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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Donors Choose: Providing Students with Real-World Experiences in STEM!

It's about time I post a new project to Donors Choose.  I have settled into my new position and identified a few needs in terms of supplies and materials for my classroom.  Donors Choose is a fantastic website that I have blogged about before.  Teachers can create an account and then create a project asking donors to support their classroom.  This year I have decided to compile a list of STEM books to enhance my instruction, a few teacher resources for labs and activities that provide real-world experiences, and some lab materials that include solar panels.  My kids are absolutely ecstatic for this project since they picked most of the materials themselves.  Please take the time to look over my project and consider donating just a few dollars.  Until April 24th, donors can enter the code INSPIRE and Donors Choose will DOUBLE your donation.  Thanks for all you do!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kindergarten Days (continued)...

Last month I was able to conduct my rotating STEM centers in class over the course of two days.  I still need a new name for these "Kindergarten Days", but so far they are wildly popular with the kids!  The students can not wait to do them again next week.

Ultimately I decided to go with 6 stations with a max of 5 students at each station.  I did not make students rotate  the first time, but when I do the centers again I will not permit students to stay at the "Game On!" station for more than one rotation.  Over the course of two days I introduced the centers and then allowed the students to participate.  On the first day I walked through the centers, explained the directions, and showed them examples of the activities.  With the last twelve minutes of that class period the students did a "tasting" of the stations and were able to spend two minutes at each station looking through the materials and activities.  The second day the students were able to come to class, pick a station (based on grades this time) and begin working almost immediately for a total of 40 minutes with the centers.  My phone went off every 12 or so minutes for the kids who wanted to rotate.

I had to rearrange my desks to accommodate all of the computers (and cords), iPads, activities, and students.  This is the arrangement I settled on and it worked very well.  (I took this from my substitute binder - STEM Center Direction sheet.)  I was able to bring in two power strips and plug in all of the laptops without creating a safety hazard!

I tucked the Reading Nook back in a corner with carpet squares, extra chairs, and the dying plants (I do NOT have a green thumb).  The chalkboard was used as a parking lot for the students to write questions on as they read about STEM related topics.  (After the centers were completed and cleaned up, I left the chalkboard out and worked through the student's questions answering them or printing out additional resources.)

I am currently using all of the centers I noted in my first post.  In addition, I plan on providing more structure to my Game On! station.  The kids love to play the BridgeBuilder and TinkerBox apps I have on the iPads, but I would like to provide a bit more depth to their "play" time.  I am undecided how to go about doing this at this time.  Still thinking...

Not everyone has the privilege of participating in my centers.  The centers are a reward for students that have completed all of their work for my class.  Students that owe work sit at a table near my desk (tucked in a corner of my room) and work with me on make-up assignments.  Since the students really enjoy the centers, I have had fewer problems with work being turned in.  In order to assess the students on these days I have them carry a half sheet of paper folded into three sections.  Every time the alarm on my phone goes off a new question is posted on the board for them to think about and then answer in that time period.  This acts as their "Ticket Out The Door" on center days.  For the first trial run I accepted any response.  Next week when I do the centers again I will provide the students with examples of quality responses and grade the foldables based on quality.

Shoot me any questions/comments you have and watch my TPT store for a FREE STEM Centers pack in the near future!