Embedding STEM into an ELA course
As I mentioned in an earlier post, our Cross-Cat ELA students are in the middle of reading the City of Ember. Student are about halfway through their book and have worked on a variety of student-centered projects to help engage them in the book. The premise behind the book, that that there is an underground city that has been surviving for the past 200 years, but the power supplied by the generator was about to run out.
The teacher and I decided that it might be a really good experience for them to understand the situation the residents are in by look at how circuits work and how energy could be utilized. Together, we developed a student-centered STEM lesson on creating circuits. Students were allowed a breadboard, a light, two batteries, and a battery holder. Students then worked in pairs to figure out how they could use the energy produced by the batteries to power the light. Students worked together with their classmates and the teachers in formulating a plan on how to get the circuits functioning. It took all of about 10 minutes for my first students to figure it out. Eventually, as students finished their simple circuits we began to add more devices to the circuits, testing the power limitations of the two AA batteries. In the end, the students had attached two small motors, three lights, and a switch to their circuits.
So, how long would the power from these batteries last? Could we compare this to how the residents in the City of Ember’s generator was supplying power? Students began to understand how the city was running in more detail, as well as the realization that their power was not limitless and that they were getting to the end of their supply.
Could students figure out how long the batteries would last using math? How much power do two AA batteries supply, and how long could that power one individual light? Students were able to make their predictions, and we set up a single LED light on the circuit and set it on a shelf in the classroom. As of this post, it has continued to be on for over a week.
I thought the activity was a great way to embed STEM into a piece of literature and it made what they learned very relevant to their own understanding of the story.