How to Design a Single STEAM Lesson to Challenge Multiple Age Groups
Kindergarten through Gifted 6th Graders
One of the elementary schools we were working with challenged us to design a single, stand-alone lesson that could be used across the grades.
The challenge: How can we create a science lesson that even Kindergartners could do? How can we make the same lesson challenging enough for gifted 6th graders? How can we still keep it interesting, hands-on, and creative?
Case Study: Making Circuitry Accessible and Challenging through Frankenstein’s Monster
Start with the story Before we start any STEAM lesson, we want our students to recognize a purpose. Why do we need to learn this? What are we going to do with what we learn? In this case, we were going to learn how to design monsters and bring them to life!
Immersion and Role-play We engage our students by immersing them in imaginary worlds. Students are willing to take more risks because there are no right or wrong answers. Our younger students use our template to draw a creature or monster from their imagination. They practice making inferences to understand how certain physical features help their monster survive in their habitat. How many eyes does it have? Why? What does it eat? What kind of teeth should it have so it can eat these things?
Our older students consider the anatomical, behavioral or physiological adaptations they need to help their monster survive in their ecological niche. What ‘special power’ does your monster have? What characteristics does it need to achieve this? What does your monster prey on? What does it fear? What physical features do it possess to capture its prey? And hide from its enemies?
Applying the science The lesson focuses on electrical circuits, voltage, electric current and eccentric rotating mass motors. Kids were excited because just like the story, we were going to bring our creations to life! Younger students learned how electric circuits work in a loop. They practiced making a motor move by creating a closed and open circuit on a pre-made circuit with the load already attached. They predicted what would happen when we mounted the motor to the creature and experimented with the different ways the creature could move with the motor. When the older students learned about the circuitry they were challenged to apply it to create their own electrical circuit to put the motor together. They predicted how putting the motor in the creature would make it move and explained how having an eccentric mass on the motor caused it to move. They experimented with how the placement of the motor on their creature could change the way the monster moved. When we animated our creatures, we were all able to exclaim: “It’s alive! It’s alive!!”
Creating connections with extension questions We further challenged students by considering the idea: How Important is Design in Science? In the novel Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein invents a creature and uses science to bring it to life. The creature Dr. Frankenstein created is so ugly, people think it is an evil monster. His creature looks at him and says: “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?” Since people expect it to act like a monster, the creature eventually becomes one.
If Dr. Frankenstein created a beautiful creature, would people have responded to it differently?
What responsibility do scientists and inventors have to focus on the design as much as the purpose of their creations?
Ready to use science to bring your favorite worlds to life? Contact usto find out more about how we can help your school or program develop STEM/ STEAM programs that are engaging, exciting, creative, and fun!