RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Monday, June 29, 2015

Helping Students Understand the Engineering Design Process

Did you know NASA has created their Beginning Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) lessons to help K-8th grade students understand the Engineering Design Process?  The Engineering Design Process is a series of steps engineers use to guide them in problem solving. Engineers must ask a question, imagine a solution, plan a design, create that model, experiment and test that model, then take time to improve the original – all steps that are crucial to mission success at NASA.



Throughout the Building a Satellite to Orbit the Moon and Launching a Satellite activities, the emphasis is for students to understand that engineers must “imagine and plan” before they begin to build and experiment. To successfully complete the NASA BEST Activities, students must draw their ideas first before constructing. Students transform into NASA Scientist and Engineers as they create their own satellites using a cardboard tube and general building supplies including buttons, bubble wrap and aluminum foil. Then students must build a balloon powered rocket to launch their satellite. These highly engaging and multifaceted hands-on learning experiences are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and can be used to support core content curriculum in the areas of math, science, and language arts.

Visit RAFT for their incredible assortment of materials for NASA BEST Activities and general building supplies. 

NASA BEST Lesson Guide

Article by: Mera Burton-STEM Engagement Specialist- AERO Institute/ NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making Toys From Recycled Material



RAFT was founded on the idea that extra materials should not be wasted, and instead, should be used to help children explore their creative abilities while learning. Many teachers use RAFT’s recycled materials to help solidify this idea – creating lesson plans that meet state standards, while engaging students in fun and inspiring ways.


Michele Guieu teaches art at the Montalvo Arts Center and specializes in multi-cultural and multi-media art. Michele pulls inspiration from her childhood in France and travels through Africa, giving her a unique view into societal influences such as global and environmental issues. Michele shapes these issues into meaningful pieces of art – through video, painting, photography, and elaborate installations.


In my art and through my teaching I am sharing my views and concerns about environmental issues. I engage the public and my young students to reflect, collaborate and create,” says Michele. Michele’s passion for the environment has been the driving factor for teaching her students with recycled materials.


Michele recently teamed up with RAFT to incorporate recycled and upcycled material into her art workshops for both children and teachers:

“This particular workshop, “Making a Toy From Recycled Material,” is about learning how to use one object to make another one. We as a society use a lot of things only once. For a lot of people around the world that is not the case. What if we had to recycle our materials to make other objects? Many children around the world cannot buy toys at the store and are making toys from recycled material. It is something children in our country were doing a long time ago (Native Americans and early settlers).”
 

Michele's workshops are also aligned with Common Core State standards 3-5-ETS1 Engineering Design and 5th grade-ESS3.A Natural Resources.



 
If you would like to see more of Michele’s art and lesson plans, please visit her blog.

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Economical Activities and Supplies for Teachers

Not only am I a fourth grade teacher at Lomita Park Elementary School in Millbrae, I also frequently train other adults to be more effective and creative Cub Scout leaders. I present ideas monthly when I facilitate the District Round Table meetings where Cub Scout leaders come together to share ideas. This is my fourth year as part of the Western Region National Camping School staff where leaders are trained as Cub Scout Day Camp Directors, Program Directors and Staff Advisors. I can’t begin to count how many times RAFT has been the perfect answer to whatever I was facing.

As an elementary teacher, I regularly use RAFT kits as part of my science program. Many of the kits are just what the kids need to bring a concept to life. For example, our science text book includes an Investigation where groups of students build an electric circuit using a D-battery and a relatively expensive flash light battery. My first year at fourth grade, I didn’t have very many of the supplies needed for this Investigation. It seems that many teachers did not have the supplies either so they just showed the publisher-supplied video of the Investigation. I know from experience that kids learn best by doing. At RAFT, I found a very economical Bread Board Circuits kit that each kid could use to build basic, series, and parallel circuits. Even better, each kid could take the kit home to explain and demonstrate the circuits to family members. The kids (and their parents) think this is pretty cool. So do I. I can’t teach this Unit any other way.

In Cub Scouts, RAFT is also the answer. Not sure how to help scouts work on a concept for an achievement? RAFT has many kits that correspond with many of the scouting achievements. There is even a chart to help you match them up. Not sure how to present a difficult concept? RAFT has Idea and Tip Sheets that may get you through. Need supplies for a project (Neckerchief Slides, Genius Kit, you name it)? RAFT probably has it. For example, I was working with a group of leaders on a Knights of the Round Table theme. One of them wanted to make neckerchief slides shaped like a knight’s helmet. The problem? She didn’t know where to get the 50+ film canisters she needed. No problem – RAFT usually has them by the bagful. I am going to pick them up for her this week.

RAFT is the answer for the many supplies needed for teaching and leading kids to a better understanding of math, science, and innovation. RAFT isn’t just stuff though. So many of the new teaching ideas I am using to achieve the Common Core State Standards I learned about in the Summer Institutes and many classes offered at RAFT.

Julie DiMaio, RAFT Fellow, 4 grade teacher, and Cub Scout trainer