Posts Tagged Curriculum Tie-in

STEM Tuesday Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them – In the Classroom

Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them

For this In the Classroom feature, I’m taking a broad view of the idea of “invention,” and including similar processes, such as discovery (science) and engineering, although each is unique.I’ve also tried to give a broad range of possible activities–some of them hands-on STEM experiences, others more literary, imaginative, or whimsical, to help you ignite the type of passion and curiosity that your students will be reading about in this month’s books.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMind Your (and Your Students’) Metaphors
You can explore metaphors and our perceptions of discovery, while learning about a whole range of innovators, with Joyce Sidman’s Eureka! Poems about Inventors (illustrated by K. Bennett Chavez).

Especially with older students, you can begin by conducting the survey described and discussed in Kristen C. Elmore and Myra Luna-Lucera’s work, article, “Light Bulbs or Seeds? How Metaphors for Ideas Influence Judgments About Genius,” which examines how specific metaphors about discovery influence our perceptions of the not just of the process, but, perhaps surprisingly, of the discoverers and value of their achievements. After students respond to the survey (resources are provided in the article), let them in on the whole study and discuss their own responses in light of the researchers’ findings.

Then crack open Eureka! While enjoying the poems and thinking about the inventors, also of looking for the ways in which design, discovery, and invention are portrayed. In any poem, does Sidman seem to see the inventor’s experience as  a “light bulb moment” (as the book’s title suggests), or as a process of  “nurturing seeds?” Perhaps something else? Overall, does Sidman’s view of invention seem to favor one metaphor or the other? (Keep in mind that you can continue this discussion with respect to other books from this month’s list.)

Of course, after students read the stories in Eureka! it makes perfect sense for them to write their own poems about:

  • Their own experiences of discovery or engineering insight
  • Other innovators featured in this month’s books–Elon Musk or Isaac Newton, for example.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDream Big—Really Big (and Then Maybe Engineer Something)

Readers of Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk & the Quest for a Fantastic Future will surely notice something that really makes Elon Musk stand out: his mission-driven ambition.

This guy dreams big.

Many people– including engineers and inventors–hope to make the world a better place; Musk wants to save humanity. This kind of high-impact calling can be a great motivator for future engineers and other innovators. Capitalize on the excitement of the Musk’s vision with one or more of these ideas:

Encourage Daydreaming!

  • Invite your students to take a cue from Musk and envision something that would be really important to the well-being of people around the world. Begin a discussion with a grand question: If you could invent anything to make the world a much better place for everyone, what would you invent?

 

  • Follow through with a brainstorming session around this question, encouraging students to think about ideas that might not seem realistic or possible right now. (If the class has already read the book, you can remind students that Musk’s ideas might not have seemed feasible at first, and, in fact, that lots of people have scoffed at his ideas.)

 

  • Keep a running dream-list posted in the classroom and return to it from time to time. Invite students to keep “Dream Books,” where they focus on one or two ideas (or more) and write and sketch about how the dream might become a reality through some technology.

 

  • You can expand on this idea by holding your own school version of the National Academy of Engineering’s “E4U” contest—minus the $25,000 grand prize– which (apparently) was last held in 2016. While the national contest is not open now, students can follow the contest rules to create 1-2 minute videos that aim to highlight a mega-engineering project related to one of their big dreams and, in the words of the contest guidelines, “expand the way people think about engineering and how it is involved in solving large-scale global challenges.” Check out winning entries, guidelines that you can use or adapt, and an explanatory (if outdated) video at the E4U contest site. Whether you run this as a contest or a showcase, this is a creative way to help students connect to Musk’s work and the importance of STEM in our world

Join Musk on His Mission (Sort Of)

For a more concrete experience, lead your students through engineering projects with connections to SpaceX rockets and Tesla’s electric cars, such as those featured in these resources from Design Squad Global:

Musk is all about the future. But there’s plenty of excitement in the past. Just check out the likes of Isaac Newton, whose experiences can add a bit of magic to how we think of early science and engineering.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgExplore a Little Magic with Isaac Newton

From the outset of Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d, author Mary Losure explains to readers that in Isaac Newton’s time, some of what we now understand through science, such as chemical reactions and optical effects,  seemed a lot like magic.

They still do.  Have fun with this idea and explore the magical effects of our everyday world!

 

  • Adapt additional resources to create inquiry-based, surprising, and delightfully magical lessons. (Notes: I named these activities to spice things up; you won’t see these activity names in the resources. Also, see the safety reminder, below.)

Spirit Writing?

Cast a Colorful Spell (magic trick begins at about the 7-minute mark)

Cast a Colorful Spell 2

Refraction Action: Disappearing Coin

Liquid Refraction Action 2: Liquid Invisibility Cloak!

Vanishing Glass (See Item 1 in the linked resource.)

 

  •  Finally, to continue the science-is-magical theme, and for a bit more fun and a creative literacy extension, you might have students write and perform scripts for a magic show, each student team building a story or act that uses one of the chemical reactions to create the “magic.”

As I find every month when I contribute to STEMTuesday, the books on the list inspire many more lesson ideas than space will allow. What inspires you? Leave a comment sharing new ideas or comments on what you see here!


*Safety Reminder: The magic/science activities are generally safe, but in the classroom, you should always be sure to follow the guidelines for safety and for modeling safe use of all chemicals. Check with your local science curriculum coordinator or the National Science Teachers Association Minimum Safety Practices and Regulations for Demonstrations, Experiments, and Workshops.


portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoSTEM Tuesday–In the Classroom contributor, author, and STEM education consultant Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano writes about science and technology/engineering for kids.  Running on Sunshine: How Does Solar Energy Work? –a book for early readers released this month–celebrates the innovative spirit and challenges behind engineering solar technologies, and received a starred review from Kirkus.

STEM Tuesday Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them – Book List

One of the world’s greatest inventors, Thomas A. Edison, once said that “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Well, that might,or might not be true. To find out, explore these books about invention. Perhaps you will be inspired to do a little inventing yourself. And as an added plus, these STEM titles also provide terrific links to literacy, history and art.

As always, help us out by suggesting other titles that fit this theme.

Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions by Mary Kay Carson
A biography of one of the world’s greatest inventors.  A staple for any middle grade STEM shelf. Mary Kay Carson shows readers how Bell was inspired by his nearly-deaf mother and his father who created an alphabet of images of the sounds a human being can make. Includes 21 activities!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Innovation Nation: How Canadian Inventors Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier, Happier by David Johnston and Tom Jenkins
A fascinating look at our neighbor country’s inventors. This volume is jam-packed with fifty different inventions, including the igloo, the life jacket, and the canoe. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton Revealed by Mary Losure
(JLG selection)  Young Isaac lived in a apothecary’s house and recorded his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. Mary Losure delves into the childhood of the great Isaac Newton in this narrative nonfiction biography that traces Newton’s development as one of the great thinkers of our time.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Higher, Steeper, Faster: The Daredevils Who Conquered the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone
(JLG selection)  A historical biography of the men and women who  popularized flying through their death-defying stunts. Young readers will discover loop-the-loops, corkscrews, and other daring maneuvers by male and female aviators.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Science Comics – Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared by Allison Wilgus and Molly Brooks
(JLG selection)  This fun look at the Wright Brothers earned a NSTA Best STEM of 2017 honor. Before daredevils wowed us with stunts, the airplane had to be invented. Young readers will enjoy the illustrations and text as they learn about the Wright Brothers carefully recorded experiments that led to the world’s first flying machines.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Eureka! Poems About Inventors by Joyce Sidman
A perfect read for Poetry Month. This book of narrative poems explores the minds of the creators of everything from the chocolate bar to the (ahem) bra. Readers will meet Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Crosby, and many other noted innovators just as their creativity blooms.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future: Young Readers’ Edition by Ashlee Vance
(JLG) Read about the  fascinating inventor of the TESLA and SpaceX, Elon Musk, in this young readers edition biography. Written with exclusive access to Musk and his family and friends, this book takes readers from Musk’s childhood in South Africa through adulthood and his inventions that rock the world.

STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She enjoys sharing her adventures, research, and writing tips. She strives to inform, inspire, and educate her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of  a Sibert Honor Award for Sea Otter Heroes and the Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

STEM Tuesday All About Conservation- Writing Craft and Resources

 

Maps & Footprints

(Author’s Note: I recently read an estimated 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist in 2018. That’s only twelve years from now. 12 years! Today’s elementary students and those kids who aren’t even in school yet will face a whole new world and workplace. The way we raise, teach, and prepare the future adults of 2030 must also shift as we bridge the gap between the industrial age and the digital age. Conservation will occupy a fundamental piece in this shift and STEAM will have to rise to the forefront to meet the challenges. Think STEAM literacy and philosophy are important now? Over the next decade, they will become considerably more vital to the education of our young minds. The future that rests in the hands of the kids out in the playground today depends on how we manage our limited resources. We need STEAM thinkers and we need to crank up their STEAM education. It’s up to us to make sure they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. 12 years will be here in the blink of an eye.)

There are two ways of looking at conservation. Conservation from an ecological point of view means we work to preserve our resources. Animals, plants, land, soil, materials, culture, etc. are generally the common resources targeted by conservationists. In the majority of these cases, these projects are undertaken for either efficiency or ethical reasons. For example, plant and agricultural scientists look to protect the biodiversity of existing foodstuffs by preserving seed varieties deep under the ice, such as at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The second way to look at conservation is through the physical science lens—the nuts and bolts science that underlies the way our world works. Conservation of mass, energy, and momentum all state that some property (matter, energy, momentum) in an isolated system doesn’t change over time. The old “matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed” principle many can probably recite in their sleep.

Conservation of a system

Our world is an interconnected system. Planet Earth is an isolated system, but we are not isolated within the system. One of the most important thought shifts, as we move forward in the field of conservation, will be to recognize interconnected systems and how the pieces and parts of the system function together.

  • How does protecting this one factor affect the entire system?
  • How does one behavior cascade down, around, over, under, or through the behavior and well-being of others?

Take an electric car in the year 2018 as an example. Big environmental impact? Not as much as you might think. Sure the emissions are down, which is great.

But how was that electricity generated? Fossil fuels or solar or wind or hydroelectric?

As you can see, the system matters. The conservation issues, both the ecological and the physical parts, must be studied for the entire system in order to develop long-term and successful solutions.

In order to develop long-term solutions to our local and global conservation issues, we need to develop system thinkers. Problem solvers who are able to attack problems from a systemic approach and look at all the parts of the whole.

In short, we as parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and scientists need to develop STEAM thinkers!

Maps

Last month, Heather gave us an excellent exercise for making sound maps. I like this exercise both as a writer and as a scientist. It’s a simple, easy, take-it-anywhere method to develop observational skills. This month for a conservation slant, work those observational muscles by repeating the sound map exercise several different times at several different places/locations (Preferably completely different places, like a park, a busy intersection, a mall, a sports event, a pasture). To this map, add additional details of the system. People, cars, workers, stop lights, animals, weather…whatever interacts with this small system you are observing in the time in which you are observing.

Footprints

Take your detailed map from the above exercise and think about all the observations that were recorded in that system. Now the fun part. Make a list of those moving or static interacting parts and consider the ecological or physical footprint of those parts within your mapped system.

  • How are energy and mass being incorporated in this system?
  • What story do they tell?
  • What are some of the reaching effects happening in this system?

Here’s a quick example from what’s going on outside the laboratory today with a construction crew patching potholes on a busy street leading into a high traffic flow intersection.

  • What effect does the construction have on the traffic flow? Traffic congestion.
  • How does the intersection system benefit when the construction crew is finished? Improved traffic flow and increased safety due to the poor quality of the road causing vehicles to swerve out of the way of monster pothole leading into the busy intersection.
  • What’s the economic impact of the work? The workers make money which they spend at local businesses. They patch that monster pothole and save potential repair costs on hundreds of vehicles that pass that way every hour. The area businesses around the intersection may experience a temporary lull in business due to the construction which will return to normal quickly.
  • What’s their environmental impact? The trucks and asphalt produce harmful emissions in their use and disposal but traffic flows smoother which allows travelers to reach their destinations within the system more efficiently.

Thinking Points

What are points to consider as conservation efforts move forward taking into account the systemic effects?

Laws of supply and demand. The economics of conservation is perhaps the single most important force either blocking or promoting conservation efforts. Economics from both the supply side and the demand side are important pieces of the puzzle that need respect and consideration in the solutions

Management and design. Great strides have been taken over the past few decades in these facets of conservation. Smarter buildings, transportation systems, and energy production have made and will make a difference. But these things take time and money so patience and persistence are important.

Saving the planet vs saving ourselves. We need to get a little selfish but in a smart way. Conservation, at its core, is about us protecting the things important to our survival and wellness as a species. Our needs, our values, and our histories all matter. The planet will probably be here long after we’re gone, let’s make sure we don’t force ourselves out before our time.

Conclusion

Matter and energy in a finite system are neither created or destroyed. This is something we’ve been taught in about every physical science class since our latter elementary school days. We’ve heard it so many times, we probably don’t even consider its power and its importance in the field of conservation. Perhaps, it’s time for the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy to step outside the classroom and into the minds of every action we take.

In a finite system, we only have so much of a resource so we need responsible and system-sensitive solutions to conserve and/or replenish these resources. We need a STEAM generation that understands the systems and can develop solutions to improve conservation with the entire system in mind.

The goal is to develop a STEM/STEAM generation that pays attention and understands their maps and their footprints.

 

Indosylvirana urbis, the Urban Golden-backed Frog resting in the pink colored boat-shaped bract of the Curcuma angustifolia (East Indian Arrowroot) flower.

 


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at conservation from several different angles, including systems, space, art, failures, and the laws of conservation.


 By MIKE HAYS

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports-related topics at coachhays.com and writer stuff at mikehaysbooks.com. He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.