Teacher Experience: “Go Fly a Kite Task” for 3rd-5th Grade Math Students
A reflection by Susan Sokolinski, 3rd–5thgrade math teacher for gifted students, Grace McWayne Elementary School and Louise White Elementary School, Batavia, Illinois
“Defined STEM was something we knew could be incorporated into our teaching. These projects have inspired them to make learning their own, it got them out of the packet and into more authentic learning.”
Building necessary skills to connect real-world context to classroom subjects with realistic reasons to solve problems.
Project-based learning constructs learning in a way that students can relate to. I’ve noticed how children are more engaged in their learning because they see the relevancy when asking, “Why am I doing this?” They work collaboratively for a purpose and learn how to effectively collaborate to complete a job. The use of technology was invaluable, too. During one of our projects titled “Disney Dude,” I taught my 3rd-graders how to generate charts in Google Sheets. I showed them how to use functions to generate data. When I showed them how to use the mean function, a student remarked, “This keeps getting better and better!”
Using Defined STEM in a way that gives students ownership of their learning.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome was thinking, “I have all the knowledge and I’m going to give to you,” and trust the kids to acquire these skills more authentically.
As a new user of Defined STEM, I really stuck close to the lessons at first. For one project, called “Go Fly a Kite,” I required each of my students to make a kite of their own by working in groups. Each team scaled their kite by a unique number so that all of the kites were the same shape but they varied in size. When we observed the kites fly, we pondered the variables that may have accounted for the differences in how they flew.
Students have started to learn in a way that’s fun and unique to them while taking pride in owning their learning. One of my students said, “I learned that a kite needs not only symmetry and congruent parts, but it also needs stability so it can fly. I learned I’m really good at engineering. But I do wonder something: do streamers help the kite fly or are they just decorations?”
For another project we did, called “Fuzzy Bunny,” I invited a local pet store owner in to talk to the students about the cost and challenges of owning a rabbit. At the end of the project, kids who really wanted a bunny wrote persuasive letters to a chosen family member in an attempt to secure a furry friend of their own!
As we keep going with project-based learning in my classroom, we continue to grow and evolve. By adding my own touches to what’s provided by Defined STEM, I’m not risking compromising the fidelity of the projects. Next year, I’m going to dig more into the rubrics provided and use them to send home with children so parents can better understand classroom expectations.