This post originally appeared on the blog Whimsy Workshop Teaching.
Here’s some real talk about my experience using S.T.E.M in the classroom.
When I am coordinating S.T.E.M. curriculum for grades 1-5, I observe many students exploring the S.T.E.M process who are truly engaged with hands-on learning.
For the most part, students LOVE it!
Sometimes I also see students who are not yet comfortable with taking risks.
Some students are not emotionally equipped for dealing with the disappointment that arises when their great idea doesn’t quite work out the way they wanted.
Other students feel threatened by other students who have “better” ideas, and feel defeated rather than inspired.
For some students, there’s an emotional side of being expected to take risks, make mistakes, and collaborate with others. You can probably think of students you know who think their first idea HAS to be perfect. When it’s not, they might give up, or worse – act out negatively.
For these students, S.T.E.M. challenges can also be an emotional challenge.
So should we avoid doing S.T.E.M. with those students?
Absolutely not! On the contrary, it’s the perfect learning opportunity.
These students need some tools to help them cope with challenges, and I’ve found Growth Mindset concepts in particular to be a highly effective strategy to teach these coping tools.
I feel that I owe it to my students to give them coping strategies; I am presenting situations that I know will be particularly difficult for some of them. I want to give them the tools they will need to handle it. Hopefully these tools will help them in many other life situations as well!
My solution to this situation has been to combine Growth Mindset concepts with my S.T.E.M projects.
S.T.E.M. and Growth Mindset concepts complement and reinforce each other perfectly, so teaching them together is a perfect match!
Growth mindset encourages exactly the kind of positive thinking that will help with S.T.E.M challenges.
For example, growth mindset thinking teaches us that:
-mistakes help us learn
-we can persevere through unexpected problems and disappointments
-sometimes, it takes several tries to solve a problem
Growth mindset concepts also foster an inner dialogue that is essential for ST..E.M exploration.
-I can always improve.
-I’m on the right track.
-I can keep trying even when it’s hard.
-This may take some time and effort.
-I can build on previous ideas.
-I haven’t solved the problem – YET!
We use fairy tales to explore both Growth Mindset and S.T.E.M!
Students love fairy tales because they are fun and familiar, so we begin by reading short partner plays together. You can easily write your own plays with student input, or pre-write simple partner plays like I have.
In our partner plays, the characters have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. After several readings and discussion, students become experts at recognizing which is which. I little humor goes a long way, too!
For example, in the passage below from Little Red Riding Hood, Granny has a fixed mindset, and Little Red Riding Hood has a Growth Mindset!
Students quickly learn how to tell the two apart:
We also do some writing and sorting to solidify the concept.
We use simple workbooks or flip books as shown below.
At the end of each fairy tale play, students are presented with a S.T.E.M challenge that directly relates to the story.
Here is an example of how the partner play ends with a specific S.T.E.M challenge:
In the above example, students are given the task of helping Rapunzel out of her tower.
Students now have a relevant purpose for their challenge!
Each table is given a bin of supplies, such as tape, cardboard, stir sticks, paper cups, elastics, pipe cleaners, and anything else I have handy.
Students plan, collaborate, and build! Here are some pictures of our creations for various fairy tale S.T.E.M challenges:
Here’s a few seconds of our class testing their catapults! I love to hear them encouraging each other.
I always like to have a written component to document our learning. This way we can also look back to past challenges to see if they might help with our current challenge. We use either WORKBOOKS or FLIP BOOKS to write about our S.T.E.M exploration.
Adding Growth Mindset to your S.T.E.M lessons doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. It can be as simple as making time for a class discussion to talk about making mistakes, improving designs, and all the feelings that may arise (ie. frustration, excitement, anxiety). It’s important for students to know that they are not alone in their feelings, and that people react differently to situations.
Do you use S.T.E.M challenges in your classroom?
Are there students who would benefit from pairing Growth Mindset lessons with S.T.E.M?
You can create your own partner plays, journals, or flip books to go along with any fairy tale. Or, you could create your own growth mindset plays with students as the main characters!
If you’d prefer to try some of the examples I’ve shown above, they are available two different bundles:
FREE RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED
I have some free downloads to get you started with S.T.E.M and Growth Mindset in your classroom.
First, you can try a Growth Mindset flip book which can be used with any version of the Little Red Riding Hood. It is part of the preview for Bundle 2, so click the preview button to grab it HERE.
Pin this free flip book for later!
S.T.E.M PROCESS POSTERS
Are your students clear on the steps involved with S.T.E.M process?
I have posters outlining the steps on my wall so I can refer to them often during lessons and discussions.
If you’d like to download my posters to use in your classroom, click HERE to download!
Or pin the S.T.E.M. posters for later!
There are lots of other ways to create a GROWTH MINDSET classroom!
You can write different ideas each day in Growth Mindset journals, fill your room with encouraging Growth Mindset posters and coloring activities, use Growth Mindset task cards and writing prompts, and even positive notes for students!
Click HERE to take a look at all the options for your classroom.
You can also grab two FREE posters and activities, and read more about Growth Mindset in the classroom, by clicking HERE!
I hope you enjoy using S.T.E,M and Growth Mindset in your classroom!
If you have ideas to share, I’d LOVE to hear about them!
Pin this post for later!
Susanna has been teaching primary grades for over 20 years, with specialties in early literacy intervention, S.T.E.M, technology integration, and visual arts. She believes in a differentiated, hands-on approach that considers students’ social/emotional needs along with academics. She also creates teacher-friendly clip art to help other teachers create or sell classroom activities!