It's the first day of Term 2 today and what better way is there to kick it off than with a super fun STEAM challenge?
The Year 6 students have an exciting integrated STEAM unit ahead this term where they will be designing and building their own solar products. This unit is inspired by Solar Buddies, but that will have to wait until another blog...
The design process and design thinking are going to be a large part of our STEAM unit this week and to get the ball rolling I wanted to give the students a practical way to introduce the design process. The activity I set for the class required them to work in small groups to construct a bridge between two chairs that a Sphero robot could safely traverse. This is not an original idea. Pinterest is full of related lesson ideas and it can also be found in the Sphero Lighting Lab lessons.
Students were provided with a variety of materials including paddle pop sticks, match sticks, fold back clips, pegs, rubber bands and string. A few basic expectations were set regarding the distance their bridge had to span and also that the only place they could use any type of sticky tape or masking tape, was when connecting their construction to the chairs. Students only had twenty minutes to construct their solutions. At the end of the time they tested their designs and recorded their results on their Student Story on Class Dojo.
I was actually pretty impressed. There were a lot of successful designs in the short time provided and the children had a lot of fun. Following the activity we discussed what happens when we go about designing a solution to a problem. The activity provided a good example for students to base their contributions to the discussion on. Many acknowledged that they talked with their team about the best materials for the project, design requirements, before testing a few different construction ideas. A few identified that time to study real world examples of bridge design would help them to build a better bridge.
The activity provided me with the opportunity to highlight a couple of key thoughts I felt were important the children leave the lesson with:
1. A failed design is not really a failure. It's part of the design process and provides an opportunity to reflect on the design and improve it.
2. The design process is often improved with collaboration. Working as a team, consulting with specialists and building on shared ideas usually results in even better outcomes and productivity.
The Design Process we will be using was developed by the Queensland Department of Education and Training for their C2C Units, available to Australian educators via Scootle. I finished the lesson by introducing this and asking the students to imagine the bridges they could create with a little more time and guidance from the Design Process. We will be using this process to frame our unit this term.
What model do you use with students to facilitate the design process? There are some really great models out there. I'd love to hear what others are using. Leave a comment below!
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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