Practical STEM Strategies

After looking over the lesson plan framework, I thought about instructional strategies. My first questions was, “How do I develop an authentic design problem?” I saw a lot of building design strategies using marsh mellows and post cards but I wanted it to be AUTHENTIC!

Strategy: Teach World Problems

Have you thought about asking the kids to develop a list of world problems? If they come up with a list, you can tap their interests and make the lesson student led.  I wrote a lesson called Solving World Problems (see my September 2012 archives for the lesson). I printed a poster of the United Nations Millennium Goals  and asked students to compare their ideas with the United Nations.

With the lists of world problems,  I then asked the kids, “What problem do you want to solve?”  Their ideas were amazing. My job was to listen and think about the resources I had available. Below is my rough idea chart. My hope is that you will look it over and think, “But you forgot ___….!”

Problems Design Science Research Topics
What can we design to help stop burning fossil fuels? How can we design a nuclear waste shelter? How can we improve hydro- electric performance? Air foil/Wind Turbine

Water wheel

Solar heat panels

Energy Sources

Design a Train Cab

Principals of flight, energy transfer, heat transfer, Human/Earth relationship
How can we help make someone else’s life easier? Design wheel chair accessible projects.

Design carts/belts


Mechanical advantage

Small machines


How can we help improve regional transportation? Magnetic Levitation Trains Magnetic forces, Newton’s Laws of Gravity
How can we design structures to help others? Design rooftop gardens, greenhouses

Hurricane Proof homes

Weather, biomes, plant structure and function, eco-friendly design

Below are some of the lessons I either stole or wrote.

  • Design a Turbine Blade: Physical Science ( Kid Wind Project)
  • Design a Home/Safe House for a family after a natural disaster: Earth Science/Weather or Plate Tectonics/Large Scale systems, Weather and Climate
  • Design an Eco Friendly home: Global Warming
  • Design a Nuclear Waste Facility: Energy
  • Design a Solar Car: Global Warming
  • Design a Mechanism for cleaning the ocean;  Robotics

Many of these lessons are available for you to look over for on All of the lessons are free! You can even search for the NGSS Engineering Standards and find lots of lessons complete with downloadable worksheets/quizzes/exemplars. Look for the tab on the top from Browse Lessons. You can search Sydney Schuler and find some of the lessons above.

Many great organizations offer STEM lesson plans including NASA. I’ve looked at them but never taught them. I really like the lessons from Engineering, Go for It!, and The Futures Channel.




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