Want to see STEM in action? Read on to see ways Dave Dellwardt leverages science notebooks in a STEM environment. Tracking the learning is what science notebooks are all about. For these entries, Dellwardt’s students were engineering their own designs using the Rube Goldberg machines (RGM) invention model. RGMs perform a simple task using a domino-effect that’s as complicated as possible. This is the stuff childhood memories, and learning, are made of. To observe an examle in action, see the video below:
Dellwardt designed this personalized learning experience to reinforce critical steps in the scientific process. The process would be recorded in their digital science notebooks. Voice & choice were central from the beginning. His students designed their own Rube Goldberg machine to perform any (safe) task they wanted. Each design element was an opportunity for students to make decisions. The more complex the machine, the more decision-making opportunities created.
Science, like self-directed learning, is an iterative process. How did Dellwardt provide feedback and multiple opportunities for all students to revise their designs? Think parameters.
The students worked with some limits for their machines. The machine perimeter, no matter the shape, needed to be around 6 feet total. Materials were loosely limited to their STEM lab inventory. And of course there was a time-line. These guidelines created the shortest feedback loop possible. Students didn’t have to refer to a complex rubric, or see their teacher to find out if their project was OK. The RGMs either fit into the allowable perimeter or not. It performed the task, or not quite. That’s where the iterative process of observation, revision, and testing came in:
“We need to add a leg to hold up this flap or the balloon won’t fall right” announced one inventor.
“No! That makes the machine too big. We have to keep it down to the right size” retorted another.
“What if we pull the flap up from the top with a string. It can be as tall as we want” offered the 3rd.
All the while Dellwardt was across the room helping another group, clarifying the parameters, prompting students to add to their digital science notebooks, and generally attending to the multitude of tasks teaching a full class of 8 and 9 year-olds requires.
But what about those science notebooks? And what about technology? Students can use a variety of tools to record video, screencast, and annotate images such as Pages for Apple, the Screencastify extension in Chrome, and the Flipgrid app to name a few. Dellwardt had students using Book Creator to record their process. Requirements for the science notebooks were straight-forward:
Technology wasn’t the focus of the work. It was intentionally leveraged to help facilitate the learning and, in particular, reflection. “Sometimes writing gets in the way of the reflecting” said Dellwardt, so he strategically implemented a technology-based tool so students could record their reflections verbally. Not a single student asked how many sentences their reflection had to include. Letting writing go for this lesson meant that his students could master other 3rd grade academic standards for science, communication, technology, as well as work habits.
One last note: The level of care and neatness in Ivy Stockwell’s “STEM” room was very high. I’d have eaten off that floor (that’s saying a lot for this germaphobe)! Additionally, kids were meticulous about putting their devices away in the classroom. Time was running out for this class period, so I jumped in to help get things put away for the next group using the iPads. Each child had a redirection for me:
“Put it away so the charger is sticking out” demanded one.
“Remember to match up the numbers” reminded another.
“Don’t close the cart on the wire” warned one.
Their pride was obvious. Some of it was orchestrated by Dellwardt’s classroom management routines. The rest was organic; these learners truly value their time and resources.
By Jeannie Sponheim