STEM & Sound - Day 1

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SWBAT to identify a communication problem and research possible solutions.

Big Idea

Can you solve a communication problem using sound? Yes you can!

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


15 minutes

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

Today you get to be an engineer. Do you know what an engineer is?  It 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 this cool video about being an engineer!

 After the video I show my students my poster of the engineering design process.

Are you ready to be an engineer? 

Identify the Problem:

10 minutes

The goal of this section is to pose a real life problem that is rich enough to allow for smaller problems to be solved first. My problem is designed for multiple solutions allowing my students to compare and contrast, tell why they solved it this way and most importantly it forces them to talk and explain their solutions to each other. 

Let's look at our Engineering Design Poster.  It says first identify the problem. Our problem that we get to solve is this:

Let’s imagine the power has gone out and we need to send a message to another first grade classroom. We have been asked to stay in our classrooms. Your job is to work with your workshop partner to design a device that will help us communicate with another first grade classroom.

I take some time to make sure my students understand what this problem is asking. We have a brief discussion about what this means and how we solve problems like this one.

*Be sure to tell your students this is make-believe. :)


30 minutes

Let's look at our Engineering Design Poster.  It says first identify problem and we did that.  Next we research.  How many of you remember researching all the things scientists do?  Do you remember looking through books to find new information?  Well today you have to do a lot of research before you can make a plan. Here is a question I want you and your turn and talk partner to talk about: "What questions do we need to answer before we can design and build something that will allow us to communicate with another first grade classroom?" Go ahead and share some of the questions you have with your partners.

I allow the students to begin sharing their thinking with one another. As they are sharing I record a couple of the questions on our anchor chart. I bring us back together to share questioning.  At times I will use the whole group for developing questions as a tool to scaffold the art of asking questions if I notice that many of my students are having difficulty developing questions with partners. I record more questions on our anchor chart. After we have a great list of questions I quickly type them up and print them so my student can glue them onto their STEM Project Page for reference. These are the smaller problems that will need to be solved first:

1. How far is it to the other classroom?

2. What material should I use to create my communication device?

3. How do I measure something that far away? (nonstandard measurement)

Boys and girls, look at all the great questions you get to investigate.  Right now you will get a chance to research these great questions and guess who gets help you?  Your workshop partner.  You and your partner will work together to find a way to get all of this great research. When you are measuring you may want to think of some ways that we have been measuring in class. You may also want to ask your partner what classroom you should try to communicate with.  Then you get to record what you find out on you STEM Project Page. Okay. Off you go!

I send my students off to investigate the materials and answer the research questions,

Math Connection: My students use nonstandard measurement to measure how far it is to one of the other first grade classrooms. They record there information into their Sound Project Page. 

I collect all of the work from today to look over the research and save for STEM & Sound - Day 2.