Saturday, June 25, 2016

Transforming My Classroom into a STEM Lab: Part I

*I have not been compensated in any way for the products mentioned in this post.

Over the past four years, I have transformed my classroom space into a STEM lab that is available for our entire school to use.  Here is a little background information:

  • I'm our school's Gifted Resource Teacher.  I don't have a "homeroom" class of my own, but I work with identified Gifted students and their teachers in grades K-5.  Our county has a collaborative teaching model, meaning I push into classrooms to plan and implement lessons with all students.
  • I have a full size classroom of my own, but it is accessible to any teacher in our building to utilize.
  • I have amazing support from my building administrators and my Gifted Coordinator at the division level. 
  • Our county has an Education Foundation that has funded many of the things I'll talk about. Each Spring they ask for teachers to submit proposals for projects and I've been awarded grants three years in a row.
  • Other funding has come from Donor's Choose, instructional supply money, and our awesome PTA.

I've blogged about Successful Grant Writing! Click here to find out more.

I hope that even if your circumstances are different than mine, that some of this information provides some ideas and is helpful for you to create a STEM or MakerSpace in your own classroom!

In the very beginning...

My interest in STEM began when I needed points to renew my teaching license.  My co-worker Rachel and I found a college class being offered over the summer through the fabulous Math Science Innovation Center.  It gave us the fundamentals of STEM education and introduced us to the 5E Inquiry model.  Rachel and I committed ourselves to implementing STEM lessons in the next school year.  Through the program, we were also given a set of Probeware to bring back to our school, including temperature and weather instruments.

In the course, we had several guest visitors and speakers.  In one particular session, teachers from a STEM School came to discuss how they've transformed teaching and learning for their students.  They showed up pictures of their STEM Labs, and the idea to have one at our school was born!

The following school year, we were busy trying to fit STEM lessons into our existing curriculum (at the time, I was a 5th grade teacher).  It was challenging to gather the materials that we needed for each lesson, but our students loved STEM.  Through the STEM course, Rachel and I learned about VISTA - The Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement.

VISTA was another summer opportunity (with year long support) for us to learn about developing and implementing PBL's, inquiry, and best practice in science education.  Along with the professional development, we were also given a budget to purchase more science materials to aid in our PBL unit.  That summer, I applied for and was accepted as our school's new Gifted Resource Teacher.

As I was implementing STEM lessons and lugging recycled materials, pipe cleaners, google eyes, tin foil, cardboard, etc. all over our building my first year as a GRT, I recognized the need for a common space.  I applied for and was awarded my first STEM Lab Grant to begin the process of getting it off of the ground. My administrators invested in the idea of STEM education, and gave me a full size classroom to fulfill the need.

Year One Grant Purchases

Most of the grant money I spent during the first year was on organization.  I purchased many 6 quart storage containers (on sale at Target during college sale time), this 10 drawer organizer and this 15 drawer storage organizer.

I labeled everything.  Everything!  I wanted materials to be readily accessible to students, and for teachers to quickly be able to find what they needed.  You can get the labels I made as a free download (with an editable template) here on TPT.

Transforming My Classroom into a STEM Lab: Part I
Transforming My Classroom into a STEM Lab: Part I
One of my favorite purchases were the Suncast recycling bins for different materials.  I sent a letter home to my students asking them to send in recycled supplies.  They were an expensive purchase, but it was well worth it to keep everything neat and organized.

I also spent some time thoughtfully decorating with different STEM poster sets.   Here's where you can find them:

Transforming My Classroom into a STEM Lab: Part I

I also purchased several sets of KEVA planks, Snap Circuits, and STEM teacher resource books (like Engineer Through the Year) to help get the lab up and running.

Be sure to check back soon for Transforming My Classroom into a STEM Lab Part 2: Grants two and three!

1 comment:

  1. Very well defined article how to established STEM labs for school and college.We are one of leading STEM Education provider of India which have various equipment & resources that is very needful for US.