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If you’re looking to apply learning in adaptations, habitats, food chains and food webs, life cycles, genetics & heredity, evolution, and/or human body systems, this STEM or STEAM challenge is a perfectly engaging way to get the job done joyfully!
It’s the perfect Halloween or spring STEM activity, but it works any time of the year to connect to your life science standards!
The basic premise:
Students work in individually or in partners or groups against a list of criteria and constraints to create a create-ure that has never been seen or imagined before.
Note: This is the printable version, though you can upload the editable version of student handouts to Google Slides™. However, if you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you may prefer the digital option designed specifically for use with GOOGLE SLIDES™.
If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.
NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
- Links to a video walk-through of the challenge & my STEM Challenge PD video series
- Premise & Set-up
- Materials and timing
- Modifying Criteria & Constraints to adjust challenge difficulty
- Measuring results
- Post-design extension activities list & links
- Criteria and Constraints list
- Design Analysis Handouts (in color and B&W in two versions: 4-page expanded room for response and 2-page condensed space version for older students)
- Discussion Questions
- Process flow map
- Create & solve math problems based on designs
- Life Science Folder/Booklet Project templates (editable):
- General Information
- Feature Spotlight
- Life Cycle
- Where in the World? (Habitats)
- Food Chain / Food Web
- Animal Classification
- Geologic Time Scale
- Genetics / Heredity
- Body Systems Compare/Contrast
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. I’ve done the challenge with nothing more than newspaper, tape, and pipe cleaners and it worked well. However, as with all challenges, the more varied the materials, the more varied the designs!
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
- Newspaper or tissue paper
- Construction paper
- Craft sticks
- Pipe cleaners
- Pom poms
- Googly eyes
- Sand paper
- Masking tape
- Hot glue guns
- Plastic wrap or sandwich baggies
- Uncooked noodles, rice, and/or beans
- Design analysis handouts (included)
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- High levels of student engagement
- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for approximately 60 – 90 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. I recommend working on STEM Design Challenges in multiple iterations to get the full value.
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Video preview music credit:
"Carefree" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License