Exploring STEM without Technology

Katie Vidal
14 Oct 2020

STEM with Pencil and Paper

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have every resource you ever needed at your fingertips? School budgets don’t stretch that far, but you can still find ways to explore STEM without using technology. Design projects are all the rage and maker spaces filled with toilet rolls, recyclables etc are messy. 

A pencil and paper can still support a strong STEM lesson without the copying of notes.

School Holidays

It has been a wet second week of school holidays and when you work from home, there are only so many board games, indoor obstacle courses and in-home movie sessions. Let alone the challenge of regulating screen time.

While tidying up, my children came across an image mat I use when instructing for She Maps.  This one is the image of Canberra, our home city.  This made it easily recognisable with Parliament House, the War Memorial and Lake Burley Griffin.

It is one of the images we use to simulate our real-world scenario in our face-to-face programs. Check out our range in our STEM gear.

The kids moved around the mat recognising landmarks, identifying where they had been and the experiences they had in those places.

Mission Accepted!

Whilst I had the kids interested, it was time to give them a mission.

Lake Burley Griffin has flooded and caused major damage to the CBD, landmarks and roads. 

“So, today kids, you are geospatial scientist, and you need to show me how you would code your drone to fly over the area and take pictures to help the emergency services?”

The best part about this challenge is that there is no right answer. The different ages of my kids didn’t matter, they all participated and contributed at their level, in their own way. I gave them a verbal example and they went from there.

The Results

My 6 yr old gave up as soon as the challenge was set, tears and his head was thrown back as he announced: “I don’t know how to do this!” I added  “YET!” as a small amount of growth mindset support.  It worked!  He watched his older brother and sister draw and gained his own confidence to have a go. Each drew their own pattern, some more complicated than others. 

I was able to have a chat with my teenager about the degrees of turn and the time each forward movement would need.  My daughter, 11 years old,  was able to discuss the need for turning patterns in her code, but that her timing would reduce with each spiral. My 6 yr old son was happy with his completed product and was able to explain how the drone would move by actually stepping it out over the image. All three demonstrated an understanding of how they would use the drone to collect data. 

Taking it to the classroom

We did not venture into code, there was no need to at this point.  After looking at their samples, I realised that this would be an effective lesson for a class without access to technology. You don’t need an image mat either.  For this lesson, a map image of their local area would suffice. I did forget to mention to them as well that they need to illustrate where the drone would stop and take each picture, but that can be for another day.

With this activity, you are still creating a code and you can extend it to discuss how students would create a set of instructions, an algorithm, for a partner to move in the same pattern, just like the drone would.  We left the activity there, the kids were proud of their products, I loved the fact that it got them off their technology, and they were all exploring STEM at home.

Want more lessons like this?

Become a She Maps Member, and you’ll get full access to our online professional learning portal known as Orbit. Ask us how

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