The staff pick for this blog comes from Jon Ownby, one of NICERC’s Curriculum Development Specialists.
When I first began working with the STEM: Exlore, Discover, Apply (STEM EDA) material, I was uneasy and cautious about using new material in my classroom. It was something new being added into my already-planned routine, and I like my routine. However, when I began with the first module, the Egg Drop, I was drawn in just like my students. Immediately they were building and testing then watching their designs fail miserably. Disheartened at the results, we returned to the classroom to continue with the work. They found that this impromptu construction was all part of the plan. What began as a hurried building project became a teachable moment that carried us through the rest of the module.
My students were forced to examine their creations–and themselves–analytically. Step by step we worked through the engineering design process (EDP), all the while relating the idea of protecting our fragile egg to a real world scenario that took the learning from theoretical to practical. My students took a slower, more meticulous approach to their next design, learning to see it from multiple angles. They built off each other’s ideas and considered the influence of multiple forces on their designs. This led to a much higher success rate on the second drop.
As an educator, we are constantly reminded that our teaching should be relatable and applicable for the students. We draw on the background knowledge of our students to make the concepts personal. We hope that along the way, through our differentiated instruction techniques, we not only challenge our students academically but also socially as we try instilling positive character traits. We hope that students will learn to cooperate with each other with respect and participate to improve the group’s chance of success.
With this curriculum I found all of those elements. I also noticed over time (and it was confirmed by my co-teachers) that the students were using the same reasoning skills in their other subjects. We also began to see improvements socially as some students applied what they had learned in small groups to daily life and related better with one another. The combination of interesting material, relatable scenarios, positive group development, student creativity, and challenging material makes this a powerful and well-rounded curricula.
Egg Drop is part of NICERC’s STEM: Explore, Discover, Apply middle school curriculum. To gain access to this lesson along with a multitude of other great lessons for middle school and high school classes, click here.