STEM your science activities! It’s easy. Just add technology, engineering, and mathematics. Voila! Your science lesson is transformed into a STEM activity.
Let’s look in on our favorite teacher, Ms. Sneed. She’s planning her next science lesson.
At their last staff meeting, the principal encouraged teachers to use STEM activities. Ms. Sneed knows that S stands for Science. But what do those other letters in STEM stand for?
Ms. Sneed googles STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. She reads “Six Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson” by Anne Jolly. That really helps her understand. Then she makes a list of what a STEM lesson should have:
- Science – the study of the natural world
- Technology – a product made to address a need
- Engineering – using the design process
- Math – numbers, operations, measurement, geometry, algebra, etc.
“Wow,” thinks Ms. Sneed. “We’re right in the middle of our sound unit. How can I pull this off?” She noses around on Pinterest, and an idea forms in her head. Ms. Sneed smiles to herself. This activity will captivate her students!
STEM Sound Activity – Building a Musical Instrument
The S in STEM – Science
“Good morning, class!” chirps Ms. Sneed. “To deepen your understanding of pitch, you will participate in a STEM activity. That means we’ll integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Ms. Sneed addressed the S by deciding on a specific scientific concept: pitch.
The T in STEM – Technology
“Our kindergarten classes are also studying sound. For their exploration, they need musical instruments that produce high, medium, and low sounds. Their teachers asked if you would design some for them.”
Ms. Sneed addressed the T by asking students to build something that addresses a need: a musical instrument.
The E in STEM – Engineering
“You will use engineering and design processes to build the musical instrument. Let’s review the steps.”
Ms. Sneed walks to a table where various materials are displayed. “You may use any material on this table to create your instrument: screws of different lengths and widths, toilet paper tubes, straws, craft sticks, rubber bands, string, and tape.
“You must complete the first five steps in the design process before gathering your materials. Just show me your lab sheet when you’re ready.”
The students study the pages Ms. Sneed has given them. The can clearly see the steps they’ll take to design a musical instrument.
Ms. Sneed addressed the E by using the engineering design process.
The M in STEM – Mathematics
“When your musical instrument is finished, you will test it. First, you must measure each component of your instrument. Will you use inches or centimeters?”
A hand pops up in the middle of the classroom. “Ms. Sneed, you’ve told us a million times. Scientists use the metric system. We’ll use centimeters.”
“Yep,” responds their teacher. “And while you’re at it, measure to the tenth of a centimeter – and convert that to millimeters as well.” The class groans.
“Write the dimensions on your lab sheet. Then you can use an online oscilloscope to visualize the frequency. I’ve sent you the link.”
Ms. Sneed addressed the M when she asked the kids to measure.
The Kids Get Busy
One group decides to use different lengths of straws to build a pan flute. Another group makes a trio of harmonicas with craft sticks, straws, and rubber bands. Yet another builds wind chimes with screws. Ms. Sneed also visits a group that has cut toilet paper tubes and rolled them into different widths.
“This is fun,” a student shouts. Others agree. “Can we do STEM again?”
Ms. Sneed thinks about a photo she saw on Pinterest. Yep, her students will love building cell phone amplifiers. As she plots their next STEM activity, the teacher smiles to herself.
Improving Thinking in Science
This year, Ms. Sneed is ramping up scientific thinking. How?
- Asking kids to make generalizations.
- Encouraging inquiry.
- Using the fair test.
- Incorporating STEM and using one of 10 Simple Design Challenges each month.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.