Category Archives: STEAM

Clouds: A Sensory Observation

CLOUD MAGIC Multidisciplinary STEAM Experience

eye in cloud

Purpose: The purpose of this activity is to provide a shared sensory experience on which to build deep learning in the Sciences and the Arts. [Note: I presented this activity at the 2013 National Convention of the NAEYC.]

Suitability: This activity is adaptable to many levels. It works well with preschoolers through adults and is particularly suited for mixed ages or parent/child workshops. With small changes, it can be used one-on-one with an infant and adult or an adult with a two or three toddlers.

Integrated Learning: This plan is based on the Blank Multi-Sensory STEAM Planner

Click here for the Cloud Planner.  CLOUD STEAM PLanner

Standards

SCIENCE KS-ESS2 Earth’s Systems Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

TECHNOLOGY ISTE 3 Research & Information Fluency Apply digital tools to gather information, evaluate, and use information

ENGINEERING K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function

ARTS NCSA Connecting Anchor Standard #10 Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experience to create artistic work.

MATHEMATICS  CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1
Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

Objectives: Children will develop…

  • Socially by working with others.
  • Physically by using gross and fine motor skills and by positioning objects and their bodies in space.
  • Emotionally by identifying their own feelings.
  • Intellectually by working with size, distance, counting, and exploring cause and effect.
  • Linguistically by talking, reading, singing, and writing about their experiences.
  • Creatively by making their own choices of how to express what they are learning.
  • Perceptually by making meaning of sensory stimuli.
  • Artistically by using the elements of and applying the skills of visual art, music, dance, and drama.

WOW The Sensory Experience 

  • Provide the stimulus: On a cloudy day take the children outside and look up at the clouds. If possible, lie down on your backs. But standing up is fine too. Hold an infant in your arms and point up at the sky. The important thing is to be outside and look long distances to develop distance vision.
  • Attract attention and encourage active participation: Point to various clouds and use enthusiastic language and open-ended questions. “Look!” “I see a big cloud, small cloud, dark cloud, pink cloud, floating cloud, etc. What do you see?”  “Are they moving? Are they changing?”
  • Imitate their actions: When they point to something, mirror them.
  • Give feedback: Point to it and draw others attention to it. Be quiet and let the children share the experience of the clouds. Take plenty of time to allow children to sustain their focus. If children become distracted, draw them back with a question.
  • Add deep meaning through STEAM: Follow up the experience to enrich it: Go out at different times of day and check for TheCloudBookchanges. Go out on a foggy day or a fine drizzle, and talk about how you are inside a cloud. Ask: “How does it feel on your skin?” “How does it smell?” “How does it taste?” “What can you see?” “What can you hear?”  Read The Cloud Book by Tommie de Paola and  Cloud Dance by Thomas Locker. Make a list of words that describe clouds. Use the list to create a simple poem as illustrated.
Cloud DanceOur Clouds
Floating
Fluffy
Bouncing
High Up
Dancing clouds

Deepening the Experience and the Learning

1. Cloud sounds  Go outside on a windy day. “If clouds are moving fast across the sky what sounds do we hear?” Make wind sounds. Establish hand signals for louder and softer, faster and slower, higher and lower. Conduct the group in making wind music. Let children take turns conducting the group. Extend this activity byadding rhythm instruments and making paper cloud stick puppets as follows and moving them to the music.

2. Tissue paper “clouds”  Provide small squares of tissue paper about 8″ by 8.” For older children provide straws for blowing. Encourage children to explore the tissue using sensory questions: “How does it feel, smell, sound, move, look?” “How does it change if you crumble it up?” “What happens if you blow it?”  “How is the same as a cloud?” “How is it different?” As you ask your questions point to the tissue balls to focus attention. Extension:  Have children make more balls and put them in the sensory bin or encourage children to build from blocks or to draw (upper levels) mazes and using straws try to blow the “cloud” through the maze.

3. Cloud stick puppets/dancing props Attach the tissue ball to the top of a straw using scotch tape. Have children explore how their cloud will move. Holding their cloud puppet as a prop have them dance like clouds to “cloud” music of your choice. Music that relates well to cloud dancing are selections from The Grand Canyon Suite. Extension: Take the puppets outside and explore the shadows they make. Look for cloud shadows and try to stand in them. Inside provide flashlights and make cloud shadows and shadow puppet shows for each other.

4. Cloud songs  Select a familiar tune and make up words. Extend this activity by using cloud stick puppets to act out the actions of the cloud song. Here is an example based on Mary Has a Little Lamb.

I have a little cloud, little cloud, little cloud. I have a little cloud  ___________________ [Have children complete the words i.e. floating to and fro or dancing up and down, and it’s white and cold, etc.

5. Cloud Flip Mural Read Eric Carle’s Little Cloud. Go outside and see if you can see different things in the clouds. The Little CloudDiscuss how clouds can be all kinds of shapes. Give out two sheets of paper one small and one large. These can be white or cloud colors of your choice. Have children compare the sizes. Then have them cut out a cloud shape from each. Challenge older children by having them tear out the shapes. Ask: “Is one cloud bigger?” “Why or why not?” “Could you make other sizes from the left over pieces?” Add more math by having them put their clouds in size order, and count how many clouds the class made using multiples in the upper grades. Have children take turns gluing their larger clouds to a long sheet of paper – this can be white, painted in sky colors by the children, or be a long piece of tracing paper. The translucence of tracing paper creates a glowing sky effect. Attach a string to the smaller clouds using scotch tape. Tape these to the mural.  NOW: Take the two ends and flip it over. The clouds on strings will hang down. Suspend it between two tables by taping each end to the edge. Put fluffy pillows underneath and create a place for children to curl up with a book and dream or count clouds.

6. Under a Cloud. Use a paper or tissue cloud attached to a string. It could be the one made for the mural before it is attached or a separate one created just for this activity. Have children think about how their cloud feels. Share ideas. Ask: “How would your cloud move if it were happy or sad or tired?”  Read the book The Cloud  by Hannah Cumming. Talk about why the illustrator made a cloud scribble over the girls’ head. Ask: “What other ways could her friend have helped her?”The Cloud

 

7. Cloud Stories Invent stories about clouds. A good example is The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool in which a little boy spins cloth from the clouds.

Cloud Flip Mural made by participants in the NAEYC conference workshop

What other cloud activities can you think of to deepen the learning?

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An Observation of Crickets

crickethousegirl

A Child Meets Crickets: A One-on-One STEAM Experience

Objective: Child will use her senses to learn more about crickets

WOW A container of 10 crickets purchased from the pet store. I put them in the middle of a large under-bed tray [about 2 ft by 3 ft by 8 in. high].

CHILD OBSERVATION: At first Maria observed the crickets using a magnifier. She counted them, and their legs and watched them eat a piece of carrot and try to jump out.  Maria (age 5) tried to catch 1, but it kept jumping away. Then she thought about making a trap. I asked what did she think we could use. She got some white paper, markers, tape,and a scissors.

She made some by folding  the paper. One trap that looked something like a tube with a flap. Then she observed for several minutes to see if a cricket would go inside.  When that didn’t work, she made several more traps. She observed  for several minutes and decided the crickets liked the corners best so she put traps in the corners and was thrilled when several went inside. She counted the number she trapped and put the traps in order from best to worse.

After we put the crickets back in their little habitat cage, and I thought we were done, but Maria decided she would build them a house. She used more tape and paper and spent at least a half hour to make a multilevel house. We put that inside the habitat and agreed to come back the next day to see if they liked it.

The next day we discovered the paper covered with little dots. Maria used a magnifier and decided that was cricket poop and showed where they had crawled in the house. She also noticed that they had chewed on the paper. She counted how many crickets were inside the house.

REFLECTION:

Materials: The crickets really fascinated Maria and inspired her to experiment to solve the problem of trapping a cricket. Allowing her to decide what materials to build with worked well and made her feel in-charge.

STEAM Learning: Maria used engineering and the arts to design and build her traps and house. She tested different traps like a scientist. She used math when she counted the crickets she trapped and when she grouped the traps based on the number inside.

For a full STEAM Experience Plan See –Crickets: Observing, Questioning, and Testing

Math Myths

Spring 2010 277Since so many teachers are fearful of math, I am going to start out by exploding some of the more common myths that prevent us from thinking mathematically and actually ENJOYING teaching it!

Myth 1: Math is about getting the one right answer. No matter what you experienced in math class this is not correct. Truth: Math is about finding an answer that everyone agrees on.

Myth 2: Math is about numbers. Numbers are one of many tools that mathematicians use to solve problems. They also use objects and symbols and words and pictures. So then what is math? Truth: Much of mathematical thinking is devoted to the search for patterns and and solutions to problems describing those discoveries in ways that others can understand.

Myth 3: Math is boring. Truth: Math when taught properly can be just as fun as the arts. In fact, when I asked my third grade classes to vote on their favorite subject, they always chose math. But then why wouldn’t they when we had a six foot blue frog who was the king of the kingdom of three, they got to use chopsticks in a paper ball race and earned wages making products for their class store that they then sold to raise enough money to go to the Syracuse Zoo.

So how do we combat those myths and teach math so kids love it?

Make it meaningful! Counting, adding, and filling in worksheets because the teacher tells you to is a surefire way to bore children to death. Instead, always give them a purpose for thinking mathematically. Some examples:

  • Counting and computing for a purpose:  If you are addressing a common core math standard such as this one for kindergarten: K.C.C.A.3 Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects), don’t take it at face value and give the children a worksheet with a picture of 3 apples and a space for them to write the number 3. Instead, think of a reason why they might want to count something and record the number.  Bring in a basket of crackers for snack. Make a chart for them to write their name and the number of crackers between 3 and 6 they want for their snack. As they gain experience make it more challenging. Bring in two or three different types and have them record the number of each kind they want and the total which cannot be more that 8, for example. 
  • Buying and selling: The class store using play money is a tried-and-true method used by teachers for decades for getting children to practice adding, subtracting, and more. In addition to a store think of other places money is used and set up dramatic play centers such as restaurants, plant nurseries, even an art gallery where children can buy things from each other.
  • Earning money for a purpose: Even better is raising or collecting money for a real purpose like our trip to the zoo. One time our school collected pennies for charity and the classes had to come up with different ways to count the huge jars of pennies turned in.
  • Being mathematically curious: Math is about comparing things and finding patterns. Ask which is bigger/longer/more? How do you know? Invite children to find and make patterns: Look at the interesting pattern the blocks in this tower make? Can you make a tower using a different pattern?

DSC02111Make it ever present! Math doesn’t just have to happen at math time. Fill the classroom with tools and materials that support mathematical questioning.

  • Measure everything: Set up a measuring center and man it with rulers, tape measures, square centimeter cubes, interlocking pattern blocks, volume containers, and trundle wheels, balance scales, spring scales, step-on-scales, and gram masses, metric cylinders, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. If the tools are handy then it’s easy to say: Which is heavier? Which is longer? Which is further away?
  • Tracking time: Fill your room with clocks, stop watches and timers of all designs. And then constantly ask when children set out to do a task: How long do you think it will take? In my room I always had a timer table where children could just observe the different ways to mark time, make their own “clocks” using dripping water or grains of rice, and where they could get a child-friendly stop watch to time how fast their cars rolled or their crickets hid.
  • Calculate it: Set out calculators, cash registers, old fashioned adding machines with print out tape, abacuses, and more. And challenge them to find the sum or product, subtrahend or dividend.
  • Fill the shelves and counters with fascinating objects that invite touching, sorting and counting: Fill clear plastic bottles with buttons, bottle caps, beads, glass jewels, pebbles, sea shells, centimeter cubes, plastic bread ties, spools, screws, etc. Provide laminated Venn diagrams and graphing grids and explore, one bottle at a time.

Make it a group effort: Instead of competition to get the right answer, work together to figure out how many different ways you can find the answer or pool resources to solve problems together.

  • Be statisticians: Collect statistics about each other, projects, school happenings, and more, and create class graphs that make numbers and comparisons visual.
  • Come to agreement: If individuals get different answers, have them put their heads together and compare their methodologies. Work together until everyone agrees.

NOTE: There are many other myths about math. Here is a list of 12 others to check out: http://www.uaf.edu/deved/math/help-for-math-anxiety/12-math-myths/

Why The “A” in STEAM?

Lego HouseA  is for Arts

Since 2007 there has been an refocused awareness on the teaching of the STEM subjects – the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics – using hands-on, real life problems. However, this should not be done by eliminating the arts. They are an integral part of the sciences. Think of the importance of aesthetics and art in designing bridges and robots, drawing meaningful biology diagrams, imagining the universe, and in representing patterns in numbers.

STE[A]M goes beyond the 4 STEM subjects. The bracketed A stands for the arts. These include the fine arts, music, dance, drama, and literature. In STEAM education the focus is on nourishing children’s curiosity, imagination, and creativity by drawing on the arts in the context of exploring science, math, technology, and engineering projects. Well-designed STEAM activities teach children to become astute observers, designers, and creators, while introducing them to the critical thinking and decision making skills needed for successful STEM careers and for the enjoyment of life.

OR…

STEAM = Science & Technology

interpreted through Engineering & the Arts,

all based on Mathematical Principles 

In addition, the arts are a powerful learning tool: The University of Florida has created a graphic showing why the arts belong in STEM education:

University of Florida’s Online Master of Arts in Art Education