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Summer STEM Guide

Welcome to the Summer edition of our seasonal STEM guides! It contains:

  • STEM related summer events and themed days/weeks
  • Quick, easy website and activity suggestions for how to get involved (click on the pictures to find out more)
  • Summery STEM resource recommendations

Diaries at the ready! The events listed below are a really good way to help theme your STEM activities and help children to make real-world links. We anticipate lots of outdoor, nature-themed STEM activities over the next few months while the weather is mild and the natural world is alive with colour and activity.

30 Days Wild (throughout June)

This annual nature challenge is organised by the Wildlife Trust. They want you to do one wild thing a day throughout the whole month: for your health, wellbeing and for the planet. That’s 30 simple, fun and exciting Random Acts of Wildness.

How to get involved…

National Dinosaur Day (1st June)

National Dinosaur Day takes place on both the 15th May and the 1st June. It’s a great one for any budding young palaeontologists! Celebrate all things dinosaur by finding out some cool dinosaur facts and taking part in some dinosaur activities.

How to get involved…

World Environment Day (5th June)

World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June every year, and is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Learn how all living things on Earth are connected in the web of life and how we can act for nature.

How to get involved…

World Oceans Day (8th June)

On World Oceans Day, people around our blue planet celebrate and honour the ocean, which connects us all. By working together, we can — and will — protect and restore our shared ocean. Join this growing global celebration on 8 June with continuing engagement year-round! To view the education resources on the World Oceans Day website click here.

How to get involved…

Women in Engineering Day (23rd June)

The 23rd of June celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world. It is is an international awareness campaign which raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.

How to get involved…

The Big Butterfly Count (17th July – 9th August)

The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 113,500 people took part in 2019, submitting 116,009 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.

How to get involved…

National Marine Week (25th July – 9th August)

This event is the Wildlife Trusts’ celebration of all things marine. Despite the name, it lasts 15 fun-filled days to allow for the variation in tide times around the country. During this time, Wildlife Trusts all around the UK put on a jam-packed programme of events and activities.

How to get involved…

Summer STEM Resource Recommendations

Here are a few of our ‘must have’ summer STEM resources. We think you’ll come back to them year after year with your children! Click on each picture to view it on Amazon.

Have we missed off a summer STEM event or a ‘must have’ summer STEM resource? If so then add it to the comments below. (note: this is a UK based website so some events have a UK focus).

How To Organise a STEM Week

The idea for HowToSTEM first came about when I organised a STEM week at my primary school. Full of enthusiasm, I turned to the internet for inspiration, only to find… well, not a lot! Unlike the well-trodden maths or science themed weeks, there really wasn’t a lot available in terms of STEM resources aimed at younger children. Likewise, I struggled to find other primary schools that had organised a similar event. It was this realisation that prompted the creation of this website, to help other teachers (and indeed, parents) looking for STEM inspiration. Fast forward a year or so and I’m pleased to see that primary school STEM weeks are increasingly popular. If you’re looking to organise a STEM week in your school then I hope the advice below is useful to you.

DECIDE ON A THEME OR SERIES OF PROJECTS

Every STEM week needs a focus. One way to approach this is by having a whole school STEM theme. With a bit of forward planning you may even be able to coincide this theme with an annual event such as ‘World Space Week’ (October) or ‘National Robotics Week’ (April). The theme can then be broken down into separate year group focuses. For example:

Main theme: Transport.  Year group focuses: cars, planes, boats, rockets.

Main theme: Space. Year group focuses: planets, stars, rockets, sun/moon.

If this whole school theme approach isn’t for you then an alternative is to allocate separate year group STEM themes. This approach allows you to represent a wide range of STEM areas, all in one week. You can choose whether to link each theme to what the children have been learning or go completely off curriculum. Examples STEM themes are:

…the list goes on and on!

THINK ABOUT THE END RESULT

Start thinking ahead about what you’d like the final outcome of the week to be. Consider the following:

  • How much of the weekly timetable will be set aside for STEM? The whole week? Every afternoon?
  • Will each year group be working on one big project or a series of smaller projects?
  • How will you share the learning with the school community?
  • How will you display the learning around the school?

I have no doubt that your STEM week will create quite a buzz, both in school and amongst the parents. It’s therefore important to bring the school community together to share this learning. You may chose to do this in an assembly at the end of the week, allowing year group to present their learning. Alternatively you could organise a STEM week exhibition during which each class lays out their learning in their classroom for parents/carers and other classes to visit. I heard of one school who held a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event at the end of their STEM week. Each year group had been challenged to create a product linked to their whole school STEM theme and concluded the week by pitching it to the ‘dragons’ (a selection of governors!).

You’ll find you have plenty of wonderful creations to decorate the school with. It’s worth liaising with teachers in advance to make sure they keep a sample of the work for you. Think about the area/notice boards you will use for the display and whether you will need a size restriction (some of our STEM creations turned out to rather too large for display!)

EXTERNAL WORKSHOPS & VISITORS

No matter where you are based, there are likely to be many people in your local community willing to work with your school during the week. When organising visiting speakers and workshops, consider reaching our to places such as relevant university departments, nearby zoos, local museums, and, of course, STEM ambassadors. If you’re not already aware of the STEM ambassadors scheme, they have over 30,000 ambassadors who volunteer their time and expertise to promote STEM to young people (https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors/ambassadors). Contact your nearest STEM ambassador hub to arrange a visit. My top tip would be to do so a few months in advance of your STEM week, detailing exactly the areas you will be focusing on. They can then include your school in their monthly email to ambassadors and will help to pair you up with the most relevant people to your topic. Aim to organise a visiting speaker or workshop per year group, as well as a STEM assembly or two. Our STEM week was launched with a fantastic assembly from the local university’s chemistry department, complete with explosions!

It’s tempting to spend lots of money booking workshops and visitors. I’ll let you in on a secret: the only cost incurred for our STEM week was for the project resources (things like card and dowel, most of which were acquired cheaply from Scrapstore). Every single visitor and workshop was completely free! Granted, the school was well-located in a large city but with a bit of effort and a few emails, I hope you could achieve something similar almost anywhere in the country.

PARENT VISITORS

Possibly one of your most valuable resources is standing right outside your classroom door. You’d be amazed how many of the parents and carers within your school community have STEM experience. Spread the word about your themed week and you will most likely find volunteers willing to lead workshops or Q&A sessions linked to their career. During our STEM week we had all sorts of wonderful visitors: pilots, boat builders, wind farm engineers, firemen – who knew we had such accomplished parents? We were particularly keen to invite in women working in STEM careers. There is now increasing awareness about the underrepresentation of women in STEM, as well as the misconception that STEM subjects are ‘male’. Inviting in female role models is an excellent way to challenge this. Some parents popped in for 10min sessions, answering questions about their job, others led workshops and hands-on activities. Their knowledge and expertise brought a depth to the week that we as teachers would struggle to attain and made our lives much easier in the process!

We hope you have found this advice useful. Do comment below if you would like to add anything further.

5 ways to teach STEM with QR codes

5 ways to teach stem with qr codes

Nowadays QR codes can be found everywhere. We see them on websites, flyers, packaging, adverts, in restaurants and shops… the list is endless! We’ve got some great ideas for how you can bring them into your classroom. Try them out and we think you’ll agree that QR codes provide an exciting and memorable way to bring learning to life.

what is a QR code?

QR code stand for quick response code. These nifty little codes originated in Japan but can now be found all around the world. Simply scan the image using your smartphone or tablet and it will take you to a specific digital destination. This might be an app, website, text message or audio message. In fact, why not go on a quick QR search around your classroom and see how many examples of these codes you can find nearby?

what technology do i need?

In order to get started with the following activities you will need two important bits of technology; the tools to create a QR code and an app to scan the code with.

QR code generator: In order to create QR codes, we recommend using http://www.qr-code-generator.com/ This website is free to use and gives you the option to link your code to various digital destinations such as a website, PDF, image, MP3 or text. Remember to make sure your code is ‘static’ so that the destination is fixed. Other QR generating websites offer the option of customising and changing the colour of your QR code. Be aware that darker codes on a lighter background scan best.

QR code app: Free apps such as QRbot can be downloaded via a smartphone or tablet device to enable you to scan and read QR codes. Some apps also offer additional functions such as keeping a log of the QR codes that were scanned or being able to generate QR codes.

QR code scavenger hunt

Our first activity is guaranteed to increase children’s engagement and will keep them talking about it long after the lesson has ended. What’s more, it can easily be adapted depending on the lesson purpose. Simply generate your QR codes and hide them around your classroom, ready for your class to find and scan. Essentially, any lesson can easily be turned into a QR code scavenger hunt. For example, a maths lesson on identifying types of angles can become an exciting STEM challenge by generating each angle as an image on a QR code. Your class will love moving around the classroom to find and identify the angles and can record their answers in their books.

Another idea is for the QR codes to contain quiz questions related to an area of study. This can be achieved by using the ‘text’ option on your QR generator. Once scanned, children should write their answer to the question before moving on to scan the next one. Alternatively, the QR codes might contain answers to a list of pre-prepared questions. Children should match the question to the answer, recording them in their books.

 

create codes to share answers

Our second QR code activity is also extremely versatile and can be adapted to suit most lesson activities. The purpose is to create QR codes that will help children to complete their work. We’ve seen this activity used in lots of different ways. For example,

  • To provide answers to lesson activities (see image 1). Once children have completed their work, they simply scan the code to find the correct answers. This not only provides them with instant feedback but also saves the teacher lots of marking time!
  • To link children to websites that will help them with their work (see image 2). We all know how long it can take children to type a web link into google. By scanning the QR code, children are instantly transported to the correct website and can use the information to help them with their work.
  • To link children to relevant YouTube videos (see image 3). Learning about an inspirational stem person? Why not link the children up with pre-chosen videos about their achievements, giving them time to scan and watch the videos. They can then use their new knowledge to create fact files, posters etc.

add interactivity to books

Adding QR codes to books is a great way for children to ‘go beyond the text’. Taking the book ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ as an example, the QR codes below could be inserted into the front of the book. The first links to a short YouTube video designed for children, entitled ‘What is an Engineer?’ The second links to a website full of engineering activities that could be linked to this book. Why not add some QR codes to some of the books in your classroom to help your class learn more about some of the themes in the book?

interactive QR code displays

QR codes also serve as a great way to make your classroom displays more interactive. Codes can be generated to link the reader to relevant books, websites and videos. They can also provide answers to questions on the display. A quick image google search should provide you with plenty of inspiration. Children will enjoy scanning the codes and interacting with the display.

create your own QR codes

Instead of the teacher doing all the work, why not hand the power over to the children? Creating QR codes is a great learning opportunity for your class, helping them to understand more about web links, video url’s and QR codes. Challenge them to come up with their own QR codes to add to a classroom display or insert inside a book.

We’d love to hear about how you have been using QR codes in your classroom. Add your comments below or share your thoughts with us via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Let’s embrace STEM and bring ‘real world learning’ into primary classrooms

Very early on in my teaching career, a student responded to an activity I had set during a maths lesson with a very simple question: ‘what’s the point?’ This is a question that could be taken one of two ways by a teacher who had so far spent her NQT year overdosing on lesson planning. However, taken objectively, it was a perfectly valid question and one that I fear many students across the country have asked themselves over and over again throughout their school education. What’s the point? How does any of this relate to ‘the real world’?

In an education system dominated by assessments and SPAG tests, it’s easy to see students becoming disengaged with learning as they grapple to memorize a plethora of different calculation methods and make sense of the grammatical posters plastering the walls around them. Even at primary school level, children can spot disparities between what they are taught, and the strategies that they see applied in day-to-day life. They know that the adults in their lives do not spend hours copying out examples of grid method multiplication onto squared paper and they become increasingly aware that these adults are not always familiar with the various methods that they are expected to demonstrate in their homework.

Children are constantly bombarded with answers to questions that they simply haven’t asked. Leave them to their own devices, however, and we find that they are naturally exploring and asking questions of the world around them. We see this kind of exploratory play in pre-schools and reception classes in which children work together to enact real-world scenarios and solve problems. Follow these children up through primary school, however, and we find that this exploratory learning stops rather abruptly.

Our students are growing up in a world increasingly dominated by STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) advancements and it is our duty to make their learning exciting and relevant to the ‘real world’ skills that they need to succeed. STEM careers continue to be some of the fastest growing and most in demand career areas with STEM graduates currently earning some of the highest starting salaries. However, speak to a primary school child and they are likely to describe science and maths as ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’. It is now more important than ever that we ditch the worksheets and bring these areas of learning together a practical focus that allows children to be creative, exploring their ideas and developing them further.

Here at HowToSTEM, we’re passionate about developing exciting STEM resources that engage children’s natural curiosity. We begin each of our activities with a real-world question or problem, challenging the children to collaborate together in order to solve it. We know how busy teachers are with so many skills and objectives to cover so we’ve linked each activity to the national curriculum. What’s more, resources are clear and open-ended to allow them to be adapted to the age and needs of each specific class.

It’s time that primary schools engaged with the world around us, inspiring children from an early age with ‘real world learning’. As a primary school teacher and former science-phobe, I can think of no better platform to excite and inspire children than STEM.

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