Wednesday, April 20, 2022

8 Tools for Creative Thinking and Play!

*previously published by Carly & Adam 

**This post contains an affiliate link.

Learning through play can engage students by making learning more hands-on and active. We can introduce students to tools that support play-based learning and provide opportunities for students to use these tools throughout the school day and in a variety of ways.

Are you ready to infuse some play-based learning into your classroom? This post will share eight tools (some of which you probably use already) to try with your students, as well as a few quick ideas for classroom use.


  1. Play dough

Grab any color of dough and create anything your imagination comes up with. A character from a favorite book, something from nature, or a favorite pet, play dough can be used to create anything. Bright colors and smooth textures make it a playful tool for any classroom. Play dough can also serve as a tool to fidget with or help as a stress reliever.

2.            Cori

If you haven’t tried Cori yet, you are missing out! This unique cardboard kit allows students to build and design vehicles and contraptions or create something completely on their own. Easy to use and sturdy for building, this tool is perfect for a play break or to incorporate into your next STEM lesson. Add some Cori products to your school makerspace or include it as a building tool in your classroom.


3.            Fancy markers

Smelly markers, fat markers. Bold colors or pastels. Glitter pens or highlighters, kids love creating with fancy markers. Offer any kind of marker for a play break and let students imaginations soar! Students can use fancy markers to sketchnote their ideas after reading a story or to draw a graphic organizer to further their understanding. Write their spelling words in rainbow colors or practice counting by 2’s with “bingo daubers”. Markers can be a playful way to highlight a text or just have fun and doodle.


4.            Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles offer a space for groups to gather and work together. Digital puzzles can be fun too. Learners might also like word puzzles, math-related puzzles, and brain teasers. All types of puzzles can engage learners in different types of play. Consider having an area in the classroom where students can access different puzzles. These can be used during learning centers, free choice time, or even at recess. Better yet, find ways to incorporate puzzles into your content lessons.


5.            Strawbees

These simple straws and connectors can offer hours of fun. In a learning center or for a play break, students can build on their own or use the idea cards that come in the Strawbees kits. Construct a house or even a skyscraper. Build a build or a helicopter. Students can play freely with Strawbees or build to meet a specific challenge.



6.            Sidewalk Chalk

Write your name or your vocabulary words in squiggly rainbow letters. Draw a map or try some hopscotch. A little chalk and an empty sidewalk are an invitation for little kids (and big ones, too) to play. Take is outside to create a Venn diagram or to write math facts. Sidewalk chalk will make any lesson a little more playful.



7.            Specdrums

From Sphero, this hands-on tech tool offers creative kids the chance to make and remix their own music. Add the Specdrum rings to your fingers, then tap any surface to create different sounds and beats. This active technology allows anyone to become a music maker. Students will love exploring sounds with this tool, while others might create a soundtrack of their very own.


8.            Canva

This app isn’t just for graphic designers. Canva is a cool digital tool for making just about anything--slides, posters, or invitations. Creative kids can use Canva’s free platform to explore with colors, images, fonts, and stickers bringing to life whatever comes to mind. Create a story map or an image of your favorite character. Design a brochure of a location you are learning about in social studies. Canva is easy to use and designs can be downloaded and shared.

Want to play?

These aren’t the only tools that promote play in the classroom. You may use different tools depending on the type of play that you want to encourage. Think about any tool that sparks student interest while encouraging them to think in creative and interesting ways.

We can unlock creativity by offering students different types of building materials, tools that encourage movement, or materials that inspire art. All of these will foster a playful mindset in the classroom and encourage your students to engage with others in play!


Monday, April 11, 2022

8 Children's Books That Inspire Play

 *previously published by Carly & Adam

We can inspire playful learning in our classrooms through the activities we plan, the materials we offer our students, and through the books we read. Play can be fostered when we play a game, introduce a fun new tool, or when we offer students creativity challenges.

Students enjoy different types of play. Some will prefer physical play, while others might like creative play. Think about the different ways that you can infuse playful experiences into your classroom.

Books are a great way to provide inspiration and share playful ideas with your students. Any of these books could be a perfect read aloud selection or an introduction to a playful activity that you offer your students.

1. Run Wild by David Covell

This book will prompt students to put down their devices and head outside to explore the outdoors. The sights and sounds of nature are shared in this beautiful rhyming tale. Go outside for a nature hunt, search for insects and animals, or take photographs of plants and flowers. Look at the sky and feel the wind blow. Encouraging outdoor play will open new opportunities for students. 

2. The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee

A little boy spends the night in an office building where his parents work. There they pretend they are in the “Kingdom of the Paper King.” The parents tell a story of kings, queens, and dragons, entertaining their son while they clean the office. Students can create with paper too, folding, constructing, and imagining. Paper crowns, thrones, or swords, students can create their own imaginary kingdom right in your classroom!

3. Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Full of different animal movements, this book will get students up and moving. Swinging, leaping, dancing, and climbing, students will have fun trying to do each movement. This book introduces some unusual animals and interesting opportunities to move. Incorporate animal movements for a brain break or as a playful way to line up for lunch. Make your own game where hopping, slithering, and flittering are the way to navigate through the classroom space.

4. How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz

Anna and Crocodile head out on an adventure to find gold. Together, they draw a map to find their gold. Crocodile draws and tells a story about pirate ships and sea monsters. They head out to sea on their adventure until they find their treasure. Students will love the chance to create their own map. Trade maps with a friend and see if you can follow their directions to find the riches. Imagine the pirates are after your treasure. Write a creative story to tell what happens. Act out the story. You can even make props and costumes to go with it.

5. Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward 

This story will activate the imaginations of your students. Colorful illustrations of a wonderful carousel and the notes written by a polar bear to a young girl. Together, they fly over the town before arriving at the North Pole for a polar bear party.

6. What If . . . by Samantha Berger

This story will inspire students to write, draw and fold paper to tell stories. The young girl shares the creative ideas she will try: carving her chair into an airplane, painting on her walls, and removing the floorboards. Drawing in the dirt or making shapes in the snow, there is no end to her creative imagination.

7. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

A fun book that shows kids that it’s OK to get messy. Vibrant and colorful, our mistakes can turn into something amazing if we open our imaginations. Papers can tear and paint can spill, but there are always new possibilities that come from an oops. What kind of classroom mistakes can we turn into something creative and beautiful? Scraps of fabric, broken crayons, or pieces of cardboard can be transformed into something new.

8. Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

A playful approach to storytelling, this quirky book about an octopus will make kids laugh while also inspiring them to write their own creative stories or build their own purple spaceship out of found materials, or plan a parade with musical instruments. 

Pick a book!

There are so many great children’s books that inspire play and prompt students to get creative. These books (and so many others) can amplify play-based learning while also focusing on the joy of reading. Silly books, colorful books, and imaginative books are perfect to spark some play in the classroom.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

14 Diverse STEM Picture Books for Elementary Students

*previously published by Carly and Adam 

Our classroom libraries and the stories that we share with our students should be reflective of the diversity that makes up our world. Every child should have the opportunity to see themselves represented within a main character, a story setting, or a book author.

Whether sharing a book about a student of color or one that depicts a unique culture from around the world, it is our responsibility to highlight diversity, equity, and inclusion within our read aloud selections. This is especially important in STEM, demonstrating that science, technology, engineering, and math are accessible to ALL students.

This post will share 14 engaging STEM picture books that showcase diverse characters, authors, and topics. Along with each book summary, there are a few hands-on activities to support elementary learners.



1. Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein

This colorfully illustrated book tells a story of an Aboriginal community waiting for rain in Australia. It shows how rain, or lack thereof, has an impact on plants, animals, and people. 

  • Design a device that will collect rainwater. Think about the ways that water can be used to help others.

  • Observe and graph the weather for a week. Which weather occurred the most? Were there any big rainstorms?

  • Conduct an experiment. Plant two seeds. Water one with rainwater and the other with tap water. What happened? What differences do you notice?

2. Wild Berries by Julie Flett

A Native American boy and his grandma walk through the woods picking berries together. Throughout the story, keywords are also shared in Cree, the language of the Plains Indians. 

  • Construct a basket or bucket for Clarence to carry his berries in.

  • Weave your own spider web using string.

  • Use a map to locate the region where different Native American tribes live. 


  • 3. Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson

  • Ruby and her neighbor head out for a walk in Central Park. Ruby wants to sing and talk but her neighbor is quiet and serious with the hope that they will see a warbler. 

    • Build your own binoculars and head outside to see what birds you can find. Create a chart or graph to show the results.

    • Construct a bird feeder so that local birds will gather to eat.

    • Research different types of birds and create a model of your favorite. 

4. Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park

Nya and her sister walk from their village to the watering hole to get water for their family. When her sister got sick, Nya had to carry the water and her sister.



5. Magic Trash by J.H. Shapiro

Tyree Guyton’s family didn’t have enough money to buy new toys, so he collected things to make his own. Inspired by his grandfather, he went to art school and used his skills to brighten up his neighborhood.

  • Use craft sticks to build a small structure.

  • Collect found materials to construct a vehicle that can travel across the room.

  • Plan a community beautification project.

6. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty

Sofia was a helper from an early age, spending time with her grandfather, Abuelo. She learned early how to take action and advocate for her community. Sofia used her talents and skills to make a difference!

  • Plan one way that you will help a friend or neighbor this week.

  • Design a community park that will serve the interests of the people in your neighborhood.

  • Create a poster (physical or digital) to bring attention to an important community issue.



7. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali

On the first day of school, two sisters walk together. The younger sister tells a story of pride about her older sister wearing her hijab, but the other children don’t understand why she wears it. The story focuses on pride of culture and family, above all.

  • Construct something that symbolizes your family or culture.

  • Create a video to explain why your family is important and share the video with others.

8. Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Peter has a new baby sister and he’s not too sure how he feels about it. All of the things that used to be his are now being given to the new baby. When he realizes that he’s too big for those things, including his chair, he helps his dad paint them for his sister.

  • Construct a chair out of newspaper. Can you build it strong enough to hold you?

  • Think about an old item that you can repurpose and turn it into something brand new.



9. Patience, Miyuki by Roxane Marie Galliez

Miyuki and her grandfather visit the garden on the first day of spring. Miyuki asks many things in nature like the clouds, the waterfall, and the creatures to help her. They all try to teach her to be patient, but Miyuki has a hard time waiting.

  • Try some paper folding and create an origami swan-like the one on the cover of the book.

  • Learn about the flowers that bloom in the springtime where you live. Plant some flower seeds and watch them grow.

10. Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is determined to create a flying machine that will zoom across his yard. His sister really wants to help him. They work together through different designs until their flying machine is successful.

  • Construct a ramp that will help you to launch a flying machine (or another vehicle). 

  • Design and build a flying machine and see how far it will fly.

  • Take a look at another Jabari story that helps to practice SEL strategies.

11. Invent a Pet by Vicky Fang

Katie wanted a unique pet. She uses an extraordinary machine in her living room that would help her invent a pet of her very own. The machine creates all sorts of animals until finally, Katie designs one that is just right for her.

  • Imagine a pet that you would like to invent and build a model of what it would look like.

  • Create a new formula that Katie’s machine might use to create something brand new.

12. Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams

Kondi collects all sorts of items in an old shoebox. He uses the items to make things. He’s saving wire to make a “galimoto.” Galimoto means car in Chichewa, the official language of Malawi. Kondi bargained and traded for the things he needed to finally create his own toy car so he could play with the other children in his village.

  • Use pipe cleaners and other recyclable materials to make your own galimoto.

  • Design and construct a different type of toy. What will it be made from? Who will play with it?

13. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada was curious and had lots of great ideas in her head but did not speak until she turned three. That’s when all of her questions came out and she explored everything in sight. Ada hypothesized and experimented to learn about the things she was curious about.

  • Conduct an experiment with your senses and categorize objects based on their scents.

  • Brainstorm some topics you are curious about. Create a hypothesis and design your own experiment using the scientific method.

  • Complete an experiment of your own by making elephant toothpaste.

14. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William lived in a small village in Malawi where there was no power for lights. He was interested in how things worked, he read books, and even built some things on his own. He used materials from the junkyard to build a structure to use wind to create energy for his village.

  • Deconstruct an old toy or broken piece of electronics and find out what’s inside.

  • Use recycled materials to build a truck, like William did.

  • Build a wind turbine or another way to harness wind power.

Picture books are a great way to introduce interesting people and cultures to your students. It is important for all students to see themselves in the selection of books that you read aloud. Highlighting people from different places and those with diverse backgrounds helps students to celebrate the uniqueness of those around them.

Through our read aloud selections, we can build an interest in STEM and show our students the diversity all around us.

What other great books would you add to the list?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Winter STEM Ideas

*Previously published by Defined Learning.

Stuck inside? During the cold months of winter, it is easy to get bogged down by the weather, gray skies, and cold temperatures. Whether we are at home or in school, we can engage learners in meaningful STEM learning that reflects the winter months.

Students can get involved in winter STEM learning through inquiry and engineering design challenges. These opportunities allow learners the chance to fuel their curiosity on different topics and continue to apply their creative problem solving skills throughout the year.

With many schools engaging in remote learning, the ideas shared in this post can be implemented in school or at home. Think of the ways you might explore the cold or build a better winter gadget as a part of STEM learning.

Explore the Cold


Think of all the cold weather things that students can explore during the winter months. This is a great time for inquiry-based learning and the discovery of why things are the way they are in winter. This ongoing exploration can start by generating a list of winter questions:

  • What do snowflakes really look like?
  • Why do animals hibernate in the winter?
  • What makes cars slide on the ice?
  • How long does winter last?
  • Where does the word blizzard come from?
  • Does the winter season look different across the globe? Why?

Students can explore these STEM-related topics independently, with a partner, or with the entire class. These can be posted to your class website or displayed on a wall in your classroom. Uncovering the answers to these questions can be an opportunity for students to engage in research, discussion, and experimentation. It might even be the springboard into a project-based learning experience or a genius hour opportunity for students. Students can share the answers to the questions by creating a video, blogging, or building a model. The open-ended nature of inquiry-based learning means that students can show their understanding in a way that fits their knowledge, skills, and interests.

Build It Better

Setting up engineering design challenges for students is a great way to keep their minds thinking and their hands actively working. Building something better allows students to reflect on things that already exist (products, experiences, processes) and figure out ways to improve them.

  • Slippery Sledding - With a layer of fresh snow, the kids are heading outside for a sled ride. Bundle up and grab your sleds or snowboards. Why do some sleds work better than others? Research (and try out!) different types of sleds or snowboards. Which materials work best? Plastic, metal, or something else? What shape makes for the smoothest ride? Sketch and design a better sled or snowboard. Students can even build a prototype as a part of the design process.
  • Shovel It - When the heavy snows come, it is time to bring out the shovel or maybe the snow blower. What features make shoveling the snow easier? How many different types of snow shovel designs exist? What makes one shovel more efficient over another? Can you design one that looks better, is easier to grip, or lighter when lifted? What could you add to a snow blower to make it run more smoothly? All of these design components can be researched and considered within the engineering design process.
     
  • Snow Fort - Once all that snow is piled up from shoveling, take advantage and build a snow fort. Surely, we all remember doing this as a child or with our own children. Snow forts can come in many shapes and sizes. You can build an igloo with snow bricks or dig a tunnel into a snowy dome. The possibilities are endless for learners who want to create a fun spot for winter. Expand on this activity and have students sketch and design a model for a snow fort. What shape will it have? How many people will fit inside? (This could be practical or a snowy “dream” house.) Infuse some math and have students include the dimensions for the fort. Tap into some technology tools and have students use Sketches School or Paper to create their images digitally. Student designs can be posted on the class website or even shared on social media.


Of course, STEM learning can be explored all year long. Design challenges and exploration in science, technology, engineering, and math can happen no matter the weather. Keep the STEM learners in your life engaged by incorporating these opportunities into the classroom this month!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Integrating STEM and SEL: 5 Benefits For Your Students

*This post was previously published by Carly & Adam. 

A first grade teacher welcomes her students back to the classroom. She is excited to have a busy space, full of learners talking, working, and playing. Her excitement is balanced with concern as she knows that many students are nervous to return to school and some may be coming for the first time in a long time. She has planned fun icebreaker activities, reading lessons, and cooperative learning tasks. Not only does she want to build a sense of classroom community, but she also wants to welcome students into a safe, collaborative, and enjoyable learning environment. 

She plans to do several read alouds with a focus on starting a new school year, making new friends, and how to work together. She shares the book The Name Jar and other stories that help students develop self-awareness that is important at the first grade level. She has planned some getting to know you activities where students communicate with one another and share their interests. She understands that building relationships are critical in school and in life. These students work together on some problem-solving tasks.

These activities will help students develop and learn together, fostering collaboration skills along with building new knowledge. When combined, these activities also connect two important instructional ideas, teaching STEM and providing a foundation for social emotional learning in school.

STEM education and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) have many common components that align including: 

  • Teamwork: the importance of working as a team but also recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Relationship Skills and Self-Awareness: the challenge of developing an awareness of others while continuing to build confidence in yourself. 

  • Social Awareness: the reward of having positive relationships and the hard work that goes with creating them. 

  • Responsible Decision-Making: the understanding that the choices you make have consequences for yourself and those around you.

It makes sense to provide instruction that can build skills in both STEM and SEL. These two paths may seem different in some ways, but they have many strategies in common. STEM and SEL can work together to accomplish similar goals. When taught in alignment, students can reap the benefits of this integrated approach. 


Here’s a closer look at the 5 benefits of integrating STEM and SEL:

 1. Promotes Academic Growth

Students who are struggling with their own social emotional development may be coming to school, but they aren’t necessarily ready to learn. When we find ways to address social emotional needs in the classroom, we can remove those barriers to learning and promote academic growth. If we can fill some of their social and emotional needs through teaching social skills, then students can begin to attack the content in STEM and other subject areas.

In the classroom: The first grade teacher used read alouds to engage students in the topics of empathy, reputation, and growth mindset. In turn, when she planned a read aloud STEM challenge for her class after reading The Bad Seed, she hoped that she would see students activating those skills. Since the students have also discussed working together and solving problems, they were able to use that knowledge when the teacher challenged them to design, build, and test a seed home for The Bad Seed. This challenge has allowed students to recognize their strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose. Because the students learned the skills to be self-aware and effective in small group settings, they were able to succeed in the challenge.

2. Offers Hands-on Connections
When hands-on opportunities are embedded in content learning, students are more engaged and can better grasp the information. As we provide social emotional learning strategies for communication and organizational skills, students can practice them within the STEM learning tasks we design, in turn giving them a hands-on experience connected to their social emotional development.

In the classroom:
 In a kindergarten classroom, the teacher talked with her students about self-management. She read the story My Magic Breath. The story teaches students to use mindful breathing strategies when they need to calm down. The class made their own pendulums with markers, string, and tape to practice different breathing techniques. Now the students have a physical tool to help them to practice their breathing with something they designed and built themselves!

3. Provides Practical Application

We can equip our students with skills to communicate, collaborate, and make responsible decisions, but if we don’t give them the chance to practice these skills, we are missing a big opportunity. Engaging in a science experiment or a building challenge requires teamwork. Problem-solving can provide practical application for students who are developing their social emotional learning strategies.

In the classroom: A class of 4th graders has been working on responsible decision-making skills and their teacher is encouraging them to utilize different strategies to stay focused to meet their goals. In a small group, they create a plan for cleaning up and improving the school grounds. The students work together, using their personal strengths, to increase the success of the group as a whole. Their project requires STEM skills like design, innovation, and engineering, but also self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.

4. Increase Positive Interactions

Part of social emotional wellness means being able to connect with others in a positive way, communicating, and building relationships with those around you. Students need to practice navigating these interactions and using the right language to engage with others. These are a natural part of work in STEM and makerspaces, as students work with others to design, construct, and give feedback to one another.

In the classroom: The second-grade class is trying their first engineering design challenge. The teacher has assigned each student a role (team captain, materials manager, head architect, and testing supervisor). The students embrace their roles and work collaboratively to accomplish their challenges. Once teams have completed one iteration of their design, they move around the room and provide feedback to their peers, building positive communication skills and deepening understanding in the classroom. 

5. Build Skills For Life

As students learn social emotional skills alongside skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, they are preparing for daily interactions with others, but also for potential careers. While some careers may function in isolation, most require positive interpersonal skills and working with a team. Opportunities in STEM offer the chance to build the skills which will help them in school, career, community, and beyond. 

In the classroom: Within the STEM lab, you’ll rarely hear anyone say, “Why do I need to learn this?!?” Students understand that solving problems and working together are a part of life. They see it in action when they are challenged to construct new living spaces, design new contraptions, and take steps toward coding. STEM learning experiences allow them to better understand themselves and others which will benefit them during all stages of their life.
STEM and SEL are building blocks. When stacked together they can create a strong foundation for our students. The benefits of incorporating these two instructional areas exist for both students and for teachers. SEL isn’t something extra that we need to teach. It’s not the latest “add-on.” It is the foundation on which we have been planning STEM learning all along!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Fostering a STEM Mindset

 This post was previously published on the CORI website.



“I really think our game should focus on adding and subtracting decimals,” one student suggests. “I think that might be a little challenging. Maybe we should just focus on rounding decimals since that’s what we have been working on mostly in class,” shares another.  “I like that idea. Can we all come to an agreement on that?”

This was part of a conversation that I recently overheard in a fifth-grade classroom, where students were working together to design and build board games. All the games needed to include relevant math content, as well as different characteristics of gaming. Students engaged in meaningful conversation as a part of the engineering design process. They shared ideas and politely disagreed. Each student’s voice provided value to the group, allowing them to work collaboratively on the task. 

“Can I add that maybe we could use the adding and subtracting like Daniel said as like a “power up“ within the game?” one student offered. “Ooh, I like that idea. Then we are making a game that everyone can play, but there are also ways to make things a little bit harder” says one student as she high-fived her teammate. “What do you guys think about creating cards for the game? I’d like to design those and you guys can start on constructing the game board.”

The conversations between the students were rich and focused. They made decisions and solved problems in a collaborative spirit that allowed them to fully engage in the task. Together, the team worked to design and build their game board using recyclable materials and art supplies from their classroom STEM cart. They activated their imaginations and skillfully used their resources to create aspects of the game that reinforced math concepts. The group incorporated their challenge cards and wrote instructions for how their game was to be played, all while infusing their math knowledge as the primary content for the game. 

Mindset in action

Students in this classroom example are demonstrating a STEM mindset in action. They are working to accomplish a common goal that requires collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Students are thinking flexibly about the problem in front of them, but also activating their personal experiences to enhance their project. 

When this type of mindset is cultivated in a classroom, it is evident through student conversations like this one. As students are presented challenges, they utilize their collective skills and strengths to analyze and solve problems. This mindset can be developed in any classroom and at any age. With personalization, perseverance, and patience, we can foster this mindset in our students, setting them up for success in school and beyond.

Developing the mindset

 A STEM mindset is flexible and curious and is often thought of as “outside the box” thinking. A STEM mindset is challenging, as learners wonder about problems that aren’t always easily solved. It includes things like combining ideas to create new things and taking apart things to find out how they work. 

This mindset is not something that you can force upon learners, but rather something that you guide students towards. With support, we can encourage our learners to explore new materials, tackle big challenges, and extend their thinking beyond what is possible.

Developing a STEM mindset can be difficult for some, both students and teachers alike. It requires grappling with ideas and experiencing failure, things that are not comfortable for many. As learners encounter setbacks, they build resilience, rebounding into new learning. As teachers experience challenges, they rethink their instruction and reimagine ways to engage students in STEM learning.

For some students, STEM experiences are when they have the chance to thrive. It is when they get to try new things (and then try some more). It is often when students get to access different types of learning modalities, beyond what occurs within traditional courses. The nature of STEM learning represents possibilities for creativity and innovation.

Experiencing failure

In schools where students engage in STEM learning, things don’t always turn out the way they were planned. And that is OK!  Groups of students engage in an engineering design challenge or conduct an experiment—sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. STEM learning can be messy and unconventional. It may require trial and error.  Students may encounter obstacles or find shortcuts. It is likely that at some point, they will fail. How students respond to that failure is a part of the STEM mindset.

John Dewey said, “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks, learns quite as much from his failures that from his successes.” This is a tough lesson for kids to learn. Failing and bouncing back from that failure is critical to a STEM mindset, and to life. 

STEM learning is meant to be open ended, which is why learners encounter stumbling blocks and experience failed experiments or designs. In authentic STEM experiences, there shouldn’t be one anticipated endpoint or product of this learning. It is what the learners construct it to be.

Where STEM thrives

Learning spaces that embrace STEM are places where students say:

I wonder how that works? 

What if we would combine these two materials? 

Can I try that? 

What can we create together?  

As we work to foster a STEM mindset within our students, we welcome these questions of curiosity and exploration. We invite students to get messy, learn new things, and explore new materials. Through their exploration, a mindset of discovery and creativity will thrive!

Interested in developing a STEM mindset with your students? Check out the cool cardboard materials from Cori.