Post-challenge can be a chaotic time! What do you do with your students’ completed STEM Challenge designs? I have a couple of tips — well, four tips — to share with you!
A Few More Ideas
Someone who viewed this video in my TpT store left a comment with some additional ideas to make the disassembly process deeper and richer. I LOVE what he/she came up with, so check it out below:
Hi, I’m Kerry from Feel Good Teaching. Today, we’re going to be talking about what do you do with student designs, once the STEM challenge is over.
First things first, I highly recommend taking photos. This way, no matter what happens next, you approve of the student designs, and there’s a way for students to remember what they’ve done. If your students are old enough, you could even make it a classroom job to take photos, to document, to list off the team names for the people who worked on each individual design. You can use those photos on your classroom website, or even as part of your digital memory journals for students at the end of the year. They also make killer slide shows for back to school night, open house, even when parents are waiting for parent-teacher conferences.
Beyond all those fun good points I just shared with you, I cannot tell you how many regrets I have over how many photos I did not take of student designs all throughout the years. Don’t be like me. Remember to take the photos. That was tip one, definitely take photos, and take them right away.
Tip number two, keep them in your classroom on display as long as possible. This allows you to tie in cross-curricular standards based lessons and connect them to something that’s physically in the classroom that the students care about. This increases engagement and provides some scaffolding for students who might need that background prior knowledge. I’ll add in a photo right here of what one of my second grade classrooms looked like. I had this area designated in the room for whatever design challenge we were working on for the moment.
Admittedly, this is more difficult to do if you’re a secondary teacher, and you have multiple classes coming in throughout the day. I taught seventh grade, and it was a challenge to keep the class’s work on display. One thing you can do to help with that is to always add size constraints into your STEM challenges themselves. For example, no dimension may exceed six inches, or your design must fit within this shoe box, or it must fit on this shelf. That way, it keeps things more manageable and accessible, in the event you do want to use them for standards based lessons.
Tip number three, when it is time to send the challenges home, usually the students have worked on these designs collaboratively. I ask, in the groups, who’s interested in taking this home and keeping it. If there are multiple people in the group who want the design, they simply put their names in a hat, and somebody pulls it out. In the case where maybe two students want the same design, and one of them has already, in the past, been able to take one home, then automatically the person who’s never gotten to take one home gets to. Remember, you have taken those photographs, so every student has access to proof or a memory of that design.
But if all that feels just a little too complicated, messy, annoying, then I come to tip number four, which is to require that the students recycle and reuse. This idea works far better with older students, fifth grade and above. You’ll ask the groups to dismantle their designs and take any materials that could be reused and put them into a recycling bin. I usually use one of the big Tupperware bins. That bin becomes the extras bin that occasionally, during a STEM challenge, I’ll allow groups to go to the extras bin to get more materials for a challenge they’re working on. You can use that bin for maker space materials, crafts, or even just let students, every now and again, take some home, because some students like to tinker on their own time. Even though you’re doing all those great STEM challenges in class, they’re inspired, and they want to do more at home, and sometimes they just don’t have the materials to do so.
I hope you found those tips helpful. I’ll be back next week with a video about how to manage STEM challenges in short class periods. Make sure you’re following or subscribe so you don’t miss anything. May your week be packed with feel good teaching moments. I’ll see you soon.