Tuesday, 6 January 2015

S.T.E.M Challenges with Buddies

This year, my grade 4's are Big Buddies to a grade 1/2 class.  We try to meet every couple weeks, usually on Friday afternoons.  We do the "traditional" Buddy meeting where we read to the Littles and vice versa, however, we are trying to mix it up with some S.T.E.M Challenges.  

If you are unfamiliar with the term, S.T.E.M stands for:
S - Science
T - Technology
E - Engineering
M - Mathematics

Kids use a skillset in S.T.E.M Challenges that they don't necessarily get to use throughout the regular school day.  They can increase their teamwork skills, critical thinking and motivation.

We have completed two S.T.E.M. Challenges so far this year.  The first was Spaghetti and Marshmallow Towers.  In groups of two (one Big and one Little) students received a handful of spaghetti and 20 mini marshmallows.  They also had one scooter to use as their tower base.  The task was to build the tallest tower in 30 minutes that fit on the scooter base and was stable enough to move to a judging area.

The kids were really eager to get going on this task.  I was so impressed with how well they worked together.  We ask the kids to pick a new buddy each time.  I was also really impressed that no one ate any marshmallows as they worked!  I know that was pretty tempting for some.

Students who made a triangular or square base seemed to have the most success.  Also, those with cross-bracing did better too.  What I loved most about this challenge was that the grade 4's were equally as engaged and tested as the 1's and 2's.  


The second challenge we did was Gingerbread Men Traps.  We did this challenge on the last day of school before Christmas break.  It was the perfect alternative to a hectic class party.  We split the classes in half.  I took half to do the challenge first, while the other half decorated gingerbread men in the Little's classroom.  After about 45 minutes we switched.

We had asked the students to bring in a few recyclables ahead of time.  Some brought water bottles and boxes, others had tin cans and gum containers.  We also gave them access to Popsicle sticks, yarn, Dixie cups, straws, cotton balls and tape.

The final item we gave everyone was a gingerbread cut out.  We found it in this excellent free package from Smart Chick Teaching on TpT.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Gingerbread-Man-Trap-Engineering-Challenge-Project-Great-STEM-Activity-982948

Before they could gather supplies and get going, every Buddy group had to sketch out a plan on a blank paper.  After they presented their plan to me, I gave them whatever they needed.

What I loved about this challenge was that every group had a completely different end result.  They are so creative! 



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