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January 2, 2018

STEM Mistakes that I Made

It is important to know that in STEM activities, you can frequently make mistakes that you are not counting on.  Here are some STEM errors that I made that can help you out in your experiences with STEM!  

  Underestimating the Science 

Data from New Year's Noisemaker STEM showing that changing the groupings made less noise than preplanning the groupings.  

HOLY COW!  Can I honestly tell you this was a HUGE error that I made with STEM!  I had no idea when I started that there was way more science hidden in these than the surface level activities that I designed to do.  Suddenly, right in front of me, there was science I did not imagine within these activities.  For instance, when I was creating the New Year's Noisemakers, I obviously hit the science of sound.  However, suddenly, out of nowhere, comes VARIABLES!  I wasn't even thinking about this science at all-and it's actually one of the harder things for kids to see in experiments!  Not in STEM!  We were suddenly creating new groups and discovering new things about groupings of students and their noisemakers!  By doing this, we exposed that by changing the groupings, we flatlined on noise making.  The variable of similar groupings did not produce the sound vibrations that were produced in the differentiation of design that the original groups did!  And that was just the beginning of missed sciences!  So, lesson to learn-be prepared to pick out science features that you can cover with students as they are engineering and while you are testing their products.  It is there-you just have to look!  

Crafting instead of STEM

This STEM was fun and had lots of science, BUT it was a little too much for one teacher to handle!

In my Snowman Skiing STEM, I quickly discovered that the crafting overwhelmed the STEM process.  It's not that the snowmen weren't needed-they were!  However, I didn't need to put as much time into creating them as I did.  Next time, I'd get parent volunteers in to help with the entire process if I used hot glue again-or even better, I'd just get the right glue!  Then the kids could do it all!  Make sure you truly examine how much crafting is present because it can get in the way of what you planned for in your STEM.  You want their minds to be focused there, not so much on the craft of it all! 

Providing a Model 

This works both ways.  It is key that you examine the STEM you are working with and decide if a model is a good idea.  For instance, I really thought a basic model in the New Year's Noisemakers would not be needed.  However, I got a lot of similar ideas, many of which ended up being cup shakers and rain stick "style" noisemakers.  When I do this again next year, I will share some "models".  I will simply show them musical instruments during the planning stage as well as the video.  This way, it will broaden their "model" view and allow for more variety.  It is very important to weigh the model idea.  Giving too much information in our model presentation can also guide them too much.  So, be careful-but think it through too! 

Ignoring a Kid Solution

Open space at the bottom allowed the snowmen to ski correctly.

This happened during my Snowman Skiing STEM.  I couldn't figure out how to get those snowmen to ski onto the "snow" surface at the bottom.  They just kept falling over.  However, it never dawned on me until days later, during Winter Break, that the students had already solved this problem-in the pre-testing stage!  Over and over their snowmen simply skied down their slopes.  I literally woke up in the night with the realization that they had a solution to MY problem-that was really THEIR problem to solve-IF I HAD JUST ASKED!  I need to be asking students during the testing stage rather than dictating the things we are doing.  A deep thought to ponder!   

My plan caused the snowmen to fall over!  

Not Providing Time to Reflect

I had ever intention of reflecting on my STEMS.  I even built this into my products.  But intentions are not always matched.  You see, it was before break...yadah, yadah, yadah...  Why did I even listen to my own excuses!  This is so vital to their growth in this system, and yet, I talked myself out of it!  Reflecting allows students, just like us, the adults, to grow.  However, it comes natural to us.  Not so much for them!  I skipped this vital opportunity for students to grow and change.  So, I hear by pledge unto myself that I won't do this again!  Let them have that time!  It's key!  

I hope this will help guide you in not making the mistakes I have made so far.  I will say, it truly is an amazing process to engage in within your classroom setting.  There is usually little set-up and take down. Plus, the kids are so involved in it that they will think of things you never have and create things you've never imagined within these activities in your classroom!  I am currently awaiting the arrival of this book:

(Affiliate Link )

I'm super excited to see what's inside.  Once I get going, I'll post a good review!  I'd love to hear what mistakes you have made of what books you use for STEM!  Drop me a comment to let me know!  

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