Spice Up STEM In Your Classroom With These Kits

If you’re a STEM teacher like me, you are always looking for resources you can use to get students excited about STEM. Ward’s Science has some amazing resources for all things STEM. The website offers a variety of resources that can provide students with an engaging and hands-on experience in class.

I’ve had the chance to test out two products: The Robotic STEM Kit and the Solar Electric House Kit.

The Solar Electric House Kit

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The Solar Electric House Kit is perfect if you’re teaching a unit on different forms of energy. It is the perfect way to link the concept of solar energy to the real world. The kit comes with solar panels you can use to power a solar ceiling fan and a light bulb. The kit is missing the necessary structure to build the house, but you can use cardboard, styrofoam, or any other home materials to create the structure of the house. The kit has a blueprint to help you create the structure of the house.


The Robotic STEM Kit

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The Robotic STEM Kit was my favorite product of the two I got to experiment with. It allows you to build ten different machines created from different simple machines. The machines transfer and transform energy and are a great way to teach students about: simple machines, energy transformation, and circuits. The Robotic STEM Kit also comes with a teacher’s guide that has lesson plans, information about Rube Goldberg competitions, and other STEM problem solving resources for using the kit in the classroom.

Check out two cool videos of two of the ten machines that I built.

I highly recommend Ward’s Science to STEM Teachers and any parents interested in introducing their children to engaging ways to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Ward’s Sciece also offers teacher grants and funding services. Definitely check it out!

The Woke STEM Teacher readers Get 15% off your order total Plus Free Shipping with exclusive promo code: WardsWorld15WST

Promotion Exclusions: Offer valid on web only at wardsci.com. To activate offer, use promo code at checkout. Offer expires 10/31/19. Free shipping includes standard ground shipping only and excludes items with hazardous shipping; standard hazardous shipping fees will apply. Unless otherwise specified, contract discounts and special offers may not be applied to any item priced with a final digit of ‘9’ (i.e. $6.99; $10.09; $129.99.) Offer excludes Some models due to custom nature of the product. Offer excludes all Triumph Board products. Promotional discounts also may not be combined with other offers, discounts, contracts, or promotions. For more details, visit wardsci.com/terms. Selected items may be or contain chemicals, live materials, or hazardous materials and may be restricted for purchasing by educational institutions only. To purchase restricted items, please log into wardsci.com with your Full Web Profile, or create a new Full Web Profile here using your school’s Shipping Account Number. A full profile also allows you to pay with purchase orders, receive tax exemptions, contract pricing (if applicable), and other advanced features. Don’t know your Shipping Account Number or not sure what it is? We can help. Email wardscs@vwr.com or Click to Chat on the profile registration page and a Ward’s Science Representative will help you locate your Shipping Account Number or apply for a new one.

The Newest Addition to The Woke STEM Fam: Cue, the Robot

Before you meet my new friend, Cue, have you heard of Wonder Workshop? If not, you are in for a treat! Wonder Workshop offers complete solutions for teaching coding and robotics in the classroom, giving elementary and middle schools students the opportunity to learn. What I love best about Wonder Workshop is that they provide ALL of the resources necessary to get your classroom prepared to learn coding and robotics. Wonder Workshop resources include robots, like my friend Cue, standards -based curricular resources, apps for creative coding, professional learning opportunities (to help those of us who may not be as hip to coding and robotics, but still are intrigued by it), and robotics competitions for students. With all of these resources, you will be well on your way to teaching students one of the most important skills needed for the 21st century.

Now, may I introduce my new friend, Cue!

Cue is the newest addition to Wonder Workshop. Cue comes with all of the basic tools necessary to get started, just bring your own device to connect. Luckily, Cue is compatible with a variety of devices. Once you turn Cue on, it goes through a welcome process that require a few tasks to test its sensors and microphone. Then, you have to download the Cue app to fully get started. Cue connects to the app through bluetooth. The Cue app has so many features that are user friendly and makes the coding experience exciting and fun.

Cue App Features

Avatars - Cue comes with four different avatars and each one has a unique personality. These are one of the fun components of Cue, especially for children. You can select one personality and chat via a text screen with Cue once the personality is selected.

Control - Cue has a control feature built into the app to play around with some of its sensory features. The Control mode features an on-screen joystick that allows you to move Cue around the room. You can also adjust the speed, face lights, and body lights on Cue. You can also record different sound clips to play back on Cue.

The control mode also has three different automatic modes:

Seek mode: allows Cue to lock onto a nearby object and follow it. How cool is that? Cue will follow me around like my cat!

Avoid mode: allows cue to lock onto an object and it will back away from the object.

Explore mode: allows Cue to explore the room while avoiding running into objects.

Code - The Code mode of the app is my favorite and the most useful for students learning how to, well, code! Cue allows you to switch between Block based coding and text-based coding (JavaScript). This is important for those educators who lack the fundamental JavaScript knowledge to teach students how to code. The Block based code is user friendly and makes it easier for students to understand how to create their code. The transition between the two helps translate the coding skills students are learning to real world skills that can be used in real projects. Code mode offers different challenges for students to go through, starting with something as simple as making Cue move a certain distance to making Cue say certain phrases. Students are allowed the opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and eventually learn and accomplish by doing. The lessons offer all of the typical coding components, such as events, variables, math operations, functions, and actions necessary to program Cue. The best part is that students can work on code offline to perfect their skills and then run the code when they are connected to Cue.

My suggestion for when students are coding: utilize the Code mode on a large tablet or computer screen. The Code mode on the app for phones has a limited screen size, so it can be difficult to drag things around when attempting to code. I accidentally deleted code a few times because of my screen size issues. I eventually switched to the app on my laptop and had plenty of space to see everything.

Accessories

Cue comes with a variety of cool accessories and extensions so that it can do more than simply moved around and talk. I have had the opportunity to use the sketch pack. The pack comes with dry-erase markers, an eraser, a large dry-erase sketchpad that can be placed on the floor, and an attachment for Cue. With the sketchpad kit, students can program Cue to create all kinds of masterpieces. There are some programs built into the app to provide examples of how Cue can draw different shapes, words, and pictures. In the video below, I programmed Cue to draw a square once Cue heard the sound of my voice. Cue also has other extensions such as a gripper to pick up objects and a blaster power to shoot small

Cue draws a square

Curriculum

Wonder Workshop offers a Learning to Code curriculum, an Applied Robotics curriculum, and cross-curricular activities. The Applied Robotics curriculum is my favorite because it offers extensive lesson plans with aligned standards, materials, and walks you through the entire process of how to implement the lessons in the classroom. The Applied Robotics curriculum shows students how to go through the creative writing process that will ultimately bring them to a point of creating something innovative. Each of the three units is designed to allow students to gradually build upon an idea and execute that idea through coding with Cue. My favorite unit is the Game Design unit. Students are able to design a game and program Cue to participate in the game with them.

Professional Development

Wonder Workshop offers professional development tools to help educators transition into how to use Cue in the classroom. I was able to complete the “Introduction to Coding and Robotics with Cue” course. The course was a six module course that provided a great foundation on the history of educational technology in the classroom, explained the need for computer science in schools, and provided information about the major structural components of Cue. I love that the course focused on gaining an understanding of educational technology and how teachers are incorporating different types of technology in the classroom, beyond Cue. They introduced different tools that can be used in conjunction with Cue. The course provided videos, links to other digital technology, and an interactive experience. The course was definitely a cool way to get started understanding how educational technology is used in the classroom and expanding on that by using Cue.

Want a Cue of your own? Here’s your chance!

With so many jam packed features and with the ever-growing need for students with coding skills , Cue should be used in classrooms across the world. Are you interested in trying out one of Wonder Workshops many robots? The Wonder Workshop is giving away TWO FREE prize packs that you can try out for yourselves!

Are you an elementary teacher?

The Elementary Wonder Pack: Comes with Wonder’s award-winning Dash and Dot robots, accessories, and curriculum guides. Accessories, like a Xylophone, Launcher, Building Brick Connectors, Sketch Kit, and an Accessories Kit, all help students use their imagination and problem solve. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to Wonder’s Digital Activities Library for more project ideas. New and included in the Elementary Pack: The Gripper Building Kit an easy-to-build set of functioning arms that expand your robot’s literal reach—and potential!

Or how about middle school?


The Middle School Wonder Pack: This bundle will encourage design thinking with its two (2) award-winning Cue robots and the new Gripper Building Kit. Also, notebooks for creative writing, game design, and innovation. Plus, a one-year subscription to Wonder’s Digital Activities Library for more skill building for middle school students. New and included for the Middle School Pack: The Gripper Building Kit and the new Blaster Power for Cue (above) bring the fun as a motorized projectile-launching accessories!

Enter the giveaway here by August 14, 2019, 11:59PM Central Standard Time!

STEM and Black Panther Curriculum

It has been quite some time since I have posted, but I have diligently working hard in my classroom and completing classes towards my doctorate of education degree.  Now that I have had a bit of downtime, I have had the chance to create an introductory lesson and lesson one of a five lesson curriculum that incorporates STEM and Black Panther.  If you are a STEM teacher (or any other kind of teacher) looking for an exciting way to bring Black Panther into your classroom, then this curriculum is for you.  

The introductory lesson of this curriculum focuses on Afrofuturism.  The first lesson in this curriculum focuses on the Law of Reflection (NGSS MS-PS4-2) and Holograms (as evidenced in Black Panther). 

The first two parts of this curriculum are FREE! I want to share my creative resources with others at no charge.  

If you WOULD like to leave a donation of any sort to show support, you can leave it here: Social EndeavHERS

Social EndeavHERs is an organization dedicated to young, Black and Brown women interested in using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to create social change.

You can download the curriculum below:

STEM and Black Panther Teacher Guide

STEM and Black Panther Lesson and Worksheets

The other four parts of this curriculum will be available at a later date. Enjoy and please share how these lessons go with your students! 

Restorative Justice and Peer Mediation: Avenues For Change

I have the honor of collaborating with Kathy Lebrón on this post.  We saw a need to address how the system disproportionately disciplines and criminalizes students of color.  We wanted to get people thinking about positive alternatives to the traditional forms of behavior management systems and chose to focus on restorative justice and peer mediation as avenues for change.  

Behavior and the process to discipline students based on behavior has been a major topic in the educational community.  Various forms of intervention have been implemented through schools across the United States.  The majority of these methods involve some form of a tiered system, where consequences layer based upon the severity and frequency of student actions.  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) systems offer different strategies, most including a point system where students gain or lose points based on behavior.  These types of systems usually involve a punishment and reward system for behaviors, rather than immediately addressing the root causes of the behaviors and restoring peace within the community.  Restorative Justice provides a positive alternative to these traditional PBIS systems.

Restorative Justice gained popularity in the 1970’s with the introduction of victim-offender mediation programs; however, ancient societies have always used various forms of mediation to address conflict, restore relationships, and build community.  Indigenous cultures have generations of experience utilizing restorative practices to mend relationships and repair harm that has occurred within their communities.  Restorative Practices are now slowly becoming an integral part of creating healthy, peaceful communities and justice systems.

Differences between Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice

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Restorative Practices is the umbrella term for a philosophy that views relationships as an integral component to fostering positive and healthy learning environments. Unlike traditional “zero-tolerance” school policies that often target disenfranchised populations, Restorative Practices enable people to restore relationships, resolve conflicts and build community in proactive and positive ways. These practices have roots in Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice is an approach that focuses on repairing relationships and the harm done to people versus simply punishing offenders. This approach is influenced by ancient and indigenous practices performed in cultures worldwide.

Restorative Practices involve interventions when harm has happened, as well as practices that help to prevent harm and conflict by creating a sense of belonging, safety, and social responsibility within the school community. They also involve “making it right” when a “harm” has occurred.

A relationship cannot be restored if it doesn’t exist.
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Relationships are important. When an incident occurs, the focus is on the harm caused to the relationship and how to repair said relationship; rather than what rule has been broken and what consequences will be imposed. We use Restorative Justice to respond to harm that someone has caused and to find ways to repair that harm so that healing and change can take place.


If you would like to visually represent Restorative Practices in your classroom, be sure to check out these FREE posters, which was an initiative spearheaded by Project NIA.

Peace Circles

Peace circles, or Restorative Justice circles, can serve many functions and they can be used proactively as well as a means for intervention. When used proactively, circles can help people develop and build relationships. When used as an intervention method, they can help respond to conflicts and wrongdoings. The circle process allows people to share their stories, their perspectives and makes them feel they have an equal say. Circles are a way of bringing people together in which: everyone is respected, everyone gets a chance to talk without interruption, participants explain themselves by telling their stories and everyone is equal – no person is more important than anyone else. Thus, Restorative Circles are excellent practice in shifting the needle toward a POWER WITH instead of a POWER OVER approach. Sharing power creates a win-win situation for members of the circle and allows students to feel empowered.

Typically, circles follow a given structure and contain the following elements:

  • Keeper: a neutral facilitator who “keeps” the circle going (i.e. the teacher)
  • Talking Piece: an object that people pass around and it signals it’s only their turn to share (can be anything from a ball, a keychain, a toy microphone, etc.)
  • Values: identified by everyone in the circle in order to create a respectful atmosphere
  • Guidelines: generating guidelines based on shared values
  • Ceremony: tradition to open the circle
  • Stages: 1) Specific intentions, 2) Intended Outcomes, 3) Activities/Guiding Questions, 4) Keeper techniques
  • Consensus: get everyone to offer their perspective
  • Storytelling: circle participants share their stories and lived experiences as well as reflect on the present
  • Closing ceremony: tradition to close the circle

Sticking to these elements is imperative to preserving the integrity and intentionality of a circle. You can see these elements at play in this video about Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools.

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Peace/Restorative Circles can be used for a myriad of situations, including: teaching curriculum, developing shared agreements for classroom behaviors, checking in/out, solving classroom problems, healing from loss, discussing/solving conflict and problems, etc.. When using circles proactively and to prevent harm, you can build relationships with students in positive and meaningful ways. You can find 48 circle prompts in this resource that I, The Radical Maestra, created to get to know your students better and vice-versa. It can also help to proactively guide discussions with students around relationship-building, values, identity and curriculum.

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is a restorative practice that provides an opportunity for student accountability.  An entire school community gains value in learning how to mediate situations between peers.  Peer mediation is a six step process that consists of:

  1. Agree to Mediate: there must be consent from all parties involved, including the mediator, to mediate the conflict

  2. Gathering Points of View: mediators must allow all individuals the opportunity to tell their story, while identifying and understanding the multiple perspectives being discussed

  3. Focus on Needs and Interests: Mediators must center the focus of the conversation on what the involved parties need to resolve the conflict

  4. Create Win-Win Solutions: Focus on creating resolutions that are specific, balanced, reasonable, and thoroughly solve the problem

  5. Evaluate Options: Consider the various solutions and determine the solution that best solves the problem

  6. Create and Sign An Agreement: The involved parties collectively write out the established agreement and sign the agreement.

Individuals can alternate between the role of peer mediator to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to actively participate in this restorative practice.  Teaching all individuals to be peer mediators and allowing this participation can help create an environment where students are empowered to manage and have autonomy over their own and their peers actions.  For more information about how to implement peer mediation as a restorative practice, download the free conflict resolution and peer mediation toolkit from IREX here.  

It is our hope that you reflect on your current behavior management and disciplinarian practices as well as the potential impacts they have on students, especially students of color. How can you implement more collaborative, student-centered, and POWER WITH approaches in your classroom and school to resolve and repair conflicts and harm?

 

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Resources:

http://www.suffolk.edu/college/centers/14521.php

http://www.creducation.org/

www.iirp.org

www.rpiassn.org

www.transformingconflict.org

Institute for Restorative Initiatives, Center for Restorative Justice, dept_crj@suffolk.edu

Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community. Boyes-Watson & Pranis. Living Justice Press. 2015. Cambridge, MA.

Restorative Justice Pocketbook. Thorsborne & Vinegrad. 2009.

Conferencing Handbook. The New Real Justice Training Manual. O’Connell and Wachtel. Real Justice. 1999.

Johnson, D. W. and Johnson, R. T. (2012). Restorative justice in the classroom: Necessary roles of cooperative context, constructive conflict, and civic Values. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 5: 4–28

www.irex.org

Long Overdue For New Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

Tomorrow many of you will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks and spending time with loved ones while feasting on delicious food.  However, most of us have been given this false narrative of the story of Thanksgiving, involving pilgrims and Native Americans.  We do lesson plans with our students centered around coloring turkeys, presenting skits where children reenact the first Thanksgiving, and having students compile lists of gratefulness.  We fail to take the time to teach our children about the true history of Thanksgiving, either from lack of knowledge on the subject or fear of appearing to indoctrinate our students.  Since 1970, Native Americans have commemorated a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day, focusing on the genocide of millions of Native Americans at the hands of Pilgrims and other European settlers.  

I would encourage you to seek the graphic, but true origins of Thanksgiving and to research the National Day of Mourning.  This type of information should be taught to our children as part of culturally relevant pedagogy.  The racism and oppression that Native Americans have experienced in this country has extended far beyond that first Thanksgiving and the first step to combatting those issues today is to teach our youth.  Some teachers talk about introducing socially conscious topics in the classroom, but fail to do so when they are plenty of opportunities.  You have 365 days until the next Thanksgiving. Get to preparing those lesson plans now!

Traditional Science Fairs Are Played Out

Science Fair - that time of year that is “for” the students, but the teachers and parents are the most stressed.  Trying to find a project idea that is competitive enough for your child to beat out every other student in their class requires a ton of work.  Parents wind up doing a lot of the grunt work and making sure that their child’s project is top notch.  Although it is important for our students to experience competition, it is equally important that we recognize the research and hard work necessary to do a science project.  My hope is that we will eventually move away from science fairs and move towards STEM symposiums because let's be real - traditional science fairs are played out. 

Symposium - a formal meeting where experts discuss a particular topic

Students doing STEM projects and research are “experts” in the most general sense of the word.  Students put in the work, researching information about their topics, establishing important details that will enhance their work, and creating innovative ways to test their topics. 

How can we ensure that our students are the experts who are creating ways to change the world around them? Below is a six step process for revamping the scientific process and enabling students to be more creative in their thought processes. 

Step 1: Wake Up!

Have students write down a list of five problems or issues that affect the lives of them, their family, or their communities.  

Guiding Questions

1. What is a problem that affects your daily life?

2. What is a problem that affects your parents or family as a whole?

3. What is a problem that affects your community?

Step 2: Who's To Blame?

Have students create a list of things that can be the key causes for the problem.

Guiding Questions

1. Why does this problem exist?

2. Who/What has caused this problem?

Step 3: Focus On One

Have students select 1 of the problems they listed.  

Guiding Questions

1. Which of the problems affects you or your family the most?

2. Which of the problems is the most intriguing to you? 

3. Which problem will have the most significance if a solution is created?

Step 4: Solve It!

Have students create a list of innovative ways they can use STEM to fix the problem they have selected. 

Guiding Questions

1. How can you use STEM to solve the problem?

2. What resources will you need to solve the problem?

Step 5: Research

Have students research all possible solutions the problem as well as any STEM information related to the problem. 

1. Are there any solutions to the problem that already exist? If so, how you can you enhance those solutions?

2. What problems may arise with your solution?

3. Can your solution be done so that it solves the problem for all individuals affected?

Step 6: Plan It Out

This is where the scientific method or engineering process should begin.  Students should go through the typical method and determine a way to test their solution to determine if it will actually work.  This will allow students the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to perfect their process. 

Guiding Questions

1. What are you trying to test? 

2. What is your hypothesis?

3. What materials will you need for this experiment?

4. What steps will you take to test your hypothesis?

5. What conclusions arose after your experiment?

Once students have completed this final step, then they can begin to compile a presentation where they are truly the experts on their topic and are providing a way to intersect STEM and Social Change.  

More information on this topic is soon to come! Join our mailing list for a copy of the PDF copy of the student and teacher guide for creating innovative STEM and Social Change projects. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not Disturb

Do not disturb has become such a common phrase in the 21st century.  It has become so commonplace that Apple has geniusly incorporated it into iPhones.  What does it mean? It could mean quite a few things.  “Do not interrupt me because I’m busy!” or “Do not wake me up because I need my sleep!” or “Keep quiet because I am resting!” All different ways to keep people away while you are sleeping or too busy to talk.  Well, in the words of Ludacris, it’s about time for us to start “disturbing tha peace!”  Far too many of us are sleeping on the injustices going on in the world today.  We are quick to put our minds on “Do not disturb” while major issues involving politics, racism, classism, sexism, and all the other “-isms” are going on daily and need to be addressed.  

One of the best places to start these conversations is with our young people.  I have worked in Black and Latino schools too afraid to address a lot of the social, political, and economic issues going on in the communities of their own students.  It’s time to toss those age old textbooks that only focus on the slavery and immigrant narratives and focus on the rich, vibrant culture that exists in Black and Latino communities.  Let’s disturb and disrupt the current state of education and open the doors to providing students with education that is student centered, provides real world experiences, and empowers students to go forth and do great things.  The children are the future...let’s make sure they are not set to “Do Not Disturb” forever.