The unknown is always unnerving, and to see a double STEM period sitting right there on your timetable may be causing you to wonder, "What will I do during that time?"

Scroll down for ideas and links to get you going!

  • Get support from our Engineer in Residence -- Dr. Robert Prince
  • Use the Design Process
  • Inquiry
  • Vex Robotics
  • Participate in Future City
  • Makey-Makey
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Quaker's Engineer in Residence

Last year we signed up for the Engineering in Residence program and this summer I was lucky enough to meet our engineer, Bob Prince.

Dr Prince is currently a resident of Uxbridge. He has a doctorate in aerospace engineering from U of T. He worked on both the Mars Lander and NASA's Viking project. Among other positions, he was the Dean of Pure and Applied Science at York U and spent time extending his research at University of London, Cambridge and Penn State.

Although these credentials are impressive, they don't necessarily indicate the ability to work with younger students, but Dr Prince is an engaging storyteller who "loved to use classroom demonstrations, and enjoyed having groups of students clustered around his office discussing physics" (

We're thinking that this year he may:

1) introduce himself to our school in late September through division assemblies.

2) Join classes participating in hands-on work to assist and draw out the deeper science found in the activity.

3) Judge events.

4) Initiate Uncle Bert Hour where he'll provide materials or questions to explore, which will be an extended center in the library. Then he'll return to meet with participants at a later date to see and explore what they discovered.

Read more about him in this article from Engineering Dimensions.

The Design Process

The Design Process is a very simple idea:

  1. Identify a problem
  2. Create a plan to solve the problem.
  3. Observe your results.
  4. Try again!

In our curriculum guides, the Design Process goes by different names. The Ontario Science Curriculum identifies it under Technological Problem-Solving Skills. There is a skills continuum found on page 16, and it can be found somewhere between 2.2 to 2.6 in a couple of strands for every grade.

The Kindergarten Science Curriculum Guide has it listed under Outcome 7.1.2. as solve simple design problems using technological skills.

Many different tools could be used to explore this process. Hour of Code, Scratch or PBS Design Challenges are just a few sites which could be the basis or our introductory explorations.

Explore ScratchEd to assist with your planning needs and explore this chart by @lisaannefloyd to integrate math into Scratch.

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We also have a collection of picture books to support the Design Process, a Powerpoint,and a Reflection Sheet that can be adapted for whatever situation to build this concept with our students.

The Design Process builds on Angela Duckworth's theory of Grit, which could help our students overcome the idea of perfection. The fear of not being perfect often stops our students from working through problems. They can discover that we, and scientists, don't always start with perfect idea. In fact, it's far from that, but we all keep trying and adapting until we figure out a way that works for us!


Inquiry Based Learning is a great teaching strategy which develops children's natural curiosity and engages students in the education system. It builds on the idea that our world no longer focuses on what you know, "but what you can do with what you know." (p. 168, Creative Schools, Sir Ken Robinson, 2015)

There are many skills to be built within Inquiry. We could pinpoint skills your students need and create mini-lessons to develop them.

Some ideas are:

  • using the Question Matrix to deepen questions
  • developing internet search skills (tips, boolean logic, trustworthy sources)
  • teaching specific reading strategies for non-fiction reading

Some Engaging Tech to Develop These Processes!

VEX IQ Robotics

We have twelve VEX Robotics Kits and they're not just for designing and coding robots. Vex provides in-depth curriculum resources and tools to use with various grades.
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C - Your First Robot

Your First Robot fits into problem-solving design process across the board, but is suitable for Grade 5s & up due to the instructions.

A) If we build and program the robot, it's very time-consuming. On the bright side, it does create a high awareness of the problem-solving aspect!

B) We could program already built robots, which is also fun, reinforces the design process and take a lot less time.

D - Simple Machines and Motion

This unit fits best into the Grade 5 Forces Acting on Structures unit, reinforcing Big Idea 2 where students investigate devices that use forces to create controlled movement.

E- Chain Reaction Challenge

This unit is like your Rube Goldberg Challenge, but with device assembly instructions so students can test how they work and problem solve their building.

It could work with either Grade 7 Form and Function or Grade 8 Systems in Action. You may wish to use this with the 7s to explore the challenge and raise the stakes where they must build a Chain Reaction Device to "successfully park the car in the garage" for Grade 8 or later in the unit.

G - Mechanisms

Mechanisms is perfect for Grade 4s as you explore gear ratios, idler gears and build a gear ratio simulator.
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We have four Makey-Makey units which could integrate into your science, art, music, math or language classes. Here's an introductory video showing what Makey-Makey does!
Do Amazing Things Using Everyday Objects with Makey Makey
The conductivity of electricity is what allows Makey-Makey to do what it does. This makes it a natural fit for Grade 6, but Makey-Makey's creative nature is what allows it to be used it across the curriculum.

If you make an Operation Game, you've got Grade 5 science covered! Design Magnetic Maze in Grade 3, Fit it into Art and Music or Grade 4 Sound. Use it to find ways to get the slides on your presentations to advance when you high five for Media Literacy!

Check out and see the many example projects with details and full lesson plans!

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Future City: A Potential Challenge for Grades 6-8!

Future City contacted our science facilitator, Lisa Lim-Cole, and invited her to bring this initiative to Canada. Right now she is working on implementing our curriculum into the program and making it easier to use within the classroom setting.

It is, according to The Future City Competition website:

a cross-curricular program that lets students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades do the things engineers do: identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test and retest, build and then share the results.

It certainly could be an interesting ride, should we choose to take it!

Check out the website above and last year's video below to see what you think!

Future City Overview 2015-2016
Think about the focus you want STEM to take in your classroom or just something you'd like to try. I'd be happy to be your wingman on this journey!