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Tagged With: Engineering

How to Teach STEM Every Day

STEM in schoolSTEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four topics cover every aspect of our life. Science is our natural world, from the land we live on to the oceans and space we aspire to visit. It’s the weather that changes our picnic plans to the natural disaster that destroyed a town in our own state. Technology includes the iPads toddlers play on, the smartphones we use to guide our days, the apps that turn our lights on and off–or start our car. Engineering is why traffic flows smoothly on crowded roads and why bridges survive despite massive loads of trucks, and is the foundation for much research into global warming and alternative energy. Mathematics happens everywhere–at the grocery store, the bank, the family budget,  the affirmative nod from parents to update a child’s computer to their agreement to add apps from the app store.

Every corner of every life includes STEM, which explains the increasing interest in STEM-educated students to fill the nation’s jobs. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. According to the Bureau of Labor and Management:

… jobs in computing and mathematics are projected to grow by 20 percent.

Significantly, STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. The reason: Students trained in STEM subjects think critically, develop creative solutions, solve problems rather than look to others for solutions, and create logical processes that can be duplicated in all parts of their life. STEM-trained students understand how to look at the forest and find the particular tree.


Categories: Education reform, Math, Science | Tags: , | Leave a comment

C-STEM Studio — A Great Way to Blend Math and Robotics

C-STEM Studio is a California A-G approved curriculum and turn-key solution for teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics through computing and robotics.  This web-based scalable program is available for elementary through high school students and can last anywhere from four weeks to a year. As Professor Harry Cheng, Director of the UC Davis Center for Computing and STEM Education who offers this program, states simply: “Our goal is to get kids interested in math and robotics through hands-on computing and robotics.” In fact, the C-STEM Studio algebra curriculum is fully aligned with Common Core state standards in mathematics.

Programs that run through the Studio are:linkbot labs

  • Linkbot–students write a simple program to complete a function that is then uploaded to a robot–in this case, a Linkbot. One feature I found in this program which I rarely saw in others: It’ll point out syntax errors in programming. This is well-suited to younger students.
  • RoboSim–students program a virtual robot of their choice (by picking from among Lego Mindstorm and others) in a virtual environment.
  • RoboBlockly–a web-based robot simulation using a drag-and-drop interface to program virtual Linkbot and Lego robots. The RoboBlockly curriculum includes a student self-guided Hour of Code activity as well as teacher-led math activities that meet Common Core state standards for fourth to ninth grade.
  • ChArduino–students use Ch programming (kind of a simplified, easier-to-learn C+) and an Arduino board.

To assist teachers, UC Davis offers professional development  that lasts between two days and a week on how to roll out the lessons and/or curriculum in their classrooms as well as a C-STEM Conference to share ideas and stories with other educators.  For students, there are CSTEM camps and competitions to showcase the robot wizardry of programmers from elementary through high school.roboblocky

To evaluate C-STEM Studio, let’s look at three questions:

  • so what
  • who cares
  • why bother

So What

One of the most pressing and timely issues facing the education community nationally is how we can address teaching math, science, and engineering concepts to the K-12 population. C-STEM Studio does that with a compelling and thorough software program which trains both students and teachers to use robotics as a superior vehicle for learning math.


Categories: Games/Simulations, Math, Reviews, Science | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

3 Lesson Plans to Teach Architecture in First Grade

1st grade architectureHere’s a great lesson plan with three activities well-suited to the discussion of architecture and design in 1st grade:


Students complete three projects in two weeks to aid understanding of architecture, design, and three-dimensional thinking. They’ll experiment with spatially laying out a three-dimensional structure on a two-dimensional paper. When completed, they’ll discuss with neighbors while practicing good listening skills learned in class.

Start with a discussion of design. This includes size, shape, texture, proportion, scale, mass and color. We will apply these to rooms, buildings, and neighborhoods. Encourage students to think and analyze critically as they engage in learning.

In figures below, ask students which are two- or three-dimensions? How do they know?

[gallery ids="50170,50171,50172,50173,50164"]

Design the Classroom

Visit Classroom Architect and demo how to design the classroom with drag-and-drop pieces (see figures below). Take suggestions from class on layout. Students must think about where tables and storage are relative to other items. This is an active learning lesson that encourages visual thinking. Develop a sample based on class input and show how to make corrections if necessary.


Categories: 1st, Lesson plans, Reviews, Science, Teacher resources, Web Tools, Websites | Tags: | 4 Comments

Common Core: A Lesson Plan for STEM (on Bridges)

common coreHere’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Math Strand. This covers K-8, 114 Standards, and has 20 projects.

BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to check off the skill–track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print out for your classroom use:

Essential Question

How can I use practical and theoretical knowledge to solve a problem?


Students virtually construct a viable, affordable bridge and submit it (if age limits met) to a national competition. They use theoretical knowledge in a practical application.  When done, they reflect on importance of both theoretical and practical in problem solving.

This lesson contributes to the rigor of your school’s math program, defined by Common Core: … Use of technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying to authentic circumstances.

By the end of this unit, middle school students will review all eight Standards for Mathematical Procedures, 3 W and 3 RST standards, as well as embrace an authentic experience in problem solving and the practical applications of math knowledge.

Big Idea


Categories: 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, Lesson plans, Math, Reviews | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Weekend Website #73: 3 Programs to Teach Architecture in First Grade

Every Friday I’ll send you a wonderful website that my classes and my parents love. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of your students as they are of mine.


1st Grade


Architecture, structures


Three projects over six weeks and your students will learn about blueprints, room layout, dimensions. Plus, they’ll understand how to think about a three-dimensional object and then spatially lay it out on paper. This is challenging, but fun for first graders.

Spend two weeks on each projects. Incorporate a discussion of spaces, neighborhoods, communities one week. Practice the drawing, then do the final project which students can save and print. Kids will love this unit.

  • First, draw a picture in KidPix of the child’s home using the KidPix architecture tools (use TuxPaint if you don’t have KidPix–it’s free). Have kids think about their house, walk through it. They’ll have to think in three dimensions and will soon realize they can’t draw a two-story house. In that case, allow them to pick which rooms they wish to include and concentrate on what’s in the room. Use the ‘stamps’ tool (in KidPix) to find items.
[caption id="attachment_4159" align="aligncenter" width="585"]first grade Classroom layout–through the eyes of a First Grader[/caption]
Categories: 1st, Lesson plans, Reviews, Science, Teacher resources, Websites | Tags: , | Leave a comment