When conducting STEM and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) professional staff development sessions I generally introduce teachers to inquiry-based investigations that use readily available and affordable materials and equipment. We all know that in many instances most teachers reach deep into their pockets throughout the entire school year to provide the funds for materials etc. they need to provide quality learning experiences for their students. I often present lessons that use Dollar Store items that teach a wide-array of STEM and NGSS concepts. One of my favorite dollar store items are the Solar Dancers from Dollar Tree™. These solar dancers are available year-round, and change in their design according to the seasons. The solar dancers can be used to teach: about biomimicry, photosynthesis, materials science, solar energy, electricity, magnetism, mechanical engineering, reverse engineering and beyond. During my STEM and NGSS teacher training sessions I’ll introduce the concept of solar energy first with introducing where the idea for solar energy came from, plants and make connections to biomimicry, then get into solar energy. I have teachers work with solar cells to operate buzzers, light bulbs, etc. then they go onto to discuss, analyze, dissect, and put back together a Dollar Tree™ solar dancer. So with $1.00, plus the use of a small tool kit, and other optional tools such as mini illuminated microscopes, rulers etc. a teacher can introduce a plethora of STEM and NGSS concepts in an engaging and meaningful manner. The following video combines a number of different STEM and NGSS trainings where solar dancers were used to teach a multitude of concepts. When you view the video, it’s quite evident the power of teaching via inquiry-based methods, designing lessons that are student-driven, and provide opportunities for students to practice 21st Century Thinking Skills (creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving, communication and collaboration). If the teachers are this excited about learning, imagine how excited grades 3-12th grade students will be?
Archive for February, 2016
Looking for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and STEM-based investigations to promote National Engineers Week? The following photos were taken during a recent day-long teacher training I conducted for K-12 teachers. Teachers were introduced to the conceptual shifts of NGSS, Science and Engineering Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and the Disciplinary Core Ideas, and how to effectively blend the three dimensions of the NGSS within a lesson. I have found that many teachers have had little to no experience with incorporating engineering practices within their lessons. Thus, I designed investigations that would provide teachers with the opportunity to see how science and engineering practices are incorporated within a lesson. During the day-long training teachers explored: physical science, earth and space, life science, and technology, engineering, and applications of science. All of the investigations were inquiry-based and correlated to the NGSS, as well as affordable. Several of the lessons focused on using simple materials as well as kits to teach the principles of electricity, as well as engineering concepts. Teachers used batteries, wires, bulbs, lead pencils, buzzers, littleBits™, Snap Circuits™, Makey Makey™, Colorforms Brush With Genius™, Laser Lights, and Squishy Circuits to explore electricity concepts. We then went onto explore solar energy concepts. Teachers were introduced to how the idea of solar energy panels came from photosynthesis, so we discussed the popular topic of biomimicry, and how many looks at nature for inspiration in solving problems, and in innovating. Teachers used solar cells to operate buzzers, light bulbs etc. A good bit of this lesson was spent on using Dollar Tree™ Solar Dancers. Teachers were asked to discuss the exterior parts as well as what interior components they believed were inside the solar dancer, and how it operated. Teachers were then given the challenge of taking apart the solar dancer, as well as putting it back together if time permitted. The afternoon was spent exploring life science core ideas including the connections between seed dispersal and the invention of the helicopter, comparative anatomy in the animal kingdom. Throughout the teacher training session teachers were introduced to affordable tools and technology that can be incorporated into NGSS and STEM-based lessons on a daily basis from mini-illuminated microscopes, digital calipers, digital balances, electronic kits, and more. The following photos are a sampling of the inquiry-based NGSS and STEM-based investigations teachers had the opportunity to experience. All of the following investigations provide an engaging and meaningful experience of introducing students to the field of engineering, what perfect timing for National Engineers Week February 21st-27th. For more information about the NGSS, STEM, and Maker Ed professional staff development Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowski conducts throughout the nation and world to both formal and informal educators please contact her via the contact page form.