From: Jessica Soifer
Happy, happy Turkey week! I am thankful for this opportunity to write for NAEA, to share with the art community and build some connections around the world through this experience.
This week I am sharing some STEAM ideas that I have done with my students.
Knoles Elementary STEAM club offers opportunities for students to explore and discover while problem solving, critical thinking and working together. Creating, building and experimenting spark excitement for the students throughout the year.
Last year STEAM club was a 5th grade club after school that was once a week. We explored many topics and many activities that involved opportunities for experiential learning.
- The gardening project was an important activity to continue from the previous year. Knoles students worked with a non- profit called TerraBIRDS (Being Innovative, Responsible, Dedicated Stewards). “TerraBIRDS” mission is to educate and empower young people through gardening to help prepare them as the stewards of a sustainable future for humanity.” Some of the activities that the students did was move rocks to create an area to grow plants and retain water to have more water go to the plants. Water is very precious in the high desert of AZ. Native plants and grasses were planted to help beautify the space. Students learned responsibility in order to care and nurture for the plants and garden space. Videos were created by the students to present their new knowledge and proud, hard work of the gardening project at open house.
- I wanted students to give back and do a service project called “Chairs for Change.” The students repurposed chairs and donated them to a Flagstaff fundraiser. This event raises money to support girls’ education in developing countries through New Education and the Mala Fund. Knoles STEAM club redesigned and donated 7 chairs to this organization.
- Students had to problem solve in order to discover and create a pendulum. I gave students different sized rulers, tape, scissors, cardboard, foam, styrofoam, yarn, string and fabric. The goal was to have students come up with a functional design and create a painting to see if the pendulum worked or figure out what changes needed to be made. Here are a few examples.
- Students had another discovery project, designing catapults. Materials they could choose from where styrofoam bowls, large and small containers, plastic spoons, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, straws, rubber bands, small pieces of clay, marshmallows and paint. Students first had to launch clay balls and marshmallows. Once they did that the students had to measure the distance of the launch for each and what the difference was between the two materials. Then they could try a catapult painting.
- Building, blasting and measuring for the rocket project was a big hit with the students. They used transparencies, foam, washers, tape, rubber bands and paper to build the rockets. The students measured several distances for the planets. Then problem solved with the materials and weights to achieve different distances.
- A parent brought in a 3D printer and the students created designs to experience the 3D printer.
This year the STEAM club is a 3rd through 5th grade club. The goals of the club are the same except the students will be focusing on different projects. The first semester the students are working on:
- The students created seed bombs with clay, stamps and AZ wildflower seeds. Take a chunk of clay and roll some seeds into the clay, roll the clay clump into a ball, stamp the top and either plant them or throw them into an area where you would like your seedlings to grow. Through this project the students learned about the practical use of the clay and how it helps protect the seeds from weather and critters.
- To continue the gardening project the students used eggshells as planters. They learned that the eggshells are recycled and given back to the earth. When the shells are planted into the ground the shells will decompose and give the soil calcium. The shells also help fend off slugs and other critters.
- This coming week the students will become artist, scientists and paint onto petri dishes. They will use the scientific method to document their discoveries in this project. They will watch the growth process of the paint on their petri dish and then collect data on what they observed. Then the students will create a watercolor painting inspired by the petri dish painting. This investigation was inspired by artist Klari Reis who created The Daily Dish 2013.
- The students will be exploring and creating our own personal compost. Here is the layering system that the students will be using. As they observe the compost process, they will document what they observe over the course of the of a couple weeks.
I hope I was able to offer some interesting lesson ideas to try in your classroom or clubs. I have done some of these lessons and others in my art class. It is easier to execute the lessons in STEAM club because I have 50 minutes versus 35 minutes for art class. All of the materials that were used in these projects were from the art room, donations or recycled from parents or Northern Arizona University. Try one of these out and let me know how it goes or how you changed it. I would love to hear. Until next time. Be happy, love, always smile, and create!