Advancing STEM Challenges are designed to bring engineering and design to your classroom in a simple, easy-to-implement, challenge-based way. Modify our Advancing STEM Challenges for your classroom.
Did you know snowflakes generally are hexagonal structures because of the chemical bonding that occurs within the water as it freezes? or that each snowflake is unique? Do you know what kind of snowflake falls the fastest or slowest through the air? Your job is to find out this last question! The task is to design a prototype snowflake using paper and scissors. Once you've built your snowflake prototype, you can test it out by dropping it from different heights and using a stopwatch to time which design falls the fastest or slowest.
Your snowflake design does have some criteria and constraints. Every snowflake created has to be from the same origami template (see step-by-step instructions with pictures here: http://www.origamiway.com/how-to-make-paper-snowflakes.shtml). There has to be a 1cm border on the top and bottom that cannot be cut. At least three areas have to be cut out from the template. The snowflake should be dropped from the same height every time, held open with two hands, and held horizontal (flat) to the floor for fair trials. You and your group should try to design a snowflake following these guidelines that falls the fastest or slowest.
Hints and Tips for Success
"Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used in all content areas."
Working on a team of about 15 people, students work to find clues and solve puzzles in an effort to “breakout” of a locked box during the 45-minute challenge. The clues came in many forms: digitally with QR codes and email, entangled in art, knotted ropes, videos, and some even hidden under black light. One clue leads to another and the excitement in the room is tangible as participants try to make sense of what information they uncover. And then, they beak out. Along the way, students learn about the history of communication.
Inspired by this though-provoking approach to teaching and learning, regional educators were introduced to the game-based learning approach at the second session of New Teacher Academy on December 1st.
Considering the application of BreakoutEDU in the classroom, teachers were excited about how well it promotes cooperative learning and students working together towards a common goal. Within the challenges, students can take roles that suit their learning styles. The most exciting part is that through the studying of clues and trying to figure out the puzzle, learning happens organically, without teacher led discussion.
BreakoutEDU is an excellent way to generate student interest and knowledge about a topic or to demonstrate and apply skills they’ve just learned in the classroom. There are hundreds of game options available across every content area.
Video on BreakoutEDU
For more information about BreakoutEDU, please visit their website. Want to see if your students can breakout? Contact Learning Resources today! CA BOCES has 5 BreakoutEDU kits available.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer and Shannon Dodson, CA BOCES Professional Development
Cattaraugus and Allegany County classrooms have reached an all-time high traveling virtually across the globe. Since the start of school 2,592 students have experienced opportunities to gain real world knowledge of various cultures from around the world. Historically, December Virtual Field Trips average 20 connections, but this year, Santa came to our region and brought our total to 103 trips in 3 weeks!
CA BOCES sends monthly trip highlights out to your Curriculum Coordinators, Tech Integrators, and Principals, so keep an eye out for these exciting opportunities. Some of these opportunities included National Distance Learning Week that was held November 7-11 in conjunction with the NYS Distance Learning Consortium. National DL Week allowed districts across the region to experience fee-based trips for free so that districts who had never seen a virtual field trip before could take part in this event. We expanded on these meaningful experiences at the NYS Middle School Association by showing districts how easy it was to connect to Ghana, Africa.
What better way to develop communication skills with students helping them to express their ideas culturally and academically through media sources. Students have opportunities to engage in collaborative discussions on curriculum topics, contrast cultural differences, and build language and logic to address details in directions. Below are some examples of content based trips:
Let CABOCES help you and your students take your next field trip virtually. All you need to do is click on the link below to see what’s on the calendar for upcoming trips:
Or to search for your own classroom topic, you can do a keyword search and see the hundreds of trips available by clicking on this link:
Or, to let us search for a trip for you! All you have to do is click on this link, and we will take of the rest. You will just need to fill out the request form and we will arrange to take your students around the world, into space, or even back in time!
If you would like to learn more about virtual learning experiences, please contact Carrie Oliver at 716-376-8270 or Betsy Hardy at 716-376-8281 for more information. The opportunities are endless.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Learning Resources
3,853 Overdrive eBooks checked out
1657 resources shared through interlibrary loan
22 workshops to support professional development for school librarians
405 Library System deliveries each month
229 databases purchased managed
Filled 33 requests for 1 Foundation (American Museum of Natural History), 1 State Library (New Jersey), 2 major academic research libraries, 6 academic libraries, and 15 public libraries
Requests from 16 states to borrow library resources
2,592 miles of postal service to lend 1 book
“Enough students are suspended every year to fill forty-five Super Bowl stadiums.”
These challenges can tie to any content area and encourage kids to look at themselves as engineers. They also help develop 21st Century Skills with every step of the process.
If you’re looking for some challenges to do in the classroom, there are plenty ideas you can find with just a simple search. Most use simple materials you probably already have in the classroom. Here are four examples using cups, cubes, and craft sticks: http://frugalfun4boys.com/2015/06/11/4-engineering-challenges-kids/
By: Clay Nolan, CA BOCES Learning Resources
For many children, adolescents, and even teachers, playing a game, especially a videogame, is a preferred pastime. Something about a game keeps players engaged as they try over and over again to accomplish a skill, complete a task, or advance to a next level. The challenge can be all-consuming as players spend considerable amounts of time gaming, even seeming to lose consciousness of the world outside the game. Why do games merit such attention? It may be because games meet students in Lev Vygotsky's (1978) Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The difference between what a learner can do without help and what he/she can do with help, the ZPD exists between what is known and unknown, where classroom teachers attempt to meet their students with new knowledge, and new learning occurs. It is the instructional sweet spot.
Games intuitively capture a player’s attention at his/her ZPD, as initial rounds capitalize on a player’s prior abilities and skills, and each additional level forces him/her to learn a new skill or acquire new knowledge to be successful. Despite the glazed-over eyes and tears of frustration that can accompany a string of losses, the player returns again and again, each time with a little more understanding of the key to mastery.
But how is it that games feed a player’s engagement despite multiple unsuccessful attempts? Bruner Wood (1976) expanded on Vygotsky's work to suggest that supports, or scaffolding, within the ZPD can be removed as soon as skills become automatic. Wood referred to scaffolds as, “Those elements of the task that are initially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence” (1976, p.90). One element of successful learning is the ability of the teacher to engage students in the content long enough to provide the scaffolds and supports needed for students to succeed in the ZPD.
To achieve engagement, games captivate players emotionally, enticing them with the quest to be played. Game designers hone in on a player’s desire to succeed or win by building the sense the player can triumph through fair play. This embedded emotional element mesmerizes players and leads to deep engagement and the acquisition of skills and content, and tickles the player’s intrinsic desire to succeed. The strong emotional connections of games further enhance a sense of engagement with their task. Fear, surprise, disgust, pride, triumph, and wonder all act as engagement keys for game play (Farber, 2015). “Designers can customise an experience best suited to unlock certain feelings” (Farber, 2015, p.60), making even stronger connections to the game and creating a commitment by the player to continue.
Both Vygotsky and Wood describe recognizable parallels to players that self-select games in their ZPD. Gamers learn rules using peers as supports, play, and soon--without help--experience gratification as they play, and even lose. As players develop, they select games requiring a variety of skills or, as skills become automatic, games that are more challenging. Games players find too easy or too hard lie outside the ZPD and lack the keys to engagement, causing players to become passive or give up. Ralph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design, points out, “The definition of a good game is therefore one that teaches everything it has to offer before the player stops playing” (2013, p.46). Koster asserts both the educational and entertainment value of games by writing, “Basically, all games are edutainment” (2013, p.47).
Games, almost in any form, are so good at engagement, maintaining attention, and advancing a skill that they also make terrific teaching tools and have led to the game-based learning philosophy. “Game based learning describes an approach to teaching, where students explore relevant aspects of games in a learning context designed by teachers. Teachers and students collaborate in order to add depth and perspective to the experience of playing the game” (EdTech Team, 2013).
Through game-based learning, teachers pair the benefits of games with learning in their classrooms. Andrew Garvery, a middle-level English teacher at Randolph Central School and professed “gamer”, is one teacher using the blended game design curriculum Zulama to bring the engagement of game design to his students. Andrew’s students are answering the questions, “What is a game? Why do we play them? Is a game a representation of society? How is society represented in a game?” (Garvey, 2016). His students are not using a traditional educational games approach to master vocabulary or key components of content, rather games are the engaging content in his class. Students in Andrew’s classroom are, by design, becoming game designers.
Games, through many of the strategies highlighted below and built within Zulama’s curriculum, become everyday pedagogical tools in the learning process.
- Games allow students to explore the history of games, their impact on society, society’s impact on games, and various games played throughout history. They are rich with history and have been impacted by the cultures in which they were created and played. Students might benefit from learning the components of games (Fig. 1) from the past. Students can then make predictions about the cultures while they are playing the game. Those predictions can be used throughout units of study of geographical places and world cultures. Students playing Monopoly may predict something largely financial happened during the early part of the twentieth century. Nine Man Morris, played during the early Roman Empire, or the Royal Game of Ur, one of the oldest known games, might provide windows into a time unknown to students and may be helpful in helping students connect to an unknown culture and time.
- Encourage students to dissect core components of games, game principles, and emotional design elements with students (Fig. 1). Dissection of games may help students understand the engaging elements of games and how they can be applied to games of their own design. Students might compare and contrast game elements from various games and discuss why some games are more engaging than others. Students can also make connections between game elements and how they might begin to engage others through the use of games.
- Allow students to create their own games using a design process that includes player feedback and iteration of their games. Implementing a design process that includes playtesting allows students to react to player feedback and iterate their design (Farber, 2015). Authentic play of student created games also creates an environment of high quality student output as students build their games, and it also creates an environment of giving and receiving peer feedback. Teachers may also ask students to use an existing game and ask students to recreate, through iteration, its design. The process of iteration allows students to “level-up” their game and make it more appealing to future players.
- Assign students to design abstract games within content areas. Try asking students to design a Math game using a deck of cards, a board game paralleling World War I or A Farewell to Arms, or a word game related to William Shakespeare's “King Lear”. Crossing content and concepts from the classroom with game creation can serve as needed application and attempts to automatize information through game play.
- Work with students to explore story elements of games as related to context, plot, and character development. Have students write a script for a current game or use a script as the basis for creating a game. It might also be interesting for students to write reviews of existing “storyline heavy” video games they play at home.
- Finally, apply game design to add context to coding experiences in web and app design. Programs like Zulama offer a rich gaming context to digitally designed games. Using software like GameMaker to create original video games or creating 3D worlds with Unity allow students to put coding and programming skills to use in an authentic way in the classroom. Involving students in feedback discussions and the iteration process using their original created video games yields high engagement. Curriculum programs provide classroom teachers with instructional tools related to programming that might not be native to most educators, yet provide context for coding and programming tools used by many students.
Whether your favorite game is Monopoly, Minecraft or Mancala, when you are gaming, you are a student and learning is happening. Almost magically, the game has placed you in your Zone of Proximal Development and, chances are, you can’t get enough, even when you’re losing. Incorporating game-based learning strategies to instructional design can bring the magic of the game to the heart of learning in any classroom.
EdTechReview, Editorial Team. (2013, April 23). What is GBL (Game-Based Learning)? Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://edtechreview.in/dictionary/298-what-is-game-based-learning
Entertainment Software Association. More Than 150 Million Americans Play Video Games - The Entertainment Software Association. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.theesa.com/article/150-million-americans-play-video-games/
Farber, M. (2015). Gamify your classroom: A field guide to game-based learning. NY, NY: Peter Lang.
Garvey, A. (2016, March 10). Zulama Webinar [Online interview].
Koster, R. (2013). Theory of Fun for Game Design. O'Reilly Media.
Vaillancourt, Beverly. (2014). Zulama: Game Design, Game Principles, and Emotional Design Elements. Used with permission.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wood, D., Bruner, J., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Child Psychiatry, 17, 89−100.
By: Tim Cox, CA BOCES Instructional Support Services
During the year, all teachers create and administer three interim assessments that are rigorous, aligned to the standards, and mirror the final assessment for the course, whether it is a state exam, Regents, or final exam. Teachers use eDoctrina and Castle Learning to link their assessment questions to their content standards. Both programs generate item-analysis reports with multiple data points, such as which questions students struggled with/mastered, the percentage of students struggling with/mastering a standard, and answer distribution for each question.
The DLT uses these reports to make initial observations of the data to help prepare for the data meetings with teachers. When the DLT meets with the teacher, the team works together to make observations, inferences about the data, and an action plan. Meeting as a team is essential, especially for the last task, because everyone can work together to share new ideas and practices to help target areas of weakness, instead of just making an action plan where you reteach the content in the same way. Together, the DLT makes SMART goals with the teacher (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) to best meet the needs of his/her students that he/she hopes to meet by the next interim assessment.
This process has been very successful. Jennifer Cappelletti shares, “Over the past two years, we have made using data effectively a main focus in the high school. With each data cycle we have evaluated the process and made adjustments to make the process more worthwhile. This year, we added cross-curricular teachers at the same grade level examining each other's data together. The result has been a better understanding of each other's curriculum and collaboration on reaching common goals.”
Finally, to strengthen the data-driven culture, the DLT has been involved in CA-BOCES’ Informed Teaching Series. The team participated in four sessions, doing a deep dive into Leaders of their Own Learning, a book that details how to create a culture of student-engaged assessment that puts students in the driver’s seat in self-assessing their progress. Upon completing the program, the DLT met and identified five best practices they want to implement into their school culture. Great work, Franklinville teachers!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development
April 2016 brought more than just spring weather to the Wellsville Central School District, it also brought Emily Lester’s grade 11 ELA class an interactive learning experience with students from halfway around the world. It was another step in her ‘Pen Pal’ project that had begun in Fall of 2015, and will continue to the end of 2016 school year.
The Wellsville Junior Class began the year with a different type of writing project than usual. Ms. Lester had been in contact with an English class from Vrasta, Bulgaria about doing a joint project. Her students and the 26 students from the Joan Ekzarh Foreign Language School in Vrasta, Bulgaria have been corresponding via traditional mail, fax, and email as pen pals for the past couple of months. They have also shared class care packages, sending back and forth mementos and items that would reflect their own cultures and way of life. This past month, the two classes were able to have their first real time conversation via Skype.
Ms. Lester approached her class about the Skype possibility and explained the challenge that would come with it due to the 7 hour time difference and the different school day schedules. In order to make the call happen, the students from Vrasta would need to stay after school hours and the students from Wellsville would need to arrive an hour before school would begin. Despite these challenges, the students were eager for the opportunity and welcomed the experience.
The call was not without its share of technology hiccups though, as the morning of the call the network in Vrasta started to have some trouble. After a few IM’s back and forth, and switching from using a computer to using an iPhone, the students were able to meet each other and put a face to the names of their pen pals. This experience allowed for students to see planning, preparation and problem-solving all come together to make an idea turn into a successful reality. Ms. Lester plans to continue with this project and planning for another call later in the year is already underway. Her students are already looking forward to that call, not matter what time of day it may be.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Puppetmasters David and Amy, also known as Up In Arms, combined a cast of 10 friendly, colorful monsters, humor and original songs from rock, to classical, jazz, pop, and Broadway standards to teach Melvin and the young audience about learning styles and self confidence.
Almost 2000 students (PreK- 2nd graders) from schools across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties learned valuable lessons for school and life. Genesee Valley, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Arcade Elementary opened their auditoriums to host these performances. Monster Intelligence marked the sixth and final performance of the school year contracted by BOCES. BOCES Arts-In-Education helps schools enrich the lives of their students by providing opportunities to experience the performing arts. TheatreWorks USA is a professional acting company based out of New York City. It is America’s largest and most prolific professional theatre for young audiences. For more information about bringing TheatreWorks shows to your area, contact Student Programs at 716-376-8284.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
The United States has developed as a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientists, engineers, and innovators. In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects collectively known as STEM.
Coding (also called programming or developing) is telling a computer, app, phone or website what you want it to do. Some educators and experts are calling it the ‘new literacy’--a subject so important that every child needs to know the basics to excel in our rapidly changing world. Four- and five-year-olds can learn the foundations of coding and computer commands before they can even write and spell words. Older kids can learn to code through classes, mentors and online tutorials (see below for learn-to-code resources for all ages).
Learning to code prepares kids for the world we live in today. There are tons of jobs and occupations that use code directly, like web designers, software developers and robotics engineers, and even more where knowing how to code is a huge asset—jobs in manufacturing, nanotechnology or information sciences. However, for most kid-coding advocates, reasons for learning to code run much deeper than career prep.
Clay’s session started with the basics of human coding and advanced to applying this basic knowledge to a coding app or coding program on the ipad. The teachers began to make a code for other teams to follow in order to build a tower out of cups. The basic concepts of human code allows teachers and students to practice and understand the language of a coding program better. After the towers were built by following the developed codes, teachers explored two coding apps: Hopscotch and Code.org.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Cattaraugus Little Valley
CLC (collaborative Learning Community)
New Teacher Academy
Next Generation Science
Odyssey Of The Mind
Teach Like A Champion
Virtual Field Trip