Using Dollar Tree Solar Dancers to Teach STEM and NGSS ConceptsBy Diana Wehrell-Grabowski on February 26, 2016 in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, Teacher Training Workshops
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?