As I mentioned previously, the curriculum in this course originally used different topics in each grade until, last semester, I noticed that most kids take STEM-Tech only one time in middle school. In other words, if you disperse topics across grades, then some kids will not see any of the content. Toward that end I am trying to make sure each grade gets what they need most (according to high school teachers): hands on building and making stuff.
Why is that important? Abstract content is hard to understand if only studied on the level of abstraction. However, when you have a “sense” of how things work by actually manipulating them, then you can apply the abstract ideas to particular -in this case, mechanical – examples. So one project we are building in grade 7 is “trebuchets.” These are an application of levers and machines. We have made a one piece trebuchet, a trebuchet from paperclips and, lastly, an original trebuchet.
Building so many trebuchets is not the main goal, but doing anything well requires iterations, so students have built several different kinds of trebuchets to permit them to develop their ideas. Design takes time; good design takes several iterations.
And it has simply been a LOT of fun. As the picture below attests, we are designing and building /printing like crazy! The district CTE department has been really supportive and these students have turned learning into what sometimes feels like a party with a lot of fun. And a lot of smiles. [Full disclosure: I did not ask students to pose for the picture; their expressions are their own ideas. Aren’t they great?]