Wednesday 6 October 2021

Design Process in First Grade

Since we started using the provincial report card some years back, teachers have really had to intentionally teach their students about the design process. I've kind of simplified the way that I teach the process. I try to do one big design project each term (so three a year), but often other little STEM lessons or mini projects also use this format, just a bit less formal.

The six general steps for the scientific design process are: (1) recognize a problem (this is usually teacher led, but sometimes students come up with their own ideas!), (2) create a plan (this can be brainstorming ideas, drawing a detailed picture/plan, and creating a list of criteria), (3) construct the object (I collect A LOT of recycled materials to use for this, as well as various craft supplies), (4) test the object (does it meet the criteria? does it work?), (5) make improvements (if it doesn't work or if you just want it to work better), and (6) communicate results (this can be a turn and talk with a partner, uploading a picture or video to Seesaw, checking off a checklist, etc.). 

We have had so much fun with some of our projects throughout the year! Here's a peak at a few of them. I usually do three major projects a year, so I don't always do one from each cluster. It just depends on the order that I do them in. Here's a look at some of our design projects throughout the years...

Cluster 1: Characteristics and Needs of Living Things

This is the design project from my First Grade Interactive Science Journals: Living Things unit. I've done it with my classes a few times, but I could not find any pictures of them! One time we made them to go with our non-fiction writing project--students designed the habitat for their living thing and had to include things like food, water, and shelter. 

This is another project we did. We were learning about the characteristics of insects and created some "litterbugs" out of recycled materials for Earth Day. I put out a bunch of recycled materials such as cardboard tubes, small milk cartons, packing peanuts from an old package, old plastic lids, scrap paper, newspaper, etc. They had to design an insect using recycled materials that had all the parts of an insect (such as antennae and six legs). You can download the recording sheets for free from {here}. There's a single page version or an interactive journal version, as well as the large insect and labels.

Cluster 2: The Senses

This one has been challenging, but in the past we have done two different things: made sunglasses to protect our eyes (students had to choose an appropriate material to use to make their lenses) or design something to protect one of your senses (sunglasses, earmuffs, mittens, etc.). You can find three different versions of the recording sheets in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: The Five Senses unit. Here's a look at our devices for protecting our senses:

Cluster 3: Characteristics of Objects and Materials

This is one of my favourite units to do because you can pretty much tie any sort of project to it. I often tie this project into a favourite book or character. 

One of our projects was to build a comfy chair for the pigeon stuffy. We received an email from the Pigeon asking us to make him a new, comfy chair. I put out the craft stuff, had them design their chair, then build it and test it with the stuffed pigeon! You can downloading the recording sheets for free from {here}.

Another project we have done is build a house for the three little pigs. We used little Lego people with pig masks and a blow dryer disguised as the wolf. Students built a house, put the pigs in it, and try to see if it will stand up the wolf! You can download the recording sheet for free from {here}.

Another favourite project is reading the story "The Day the Crayons Quit" and making a crayon box for a pack of 24 crayons. There is a similar activity in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: Objects and Materials unit about holding pencils, but you can download the crayon activity for free {here}.

We brought the Pigeon back for another project. This time we read the story "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" and build a bed for the sleepy Pigeon. Find the freebie recording sheets {here}.

Last year I gave all my students their own little puppy reading buddy at the beginning of the year. I got them from Oriental Trading. For our design project, my students had to build something useful for their reading buddy. We had houses, beds, clothing, toys, leashes--lots of creative ideas! You can download the free recording sheets from {here}.

Another activity we have done is for the Gingerbread Man. Students had to build something to get the Gingerbread Man across the river safely--a bridge or a boat! This Gingerbread Man STEM activity is available on TpT for free {here}.

Cluster 4: Daily and Seasonal Changes

One of the design projects we have done in our seasons unit is to build bird feeders. We made a criteria list together--it had to have a spot for the birds to get the seeds, a cover or top so the seeds wouldn't get wet, it had to be strong enough to hold the food, and it had to be able to hang on a tree branch. We tested our bird feeders inside by having them hang on a metre stick with some bird seed in it. You can find this recording sheet in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: Weather and Seasons unit. 

This idea came from Mrs. Meyer's Kindergarten. They also used cardboard tubes to make their animals. It wasn't really a "problem" they had to solve, but it was a design project. We had been studying how people, animals, and plants prepare for winter. We learned about animals who hibernate, migrate, and adapt to 

This was a super fun project! I found some instructions on Pinterest on how to make a wind tunnel. I used clear poster board, wooden embroidery hoops, a circular fan (that can tilt upwards), and a stand built out of wood (although this broke my second year and I just ended up using stacks of plastic bins). We made a list of all the things that fly or float in the air. Students had to design and build an object that would float or fly in the wind tunnel. It was pretty fun! We used lots of balloons, tissue papers, and feathers for these wind devices. You can download the anchor chart pieces and recording sheets for free {here}

I hope these give you some ideas. Happy designing, scientists!