October 27, 2019
Principles of STEAM
Designing and Developing a STE(A)M Lesson
- Course: Sustainable Agriculture
- Age Range: 9-12, mixed-grade class of ~10 students
- Experience: I designed and facilitated this class Spring 2019; I hope to re-design and re-teach the class this Spring semester.
- Course Description: During the first phase of Sustainable Agriculture, students not only investigate the science of maple sugaring, but also design and construct their own sugaring system at a local farm. Students learn about the ecology, biology and chemistry of trees, from identification, structure and function to bacterial succession and the maillard reaction. We research the various types of sugaring systems to inform our own design and procedure to tap trees. Each week, we travel to The Ecology School’s farm to observe, plan and engineer our sugaring operation. First, students are tasked to use CAD (tinkercad or onshape) to design and 3D print a simple tag for each of the trees. Next, they embark on inquiry-based experimental design to determine the most effective way to tap trees. Each student creates a testable question, such as: “how does tapping the North vs South side of a tree impact sap flow?” to “how does tapping 1” vs 1.5” depth impact sap flow?” to “how does white vs black-colored spile impact flow rate?” To test their questions, students must design and 3D print spiles to tap their trees with. Students collaborate to build the sugaring system, using provided materials and tools. Once the system is in place, we collect and measure sap and record our data and observations. Once we have enough sap, we use an evaporator to finish our syrup. Meanwhile, we investigate the chemistry of sugar degradation and caramelization to understand how clear sap becomes delicious amber syrup. To demonstrate and communicate their learnings to an authentic audience, students then created a “How To” manual for The Ecology School to reference in future years when they expand upon this operation. In the manual, students described the ecology and chemistry of sugaring, analyzed their data and made recommendations.
- UNIT PLAN
- Introductory Lesson Plan
- Hook: Taste test; then leave to visit Riverbend Farm and meet staff who show us the stand of maple trees and pose challenge of designing and constructing a tapping system for this season.
- Design & 3D Print Tree Tags
- Design & 3D Print Spiles
- Create a Guidebook: Synthesis & Reflection
- Time for Tinkering & Exploration?
- Second day we return to Riverbend farm, will provide students time to explore and observe location
- Intentionally gave students ample time to design tree tag and spile so that they can tinker on tinkercad, first.
- INTEGRATION OF STE(A)M ELEMENTS
- Science: botany, ecology, chemistry
- Technology: using CAD software like tinkercad and/or onshape; using a FlashForge 3D printer; using digital word processors to design a guidebook
- Engineering: designing tree tags, designing spiles, designing and creating sugaring system
- Art: creative design for tree tag; sketches, photography, and diagrams created for the guidebook
- Math: determining lengths and sizes for sugaring system; scaling spiles on tinkercad; using ratios and % to predict and calculate quantities of syrup
- Vision for Student learning
- This unit of study provides an authentic, real-world task for students to engineer and create. Students learn about local history, culture, ecology and food systems, while problem-solving, collaborating, thinking critically and communicating.
- Standards Addressed
- Science Standards- Next Generation Science Standards
- Math Standards- Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice
- Arts Standards- National Core Arts Standards
- Student Voice
- I strived to incorporate opportunities for student choice in this curriculum. For example, students get to design and enact their own inquiry-based experiment about maple sugaring. Students have the freedom to create their own tree tag and spile. Finally, students get to determine what their final guidebook looks like.
- Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills
- It is helpful if students understand plant biology and fundamental elements of chemistry. Students will need experience collaborating as a team. Ideally, students have experience and resilience performing experiments and collecting data outside in the cold weather for hours at a time. A solid understanding of the scientific process is essential.
- Needed Materials
- 5 Gallon, food safe buckets x 12
- Food safe tubing
- Drill, food safe drill bit
- 3D printer
- PLA filament
- Maple trees
- Candy thermometer
- Computer & internet access