Monday, March 13, 2017

3.13.17  Birds Enrichment Class - Wixon Innovation Middle School
South Dennis, MA

STEM.  Have you heard of it?  Are you sick of hearing about it? Don't knock it 'til you try it... Do you know what it means?  The greatest part of STEM in my opinion: HANDS ON LEARNING.  Learning with your senses, at least for me, is more interesting, it lasts longer and is FUN!  When learning is FUN... learning is not work.  
STEM is: Science Technology Engineering Math

We have a storm coming here to the Cape and it was pretty cold today, so I decided to keep the bird nerds in the classroom even though it was sunny outside.  I figured the birds are well aware that some nasty weather is coming their way and that would probably increase the chances we would have little to no sightings.

I get to work with all sorts of materials and hands-on projects with these students and today I brought in what is typically a hit, not so much I discovered for those who don't really love touching dried cranberries...they are kinda sticky.  So, back to STEM...  How do I incorporate an indoor lesson that combines several of these specialties?  Well, Science - Ecology, Engineering - Building something, Math - using patterns and estimating as a tool for math.  When I combine these three things... we make BIRDFEEDERS.   What?  Yes, birdfeeders out of pipecleaners, oats cereal and dried cranberries.

Do you like math?  ICK!  I DO NOT, which seemed to be the general consensus for many in our group, I also asked them if they liked patterns, and did they ever work with patterns in math.  What about estimating? (estimating is a recurring theme in math lessons for this age group: 4th&5th grade)  I showed everyone the simple design of how to begin their birdfeeder with the pipecleaner, and I asked them to choose a recurring pattern to work with, such as 5 cereal pieces and 2 cranberries.  I asked them, before they began, to estimate the amount of both cereal pieces and cranberries that would fit in total on their birdfeeder.  Then they got to work, choosing their own pattern.  There were some who were skeptical about how patterns in math can be so helpful...sometimes it takes a sticky situation to prove the point. When they finished in their own time, I would take their birdfeeder out of their hands, ask them their pattern, the ratio of cereal to cranberries.  

When they broke down the pattern, they could easily do the math, both multiplication and addition, in their head, no counting individual pieces... NO SWEAT!  How close did they come to their estimate by judging the size of their materials?  Some of them were right on the money!  I let them know that if they bring in/send me photos of their birdfeeders being enjoyed in their own yard, I would be SURE to post their photos here, on's the Technology part of STEM for this particular lesson... Plus... they now have an opportunity to contribute to the local ecology once they hang their birdfeeder out in their yard to find out who discovers it and gobbles up their treats...yes... it very well could be squirrels, but they deserve a treat now and then as well.  
Fabulous STEM lesson today bird nerds!

Working diligently on their feeders with patterns

Why do you like seeing birds when you're outside?
(Just a couple of their answers...)
Whenever possible, I use recycled materials when
I have students working on projects
Here I've placed the materials in plastic egg crates, that were made from recycled
plastic bottles, that were holding cage free eggs...
Chickens are birds too.

Happy Birding!

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