This post is part of this year’s Walk This Way series, designed to share The Walking Classroom experiences of teachers and students across the United States. It provides a glimpse into Jane Keen’s classroom.
Do you have a favorite elementary school memory? If so, I can almost guarantee that it doesn’t involve sitting in your seat and taking notes or filling out a worksheet.
Nearly every one of my memorable moments in youth involved doing and moving and making. I want to create those types of learning moments for my students as well. I want to see them engaged and excited about learning!
Science is Discovery
Science lends itself to hands-on experiences so seamlessly. Science is discovery. Science is problem solving. Science is often put on the back burner to elementary reading and math, but there are so many benefits to allowing students to authentically seek out and test solutions.
Earth’s surface, which includes the study of weather, is one of the Benchmark Standards that Arkansas covers in third grade. We decided to dive into extreme weather to tap into student interest and were happy to see that our WalkKits had several podcasts on this topic.
We listened to the Hurricanes (4-#28, Complete-#150, STEM-#13) and Tornadoes (4-#31, Complete-#149, STEM-#14) podcasts. Listening to the podcasts only takes about fifteen minutes (less time than it sometimes takes to read a picture book!), and they are incredibly informative.
Adding in Activity
We paired the episodes with Hurricanes and Tornadoes by Gail Gibbons. Then we culminated with a STEM activity asking students to design and build a tornado safe structure that protects a sticky note person from a box fan attack. Students explored what type of engineering was needed to make this happen, and had a blast trying to solve this problem.
Here are some instructions to our tornado proof structure to get you started! If you click on the title link, there is a more in depth lesson plan.
You need (for each group):
- Sticky note (for paper person)
- 8 cups
- 10 notecards
- 25 straws
- Container of play-doh
- Foil pan
- Hole punch
- 1-3 box fans for the class
What to do:
1. Students will complete this activity in groups of four or five.
2. Each group should get a sticky note (to make into the person they have to keep safe), 8 cups, 10 notecards, 25 straws, one container of play-doh, one foil pan to build their structure in, one hole punch, a pair of scissors, and the handout. It may help to have these supplies ready in gallon ziploc baggies before hand. You will also need a fan (or three) to test the structures.
Students first plan, and then build, and then test their structure by using a box fan. There are printables to make copies of for students to create a plan, analyze other groups’ structures, and think about how they could revise their structure to make it better.
One of my favorite things about STEM learning in the classroom is that there is almost always a student who is successful in solving the problem who isn’t as “successful” in reading or math. Providing non-traditional learners the chance to feel like they are really good at something is an invaluable opportunity. They gain a lot of confidence in their abilities and their learning, and this confidence can carry over to areas they may struggle in.
Make Time for Movement
I encourage you to make time for movement and hands on learning in your classroom as well. These are the moments that will stand out to your students when they look back and think about their favorite elementary experiences.
Gifted and Talented Facilitator