Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Introducing the design process

First...I want to remind everyone that the FIRST letter in STEM/STEAM is S = for SCIENCE!  So, that being said, I always link my STEAM activities to the Science Content.  My first unit this year is on the Environment.  Many people don't really think of Environment as an opportunity for STEAM integration....but that is where you are wrong.  There are so many connections to find..if you just start to think that way.

Before I go on a ramble and forget the reason for this post, I'd like to share with you the design process that we use.  It's from Engineering is Elementary (my favorite website for STEM lessons).  You can download a poster on that site or create your own, like I did!  I created a poster with the five key words - Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.  Then we brainstormed other words that mean the same as the key words and added them on the outside of the diagram.

When you are working with the students you are going to want to ask a lot of questions.  These questions below came straight from EIE's Website.   These are NOT my words, but I like the way they are worded.

  • What is the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • What are the constraints?
  • What are some solutions?
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Choose the best one.
  • Draw a diagram.
  • Make lists of materials you will need.
  • Follow your plan and create it.
  • Test it out!
  • Talk about what works, what doesn't, and what could work better.
  • Modify your designs to make it better.
  • Test it out!
What are some ideas for including engineering in the environmental strand? The Engineering is Elementary unit that goes with this strand is creating a new method for cleaning up an oil slick.  I'm sure it is an amazing lesson and one that we can all relate to since the accident in the Gulf in recent years.

What other STEM related tasks can you think of that would relate to environments and ecosystems?


  1. I had my students clean up an oil spill! It was a fantastic learning experience and I have two great books to go along with it (plus some articles), so we integrated with literacy.

    I think it's also interesting for students to make recycled paper, particularly if they get to try to come up with the process themselves.

    Have you ever used the program STELLA? It's a calculus-based computer modeling program that is easy for students to use to set up a system. I love to use it for predator-prey ecosystem models, especially with endangered species as the focus.

    I haven't heard the acronym STEAM- what is the A for?

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

    1. Picture Perfect Science Lessons has a great integrated unit on cleaning up the oil spills that we have used at our school for years, as well! I have not heard of the program STELLA, but I think I will google it right away...As for the A in stands for the ARTS!

  2. Have you heard of Scigirls? It sounds like something you would like. It is STEM lessons geared towards girls (boys can still do it to).

  3. Not familiar with it! Might be worth a google this afternoon!