Here’s some real talk about my experience using STEM in the classroom.
When I am coordinating S.T.E.M. curriculum for grades 1-5, I observe many students exploring the STEM process who are truly engaged with hands-on learning.
For the most part, students LOVE it!
Sometimes I also see students who are not yet comfortable with taking risks.
Some students are not emotionally equipped for dealing with the disappointment that arises when their great idea doesn’t quite work out the way they wanted.
Other students feel threatened by other students who have “better” ideas, and feel defeated rather than inspired.
For some students, there’s an emotional side of being expected to take risks, make mistakes and collaborate with others. You can probably think of students you know who think their first idea HAS to be perfect. When it’s not, they might give up, or worse – act out negatively.
For these students, S.T.E.M. challenges can also be an emotional challenge.
So should we avoid doing S.T.E.M. with those students?
Absolutely not! On the contrary, it’s the perfect learning opportunity.
These students need some tools to help them cope with challenges, and I’ve found Growth Mindset concepts in particular to be a highly effective strategy to teach these coping tools.
I feel that I owe it to my students to give them coping strategies; I am presenting situations that I know will be particularly difficult for some of them. I want to give them the tools they will need to handle it. Hopefully these tools will help them in many other life situations as well!
My solution to this situation has been to combine Growth Mindset concepts with my STEM projects.
S.T.E.M. and Growth Mindset concepts complement and reinforce each other perfectly, so teaching them together is a perfect match!
Growth mindset encourages exactly the kind of positive thinking that will help with STEM challenges.
For example, growth mindset thinking teach us that:
-mistakes help us learn
-we can persevere through unexpected problems and disappointments
-sometimes it takes several tries to solve a problem
Growth mindset concepts also foster an inner dialogue that is essential for STEM exploration.
-I can always improve.
-I’m on the right track.
-I can keep trying even when it’s hard.
-This may take some time and effort.
-I can build on previous ideas.
-I haven’t solved the problem – YET!
We use fairy tales to explore both Growth Mindset and STEM!
Students love fairy tales because they are fun and familiar, so we begin by reading short partner plays together. You can easily write your own plays with student input, or pre-write simple partner plays like I have.
In our partner plays, the characters have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. After several readings and discussion, students become experts at recognizing which is which. I little humor goes a long way, too!
For example, in the passage below from Little Red Riding Hood, Granny has a fixed mindset, and Little Red Riding Hood has a Growth Mindset!
Students quickly learn how to tell the two apart:
We also do some writing and sorting to solidify the concept.
We use simple workbooks or flip books as shown below.
This is a bundle of 5 Seasonal STEM sets (30 challenges altogether) that will make it SIMPLE to explore STEM in your classroom, while incorporating literacy through fun PARTNER PLAYS to set up each challenge!
What is STEM? And why are Partner Plays Helpful?
★ presenting students with an authentic problem
★ challenging students to collaborate for possible solutions
★ making specific plans for the solution
★ testing the model to see if it solves the problem
★ reflecting, revising, and re-testing
★ reflecting on success and recognizing mistakes as part of the process
In our classroom, each STEM challenge is introduced through a simple seasonal partner play so that the engineering challenge will be purposeful and authentic.
The STEM challenge is meant to be completed after reading each partner play, and involves solving a problem for the characters in the play.
For example, at the end of each fairy tale play, students are presented with a STEM challenge that directly relates to the story.
Here is an example of how the partner play ends with a specific STEM challenge:
In the above example, students are given the task of helping Rapunzel out of her tower.
Students now have a relevant purpose for their challenge!
Each table is given a bin of supplies, such as tape, cardboard, stir sticks, paper cups, elastics, pipe cleaners, and anything else I have handy.
Students plan, collaborate and build! Here are some pictures of our creations for various fairy tale STEM challenges:
Here is a video of students designing and testing the catapult they made in order to get the cookies over the forest to land at Granny’s house!
I always like to have a written component to document our learning. This way we can also look back to past challenges and see if they might help with our current challenge. We use either WORKBOOKS or FLIP BOOKS to write about our STEM exploration.
Do you use STEM challenges in your classroom?
Are there students who would benefit from pairing Growth Mindset lessons with STEM? You can create your own partner plays, journals or flip books to go along with any fairy tale.
If you’d prefer to try some of the examples I’ve shown above, they are available two different bundles:
LOOKING FOR SEASONAL STEM?
These partner plays set up seasonal STEM challenges for each season of the school year, plus a bonus pack just for Christmas! They are simple, engaging, and very little prep. Click HERE to see it!
I have some free downloads to get you started with STEM and Growth Mindset in your classroom.
First, you can try a Growth Mindset flip book which can be used with any version of the Little Red Riding Hood. It is part of the preview for Bundle 2, so click the preview button to grab it HERE.
Pin this free flip book for later!
MORE STEM RESOURCES
Are your students clear on the steps involved with STEM process?
I have posters outlining the steps on my wall so I can refer to them often during lessons and discussions.
If you’d like to download my posters to use in your classroom, you can download them for free.
Pin this free flip book for later!
Pin this post for later!
There are lots of other ways to create a GROWTH MINDSET classroom!
You can write different ideas each day in Growth Mindset journals, fill your room with encouraging Growth Mindset posters and coloring activities, use Growth Mindset task cards and writing prompts, and even positive notes for students!
Click HERE to take a look at all the options for your classroom.
You can also grab two FREE posters and activities for writing, math and coloring (as pictured above) by clicking below!
Pin these free posters for later!