Stems: Planning, designing and revisiting some previous ideas

Stems: Planning, designing and revisiting some previous ideas

February 8th, 2019

Hello Stem families,

Welcome into our classroom this week…

For the past two weeks, we have talked about different “languages” in the classroom.  This week we have an example of how the language of Lego was used to take an idea a step further as we discussed working on a project. When Zachary joined our class from the Stems he brought with him an idea for building a tire swing on the playground.

Last Friday he shared that idea with Rainbow group and together they used Legos to come up with some models for how we could build a tire swing.

This week Golden Star group went through the same design process.

Because there is such a demand for Legos in our classroom – and for Lego tires in particular, we had to take the models apart, but if you would like to see their ideas, there will be photos of all the models posted by the daily board next week be sure to take a look.


Many of the Stems also chose to draw their models in their idea book.

On the playground, some of the Stems tried out their ideas with a real tire and rope.

They quickly realized that they had to work together to try to attach the tire, but they also realized that they needed to figure out how to get it high enough so it can be used as a swing.

We ended this week with a group discussion about the project and the Stems shared some ideas about what we needed to move forward.  A few of the ideas were: stronger, thicker rope, several pieces of rope that are the same length.  Also, they are thinking that they might need to nail the rope to our tree, although they also noticed that the green swing we currently use is not nailed, but rather wrapped around the branch. The Stems are still in the design process and if there is continued interest we will support them turning this idea into a reality on the playground.

To connect with this idea of planning and designing as well as support fine motor skills, we introduced a new way of working at the light table.  Frequently the Stems use loose parts at the light table, but now we have also started using it as a space for drawing and design work.  Last week, when we looked at the books showing how large Lego sculptures are built one of the things we noticed is that the artists draw out their designs before building.  We also noticed that sometimes they use photographs to help them look closely at the details.  To experiment a bit with this concept, we added images to the light table along with tracing paper.

We started with the photos of clay images that we used in our small groups last week, but we quickly added images of the Stems’ own work – photos of their Lego and clay creations which they can lay out on the light table and then use the tracing paper to outline.

We have found that many members of our class who don’t always choose to draw, are curious about tracing.  It requires lots of focus, attention to detail and hand-eye coordination.  When the tracing paper is removed from the image, it also gives us the chance to notice and talk about the lines and shapes that make up the image which can be helpful later on when they want to draw a specific image or idea in their head.

We have noticed that the photographs of each other’s artwork and Lego structures are generating a lot of discussions including sharing memories of when the items were made and by whom. It has also given the Stems the chance to go back to something that they made previously and take a look at it in a new way, noticing new details.

We hope that this will lead to some new thinking about how to use the light table and new thinking as they work with other materials in the classroom.  We are curious about where this may take us next.  In the meantime take a look at what is on the light table when you come into the classroom in the morning and the traced images which we have been on display.

We have also been following up with a previous interest.  You will remember that when we introduced the scale into our classroom, some of the Stems were experimenting with balancing items on top of the scale.  Ms. Amy has helped us come back to this curiosity about weight and balance by building a large balance scale to use outside with loose parts on the playground.

We have also borrowed a small balance scale to use inside the classroom which was introduced during small groups.

It has been interesting to see the Stems experiment with various weights of materials and make predictions about what would happen when they add materials to it.

There have been discussions about which end of the scale is heavier and theorizing about how to make both sides equal. Scientific thinking in action!

You may have noticed a theme of friendship in our read-aloud books this week.  We started out the week looking at the February calendar and the Stems noticed Valentine’s day.  So, we asked them what they think you celebrate on Valentine’s day.  They shared ideas about family, friends, hearts, and cards.  We want to dig deeper into what they think about friendship, so we have been reading a variety of books that show many ways of being friends.  We will continue to explore friendship this month and to celebrate Valentine’s day we will be making Valentines in our classroom all next week.

Finally a big welcome to the newest member of our class, Mateo!  He transitioned from the Roots into the Stems this week.  And thank you to Delfina’s family for sharing about special Lunar New Year traditions with us on Tuesday at our morning meeting.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Ms. Inga & Ms. Soni