STEAM on a Budget

STEAM on a Budget

So you’ve caught the STEAM bug! You been seeing teachers talk about it on Twitter, pins on Pinterest, and it’s always been in the back of your mind. You want to start, but you’re fearful of the cost. Well no worries! I’m here to share quick and easy ideas to get STEAM started in your classroom.

STEAM isn’t only about the latest robot or expensive consumable products. You can make a lot of headway in your classroom by using both recyclables and cheap, consumables.

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Building Materials

Part of STEAM is building prototypes to rectify a problem, so building takes place each week in my classroom. While sometimes students are using recyclables and consumables to build, having a variety of non-consumable building tools is an important part to my classroom instruction. If you read my previous post, Learning with LEGO, then you already know how versatile and beloved the brick is by my students and myself.

However, having a variety of building materials is important because it gets students thinking in different ways. I’ve compiled a list of materials that are easy to add to your classroom construction. They are perfect for students of all ages. While I tend to use them for solving problems such as, build a bridge to get your elephants across or Cinderella needs a new castle, they can also be used for anything from imaginative play to concrete math concepts.

Later on I’ll break down each tool (and even more tools!) and how I use them in the classroom, but for now, go check them out and start brainstorming how you can add them into your instruction today!

 

Some links may be affiliate links which means if you click through and buy the products I get a kickback but it does not, in any way, effect your experience. I only recommend things that I either have and use or that I fully believe in.

Innovation in Technology

Over the past few months I had the honor of going through the process for the RVA Tech Innovation in Education Award sponsored by Trillium Technical. I was first nominated in January 2019, and was announced as a finalist on April 24th. All of the finalist were invited to the RVA Tech Gala on May 8th, which was held at the Richmond Convention Center. While, I did not receive the Innovation in Education Award, I left with a very valuable experience.

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Most educators only go to events that are education-based. However, The RVA Technology Council predominately works with and recognizes a variety of businesses, but one award is presented to an educator. During the RVA Tech Gala I was surrounded by men and women in the technology business world. It was fascinating to hear how they are applying technology in a variety of business sectors. I met a start-up business that researched how to make and use biodegradable packaging for shipping products, a non-profit that created a website to help those in need, augmented reality being used by Dominion Energy to “place” and “move” utility boxes for power lines, and so much more.

On the flip-side, they were enthralled with how I work with my elementary students using the Engineering Design Cycle to implement projects. The common statements to me were, “Wow. I wish that I had something like that when I was in school!,” as well as, “And wait, you’re doing this with kindergarten through fifth graders?! Your students are going to be so much further ahead than I ever was.” You see, the thought holds true - we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

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In order to prepare them for these careers, we have to get them hooked onto STEM careers from the beginning. There’s nothing that says a kindergartner can’t learn how to code, and if someone tries to tell you that, I’m here to prove them wrong. Because, I have 150 kindergartners who can explain that a robot is able to follow directions in the order in which you give it, they can code sequences, and by the time they leave fifth grade they will be able to code even more advanced robots and script on Chromebooks.

Technology is an ever-changing field and it is our job as educators to navigate the expanding landscape for our students. We cannot be stuck in our ways just because it worked in the past. We have to be willing to try new things, expose our students to a variety of technologies, and bring to light the numerous STEM jobs that are available to them.

I always leave my students with a challenge, so I will challenge you with this - even though the school year is nearing the end, how can you find a new way to incorporate technology into a lesson, STEM challenge, or project in your classroom?



Breakout EDU Game Designer

I published my very first Breakout EDU game - Searching for the Sea!

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You maybe wondering, what is Breakout EDU? A quick rundown is that it’s an escape room for the classroom! It gets students out of their seats and collaborating together to solves puzzles to breakout of a box.

Starting in February, Breakout EDU ran their first cohort of teachers to learn how to make a Breakout EDU game from scratch! We shared ideas, critiqued each others’ puzzles, learned how to screencast, and eventually left the cohort with a published game. I absolutely loved the experience because it connected me with other like-minded educators as well as learning the skills to create a game that is puzzle-based and not worksheet based. I always say, “DITCH the worksheets!’ and this really put me to the test. The puzzles for each lock are not meant to be a worksheet hidden in a different format, but rather a true puzzle that will make students think and collaborate together.

Going into the process I knew it would be time consuming, but I found that generating the puzzles was easier as you started to create a few because I learned how to think differently. Now for me, personally, it took me longer than I would have liked because I was juggling learning how to balance my time between work and taking care of my newborn. However, when I clicked submit - boy did it feel empowering. Here I am a new mother, of a now five month old, and I created a Breakout EDU game from scratch in between feedings, diaper changes, snuggles, and oh yeah, my actual teaching job too!

While I have a lot more ideas running around in my head, I will definitely sit on them a bit, so I can enjoy more snuggles and finish out the school year. If you’re interested in learning how to design your own Breakout EDU game be sure to checkout the Game Design Tutorials.

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And if you want your own class to play Searching for the Sea, get Breakout EDU’s paid-for platform. I promise, you won’t be sorry! It has transformed learning at my school!

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Want to learn more about Breakout EDU?! Click the link to learn all the ins-and-outs of why you need it at your school!