Marvelous STEM days

“Say yes to STEM!”- was the greatest challenge that I got as a teacher, a challenge so fruitful and joyful that turned into a habit. About one year ago I first heard about stem type integrated activities. Trying to implement them in my class was a success, both for me as a teacher and also for my students. So, from my first attempt to organize stem activities until today, this became a constant concern in preparing my lessons. By sharing these activities, I want to encourage other teachers to be interested in and to “say yes to STEM”.

          The activities from STEM Discovery Week were planned over the course of many days, some were implemented as a 3 weeks project, others as daily lessons. The project was called “4 Life essential elements: earth, air, water and fire”, but we also had separated other days dedicated to stem topics related or not with this theme.

    Preschoolers, aged 5-6, together with their parents, were provoked to participate to a series of stem days activities connected to real life problems. They studied about our Planet and our Solar System and other various aspects related to these themes, such as stars, planets, rockets, space explosions, gravitational force, air, wind, kites, windmills, parachutes, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, energy, fire, volcanoes, land, soil, natural disasters, earthquakes, pollution, avalanches, geometric shapes and bodies, buildings, useful microbes, etc.

            I used many resources, by accessing Scientix Repository, but also other media resources; I also involved the parents of the children, some community partners (The Inspectorate of Emergency Situations, a bread factory, the Astronomical Observatory, the Forest District) and my teacher colleagues.

            In the project the students studied about earth, air, fire and water; being such an exhaustive subject I selected only some aspects according to my students’ level and interests. Starting from the word “earth” the students were interested in studying Earth as our Planet and of course our Solar System.  So, we started a series of lessons about our Planet, our Moon, our Solar System, about Mars, about comets, about Rosetta, about day, night and seasons, about the water cycle and the greenhouse effect with the help of Paxi, our alien friend from ESA. (https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Sets/Paxi_animations )

The students described the planets, identifying their specific characteristics, made drawings, paintings, plasticine models and other models in the classroom or at home with the help of their parents; in all these I adapted to my students level some resources that I found in the Scientix Repository here: https://astroedu.iau.org/en/activities/1615/know-your-planets/, https://astroedu.iau.org/en/activities/1505/solar-system-model/.

We also visited The Planetarium from our town, where the students learned more interesting aspects about these subjects; they also found out about the Constellations and could see them; then, inspired by this Scientix resource https://astroedu.iau.org/en/activities/1613/make-a-star-lantern/ one girl made her own constellation flashlight project and presented it to the colleagues.

I also encouraged the parents to think and work stem projects with their kids at home. So, one boy presented to the other students the Solar System through an amazing optical illusion, a 3D hologram using a 3D home made hologram projector from Plexiglas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mikxmdcvjhc), a Smartphone/laptop and a special video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1GlcMFUNVM.

The students were also interested in learning about rockets, robots, space ships, space cities, space probes and aliens, they draw/painted them and made some from different materials (Lego, wood pieces, plasticine, kinetic sand, paper rolls, glue, colored paper).

            We also watched some movie scenes trying to find scientific mistakes and to prove them, a super great idea that I took from the last year SPW23; so we stopped at explosions in space, that usually in movies are presented with sound and fire, when in reality not only explosions not make sound, but also there is no oxygen in space to burn, which means there is no fire. The children demonstrated this by doing a simple experiment: they covered a burning candle with a glass and observed how the fire disappears when remains without oxygen. Another movie scene that the students watched was from 1994 “Speed” movie, the scene with the bus jumping the gap. The children reconstructed the gap with two distanced tables and using small toy cars, they tried to see if they can “jump” the gap and reach the other side. Of course, because of the gravitational force, all the cars were falling down into the gap, being attracted to the floor; only with the help of a ramp they succeeded to jump to the other side.

            Also talking about earth, we reached ecology topics, learning about pollution, what is generating it and how can it be prevented, we made Eco slogans. We started to plant different kind of seeds and observe them to grow, trying to make our own vegetables mini garden. Also, with the help of the Forest District, we went to the forest and planted trees.

We also talked about natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and volcanoes. In our study we were inspired by these Scientix Resources: http://www.scientix.eu/resources/details?resourceId=9659 and http://www.scientix.eu/resources/details?resourceId=6887 and other YouTube videos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQQCvsxHtJo&t=626s,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjRGIpP-Qfw and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHHFV6O0o-8&t=73s. The students were involved in a lot of experiments (earthquake shake table, earthquakes p-waves and s-waves, shaking land from gelatin, engineering different types of constructions and trying them on rumbling earth, volcano eruption) in order to better understand the mechanisms of this disasters, to learn what they are, why they happen, how they can be prevented; we also made a visit to the Emergency Situations Inspectorate to find out more about these risks and how to manage them, what protection measures can we take.

Talking about water, the students were able to study its characteristics, the water cycle, the uses and the risks, the pollution of the water, tsunami, avalanche; they again were involved in some experiments: making snow, simulating an avalanche, rain/storm in a glass.

Speaking about the air, we also reached ecology topics, pollution, Eco energy, windmills, risks, aerodynamics; the children made or played with pinwheels, windmills, parachutes, kites and bubbles. They also participated in the funny experiment called “tornado in a bottle”.

Speaking about the air, we also reached ecology topics, pollution, Eco energy, windmills, risks, aerodynamics; the children made or played with pinwheels, windmills, parachutes, kites and bubbles. They also participated in the funny experiment called “tornado in a bottle”.

           During the discussions about greenhouse effect and pollution the term “carbon dioxide” got the students attention and while talking about it, we found the connection with yeast. Then, we went to visit a bread factory, learned how bread is made and from what; so, the students discovered yeast, that is a useful fungus, a wonderful sleeping microorganism, that awakens in a warm environment and in contact with sugar. In order to understand this better, the students made the experiment with the balloon that inflates “alone”. From these discussions, they reached to the conclusion that not only bad microbes exist, but also good ones and we had another discussion about microbes. (Scientix Resourse used: http://www.scientix.eu/resources/details?resourceId=3108, http://www.scientix.eu/resources/details?resourceId=3109, other resources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eksagPy5tmQ, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apv3z2eAgz4 ) Also, from this Scientix Repository resource  http://www.scientix.eu/resources/details?resourceId=22135 I used ideas from the part called “Kitchen Curiosities”, the experiments called “playing with dry yeast” and “dough with different colors”, with the specification that we changed a little the last experiment and instead of dough we used simple water, observing the same effects and learning about acids, alkalis and pH.

            I also want to present a nice coding activity that the little children really enjoyed: “code your name in binary bracelet” that was a challenge for the little students, but they got it and were very happy and proud in the end. The resource I used can be found here https://www.mamasmiles.com/stem-fun-for-kids/.

           Finally, I encourage everyone try implement stem activities with their students, no matter what age they are. In the beginning I was afraid my students are too little, but they manage to overcome their age successfully. When my students involve in stem activities, they are enthusiastic, interested, curious, they put questions, they make connections between information and different aspects of the reality and they can’t wait the next day to come to the kindergarten, they simply love science. STEM days are like a magic and joyful feast in our school, that’s why I called my activity “Marvelous STEM Days”.

            Here you can find photos and videos of the activities implemented: https://www.facebook.com/groups/162336827775466/.

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