Monday, May 30, 2016

Art and Science?

Insect-themed neo-Art-Nouveau by Stephanie Young.

By now, most people have at least heard of STEM to STEAM.  But what does it mean?  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Art!  It's not enough to observe, identify, hypothesize, but to DO.  In a lesson I recently developed, my second graders are building bug houses.  As the "architects", they must consider the needs of their client(s).  I narrowed it down to three for them, with brief mention of a few others.

Basically, each student is getting a $1 mini crate I got off the Michael's website and painted green with exterior paint and primer.  They then have to gather materials from home that they think will be good for their resident: twigs, leaves, bark, chunks of wood, cardboard, packing materials, etc.  I told them no rocks and to stay away from poison ivy.  All this was reiterated in their take-home instructions.

Also in the instructions were the needs of several insects.  Lady bugs often hibernate in small spaces in logs, leaf litter, dead trees, people's attics even.  They prefer horizontal openings.  (Butterflies, by contrast, need vertical openings to accommodate their wings, but I told them their crate would be too small for the space they needed to perch.  We wanted ladybugs to move in to eat the aphid pests.  The new guy I introduced them to was the lacewing.  It also eats aphids but likes to reside in dry straw.  Solitary bees, contrary to popular belief, do NOT live in hives, but hollow reeds, clumps of tall grass, holes on logs or living trees, even underground.  Since giving them this assignment, I discovered one bee that does use rocks (specifically, genus  Dianthidium in the Megachilid or leaf cutter Family uses pebbles and mud) to build its house and another (the wool carder Anthidium, also a Megachilid) that likes soft, fuzzy plants to line its nest.  They're still not getting rocks, but I'll add mullein leaves to the mix.  (I frequently see wool carders in the summer,  hovering around my rose campion, a fuzzy plant like lamb's quarters but with pink, dianthus-like flowers.  They are very fast and territorial, guarding their flowers, and very fun to watch.  Like all bees, males have no stingers.)

Building day arrives.  All but two of the kids brought in items last-minute.  Only two kids brought rocks, which I promptly removed.  I separated all the items into separate boxes: Recently living plant material (flowers and grass clippings), dry straw, twigs, sticks, bark, cardboard tubes, paper packing materials, pine cones, pussy willows, craft sticks, etc.   (Several orders of paint came in that week so I had uniform boxes.)  Originally I was going to cut up bamboo, but it was too much to do and I'm working with a fractured thumb.  We had done a lot with paper manipulation and I showed them how to roll tubes.  Their crate had to contain the objects and they were not allowed glue.  Nothing could fall out, not even hay.  The spaces in the crate did allow them to put craft sticks across, which many did, creating "floors".  When complete, they will place their bug condos outside and wait to see who moves in.

I'll admit that in the last few weeks of school the kids get rambunctious and I get less patient.  But I sent them one table at a time, with assurances they would be allowed to go back, to gather building materials for their bug condo.  For the next 30 minutes, every kid was engaged, no one fought or argued, there was plenty to go around, and one student who gets frustrated when his project doesn't look like mine said it was the best day ever!  They will continue work tomorrow and I will add more pictures to this post.  

Which brings me to NGSS, or Next Generation Science Standards.  In the kindergarten to second grade Engineering, Technology, and Science (ETS) Standard, students should:

Students who demonstrate understanding can:
K-2-ETS1-1.Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
K-2-ETS1-2.Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
K-2-ETS1-3.Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

Which I believe we are doing!

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