How to Organize a Schoolwide STEM Day
Last Thursday, our school held it’s first annual schoolwide STEM Day, organized and beautifully orchestrated by my talented GRC teammate, Kristi. Because we teach at a school with over 500 students, we’ve both been trying to wrap our heads around a STEM Day or STEM Night for the past year, but weren’t sure how to pull it off with so many students. While we wanted our families to be involved in the event, what we wanted more was for ALL of our students to have the opportunity to participate in engineering. We also wanted to organize the event in a way that was meaningful and most convenient for everyone involved.
Using the Family Engineering book as our guide, Kristi had a much more meaningful twist on a STEM Day with the following stellar principles in mind:
STEM Day will be held during the school day.
Stations will be prepped, organized, and facilitated by fifth grade student leaders.
All students and grade levels will rotate through during a scheduled 45 minute time block.
No prep or extra personal time is required on the part of regular education teachers.
Truly, the concept of fifth graders as STEM leaders instead of teachers was brilliant. We are always, always, ALWAYS talking about giving students ownership over their learning experiences, and what better way than allowing them to take responsibility for a school event that benefits their younger peers? Instead of teachers taking the time to assemble and facilitate stations, the fifth grade leaders were provided the ultimate “teachable moment” on a silver platter!
So, how exactly was our STEM Day organized and carried out from start to finish?
Let’s start with the Family Engineering Book, which is where ALL our station activities were chosen.
This book is FULL of awesome ideas for organizing your own event and has dozens of ideas for challenges. Kristi chose 10 of the challenges from the guide that we had both tried out at a recent training, and decided to triple the amount of activities. This meant that we had 30 total stations set up with the same 10 stations repeated three times. Since we have around 100 students per grade level, this allowed the students to spread out around our media center and not wait in long lines to try out each activity.
Each activity has very clear instructions, a list of required materials, and an engineering connection. We had copies of these instructions at each station, and they are also what the fifth graders used to prep and practice their activity.
After the stations were chosen, Kristi then got to work gathering all needed materials. Enter, Sign Up Genius!!
In case you might not be familiar, Sign Up Genius provides FREE online sign up forms for a variety of purposes. Kristi emailed only her fifth grade parents with a link, and within two weeks, had everything she needed to get stations set up. If your school is smaller, you may need to open up your Sign Up Genius to additional grade levels in order to gather enough supplies. All suggested supplies from the Family Engineering guide are inexpensive and easily found at most local stores.
When all the supplies started rolling in, Kristi simply left them in piles and ready for the fifth graders to gather what they needed. Before assigning pairs of students to a station, she modeled and discussed each one as a class. Then, she gave each group a basket from The Dollar Tree to gather their needed supplies, prep materials, and practice teaching one another. They also created a display poster to be attached to their station table.
All the baskets were lined up, ready to be set up in their stations prior to the morning of STEM Day. A few fifth grade volunteers stayed after school the previous day to set up and arrange tables in our media center. The morning of STEM Day, all fifth grade leaders arrived to school early, took their baskets to the library, and set up their stations. It was low prep and stress-free for everyone!
Here was our schedule for the day:
The fifth graders were such respectful and dedicated leaders throughout the day. I loved circulating to listen to their conversations with students, hearing questions such as,”Why do you think that happened?” “How do you think this is like a structure in the real world?” “How can you improve your design?” and so many more. Their roles as STEM teachers were so much more memorable and meaningful than teachers taking the reigns!
All in all, our first STEM Day was a huge success, and we are so excited to put it on again next year! Now that Kristi has worked all the kinks out, we are thinking about having the fifth graders come up with their own original challenges next year. I am so grateful for such an innovative, hard-working teammate who is always looking for ways to put students first!
If you have any questions or ideas about organizing your own STEM Day, please leave them in the comments!