challenges than just designing & building?
challenge? How does it break down into smaller parts?
asking any of the questions above, you’re in the right place! Essentially, you’re
wondering how to best approach the lesson/activity flow. Like so many things in
life, there’s more than one way to get the job done well, but I’d like to share
with you a tried and true approach that worked for me. I have named this
approach the STEM Challenge Cycle. Hopefully, it will save you a bit of time in
finding/tweaking the flow that works best for you and your kids!
short, animated video of what I have more-or-less transcribed below.
approach, the first iteration of a challenge typically takes 60-90 minutes with
presentation, discussion, and reflection time factored in. Follow up lessons,
research, and second iterations will occur on subsequent days.
of the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every STEM Challenge:
students 5 – 10 minutes to plan what they’re going to design. You can let
students think silently for a time, draw their ideas, discuss with their
teammates, or use a combination of approaches. Consider mixing it up and not
always using the same approach so students gain experience with different
methods of planning!
build their designs using a Criteria & Constraints List as their guide. Depending
on the complexity of the challenge, the build phase can last anywhere from 15 –
40 minutes. During this time, the teacher acts as a facilitator by walking the
room, checking in with groups and asking questions. Be careful not to be too
leading or solve design problems for the groups. It can be a difficult balance
to strike, but it becomes easier with practice.
minutes to present, explain, and demonstrate their designs. For those not
finished, groups share how their designs will look and work when done. Groups can
also take questions from their peers.
(Note: Sometimes, especially on tough challenges, I’ll pause the build phase and interject a quick gallery walk/share session in the groups. This gives students a moment to walk away, see a few alternate ideas, and it can take the steam out of any building frustration (either due to the complexity of the challenge or of working with certain teammates! If you ever feel you’ve got a STEM Challenge going south, try this!)
4. Record & Reflect
minutes for students to record the results and reflect upon the challenge. All
of my STEM challenges come with handouts for this purpose.
hold a broad discussion about the challenge either within their groups or the
whole class for about 10 minutes. My challenges come with a set of 8 discussion
questions – 7 are standard and one is a different quote to analyze and apply to
the challenge at hand.
follow the first iteration, teach standards-based lessons that apply to the
challenge, or have students conduct related research to aid in their next
7. Next Iteration
work well as both introduction and culminating activities to both inspire
students to learn about the content you wish to teach and to prove they have
learned the content well enough to apply it in their designs. Holding a second
or even third iteration is like creating drafts in the writing process: each
iteration gives students an opportunity to refine their designs, apply new
learning, and take new risks.