As elementary STEAM educators, we have both learned that the best way to teach science is through hands-on exploration where lessons are both rigorous and relative to all of the students in the classroom. Incorporating robotics, coding, and engineering into these lessons is a great way to engage students and inspire them to apply their learning.

It can be something of a challenge to incorporate this hands-on learning into some science units, such as earth and life science. For example, many life science units focus on looking at plants and animals and reading about their environments—leaving out the integral hands-on engineering and robotics. Here are two tech-infused lessons that have increased student engagement and brought elementary earth and life sciences to life.

Teaching earth science and collaboration in the ‘Windy Day’ project

In Barb’s 1st-grade classes, STEAM lessons revolve around wind and weather. One example is the “Windy Day” project. We start by talking about the science vocabulary. It’s first grade, so we focus on questions like what’s hot, what’s cold, what does wind feel like, and what does it look like outside?

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To simulate a windy day, students use art materials like streamers and feathers and attach them to a KIBO robot. They code the robot by creating sequences of programmable wooden building blocks that have commands printed on them, and then use the robot itself to scan the blocks and start their program. They also sometimes use the robot’s sound module to record their own windy day sounds. They make silly sounds of wind rushing or sometimes record their voice telling the story of the robot. These recordings become part of their program.

Using robots to bring earth and life science to life

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eSchool News STEM, STEAM, & Makerspaces Guide

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About the Author:

Katie Blagden is a K–4 STEAM educator and science curriculum coach at Ayers Ryal Side Elementary School in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Barb Tennyson is the instructional technology specialist and STEAM educator at the John Eliot Elementary School in Needham, Massachusetts.


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