I gave each group the sheet to the right as well as one challenge card (click on the button to access both). With a partner, they had to construct, with only Legos, a solution to the problem/challenge they were given. The idea was to have the students think deeper about what the problem was that the Pilgrims were facing and how they could come up with a solution using limited materials (as the Pilgrims had to). When they were done with their construction, I asked them to write a brief paragraph about their design.
A short week before the holidays will guarantee that kids will be wired...so why not capture their desire to communicate and channel it into a fun activity with Legos?! I had recently come across these Lego Challenge Cards from The Fickle Giraffe and thought it would be a great idea to modify for a Thanksgiving theme. The Pilgrims faced many challenges when they settled in Plymouth Colony after all!
I started off by showing them this video to give them a bit of background knowledge. If they paid attention enough, they could also use some of the ideas in the video for their challenge.
This was a fun challenge for me to watch, as working in pairs creating a solution to a problem was more difficult than I anticipated. I am not sure if it was due to the short week and upcoming break, or if they truly had a difficult time discussing their ideas, coming to a common solution, and then actually building a prototype. Either way, it was a good brain workout for them! They came up with some great visual solutions and were able to explain (either in written or verbal words) why they constructed what they did. If I were to take this idea a step further (time permitting), I would love to take the students outside and ask them to construct actual representations of their ideas using resources from nature. This would give some great hands-on experience (and a little more realism) for what the Pilgrims had to go through.
Recently, Kelly McGee shared something on Twitter about STREAM from the School Library Journal.
Combining STEAM and reading really makes for a learning powerhouse! He and I had a great conversation how focusing STEM/STEAM activities around the theme of a book really lends itself to meaningful extensions and connects with students on a totally different level. When he saw the tweet, we had already done our 10 Apples Up on Top activity, and realized we had already been doing STREAM without putting that tag to the concept! So, we decided to intentionally implement the concept for a fun Halloween-themed activity!
Big Pumpkin Building
To begin the activity, Kelly read the story, Big Pumpkin, to the students. Kelly is a very engaging reader to begin with, but as we were working with a small group of special education students, he upped his game a bit and the kids were totally captivated (fun accents and voices were a must!)! After reading the book, he led an adapted version of the improv game, "Hand of Power." As the story talked about the witch (and ghost, vampire, mummy, and bat) trying to pull the pumpkin off the vine, he changed the activity so there was a focus on actions and reactions.
The final part of our activity included the STEAM part - if we could build a person/thing to help the witch get the pumpkin off the vine, what would we create? Using LEGOS, students had to build a creation and then be able to explain how it would help get the pumpkin off the vine. Based on teacher recommendation, we placed the students into groups of three, and then gave them the choice to work together or individually to build a creation. The students did not hesitate to begin building and we all had some great conversations with the students as they were building their creations.
HOW MIGHT WE build relationships through engineering designs?
At the end of their building, we used the Fotobabble app to take a picture of their creation and give them the opportunity to explain how their creation would help get the pumpkin off the vine. It was great practice for verbal skills, reasoning, and thinking hands-on!
Click on the buttons to view the Fotobabbles with the students explaining their creations!
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