Having opportunities for hands-on learning is essential for any 6th Grade STEM curriculum, which is why we’re so glad to be able to offer our STEM Pathways Lab to allow students entering Middle School to explore concepts in structural & mechanical engineering, physics, rapid prototyping & 3D printing, computer science, and robotics.
Of course, for any teacher tasked with providing STEM education to their students, it’s important to consider if the program is right for them and if they have the bandwidth to start a new program. Because that’s such an important part of the decision making process, we wanted to create a step-by-step guide showing how Middle School teachers prepare to teach our labs.
Take a look at the following steps to see if it works for you:
1. Determine which Kid Spark Units You Want to Offer
When you get access to Kid Spark Education for your 6th grade STEM curriculum, the first thing you want to do is evaluate which units you want to start with. There are several units of instruction included in the 6 - 8 STEM program:
- Kid Spark Basics- In this unit, students will learn the basics of how to use Kid Spark resources in the classroom. Students will get hands-on as they explore different building materials and engineering processes that are used throughout Kid Spark learning experiences.
- Simple Machines- In this unit, students will develop a conceptual understanding of how simple machines work and how they can be used to improve our lives.
- Compound Machines- In this unit, students will explore how mechanisms and machines can be used to create and convert motion, increase speed, increase torque, and create mechanical advantage.
- Rapid Prototyping & 3D Printing- In this unit, students will learn the basics of how to create custom, 3D printed components using Tinkercad. Students will gain confidence as they design and print a custom airplane propeller that snaps onto a model airplane. Then, students will have an opportunity to apply what they have learned throughout the unit as they participate in a fun free build challenge.
- Robotics & Coding 101- In this unit, students will get familiar with the Spark:bit robotics controller and the software (MakeCode) that is used to program it. Students will gain confidence in their ability to write simple programs that can be uploaded to the Spark:bit.
- Exploring Sensors- In this unit, students will learn how to incorporate digital and analog sensors to robotic builds and projects. Students will learn how to write custom programs that include conditional statements such as if statements and if/then statements.
- Loops & Variables- In this unit, students will build upon previous Kid Spark robotics and coding experiences as they explore how to use different types of loops and variables in a program.
- Integrated Engineering Challenges- In this unit, students will apply the knowledge they have gained from previous Kid Spark learning experiences as they develop creative solutions to a series of robotics and coding challenges.
All of these units of instruction include a unit overview, multiple hands-on lessons, and a unit assessment. When looking at your teaching calendar and your goals for your STEM program, it’s important to look at what will work for your 6th grade classroom and what units you want to teach later on in 7th and 8th grade.
2. Review Unit Overviews, Lesson Content, and Unit Assessments
Next, it’s a good idea to take a look at the unit overviews, lesson content, and unit assessments. If you register for an account to access our Curriculum page, whether you currently have Kid Spark Education at your school or not, you can have a preview of all of the lesson content available. You can even take a look at some of the other lessons Kid Spark education has to offer for other age groups.
Evaluating each of the units, lesson objectives, and all of the resources available, you can evaluate how to integrate the STEM programming into your classroom. Thinking about the lessons paired with understanding what problems are being solved with the STEM labs will help you get a clearer picture of how to implement this important learning into your classroom.
3. Complete Professional Learning Courses
At Kid Spark Education, we support teachers in adding STEM to their curriculums by offering Professional Learning Courses. To teach the STEM Pathways Lab, you need to take both the Kid Spark Program Orientation course and the Grades 6-8 course.
After successfully completing all of these courses, you will receive your Kid Spark program certification and achieve a variety of outcomes including:
- A familiarity with Kid Spark Education and our approach to teaching applied STEM in grades Pre-K - 8th.
- An overview of the what, why, and how of STEM in elementary education.
- A big picture look of the 6th - 8th Grade STEM Program
- An comprehensive guide on preparing for each of the units
By going through these courses, instructors can make sure that they’re fully prepared to bring Kid Spark Education to their classrooms.
4. Make Sure All of Your STEM Labs Are Ready to Go
Finally, for instructors teaching the STEM’s Pathway Labs, it’s imperative that educators make sure that the labs are ready to go. Just as your students will need to get familiar with the structural building components and the Spark:bit, the Microsoft programming environment, it’s important that teachers understand them as well.
Teachers should also make sure they have all the materials set up and have a good inventory of all of the kits needed. Having these labs will allow students to apply their learning from the lessons and fully develop a love of STEM.
Want to Learn More About Adding Kid Spark Education to Your Classroom?
Of course, this is just a quick overview with how teacher’s using Kid Spark Education in their 6th Grade STEM curriculum prepare. If you’re interested in learning more about implementing our programs or best practices for STEM education, we’d be happy to talk to you about this further.
With Kid Spark, kids learn to see like designers and think like engineers, so that they have the skills to change the world. Ultimately these experiences help students develop a lasting interest in STEM for years to come. Learn all about our Middle School STEM programming here. If you would like to bring Kid Spark Education to your classroom, purchase programs here.