Virtual STEM Day: A Recipe For Success
by the Georgia Chief Science Officers
School is different now. We are all making adjustments in how we teach, learn, and interact. So while we are Zoom-ing, Teams-ing, and HangOut-ing (Hanging Out?), let’s keep Georgia schools’ annual STEM Day tradition alive! Before school is out, you can host your own Virtual STEM Day for your community.
As Georgia Chief Science Officers, we are a group of middle and high school students leading community efforts to enhance STEM awareness and participation among youth. We know you are still hungry for STEM, so we’re sharing a menu of options to make your Virtual STEM Day delicious and nutritious. If you are a student like we are, you can lead the effort. Reach out to your teachers and propose a Virtual STEM Day. As we say in the CSO program: don’t just hope it happens, #MakeItHappen!
What is STEM Day?
Since 2013, the Technology Association of Georgia – Education Collaborative (TAG-Ed) has been leading a statewide campaign to encourage schools and classrooms to host STEM/STEAM programming on the first Friday in May. No matter the date, or if it’s one hour, one day, or a whole week of STEM activities, the point is to make a focused celebration on STEM. Of course, many of you are doing STEM activities as part of your coursework – think of STEM Day as an opportunity to do something you couldn’t do as part of your classes, a co-curricular activity that enriches our understanding of how STEM is applied in the real world. STEM Day can help students connect with local STEM professionals and businesses, realizing the local career opportunities available in STEM fields and the real-world problems being addressed through STEM work. STEM Day can be a chance for students to build, experiment, create, and test their ideas.
A Virtual STEM Day can be all of these things – just taking place on your school’s online learning platform. Many schools have their own enterprise-wide online platform that ensures privacy and security for students and educators. If your school has its own Zoom, Google, or Microsoft Teams, for example, this would be the ideal platform on which to host your Virtual STEM Day. If your school does not have something like this, you can organize an asynchronous STEM Day, in which students participate independently, on their own time, in their own ways. In this scenario, you (as the organizer), would put together a list of activities and share it with your community. Students would complete the activities on their own time. You may wish to consider a way for participants to submit evidence of completion by a certain deadline, with some kind of award for motivation.
Prepare, Promote, and Share
Get a complete Zoom tutorial, and discover 7 Tips to Zoom like a pro. Don’t forget to check your security settings to protect student privacy – here are some tips to prevent Zoom-bombing. Whatever your school or district platform of choice, you can find a way to connect, build community, and celebrate STEM together.
On behalf of the student leaders at the Georgia Chief Science Officers program, we wish you and your students a happy and satisfying Virtual STEM Day! Don’t forget to share what you’re doing with: #GASTEMDay #MakeItHappen @Georgia_CSO, and @ScienceATL
VIRTUAL STEM DAY MENU
Some dishes will require advanced planning or even pre-work from your students, others are truly plug-and-play. Pick and choose the dishes that will make your Virtual STEM Day the most appetizing to your palate. Bon appetit!
~ APPETIZERS ~
(activities that take less than an hour)
Make it Fun
Host a costume contest or theme for your Virtual STEM Day. Have students dress up as their favorite scientist, or assign everyone an element of the periodic table and have them come in costume (based on the element’s characteristics, real-world use, etc.). Do the same with planets, macromolecules, physics equations, simple machines. Vote on the best costumes.
You don’t need to BE a scientist to DO science. Join the worldwide movement to participate in the collection of scientific data! Discover new ways that proteins can fold and help scientists design better therapies for HIV and cancer (FoldIt!). Identify plants and animals in your neighborhood with the iNaturalist app. Help scientists find clogged blood vessels in the brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients (StallCatchers).
April is Citizen Science Month – but the science doesn’t stop in May. Keep it going with resources from Science ATL on how to do citizen science, including tutorials and suggestions for project ideas to get you started. On your Virtual STEM Day, watch a tutorial together, and have students choose one of a couple projects, spend 20 minutes on their own completing the task, then come back together and report out! Citizen science projects and apps are great ways to get involved in REAL science from your own home.
The Japanese haiku is three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables, and the sciku is a science haiku and an annual Atlanta Science Festival tradition. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it should tell a story about what inspires and moves you about science. Write about your favorite science topic, a question you’ve always been curious about, or what wows you about the natural world. Consider a public health message to your neighborhood, or translate CDC guidance into verse, or offer a message of hope and comfort to people affected by coronavirus, or a word of support to healthcare workers.
On your Virtual STEM Day, students can write and submit their science haikus and vote on the best ones (type it into the chat box, or write it out in marker on paper and hold it up to the webcam). Or head outside to chalk it on their driveway or sidewalk. Then post and tag it with @AtlSciFest, #AtHomeSciFest, and #SciKu.
Hungry for fresh, exciting science activities based in amazing phenomena? The Exploratorium’s Science Snacks are hands-on, teacher-tested, and use cheap, available materials. Satisfy your curiosity without ever getting full.
~ ENTREES ~
(more extensive activities)
Invite a STEM professional to give a talk about his/her career. You can contact your local university/college or business partners. When inviting professionals, be brief and polite. Explain who you are, what you expect from them (e.g, a 15-minute talk about your career plus 10-minute Q&A session via Zoom with 120 middle school students on Thursday May 7), why it is important to you, and when you’d like to hear back. Say “thank you for your consideration”!
Science ATL can help you find a STEM professional for your Virtual STEM Day event. We will match you with a STEM professional and it will be your responsibility to figure out when and how to connect them to your Virtual STEM Day. Be sure to test the online platform with your STEM professional prior to the day of – your platform may limit access to school students and employees. To make a request, complete this form by May 8. We will do our best to fulfill requests in the order in which they are received. Limited dates/times/professionals are available.
To get you started, here are a few pre-recorded STEM professionals in recent Zoom calls with middle and high school Chief Science Officers from around the world:
- Retired NASA Astronaut – Dr. Cady Coleman
- Marine conservation biologist – Dr. Christine Figgener
- Director of Science, Plastic Oceans International, and PhD Candidate – Charlie Rolsky
Or, have students research STEM careers on their own and report-out to the group what they discovered.
Jazz up your Virtual STEM Day with a Coding Dance Party, or see how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can be used to address world problems. Schedule an Hour of Code activity!
Whether they’re completely new to coding or have significant confidence in the subject, any student can gain a few skills through trying out the Girls Who Code – Code At Home activities. There are different levels of difficulty so you can organize breakout rooms to help mentor students of similar experience level through completing the activity. Make sure to post your work on social media.
Hack Club Workshops guide students through creating projects like websites, simple easels, and games, with a focus on customization and make each project unique to the creator. They’re very entertaining and user friendly – give it a try.
Our friends at the Lyndhurst STEM Club shared a great Programming and Coding glossary they have found helpful at their Coding Parties and wanted to share it with the Science ATL community.
How can your students harness the power of the sun using a few household materials? By building solar ovens. Have students collect materials and sketch designs on their own, then host a virtual building race to see who can get their design up and running in the time given. Check out the info at Teach Engineering’s Cooking With The Sun or ShareIt Science’s Solar Oven Design Challenge to plan your event. Or join Atlanta chef/educator Asata Reid for one of her live online cooking classes for kids.
Develop a design challenge around one or more of the Grand Challenges of Engineering or the Grand Challenges of Social Work or the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Pick one or more challenges and guide teams of students through the Engineering Design Process to create, prototype, test or get feedback on, and then refine a solution to the challenge.
COVID-19 Learning Resources
For COVID-19 science learning, a good place to start is this comic for kids – they can even print it out and make it into an 8-page zine (a great skill to apply to other projects). BrainPOP has a decent 4.5 minute kid-focused video that covers the same topics (a bit of biology, explaining quarantine and social distancing, contextualizing the media’s response, recommendation to direct additional questions to parents and trusted sources like WHO, etc.). For more advanced learners, Georgia Science Teachers Association has posted a phenomenon on the genomic epidemiology of COVID-19 with lesson resources to their phenomenon bank. Of course there are many more resources, including these we like:
- Viruses and Us: videos and do-it-at-home activities – The Exploratorium
- How Coronavirus Hijacks Your Cells – NY Times
- How soap kills the coronavirus – Pall Thordarson, The Guardian
- Explaining those graphs you keep seeing everywhere – Osmosis.org
- COVID-19 Q&A – Rockefeller University
- COVID-19 Pandemic Video Timeline – CNN
- CDC resources: main COVID-19 website, key facts, talking with children about coronavirus
You can use STEM Day to host a scientific reading hour for students. The reading series A Kids Book About has partnered with epidemiologist Malia Jones to create a free ebook explaining COVID-19 to students. Host a STEM book review where students can listen to excerpts of the book and share their feelings and understandings about the virus. For K-2 learners, teachers Naomi O’Brien & LaNesha Tabb have created an interactive eBook called What Is a Pandemic? that includes several hands-on activities to help younger students get a better handle on the current climate.
~ A LA CARTE ~
(activities that can be done by students on their own)
Virtual Museum Tours
Experience the world of STEM at home with your students through a virtual field trip. Want to explore locally? ATL Museums At Home is a partnership of Atlanta’s top museums and cultural attractions. Sign your students up for a Field Trip Friday!
The Smithsonian also offers virtual tours of its museum complex. Explore biology with your students with the Smithsonian Natural History Virtual Tour, or explore aviation with the Smithsonian Air & Space Virtual Tour.
Denise Farney, a 7th/8th grade science teacher at Longfellow Middle School, Lorain, OH, has curated a list of 30 Plus Field Trips: Mars, Critter Cams, and More! The extensive list covers multiple STEAM experiences that connect students to museums around the world through partnerships with some of the most well known parks, museums, zoos and aquariums.
Discuss how students can take action to support the community during the COVID-19 crisis. Present some options, and provide opportunity for students to commit to actions. For example, join one of our Chief Science Officer’s project to sew and distribute fabric masks to healthcare and essential workers in metro Atlanta. Sign up to help at http://scienceatl.org/masks
Or think more broadly – review and discuss The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World, based on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and have each student commit to one action.
Ciencia Puerto Rico has a number of free STEM lessons in Spanish and live scientific conversations in Spanish, with STEM grad students and experts from the Ciencia Puerto Rico network.
Enjoy your meal and don’t forget to share what you’re doing with #GASTEMDay #MakeItHappen @Georgia_CSO @ScienceATL