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STEM Explorations- Inquiry

I am super excited to roll out our new STEM Exploration Centers today. I spent most of my vacation researching, reading, thinking and planning. I know it will be worth it! We have spent so much time racing toward Common Core that we have forgotten the richness of exploration.  I can't wait until they arrive today!!!!! You think they will notice? They will spend 30 minutes daily in these STEM Explorations. Children will choose daily on their own with a maximum of 5 children at each station to ensure that they will visit each station a week and there will be enough resources for each child to use.

Here are our first Inquiry based learning centers. They have been so excited about them they can't wait for the afternoons. We have a vet center where they explore the animals. Each animal has a name tag and cost on the tag. There is a cash register and assorted items to perform procedures. Today we finished reading a book about taking cats to the vet. They have learned so much already. Another center is art based, then there is the book center where they are exploring books on animals, there is a seed center with paper and books with assorted seeds to look at with magnifying glasses. Lastly there is a block building center. I can't wait to change them out at the end of next week!

Well after a week of STEM Explorations I am completely convinced on how important and rich they are. I first day I had conversations around the rice table about why two 1 cups looked different and how we could tell if they measured the same amount. First they filled both cups and said see they both measure but were not completely convinced. I simply said "oh I see hmmm". Then another child chimed in "No No that's not it". I then asked how they could use one cup to compare the other. They then figured out how to fill one cup and pour it into the other to see if they both measured the same amount of rice. YES they all shouted after they found out that they  in fact did hold the same amount. I then became involved in a wonder that one student had. He said "Look Ms D-H this one says 300 and so does the other but one is so much larger than the other". Smarty he knew something wasn't right. I then directed him to look closely at the numbers he was comparing. "Oh wait he said one says 300 and the other says 3,000. This one, pointing to the 3,000 is much bigger". WOW! Later in the week they started writing out receipts for our injured animals in the vet center. What a wonderful opportunity to learn how to write dollars and cents. They now know how to write a dollar and cent sign and that there is a decimal between the two! NICE!!! They were even writing bills into the hundreds of dollars correctly! 

Another conversation I had with one of my students was around grouping coins to count them more efficiently. This has been a task we have been doing in our centers but with objects and quite unsuccessfully I might add because it did not have real life applications. This young man was at the cash register in the vet center. I told him that it would be 50 cents for the procedure that was performed on his pet. He began to count out money. First he counted out ten cents and the another five and said that it was 15 cents. Impressive but it was not the 50 I had asked for. He then started counting out and grouping another 10. I told him I was confused because of his 10, 5 and 10 groups and was there an easier way. Of course he knew right away and began grouping them all into groups of 10. When he got to 30 I asked how much money he had so far. He quickly counted by 10s and got to 30. Then I asked him how much more money would he need to get to the 50 cents he owed me. He responded with 20 more and I about fell on the floor!!! Awesome. None of these conversations would have occurred without the inquiry centers. So impressive.

Later in the week at the Science Exploration students began taking apart seeds. When they got to the acorn they were so excited to see that it was fuzzy inside. I asked them if they knew why. We talked for a short time about the seed and then they told me that it protected the seed. I added that it may also be that the casing absorbs water. They chimed in and told me that water was important for the seed to grow.

At the building STEM Exploration center students were talking about larger and smaller/taller shorter. Excellent as these were terms that we have been talking about this year in math. I asked them if there was another way they could know exactly how tall or short something was as I pulled out a measuring tape. They could hardly contain their excitement as they measured their building and compared numbers!

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