Tag Archives: STEM

The 3 Little Pigs…STEM Style!

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This term in Integrated Studies, our unit in Prep/1 is Topsy-Turvy Tales, with a focus on creativity.

Last week we watched Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs and then I read the story from a book. We listed the similarities and differences between the 2 presentations.

We started talking about the ‘materials’ instead of ‘building stuff’ that the pigs used and talked about mathematical terms such as strong, weak, light and heavy. I’d seen lots of STEM-based ideas on Pinterest about getting students to build houses for the 3 Little Pigs and using the hairdryer as the Big, Bad Wolf.

Yesterday, students worked in pairs to build a house to protect one little pig from the hairdryer wolf. I provided the following materials:

  • a blue placemat (the house was required to sit on top of this placemat)
  • a toy pig per pair
  • plastic cups & plates
  • Strawbees
  • coloured magnetic rods
  • craft sticks
  • wooden skewers
  • cotton buds
  • pipecleaners
  • straws
  • coloured paper
  • rubber bands
  • cellophane
  • PVA glue
  • sticky tape

How does STEM fit into this activity?

S(cience): we talked as a group about how strong different materials are, what they are made of (plastic, wood etc) and which materials may blow away in the ‘wind’ from the wolf
T(echnology): following the building, students used Flipgrid on their iPad to reflect on their finished structure
E(ngineering): there were lots of questions such as ‘How can we make this stronger?’, ‘What else could we use instead?’, plus comments such as ‘This doesn’t bend or stand up straight like we need it to’.
M(athematics): students needed to make sure that their given pig fit inside their building through informal measurement, plus lots of chatting about how high the walls should be and how tall the pig was.

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Surprisingly(!) none of the pigs were affected by the ‘wolf’s’ blowing! Some of the houses were more 2D than 3D though, so today we talked about the features of a house that protect people – like walls and a roof! The pair who used a cardboard box to simply place over the top of their pig weren’t supposed to use a cardboard box either – they pinched it from the cupboard!!

Pretty sure the teacher had the most fun too…using the hairdryer to blow down houses was very cool!

Our Interschool STEM Day

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In 2016, two of my colleagues worked together to hold an Interschool STEM Day, to encourage local Year 6 students to work in teams to create a solution to a problem.

Using resources from the IET Faraday website, they adapted and orchestrated a mammoth day for the students to build a device to move one litre of water from the Stadium floor, into a bucket which sat on a platform. It was a challenge designed around pumps, water wheels and water pressure.

This year, one of my colleagues was on paternity leave, so I stepped in to help his teammate. Together, Jodie and I researched a new challenge for the day based around medical engineering – build a device to conduct a remote operation to pick up a ‘kidney’ and a ‘heart’ and place them in the correct place on the body.

We had 75 students from 12 different school register, 24 teams in total. The ideal team number was 3, however a few schools only had 4 Year 6 students in total, which we allowed. The stadium was set up with medical themed decorations, x-rays, lab coats, and medicinal charts. There were ‘Research Stations’, with laptops playing videos on loop with ideas and strategies that┬ámay give students inspiration. A hot glue gun station was set up, as was our STEM shop, where all of the building materials for the day were ready to be purchased by the teams.

The day started with a video about medical engineering to put the day into context, how operating theatres rely on robotics and other technology to assist them in procedures. Students were asked to sketch in their Challenge Workbooks a way to move an object from one place to another without physically touching it with their body. We introduced the ideas of forces – push/pull, levers, scoops, suction etc.

Each team was given a budget of $150 STEM dollars. They were required to plan their design, keeping their budget in mind. They were to assign roles to each group member and also create a ‘Learning Log’ using an assigned iPad, to create a documentary-style video of their manufacturing process.

Our school Kitchen Garden coordinator provided us with lunch and students received a small show bag with water and snacks for recess and their workbooks. We operated on a continual scoring system using Google Sheets so that both of us organisers could access to add scores and annotations throughout the day. Students received scores for their design briefs, their sketches, accuracy of their account balance ledger, effectiveness of their design and their teamwork skills.

After lunch, students packed up their tables and we sat down to perform 24 mock heart (ping pong ball) and kidney (ping pong ball) transplants. An iPad was placed above the operating table, where our cardboard cutout body and his foil tray organ chambers lay waiting. This iPad was to live-stream the action on the table, not just for the audience, but for the ‘surgeon’ operating the device. Just like in an operating theatre, the surgeon would be using the large screen to guide his actions while his vision to the cardboard body was blocked by a curtain.

Students had to work around certain parameters – the device must be able to reach a distance of 50cm, it must be able to pick up and drop objects accurately and both heart and kidney must be transplanted in just 90 seconds – it’s life or death for our cardboard body!!

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The winning team was gifted with a set of 6 Makey Makey kits to take back to their school to encourage creative and critical thinking to assist on their STEM journey!

There were many different designs – some more successful than others. There were many levels of teamwork and many different conversations that filled the stadium. The teachers who accompanied the teams from their school were pleased to see such collaboration and skill – not just for those students who excelled in the classroom.

Go Team STEM!

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