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Solo cups, shopping carts and science

This is the first in a series of summaries from breakout sessions at the 2015 Educators for Success Conference. At the conference, Battelle Education created a full track devoted to STEM. We’re happy to provide these short explanations to anyone interested.  Each provides a view into some of the most exciting work happening in STEM today.  Just scroll down to read about nine more schools that turn the promise of STEM into impact for kids. The pieces were authored by Ellen Belcher.

Dayton Early College Academy and DECA Prep don’t teach the scientific method – not to high-school or elementary students.

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One way DECA Prep students build grit: Persisting through the design cycle when things don’t work as planned

Tracy Martz said that when the early college students go on job shadows, employers are only interested in whether they understand the steps in the design process.

“It’s all about the design process and how do you get there,” Tracy said.

To illustrate how the workplace requires collaboration, Tracy and her fellow presenters shared an ABC News Nightline report on a product design firm’s efforts to build a better shopping cart in just five days.

At Summit STEM Elementary, teachers find young students are absolutely capable of following a design cycle

At Summit STEM Elementary, teachers find young students are absolutely capable of following a design cycle

Melissa Drury and Heidi Leeds of Summit Road STEM Elementary School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, told the mostly elementary school educators that young learners are fully capable of adopting the imagine and plan sequence and learning to fail often in order to succeed sooner – all central elements of the design process.

In the classroom, though, the instruction will be chaotic. Tracy said when her students are working in often rambunctious groups, they use red and green cups to signal whether they’re struggling or on task. If their red cup is turned upside down, she moves quickly to them.

To illustrate how a design challenge works, the presenters asked participants to design an “apparatus” to keep track of their things when attending a conference. They could use just five materials, including yarn, beads, duct tape, masking tape, Velcro strips and a Ziploc bag.

At the Battelle Education session, attendees learned about design challenges by completing one

At the Battelle Education session, attendees learned about design challenges by completing one

But there were “constraints”: The creation had to include the “Educators for Success” conference logo. It had to be wearable with a name tag visible and hold at least a cell phone and business cards. Among other new products made in 30 minutes was the “SSH” – the Super, Simplistic Handbag.

When practicing the design process, DECA Prep students are required to keep lab notebooks, and even 1st-graders are introduced to the concept of “intellectual property” and the importance of tracking their work.

“It’s very important that they write down what did and didn’t work,” Tracy said.

At Summit, one of the authentic problems that students are attacking is the absence of butterflies at nearby wetlands. Melissa said students are designing butterfly gardens and engineering a solution to the insect’s disappearance. Content standards are continuously fused into lessons about “wider world problems” like this one.

When younger students struggle to learn how to collaborate or complain that someone is “copying” their ideas, presenters said their response is, No, your work is inspiring somebody else.

We have 9 more profiles from the Battelle Education STEM track the 2015 Connect for Success conference. Just click below to read through them and, if you’re willing, sign up to hear more updates about STEM in Ohio.

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