STEM Blog

  • LISD STEM Academy Update

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 4/9/2019 10:50:00 AM

    The popularity of the STEM Academy Program in the LISD community has led to the expansion of the program to other elementary campuses. The LISD STEM Academy will open at Polser ES in Carrollton and Valley Ridge ES in Lewisville in the 2019-2020 school year. Additional STEM Academy campuses will open in the Marcus High School attendance zone in 2020 and The Colony High School attendance zone in 2021.

    We were extremely busy during the application period for the 2019-2020 school year when we held parent information sessions attended by over 400 families. We received applications for more than 450 students. Parents were notified in early March of the outcome of the randomized selection process and transfers to STEM Academies are currently underway.

    We presented an update to the LISD Board of Trustees at last night's board meeting. LISD has partnered with the National Institute for STEM Education in the design of the STEM Academy Program. In May of 2018 the LISD STEM academy at Donald Elementary became the first elementary in Texas recognized by the National Institute as a STEM School of Excellence. In fact, Donald Elementary employs more nationally certified STEM teachers than any other school in the nation. Teachers at LISD STEM Academy at Polser and Valley Ridge are working towards completing the national STEM teaching certificates. Both schools are on track to be nationally certified campuses by May 2019.

    Click here to see the video that was presented to the board. Of special note is the congratulations to Lewisville ISD from Michael Hess, Acting Associate Director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. We are so proud to be recognized in this way.

    And last but not least, out of the mouths of babes . . . "For a kid to come and learn robotics . . . I think it would be really fun if they want to be an engineer when they grow up, then it’s learning to be what you want your dream job to be." We couldn't have said it any better ourselves!

     

     

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  • Frequently Asked Parent Questions

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 10/30/2018 2:45:00 PM

    We’re so excited to have experienced our first nine weeks of the school year at our newly launched LISD STEM Academy at Donald Elementary. We’re also thrilled to be able to open two additional elementary STEM Academies for the 2019-2010 school year at Polser Elementary School and Valley Ridge Elementary School. If you are interested in enrolling your child in a STEM Academy for next year, attending a Parent Information Session is the required first step. See dates and times for the upcoming sessions on our Enrollment page.

    Since we first began down the STEM path, we’ve gotten some great inquiries from parents that we’d like to answer here for others who may have the same questions.

    Question: Can homeschool students participate in STEM?

    Answer: Our STEM Academies are full-day programs during the school day. Students would need to enroll into LISD to participate.

    Question: Do the STEM Academies offer STEM curriculum for pre-K students?

    Answer: Our STEM Academy program is for grades K-5. Our location at Polser Elementary (2019-2020) will have a small number of pre-K classrooms. We also have a separate program for Pre-K called Discovery Academy. The Discovery Academy integrates STEM learning for Pre-K students. It is located at Hebron Valley Elementary, Liberty Elementary, and Valley Ridge Elementary.

    Question: If my child is not chosen to enroll in one of the STEM Academies, what other opportunities does LISD have to participate in STEM?

    Answer: We currently operate STEM Enrichment programming at several of our non-STEM Academy elementary campuses here in LISD: Camey, Castle Hills, Central, Coyote Ridge, Creekside, Hebron Valley, Heritage, Independence, Indian Creek, Lewisville, Liberty, McAuliffe, Prairie Trail, Valley Ridge, and Wellington. STEM Enrichment programming occurs once a week during the specials rotation. Students learning experiences include engineering, robotics, computer science and computer programming.

    Question: My child is currently zoned for one of the elementary schools that will be an LISD STEM Academy school. Do I need to follow the application process?

    Answer: No. Students who are zoned for an LISD STEM Academy do not need to apply to attend. Kindergarten students will need to follow the normal process to register for school.

    Question: What is the first step to apply for the STEM Academy?

    Answer: The first step to apply for your child to attend an LISD STEM Academy is to attend one of the Parent Information Sessions offered. You can click here to see the dates these sessions will be offered for the 2019-2020 school year.

    Question: Do both parents need to attend one of the Parent Information Sessions?

    Answer: Only one parent must attend the information meeting.

    Question: Will I be able to bring my children with me to the Parent Information Session?

    Answer: The Parent Information Session lasts about 90 minutes. That time is divided between the actual information session and the curriculum preview. Although the information is geared specifically to parents, children are welcome to attend. Your children will need to stay with you as there is no child care available.

    Question: If one of my children is chosen during randomized selection, will my other elementary school age children also be able to attend the LISD STEM Academy?

    Answer: Siblings of approved transfer students who have also applied for transfer to LISD STEM Academy will be automatically approved for transfer if application requirements are met. Selection processes will be conducted for each grade level simultaneously to ensure that seats are available for siblings of selected students.

     

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  • Donald ES Receives National STEM Certification

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 6/7/2018 10:45:00 AM

    NCSE Banner

    On June 7, 2018, LISD STEM Academy at Donald became the first elementary school in Texas to receive the National Certificate for STEM Excellence (NCSE) from the National Institute of STEM Education (NISE). All campus personnel and students as well as members of the LISD School Board were on hand to celebrate this huge accomplishment.

    The National Certificate for STEM Excellence was the culmination of months of planning and hard work by everyone involved in launching the first LISD STEM Academy. The certificate consists of three phases that occur over a period of several months – Plan, Implement, and Sustain. The Sustain phase will be an ongoing process that enables continuous improvement of the STEM instruction including measuring progress toward goals and ensuring that teachers have plenty of opportunities for STEM professional development that aligns with identified student needs.

    NCSE requires that at least six teachers from a STEM Academy receive individual STEM certification from NISE. Donald Elementary School has far exceeded that requirement with a total of 22 teachers who have already completed their certification along with ten more who will soon be certified. Donald ES leads the nation in the number of STEM-certified teachers in a single elementary school.  We are so proud of their efforts and achievements, and so excited for the 2018-2019 school year to begin.  What a great way to kick off summer break!

     

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  • Difference Between a STEM Classroom and a non-STEM Classroom

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 5/16/2018 1:25:00 PM

    With more LISD STEM academies opening in upcoming school years, you may be wondering what the difference is between STEM classrooms and non-STEM classrooms. Both have accountability for learning, address the Texas Essential Knowledge Standards, use district-created curriculum, assess student skills through common assessments and include foundational instruction for math, language arts, science, and social studies.

    A STEM classroom

    • integrates curriculum into transdisciplinary project-based units, demonstrating learning in a variety of ways and connecting learning to real-world situations
    • uses the design process in all content areas
    • provides engineering instruction daily
    • focuses on community and career connections
    • teaches and practices subjects together, basing many grades on rubrics
    • allows for student voice and choice in learning, with work presented to an authentic audience.
    • offers opportunities for STEM career exploration

    A STEM student works collaboratively to:

    • share thoughts and ideas with others
    • work with a team to reach a common goal
    • persevere to solve problems and not give up when challenged
    • look at problems in a new way and think creatively
    • demonstrate self-control and work independently
    • take ownership of their own learning

    Parents of STEM students have an active role in STEM learning by:

    • assisting in the completion of STEM family projects
    • attending STEM events
    • gathering common household materials for STEM classroom projects
    • helping in the classroom or using career expertise to enrich learning      
    • communicating with learners about their daily learning and having ongoing communication with teachers

     

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  • STEM at Independence Elementary School

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 4/23/2018 2:05:00 PM

    Contributed by Andria Huezo, STEM Teacher at Independence ES

    Fifth grade is gearing up for STAAR with a project that reviews knowledge of reflection, simple circuits, and building an Egyptian tomb using a shoebox.  Before the students get started, they take a quiz about the reflection and circuits (connected to the STAAR). The premise of this project is to create an Egyptian tomb using a single light source, write a realistic fiction story about their Pharaoh in Hieroglyphics for the walls of their tomb, and use reflection to illuminate their tombs. The tombs are tested by their peers through a peep hole. Students have been enjoying researching Egyptian culture and how advanced they were with the preservation of their tombs. Teams also use real world situations, like budgeting, to complete their Engineering Design Process.  

    Fifth Grade STEM Project

    STEM is not all about physical building, as the 3rd grade has proven this quarter.  Students are working on a Trip of a Lifetime on a $3000 budget to anywhere in the world.  They have to plan their trips like a family vacation. Students budget for airplane, extra transportation, food, shelter, activities and entertainment (not the hotel pool).  The students will vote on their favorite one out of the grade level. This project helps students use a real world situation to create a budget and learn how to stay within their budgets.  Their final projects will include an itinerary on a travel brochure created on either Google slides or Docs.  Check out a travel brochure at the link below!

     Third Grade Travel Brochure

     

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  • STEM Plus Model

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 4/13/2018 9:55:00 AM

    contributed by Dr. Jonas Greene

    In LISD, we have adopted a STEM + (plus) model for our STEM Academies. The addition of the A to the STEM acronym (STEAM) adds the importance of Art to the design process. There are many different versions of the STEM acronym that add additional content areas to the foundations of design learning in STEM education.  Some of those acronyms include: (1) STREAM (Addition of R for reading), (2) STEMSS (addition of SS for Social Studies), (3) STAMPHER (Addition of Humanities, Physical Education, Arts, and Reasoning), STEMM (Addition of Music).

    Over the years, educators have recognized the ability of STEM education to transcend the content areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In the design of our STEM academy model, we chose the STEM acronym since it is the most universally accepted acronym.  We added the + (plus) to recognize the importance of bridging concepts into other content areas. We recognize that Art is important, because when students design products they need both form and function. We recognize that Social Studies is important, because when students design products they are focusing on problems in our society. We recognize that Language Arts is important, because when designs are created they need to be shared through communication with others. 

    The STEM specials teachers at several campuses in LISD use the same engineering curriculum that is used at our STEM academies.  The difference between these specials rotations and our STEM academies is that the specials rotations serve as an enrichment to students once a week and our STEM academies provide engineering instruction every day to every student. 

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  • STEM at Prairie Trail Elementary and at Home

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 4/4/2018 10:15:00 AM

    Contributed by Jillian Ventura, STEM Teacher, Prairie Trail Elementary

    Some of the biggest life lessons that students learn through STEM education are communication and collaboration because many projects are done within a group. Have you thought about how this might look in a kindergarten class? A third grade class? A fifth grade class? It’s quite exciting and fun to see a group of kindergarteners communicating in a way that solves a problem. These are definitely skills that have to be taught and nurtured throughout a student’s learning. At Prairie Trail, we’ve had STEM as a specials rotation for 4 years now, so the students have been learning to collaborate and communicate while engineering their products for quite awhile. It’s not always perfect, but its just another step in helping our students be successful in the future.

    This year we held our first ever STEM night. There were eight come and go stations set up in the cafeteria with each station taking approximately ten minutes. Stations included catapults, pulleys, towers, paper airplanes, mazes and more. The students had a great night showing their parents what they do each day and working with their families to create the various challenges. Best of all, it got parents and children communicating and collaborating in a relaxed, fun setting. Students love challenges and it’s a great way to interact with your child to deepen their math and science knowledge without them even knowing it. Here are some quick and simple things you can try at home.

    • Make slime – there are lots of tutorials on YouTube
    • Build towers – use anything you can stack
    • Create bridges – create a gap using furniture or books, and then use whatever you have to span the gap
    • Build a chair for a doll or action figure – you will just need any sort of paper and tape
    • Make a new family recipe – just be sure to write down your measurements and process since it’s this that makes recipes a part of STEM.
    • Create something that will keep frequently lost items from being lost as often

    Most importantly, have fun! Don’t worry about failing; it’s a part of the learning process.

    You never know, you might learn something too!

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  • Robotics at Castle Hills Elementary

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 3/26/2018 8:40:00 AM

    Contributed by Laura Sulak, STEM Teacher at Castle Hills.

    A picture of Milo taken by a student.

    K-5 students in the Castle Hills STEM program have been building and coding robots! Kindergartners and 1st graders learned to code Bee-Bots to move forward, backward, left, and right.  Students programmed Bee-Bot to follow a sequence of steps to perform skip counting.

    2nd and 3rd graders followed instructions on their iPads to build Milo the Science Rover out of Legos.  They used a tilt sensor and motion sensor to add various effects to Milo.  They then used their iPads to write lines of code for Milo to follow.  They were able to make Milo drive forward and backward, have Milo make sounds and send messages, and use loops to repeat their code.  Students took selfies with the robots they created and recorded video of the robots performing different tasks.

    4th and 5th graders worked in partners to build EV3 Mindstorms Lego robots.  They connected the robots to their iPads via Bluetooth and wrote codes to control the robots.  Students made the robots move specific distances, race, and complete a maze full of turns and obstacles.  They learned that the rotations of the wheels could make a robot move specific distances.  Through this process they discovered that they could use decimals to control precise movements of the robots, and could double their decimal number if they wanted the robot to move twice the distance.

    The robotics unit has proven to be the most engaging of the year, with many students citing it as their favorite. It fosters collaboration and problem-solving skills as students work together to write code and improve their code when it doesn’t work as intended.  The kids had so much fun they didn’t realize they were learning!

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  • Let’s look at Project-Based Learning (PBL)

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 3/5/2018 3:25:00 PM

    While you might have an overall understanding of project-based learning, we thought it would be fun to take a deeper look at a specific PBL activity, along with the essential knowledge that students bring to the project as well as the learnings that the project reinforces.

    Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of a lesson plan for a kindergarten student in the STEM Academy. The lesson follows the Engineering Design Process: Ask --> Imagine --> Plan --> Create --> Improve --> Share.

    Lesson Title: Buddy Misses Home

    Buddy, an alien from outer space, misses his home and wants to get closer to it. Students build a tall tower that holds Buddy and allows him to observe the objects in the sky that he misses. He must go up and through the clouds to see the sun, the moon, the stars, and other objects in the sky.

    The lesson begins when students are given the problem to solve and are asked to share what they know about the sky. For example, they might share that the sun appears mostly in the day sky and that the moon appears mostly in the night sky but can be seen during the day. Science essential knowledge: Patterns of day and night. Math essential knowledge: Measuring with nonstandard units like cubes. One chart is created with science background knowledge and another with the math. These charts are displayed throughout the lesson.

    Students are split into pairs or groups. Each group is given materials to build a tower for Buddy. Students are asked to count out 5 each of index cards, wax paper squares, Popsicle sticks, and chenille stems. Groups are also given one can of Play-doh, 1 toilet paper tube, 1 sheet of foil, and one length of tape. Each student also receives paper to draw the tower and objects in the sky and to record the tower height and the things that Buddy can see when he is on the tower.

    Each group uses their materials to build the tallest tower so that Buddy can see the objects in the sky. They will then use the cubes to measure the height of Buddy’s tower.

    Within their groups, students will introduce their ideas about how to design the tower. They decide on how to create the tallest design incorporating their best ideas. Students use their chosen materials to build the tower. When done, students will draw their towers and the objects that Buddy is able to see.  They will also measure and record the tower height.

    Students meet with the teacher within their groups to discuss their problems and successes, and then share their designs and findings with the class.

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  • Engaging Kids in STEM at Home

    Posted by Debra Anderson on 2/13/2018 8:40:00 AM

    Many parents have asked what they can do at home to interest their kiddos in STEM. Whether or not your child attends the LISD STEM Academy, there are many activities you can complete at home that will give your child a leg up when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

    One great website with some fun activities for pre-school through second grade is The STEM Laboratory. This website is a mix of products you can purchase as well as many free activity materials that can be downloaded.  Click on the site’s blog link to quickly find the free activities such as Pretzel and Marshmallow Structures (Engineering) and Penguin Counting Cards (Math).

    The Science Kiddo is another awesome website with great projects in all of the STEM disciplines. There are loads of free activities including Gum Drop Graphs (Candy Math) and Teach Kids Binary in One Simple Step (Technology, Coding).

    PBS’ Design Squad website has tons of activities in all of the STEM areas.  There are links to Watch, Design, Build, and Games.  At the very top of the screen there is a link to Browse Design Squad resources to find hands-on engineering, science, and technology activities. Click on “Go now” to find a wealth of information and hands-on projects that you and your child can do together.

    Another way to engage your child in STEM outside of school is to design day trips or even mini-vacations that introduce them to science and nature. Spend time at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science; be sure to look at their special events calendar – Discovery Days are the second Saturday of every month. For example on March 10, it’s Coding:  Explore the process of coding, and celebrate the versatile minicomputer Raspberry Pi’s birthday! Try your hand at coding a Raspberry Pi, turn everyday objects into computer keyboards, learn how video games are made, and explore the concept of virtual reality. 

    Also, check out the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboretum after it reopens February 24.

    Here are some websites to check out for more great ideas:

    STEM at Home - activities and parent resources

    Playdough to Plato – activities for kids 4 and up

    Global Digital Citizen Foundation – 36 resources for STEM project-based learning activities

    Left Brain Craft Brain – 28 days of hands-on STEM activities for kids

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