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Friday, May 9, 2014

Beavers: An Integrated STEM Unit

Now that I have had some experience in planning and teaching STEM, I am really trying to be intentional and reflective about integrating each of the components of STEM in order to build a learning experience that will engage students as well as teach the curriculum at a deep level.
So, for this post, I have outlined the learning experiences of this unit through the STEM lens.

The Launch:

The Science:
The beaver's challenge to learn about beavers and dams took scholars directly to research. A RAN Chart (Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction) was used to record information thought to be known, with opportunities to confirm or disconfirm during the research process. It also provided an organizational tool where new learning and questions were recorded. This chart facilitated our research and information collection.

The two most useful books we found while researching were:



We also used the app World Book of Animals.


We also watched a few video clips and this one is by far the best. We watched it over and over!

Scholars learned a great deal about the appearance, habitat, diet and survival of the beaver...all part of the science curriculum.



The Technology
Technology was integrated into this unit regularly. When the focus was on the appearance of the beaver, scholars used the Doodlecast app to label the parts of the beaver then record their understanding of how the Beaver's body is adapted for survival. 

video


Summarizing information is a challenging skill so I worked with small groups of students using Haiku Deck to summarize important information at the conclusion of the research.







We used a new game based classroom response system called Kahoot to assess learning.  The kids LOVE it! The quiz show structure gives immediate feedback (a nice opportunity for a quick reteach to clear up misconceptions) and it compiles a 'leader board' as well as the declaration of a winner. Following the game, teachers can access and print the results, nicely organized on an Excel spreadsheet. 

The Engineering
As a result of of their research, scholars were well prepared to engineer their own beaver dams. We took a nature walk to a nearby park to collect the materials...sticks and stones. Model Magic served as the 'mud'.  

Scholars worked with their parents at our annual school-wide STEM night to plan, design, create and test models of a beaver dam.









The Math
As part of our research, scholars learned that a large beaver could be four feet tall. Kindergartners really do not have a concept of what 48 inches is, so I made a paper model of this large beaver and scholars compared their own height to that of the beaver telling if they were taller, shorter or the same height as the beaver.


The integration of math in this particular project was a bit slim. As I reflect on the unit as a whole, this is an area I want to improve upon. I think that I could have planned for comparisons between beavers and other mammals...or other animal groups. I could have arranged for animal cut-outs to be measured with cubes and counted, ordered and compared. Certainly, I will be more intentional in planning the math component in future integrated STEM projects.  



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