Nature Appreciation and STEM Success

Helllloooo from beautiful Michigan! We finally got the nice weather we have been waiting for deserving (it snowed last week). I have had an amazing past few days. I just got back from an amazing weekend in Chicago. Family from all over, some of whom I have not seen in over three years, reunited in the windy city for my cousins beautiful wedding. If there is one thing I absolutely love and cannot get enough of, it is seeing my family happy together. So after this weekend, I figured coming back to school on Monday would be tough--but it was a great day! 81 degrees and fun with my kids and then a trip to Lake Michigan my co-worker/roomie. It could snow tomorrow so here in Michigan we take advantage of these gorgeous days. And who says you can't go to the beach on a Monday? I might make this a thing. 

Anyway---I have a tech tip of the week coming to you later this week. The good news is I have two amazing things happening in my room to share with you!

1.) Nature Appreciation...isn't that neat?! Ok if you don't get that reference you have to watch this video (before you watch just know it will be 2 minutes and 46 seconds you will never get back...can't said I didn't warn you!). 

Some incredible teachers at our school wrote a grant to develop an outdoor nature program for our kids. It is SO awesome. Shout out to Debbie and Julie who set everything up and spend an hour each day with a class outside. They are giving our little guys an opportunity most kids do not get these days. A lot of students attending our school do not have yards or woods to play in. So, they cleared an area behind the school that kids get to explore and observe nature in. They also get to (this one is my favorite parts) build forts...with sticks...! One more reference that is hilarious and totally applicable for this situation. This video is way better than the one I posted about nature...

We have had two classes so far with these amazing educators and the kids just love their time with them outside. I get to sit back and watch students journal on a tree stump about their surroundings, watch students listening for birds and bugs, watch boys and girls working together to build a teeter-totter or a bench made completely out of things they found in the woods, and watch students bonding, laughing and having fun together. Check out some awesome pictures below, and a tweet from Julie that melted my heart.

As Debbie put it, you can take the teeter totter out of the parks, but you can't the teeter totter out of the kids! 
The boys made this bench all on their own!
Proud bench makers.

2.) STEM Success I am implementing STEM time in my room this year and the kids and myself are loving it so far. With Brooke Brown's STEM challenges, we are able to do different 3 different STEM challenges each month! It's very little prep and a little spending on the teachers part (but so worth it!). I can repurpose materials and find items needed around my room most of the time. When I think about where my students began with our STEM challenges compared to where they are now, I feel so proud. The first STEM challenge was SO tough...the kids just sat there at first. How do I do it? Can you help me Miss Stasiak? I don't know how to. Notice how there are a lot of "I" and "me" going on in those questions and statements. 

I kept telling them they were working in a group for a reason and I was not going to help them or show them how to do anything. Failure is learning. Be patient. Be persistent. None of that is happening in my room during STEM challenges now. Can I show you guys my idea? That's a good plan. We didn't think of that! We did it! Miss Stasiak look at what we did!! 

Besides the fact that I know my kids LOVE the STEM challenges AND that they're using their science/technology/engineering/math brains, my favorite thing about these challenges is that they are learning valuable, critical life skills. Communicating and working with others, trial and error, persistence, patience, problem solving...the list goes on and on! Not convinced yet? They're also using their imagination to get creative to solve their problems. Check out our most recent STEM challenge: Egg Drop!

Step 1: Planning. Before we start constructing, we take some time to list what materials we need and to draw a blueprint of whatever structure we plan to build that day. They have to agree to a plan as a team.


Step 2: Gather materials and construct. Anything and everything happens during this time. I set a time limit based on how difficult the task is. They can use the entire time to work, or finish quickly and wait for the other teams to finish! It is totally up to them :) 


Step 3: Feel every emotion waiting to test the final product. We circle around the group testing their structure to ask questions about their idea, watch the test and cheer no matter what the outcome! 

Step 4: Celebrate and reflect! We congratulate every group on their hard work and then go back to our STEM packets to reflect on how we thought the test went. Did it go as planned? What would we do differently? Then they rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to take the creation home :) 

Those smiles :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful week full of sunshine and warm weather :) I have some fun Earth Day activities that I can't wait to post at the end of the week. Stay tuned!

Happy teaching!

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