Integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into daily learning helps kids develop the ability to think critically through the application of cross-disciplinary skills. Using the STEPS to STEM SUCCESS (Ask It, Solve It, Design It, Test It, and Improve It) with a bucket pouring design challenge will help kids understand inquiry and solution-based learning. As kids gain experience with STEM education, they will garner the skills necessary to extend learning beyond the classroom and apply new knowledge to problems found in their everyday world!
OBJECTIVE: This lesson will engage kids (4th-6th grades) in cross-disciplinary STEM skills to engineer a bucket pouring system that will hold weight and transfer dry ingredients from one container to another.
STEM Skills Presented in this Lesson:
Science: Students will use skills within the scientific method to design a bucket pouring system that can hold weight and pour.
Technology: Students will use digital technology to document learning and assist in observations of the pouring systems at work.
Engineering: Students will implement a strategy to engineer a bucket pouring system using simple supplies.
Math: Students will explore geometry, spatial concepts, and mathematical relationships as they design and construct the pouring systems.
STEPS for STEM SUCCESS
Print the STEPS for STEM SUCCESS here (download Steps for Success PDF file here) for each student or small group. Discuss each of the steps and answer questions the students might have before starting the bucket pouring challenge.
STEM Bucket Pouring System Challenge for Kids
The bucket pouring design must be able to hold the weight of the chosen dry ingredient and be able to transfer the ingredients to the second cup in some manner.
- One Instructional Bucket Challenge Sheet – print here (download the PDF file for Bucket Challenge Directions here)
- 20 Wikki Stix (any color)
- 8 Large Wooden Craft Sticks
- One Pencil
- Hole Punch
- Two Plastic or Paper Cups
- Dry Ingredients (suggestions might include: dry rice, rice or other dry cereal, oatmeal, cornmeal, beans, or small pasta).
- Kids have 20 minutes to plan and design a simple bucket pouring system from the supplies given. They do not have to use all of the supplies, but no more supplies will be given.
Planning and Construction of the Design
One 5th grade team brainstormed possible design solutions to the challenge and verbally agreed on their construction based on the given materials. The students chose cornmeal as the dry ingredient and the design looked great. In application, the base the students constructed was sturdy and easily held the dry ingredient, but the cup failed to rotate fully as the kids used Wikki Stix to adhere the pencil to the top of the construction.
The pouring system on the right was created by another 5th grade team. The kids brainstormed possible designs and then drew the initial design on paper. Using the given supplies, they constructed their bucket pouring system. The kids predicted that the bucket would rotate forward to pour the dry ingredient into the second cup via the Wikki Stix attachment to the pencil. The system design worked well with rice cereal! It is truly an amazing sight to observe kids planning, creating, learning, playing, and applying knowledge to have success!
To further test the bucket pouring design, the kids chose to pour coins from the “bucket” instead of rice cereal. The weight of the coins made the side V constructions detach from its base! The entire system collapsed! That same student team re-engineered the initial construction to make improvements to the base design to accommodate the additional weight of the coins.
Using Technology for Observations and to Document Learning
To help kids observe the pouring systems, have one student (per group) video the constructions at work. By watching the video in slow motion, kids will have a great visual for learning about successes and what parts of the design could be improved.
To document learning, invite the kids to take digital photographs of each phase: Planning, Constructing, Testing, and Improving. Have the kids fill in the response sheet here (download the pdf file of Bucket Pouring System Response Sheet here) and then use the STEPS for STEM SUCCESS (linked above), the Response Sheet, and photographed documentation to create a printed book to share.
STEM learning challenges kids to higher level thinking. By incorporating inquiry and solution-based learning into daily education, kids will garner important problem solving skills that will extend far beyond the classroom and into the larger community!
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