STEM, Plants & Biomimicry - Day 1

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SWBAT plan and design a solution to a human problem using plant structures.

Big Idea

Have you heard of Biomimicy? This amazing science is using nature to solve everyday problems! Check out how 1st grade students use this science to plan and design solutions to real problems!

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 problems using nature.  In this lesson multiple things are being learned at the same time so constant assessment in happening throughout the lesson. STEM lessons provide opportunities for both high levels of discourse as well as allow for multiple ways to get to the desired outcome.  The learning is guided by student questions, interest, and attempts at finding a solution to his/her problem.

Throughout the lesson I ask questions to facilitate the learning and students spend their work time brainstorming, sharing ideas, and testing their solutions. I ask my students to record their observations and evidence in their STEM project page.

By nature STEM lessons may go longer than traditional classroom lessons.  This lesson has been broken into to two parts. In this lesson students develop problems to investigation and then using their science journals, books and our unit anchor charts they research  different animal parts and possible human inventions.

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.

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.

Prior Knowledge Needed:

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!"


The Engineering Design Process Poster

Video: Sid the Kid

Slideshow: Biomimicry and plants

STEM & Plants - Research Guide

STEM Project Page - Biomimicry

Materials Station:

I ask teachers and parents to donate materials and recyclables - wood, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, milk cartons, fleece, string, masking tape, yarn, construction paper, dowels, etc.

Managing Student Work


15 minutes

To begin my lesson I want to introduce my students to the STEM model.

Today you get to be an engineer. In our last unit you learned that is someone who identifies a problem that needs to be solved. The engineer does a lot of research by looking at books, reading the internet and even watching videos.  Next comes the ideas.  An engineer has to come up with a lot of ideas. Some ideas are good and some are bad but that doesn't matter. The engineer picks the best idea and draws a design. This design is like a diagram. Next the engineer gets to build the diagram with real materials and then s/he has to test it out!  If it worked then s/he's done and if it doesn't work you get to try again. It is very fun to be an engineer!  Let's watch Sid the Kid be an engineer!

After the video I show my students my The Engineering Design Process poster.

Are you ready to be an engineer? 

Identify the Problem:

20 minutes

The NGSS asks that students create solutions to problems using nature, specifically plant parts. The goal of this section is to allow for my students to identify real life problems. I have decided to ask my students develop their own problems because I want them to learn that they can create solution to problems by using nature.

Let's look at our Engineering Design Poster.  It says first identify the problem. 

It is important to me that my students see that they can create solutions to real problems that happen in their lives everyday.  I model how to think of real problems by reminding them of some of the problems that have happened in our classroom this year:

1. Our pants get wet when we go down the wet slides.

2. We always forget to bring our lunch tub back from the cafeteria.

Then I ask my students to think about their house, garage, toys, games, clothes, school and playground.  I ask them to think of a time when they had a problem and needed help from an adult. 

I want you to think of some problem that you have had on the playground, at your house, or on the school bus. I want you to think of your toys, clothes, or games. When did you have a problem that you needed to get an adult to help you? Do you still need an adult to help you with that same problem? 

After posing this statement I give my students some think time.  I tell them to give me a thumbs up when they have a thought or idea.  As soon as most of my students give a thumbs up, I ask them to share their thinking with their turn and talk partner.  I tell my students that have not come up with an idea to listen carefully and keep thinking. 

These are some of the ideas:

I can't reach stuff out of the cupboard.

My brother is stealing stuff from my bedroom.

I can't tie my shoes.

Birds keeping eating the worms out of our garden.

After my students come up with problems I allow each of my first grade students to choose a problem to solve from our list.  I am careful to guide my students to think of problems that lend themselves to being solved by plant parts. 


30 minutes

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I show my students a slide show with plant parts and different inventions that have been made by copying each part. After watching the slide show talk about ways that scientist study plants to solve human inventions.

Slideshow: Biomimicry and plants

I tell my students that it is their turn to see if they can use plants to solve their problems.

Today you get to use research plants to find a solution to your problem. You can use our anchor charts, your science journals, and books to gather ideas that will help you to solve your problem.  You will need to study plants and their different structures to come up with ideas that might work in your design.  On our STEM -Research Guide you can record different plant parts and human inventions that will help you solve your own problem.  

I allow my students to begin researching. I give them a STEM & Plants - Research Guide to collect research about plant parts and human inventions. 

As my students work, I walk around and confer with each child noticing and naming the good thinking happening.  I provide support and guide the research with prompting questions like:

Which plant part would help you to...

Which plant part reminds you of this....

If I find that my students are having difficulty using plants to aid in the design/solution we may change the problem and/or rethink the problem. There are some problems that lend themselves naturally to using nature however some problems made need a little tweaking. 

Brainstorm & Design:

20 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 design a plan for building their device. 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.

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! I am going to partner you up with someone else who is trying to solve the same problem as you. Your job is to work together to share some ideas on how to solve your problem.  My students work in partnerships or small groups to share design ideas. The purpose of using partnerships or groups is to allow my students multiple opportunities to gather ideas from peers to help scaffold the "brainstorming" piece. This is one strategy that I use to help teach my students how to plan an investigation.

Now that you have some ideas. I would like for you to come and get a design worksheet.  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.

Materials Station:

I ask teachers and parents to donate materials and recyclables - wood, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, milk cartons, fleece, string, masking tape, yarn, construction paper, dowels, etc.

I use my Interactive Whiteboard as a tool for managing student work. During STEM lessons students work at various speeds and using this tool it allows my to observe where student are in their investigation. This tool allows me to develop routines and procedures to support students to work independently in the science classroom.

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.