Sunday, May 19, 2013

STEM conference - NSTA, St. Louis day 3

     Again, the day started with a class by a company. This was the K'Nex Force and Motion kit class.  I do need to add this to my list of things to buy eventually. I used this back when I taught in Washington State, and they have revamped it a bit.  I like that the kit can essentially cover 4 groups and can be built and experimented with in one class period easily. My partner and I built the rubber band car. We could change variables like  weight, tires, floor surface, add parachute, etc. and test them for distance.
     My next presentation was called "Rewind! Designing Successful STEM Lessons in El. School." This was a group of teachers from a STEAM school who obviously worked well (and hard) together to create PBL type projects for their students.  Their explanation of what they were doing made me realize that my school was on the right track, and doing a strong job. Above is an example of an anchor chart they use to demand strong argumentative writing from students.  I liked their acronym, and they shared that it too came from a book (which I found but didn't purchase). 

     Even though it was threatening to rain all day (and we did experience light rain) we decided to use our lunch time to grab a short paddle boat tour and see the Mississippi. We realized there were so many different types of brides along St. Louis, and the newest cable-stay bridge is still in the process of being built.  I took a bunch of different pics for my bridge building unit I sometimes use at the end of the year (just not this one).

     The St. Louis waterfront is very industrialized, which makes sense given its history.  Above is a picture of a barge getting grain deposited into it for the trek down river. 

     As we returned down river we saw the wonderful view of downtown with the arch and the Dredd Scott courthouse.  When we disembarked we dashed back the couple blocks to the Convention Center and more presentations.
      My 3:00 presentation was called Taking STEM Outdoors. I hadn't realized in picking this class that I had already bought both of this man's books, one called Bringing Outdoor Science In, and the other called Outdoor Science, a practical guide.  We were essentially a group of nature lovers listening to this man run through a ton of ideas.  While he was speaking he had tasked two teachers with building a butterfly net out of a hanger, dowel, duck tape and fishing line. This is what they came up with. I thought it was pretty smart (although I would take out the fishing line). He spoke about funding natural science ideas, especially gardens and a couple of apps that I didn't know, but will go find our building's supply of ipod touches and make sure I can use them. He spoke a lot about the various citizen scientist websites (the dirty north app specifically) to involve kids in backyard science.  This has been something I've been interested in for next year, but hadn't yet researched. He also shared some books (one I need to find about biomimicry) that might be useful in the classroom..
     At 4:30 I started in one class, but left after the tone of the class rubbed me wrong.  Let's just say that when speaking to a bunch of elementary teachers (it was in the 3-5 section) don't start off by insulting us and telling us we're teaching wrong.  It doesn't sit well.  So off I traipsed to my 2nd choice, and I struck gold.
    This class was hosted by two folks from Pittsburgh from a group called Asset Inc that do professional development.  They did a version of the straw tower that can hold an egg (only they used a golf ball) and they added costs for each piece of materials used.  The goal was to be the tallest tower with the golf ball in the top 20%  and be the cheapest per inch.  I liked that it took the tower challenge beyond the basics (I'm getting tired of the regular tower challenges honestly) and saw room in this one for some changes.  I did have a picture of our finished one (at a whopping 12 cents per inch) but it was accidentally deleted when I got home. These were lovely ladies who also offered us materials for this challenge as well as their other class about the Big Bad Wolf (yes, I've seen it on pinterest too).They also offered an idea to check out which I hadn't heard of yet, so I need to research that one too.
     THEN, even with it being the 5:30 class on the last day of the conference, I went to Ideas in Motion by Greg Brown.  I have never had SO.MUCH.FUN! He works for a group at (resource area for teachers). If you are local to them (California and Denver) you can join for like $25.00 and take a bunch of classes like the one he taught us. I had a blast because it was the only class that embodied the Maker Movement I'm so currently obsessed with right now.
We first made this contraption which, when rolled on its side, stores up motion in the rubber band and then will return to you.  I could easily use this as a hook lesson for Force and Motion (and it is supper cheap).  The second activity involved a tube, a medical glove, and a straw. I didn't get any pictures because like everyone else in my class, I was too busy playing my new bagpipe type instrument.  We teachers made a lovely din with our new toys.  Definitely something to share with whomever teaches sound (I think 3rd grade). 

     After my class, two of us headed to Pi  -- let's be honest, where else would I have eaten, and had a cornbread type pizza. It was delicious.  Then back to the hotel to pack, prepare to leave, and start reading all of my new books and planning all of my new plans for next year.  
     This was an excellent experience, and I am so pleased that our lead teacher and principal find these trips to be useful to our staff. I am definitely lucky to have a district support us in such a way.

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