Posted in Sixth Grade, STEM, Teaching

STEM Happens, in the Sixth Grade

Once upon a time in the land of rolling hills and sprawling mountains that looked a lot like Canaan, NH, there lived a balding man.  Wait, no scratch that.  While I am balding, I don’t necessarily want to point that out to people.  I’m pushing the rewind button now, “nam gnidlab a devil ereht, HN, naanaC ekil tol a dekool taht sniatnuom gnilwarps dna sllih gnillor fo dnal eht ni, emit a nopu ecnO.”  Backwards writing is so much harder than it looks.  That last sentence took me like two minutes to type.

Okay, now this is for realsies… Once upon a time, in the land of fairies and unicorns, there lived a brave man with pectoral muscles like rippling steel known to all as Mr. Holt.

Now that’s what I call a beginning.  Man, I want to meet this brave man.  He sounds awesome.  Oh, wait a minute.  That brave man is me.  Full transparency though, my pectoral muscles are basically non existent and I’m not very brave; however, I am the spider killer in my household.  Despite my son being over six feet tall, he still comes running into our bedroom when he sees a tiny spider in his room.  I can’t say I blame him though.  Spiders are crazy unpredictable.  They freak me out how they can just move in any direction.  I don’t like one bit.

Kidding aside, I do often feel like a prince in a fairy tale in my classroom.  I’m one of the luckiest men I know.  Not only do I have a beautiful princess to greet me as I enter my humble castle each evening and a strapping young son to help me slay dragons, I also am blessed to be working with a talented young group of sires and knights waiting to be trained.  I love my job.  I love waking up each and every day because I know that I’ll be able to help my students grow and develop into brave young men who can solve any problem they encounter while on quests to kill dragons or evil unicorns.  I love being a teacher.  I love helping my students by challenging them to question the world around them.  I love supporting my students when they face adversity.  I love watching my students overcome struggles faced to solve problems.  I love everything about being a sixth grade teacher.

Like today for example.  In STEM class, the boys continued working on the Astronomy Group Project as they generated the blueprint for their space rover.  They used paper and drawing tools to create their amazing space vehicles.  The boys, working in small groups, discussed what materials NASA might use if they were building the full-scale version of their rovers.  They talked about what fuel their vehicle might use.  They explored the idea of using solar panels to power their rovers.  They also calculated the scale used in their drawing and tabulated the full size of their space rover using double-digit multiplication and division.  They worked together to solve complex math equations, create unique space vehicles that would allow them to harness ice or minerals from asteroids, and work and think like engineers.  One group was so caught up in the minute details of creating a rover using the Little Bits, that they couldn’t create an actual space rover for their blueprint.  They drew the creation they would make using the Little Bits kit.  They began to get frustrated when I reminded them of the task at hand.  They seemed confused.  So, I provided them with a few suggestions and lots of reminders and let them work through their problems.  After ten minutes, I revisited the group and saw that their mental lightbulbs had been relit.  They figured out what they needed to do and solved their problems.  It was awesome.  The boys were doing math, thinking about science, engineering a space vehicle, while using technology or brainstorming new technologies they would create to make their space rovers.  STEM was certainly alive and well in the sixth grade classroom today.  They were applying, together at once, all of the skills we’ve been working on separately in class all year.  It was amazing.  That’s what STEM class is all about.  My students were solving problems, creating unique solutions, effectively coexisting, and meeting goals they set.  Wow, was just about all I could think.

That is just one of the infinite reasons why I love teaching and how my students make me feel like the brave prince in an academic fairy tale.  By the way, I ride a unicorn and carry a foam sword as I’m a pacifist and don’t believe in violence.  However, foam swords can cause quite some damage when wielded properly.

Are we at the end already?  Oh man.  Okay, here it ends… And the prince lived happily ever after in his giant castle made of books and dead spiders.  Eeeww, that’s gross.  No spiders, not even dead ones.  What about donuts?  Yesssss.  That’s it.  “And I lived happily ever after in my giant castle made of book flavored donuts.”

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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