I began the unit by addressing misconceptions using the anchor chart below:
We used pink stickies for misconceptions (Mars has liquid water, Mars is our neighbor so it must be a short trip away, etc.)
As we went through facts, we added green stickies to represent our facts:
Then we used an iPad augmented reality app called Aurasma - this is such a fun way to present new info/ review facts!! I made up a worksheet and I attached every picture on the worksheet to a short video about Mars.
Next, I had my students brainstorm - what would you need if you were to live on Mars? There is no food, liquid water, or oxygen there!! It's cold on Mars! There is not a lot of gravity! The answers ran the gamut from the necessary structures such as a hospital, food store, habitats; to the unnecessary but fun malls, movie theaters, arcades. We narrowed it down to the absolute essentials and then everyone started discussing their ideas with their partner. Designs were drawn and labeled and then it was time to start building.
We followed the Engineering Design Process:
My students were soooo excited to start building their prototypes using recycled materials. I keep a huge 42 gallon contractors garbage bag in one of my school closets and throughout the year, I'm constantly filling it with things people would normally throw away but that I see as building components: toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, plastic cake covers, milk cartons, cereal boxes, etc. My kids were so excited to turn this "trash" into structures. We set some design parameters - the structures couldn't be too big, the perimeters had to be <297 centimeters (approx. the size of 3 pieces of paper). The structure also had to hold the weight of 3 humans, represented by a bag of pennies with a mass of 150 g.
I love doing STEM challenges with my students - it's really a time for them to SHINE!! What are your favorite STEM activities? I would love to hear about them. To everyone that has finished the school year: Happy Summer!!!