Sarah and I have decided this whole project-based learning thing is, in fact, a good idea. Over the next few months, we want to reflect more publicly on our second project: the STEM Self-Portrait. We’ll post as much as possible and your feedback, suggestions, and ideas are welcome in the comments below.
Because we see our STEM students for two or three hours per day, it feels like this project is further along than ten days. It’s gratifying to see work come together so quickly.
Thanksgiving was the previous week, so we started Monday slowly. Students sat with different people than usual and shared what they’d accomplished for their project so far. They continued work on their Desmos artwork and have come a long way:
This week, though, we focused more on having students prepare a proposal for the physical portion of their paired piece. Students will receive a grade in Environmental Chemistry for the proposal. It must include a description of the piece, how it relates to their identity, the physical/chemical change it will go through, and a safety plan for working with any hazardous materials.
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All of the labs students do this quarter serve two purposes: ensuring student exposure to core Chemistry and giving students inspiration for the physical piece for their project. Some already know what they will make, some will change their mind, and some don’t have a firm idea yet. The Flame Test Lab this week exposed students to chemicals that emit different colors when burned.
Sarah gives quick “follow-ups” after the lab through Schoology, which gives us key data about what they’re learning. I also gave a short quiz this week – only the second all year – to gauge their math ability. We try to keep traditional assessments short and infrequent in favor of more holistic measurements.
Co-teaching rocks. This year, our class sizes are similar to other teachers. In the future, we anticipate managing up to around 40 students together. But having multiple teachers in the room lets one person help a student or team in need for a longer chunk of time. On Friday, Sarah worked with Grayson to test out a plaster mold she wants to use for her physical piece:
I was able to work with other students and troubleshoot their artwork or proposals while Sarah worked with Grayson. Sarah and I only work so well together because we committed to learning each other’s subjects this year (and because we’re awesome). She can help students with math and I can (to a slightly lesser degree) help students with science.
By Friday, students were nearing completion on their physical piece proposals – some needed more prodding than others – and the STEM room was a fun place to be. Sarah and I gave feedback for the majority of the week and it reminded me how much I preferred it to preparing worksheets. We had visitors throughout the week – a parent on Monday, the Greenwich Time on Tuesday, a fellow math teacher on Thursday, and a group of parents on Friday. Our students are largely used to it and they like sharing their work with new people. Even the systems of equations they solved last week – guarded by a “DON’T ERASE” – are sources of pride.
Just under two months until exhibition!