In this year’s STEM Expo, I highlighted the eight science and engineering practices. Here they are in action in our two science labs!
Asking Questions and Defining Problems
Fifth grade scientists are trying to figure out why one side of an island is having a water shortage, while the other side is not. The island is fictional, so I showed them drought maps of islands where this really happens, like Puerto Rico and Hawaii. I asked them to come up with their own questions. One big one we have been pondering is “What would happen if the water cycle stopped?” Think about it. It is a doozy!
Meanwhile, the Green Teams in the lower and upper schools have identified a problem they want to solve. We need to get the school to start recycling.
Second grade engineers are designing a new glue for the school to use, while learning about the properties of materials.
Developing and Using Models
Kindergarten scientists have been learning about physics while they try to solve the problem of how to build a pinball machine. They have used these box models as they try to meet their design goals.
Second Graders participated in an elaborate model of seed dispersal, in which each group of four students acted as a bird and a scientist. They went from place to place eating whole fruits (they were balls of clay with real seeds inside.) During the next class, they “digested” the seeds by smooshing up the clay and the seeds in a plastic bag, then they flew from place to place leaving “droppings.” Some of those seeds with droppings ended up in a open space, where they could get the light and water they need to grow.
A less elaborate model the second grade used in the last unit can be seen below in the Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking section, in which they used paperclips and cotton balls as models for seeds with and without fluff.
Fourth graders designed wind turbine models for their energy unit.
Fifth graders used a bunch of different models in their food science unit, because they were learning about the properties of molecules. I hope if you ask any of them, they can explain that we can’t see individual molecules, so we need to use models to understand and explain their properties.
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
Here the second graders have planned an investigation to see if wind disperses seeds with fluff longer distances than seeds without fluff. Do you see the math?
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
The third graders pictured are collecting data about traits of the humans in their class. They are organizing the data into bar graphs, so it will be easy to analyze and interpret.
Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information
First Grade Engineers have been trying to design a solution for a puppet theater, who wanted to make a traveling show, but their scenery was too heavy. They learned about light and shadows. They tested all sorts of materials, to find out which ones could meet the design goals of making a bright area, a dark area and a medium bright area using shadows for a puppet show scene. This week, they presented their findings to their partners by sharing their puppet show scenes. Then they helped me write an engineers’ report to the puppet theater explaining their findings. Which is an example of Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions.
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
PS 130 scientists and engineers know now, that the phenomena they observe and the data they collect can all be used as evidence to support their claims. Below is a second grade example.