STEM & Sound - Day 2

20 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT to plan, design and build a device that solves a communication problem.

Big Idea

Did you know that we can be engineers? It is time to plan, design and build just like an engineer! Let's get building!

Setting the Stage:

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

This STEM-based Lesson (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is designed to allow my students as much time as needed to analyze and test ways to solve a communication problem.  In this lesson multiple things are being learned at the same time so constant assessment happens throughout the lesson. This lesson will provide opportunities for both a high level of discourse and allow for multiple ways to get to the desired outcome.  My students learning will be guided by their wonderings, interest, and attempts at finding a solution to their problem.

Throughout the lesson I will be asking questions to facilitate the learning and students will spend their work time brainstorming, sharing ideas, and testing their solutions. My students will record their observations and evidence in their Wave: Sound and Light Journals.

By nature STEM lessons may go longer than traditional classroom lessons.  You may wish to break this lesson into more than one day. 

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Prior Knowledge Needed:

Students should have a basic understanding of how to create and use a Cup Telephone and they should understand that sound is made by sound waves (vibrations) and sound can travel through solids. 

Students will need an understanding of non-standard measurement and enumeration (counting to 50).

Students will need to know that problems are not just solved the first time they try it but will need to try it over and over again.  I always tell my students, "Mistakes are opportunities to learn! Let's learn something new!"

Home-School Connection:

I LOVE involving parents in the learning in my classroom.  This parent letter is both an introduction to our next two units as well as a request for supplies. Many of the items used to teach this unit are recyclable items so I ask for help from parents and colleagues.



sound unit vocabulary

I use the following materials:

paper towel or toilet paper rolls

recyclable materials

plastic cups




ELMO (Projector, Interactive Whiteboard)

Engineering Poster

STEM Project Page

The Problem

Student developed research questions

Anchor Chart


5 minutes

I begin this warm up by reviewing the work we did in our first lesson STEM & Sound - Day 1. I ask my students to share their research from our previous lesson with their workshop partners. 

Today you get to design and build a solution to your problem from yesterday. Can you please take a look at your research from yesterday.  Be sure to talk with your partner about the research you did and how this is going to help you with your plan.  Remember an engineer has to come up with a lot of ideas so you can even share ideas that you have to help your partner.

As my students work I move from partnership to partnership listening in on their research and ideas with the purpose of assessing which students are already beginning to use their research to discuss their designs.  This is the perfect opportunity to support or scaffold students who are still struggling with a plan.

Brainstorm & Design:

15 minutes

Once the research is complete, my students work with their partners to create a plan for their communication device.  During this process the students have to work together to come up with ideas for creating the device. They need to discuss and draw out their plans.  The hardest part for some children is deciding on a plan and/or communicating that plan.  I partner my ELL students in a group with two other students who have strong oral language skills to help with the language development.

Boys and girls you have done some great research. You learned how far this device will need to reach and the materials you can use to create this device. Now let's look back at our Engineering Poster. The next step for you engineers is to brainstorm.  Brainstorming is just a fancy word for coming up with ideas! Once you have a couple of ideas you have to pick the idea that you both think will work. You have to be agreeable!  Be sure to draw out a diagram of your plan on the STEM Project Page.  Don't forget to label all the parts of your diagram so I can see what you need when you come to the materials station.

As a management tool I have the Engineering and Design Process Poster projected on our Interactive Whiteboard.  I put my student's photos on magnets and as the children move through the different steps of the Engineering Design Process they move their photo to that step. This allows me to check in with groups and keep track of of who is still designing, evaluating or building.

As my students work I walk around and confer with each group naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and reteaching. During this time I guide problem solving skills as well.  This is perfect time for listening and assessing my student's ability to share ideas and work in a partnership.  I am also careful to use all disagreements as a wonderful teaching opportunity.  

Build it:

30 minutes

In this next section the children get to build their models. They need to bring their STEM Project Page to the materials station to collect their supplies.  Once they have their supplies I send them off to work.  My give my students time to build their models. As my students work I walk around and confer with each partnership. I act more as a facilitator asking questions and taking notes.


20 minutes

In this section my students have a chance to test out their projects to find out if it works. If it works they record that on the STEM Project Page. I want my students to tell why they thought it was successful.  If the design doesn't work they write that on the STEM Project Page and then try again.  They record on the project page why it didn't work and what they think needs to be changed.  I ask them to think about why it didn't work and try to find a way to fix the problem and rebuild.  I am sure to leave a lot of time for my students to test their model. I keep the materials for a series of days for redesign and allow my students time to find a way to solve the problem.

As a formative assessment and after the project is completed I ask each of my students to show me how they have created the design and present their models to the class.  I ask the children to report their finding to the class stating what worked and what didn't work.