Kindergarten and first grade students walk into the library with curiosity, tables are setup with toothpicks and Dots candies. To keep them from instantly grabbing at the tools, we start at the carpet in front of the Smartboard. Instead of launching into what STEM is, I tell them we are going to watch a video telling a very popular story, The Three Little Pigs. Laughter fills the air as they watch the pigs and the wolf on screen. As the story ends, I explain there is a 4th little pig that needs a house built by them.
The kids start to chatter about the possibilities, so I bring them back in to listen. I tell them about the tools that are on their tables - toothpicks and Dots. I even show them how the toothpicks and Dots are used together to make structures. They are told they have to provide walls and a roof of some sort, and it cannot lean on the pig. I finish it by telling them that it is going to have to be safe from the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow their houses down.
Students are put into teams of 3-4 students. They are given 10 minutes to work together to build their first structure. It is interesting to walk around the room and listen to what they are saying to each other. There are times when I am coaching them through how to effectively communicate with their teammates. To me, this is the most valuable thing I have done in this first session of STEM. It is so vital we build the skills of communicating when working in a group. We talk about using words like, "I agree..." or "I disagree..." to start our conversations.
After the 10 minutes is up, hands are in the air and then in their laps so they aren't building. I swoop the plates off the tables and bring them to the front - this keeps their hands from being on them. At that time, I pull out the wolf (my blow dryer with a mask attached!). He huffs and puffs (on low) and tests their houses. The class also checks for 3 things: Does it have a roof? Walls? And, is it standing on its own without leaning on the pig? Constructive criticism is given, houses are handed back, and groups are give about 7 minutes to make plan changes.
After 7 minutes, the wolf comes back, and blows harder (on high) to test the houses. We can then see which ones survive and which do not.
When all is said and done, we have a discussion that centers around 2 things, the construction of the actual house and the pluses and minuses of our teamwork. Students often recognize they need a strong base and we the discussion about 3D and 2D comes up, as well as what shapes are involved in most of the houses (triangles and squares).
Talking about how their teams did is really important. The first rule is that names are not mentioned. They should talk about people on their team as "someone on my team..." because it is not important WHO did the behavior, but why the behavior was not helpful.
So many of the students thank me for doing this with them. They had so much fun being engineers! I can't wait to do our next activity soon. Thanks for the idea, Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten!
I used this Smore to guide my lesson! Feel free to use it for your Three Little Pigs STEM lesson!
Fifth grade teacher in a 1:1 iPad classroom, sharing my journey with technology in the classroom