Third Graders Tackle Real World Challenges in STEAMmods.III
Third graders recently completed their rotations in STEAMmods.III, all connected to their bilingual study of Central America and their water unit in science class. The STEAM teaching team centered the modules around a story about a Guatemalan girl, Cristina, who is handicapped but can swim -- though not deep enough to retrieve her cousin’s favorite swim goggles from a nearby ocean bed. Cristina and her cousin must design a prototype submersible that will actually do the job!
STEAM teachers designed three challenges connected to the story. The boys rotated through these three challenges applying the engineering design process (EDP), often in teams.
1. Submersibles - One of the favorite modules involved experimenting with features of a submersible and their sink-or-float and size properties, and modeling how "pole sounding" works to map the ocean floor followed by an introduction to modern day sonar. The boys went on to work in teams to build a model submersible of their own design using Legos.
2. Intooba - Teams of boys developed 3-dimensional and math skills with a series of challenges to build various skeleton structures using Intooba rods and connectors with different numerical values constrained by a maximum "budget." These exercises culminated in designing and building a working crane with a pulley to extract actual goggles from the "ocean floor" of the classroom. They applied knowledge about crane structure and function from woodshop class, and addition, subtraction and record keeping skills from math class. The materials they used were created by our own Rob McCallum.
3. Scratch - Boys honed their tech skills with the challenge to design a weaving pattern for a Guatemalan blanket for Cristina’s wheelchair using a visual coding program called Scratch. They helped each other develop lines and color schemes to "weave" the pattern and print it using the design-and-redesign strategies emphasized in the EDP.
As a follow up to completing STEAMmods.III, the boys were asked to reflect on their experience by writing about it, setting out their favorite part of all three modules, the least enjoyable aspect, as well as ideas for different STEAM modules in the future. A few of these reflections are below:
"The best part of coding in Scratch was helping other kids figure out how to do it."
"Building a submersible I learned how to work together with my group."
"Doing Intooba helped me to learn math." (Xander)
"The best part is learning by discovering something for yourself." (Daniel)
"Coding, and making it do what you wanted, was much harder than I expected." (Sebastian)
"I did not like that the Scratch mod ended and I did not get to finish the project."
Ideas for Different STEAM mods in the Future
"I think we should find a way to include the iPads in STEAM (like using Explain Everything)." (Hudson)
"I think it would be cool to build a cardboard village - houses and buildings - together." (Nicholas)
"I would make an outdoor STEAM project-like building a garden." (Matt)
"We could do an airplane mod where we learn about flight." (Andrew)