As I return to the classroom after over eight months off (maternity leave was WONDERFUL!) I am reevaluating my Back to School Night presentation.
For my 1st year teaching STEM I created a brochure and had example units I may do with the students. I spent most of my time explaining the course and what STEM meant to parents and students. After spending a GLORIOUS week in Washington D.C. with some awesome fellows at the Siemens STEM Institute, I was inspired to create a very exciting movie to show parents highlighting student projects from the previous year. This year... I just wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I knew I was done with the boring, done with the talking, and done with "the norm."
After a few weeks of tweaking my Back to School night handout and making sure all of my contact information and policies were updated, I decided that parents needed a real taste of my class. So, with the 10 minutes I have with each parent group, I began planning a STEM activity. Granted 10 minutes is not nearly enough time to use the Engineering Design Process or reflect on the results of the activity, it is just enough time to give parents and students a taste of what to expect in my class.
Without an activity in mind I began listing what I hoped to gain from this different Back to School Night experience. First, I wanted to do something in groups since the students are always working in groups. Next, I knew it had to be hands on. Everyone loves to build and create so I made that a priority. Lastly I determined I needed to make sure math was in the mix. My class is technically called Applications of Mathematics, so I wanted parents (and students) to see that there is a bit of math in everything.
THE PAPER AIRPLANE!
I know I can not do an entire challenge in 10 minutes or collect the data that would make this a valuable learning experience. However, I felt that the paper airplane was an easy enough activity to complete in the limited time and allow for some data collection. I am working under the assumption that my parents and students know how to fold a paper airplane. My plan is to give parents and students about five minutes to create their planes and NOT fly them. Groups will then line up at the bottom of my measuring tape and fly them one at a time. On the board I will document the distance. At the end of the night I will post outside of my classroom the name of the winning group with the winning paper airplane. In theory, this should work. I can not wait to attempt this activity with the parents and students on Tuesday night. I will be sure to post an update as soon as I can about the results of my new approach to Back to School Night.