclude with a product or performance task – a project, a product, a presentation, a poster. Something to show for all the work they’ve done.
Use digital technologies to support and enhance student learning, but don’t forget that thinking skills are an integral part of project work. Use varied instructional strategies that support multiple learning styles, and include ongoing and varied types of assessment.
One of the best bits of advice on motivating students was to phrase tasks this way: “A good student would do…a great student would do…” For example, for the experiment for the effect of color on heating rate, you might say, “A good student would do two different colors. A great student would do three.”
Just some final thoughts on resources:
Homeschoolers on eBay are a great resource as they buy good material and then sell it when they’re done.
For an (admittedly expensive) intro to robotics, check out The Lego Mindstorms series of kits.
The Maker Education Initiative is an organization devoted to project based learning, in particular “making” a product. A representative observed our solar heater project and said that’s what Maker Ed is about.