How to Teach STEM Lessons in the Classroom?

She Maps Team
24 Jun 2020
a school backpack sits on the ground in a classroom

Nathan Tasca is a high school educator at Marist College Bendigo; an F-Year 12 school.  As part of our EduDrone conference last year, Nathan shared his experiences around using STEM in the classroom with the help of drones. 

Teaching STEM at Marist College

Marist is a Reggio school, so has a foundation in play-based learning and they move into project-based-learning in Year 5. 

Nathan is an English and Humanities teacher who ‘fell into Technology’, as he calls it, and is now the Learning Technology Advisor, ensuring that STEM is encountered by students across the school. 

His mandate as a leader is this: Give students the chance to experience STEM lessons. If they never try 3D Design, they’ll never find their passion. If they never have a chance to play they’ll never know if that might have turned into something.

This is how he introduces his students to drones in the classroom:

Drone Safety in the Classroom

Get students to understand the rules. CASA rules apply when flying outside but when you’re inside a building, they are much more liberal — as long as you don’t cause damage or harm to a person or a property, you’re good to go. 

Learning how to introduce drones into your classroom with a She Maps Orbit membership gives you a set of classroom rules that you can apply yourself as STEM teacher training provider and teach to your students, from marked ‘flying zones’ to flying protocols. 

Communicating the Drone Safety Briefing to Students

Nathan found that, when students were faced with a whole fleet of drones that they were about to fly in the air, they actually weren’t too interested in a detailed safety briefing

The beauty of flying with microdrones, which are small and safe, is that they are much less likely to cause injury or damage. Nathan’s recommendation is to go through the basics of a safety briefing first, only covering off the essentials, and then go through a much more thorough safety briefing once students have had their first flight experience and are much more engaged

Flying Drones... and Crashing Them

Nathan finds that his students are always natural drone pilots as they have the dexterity from using game consoles and other technology. But they will crash, and in amazing circumstances sometimes. 

Part of his approach to teaching STEM is to let his students know that crashing drones is all part of the learning experience. This helps him set a tone of growth, not critical perfectionism in his classroom. 

Drone Challenges in the Classroom

Creating challenges or projects with drones helps students with their intent to become better drone pilots and geospatial scientists, helping them stay on track of their STEM professional development. It also creates a natural reason to have a debrief following every flight session, just as industry professionals would in the real world.

The great thing about flying with drones is that the experience is cool enough that you don’t need additional fancy equipment to make it better. What you already have in your classroom is perfect.

Nathan finds that simple challenges are the best. Flying around  a group of chairs, creating a spot landing challenge where students try to land on a certain object, and also flying through gaps is important for drone flight dexterity.

Top Gun Drone Challenge

This is yet to be trademarked by Nathan so copy it and apply it in your STEM classroom while you can!

Using the ideas below, create a series of challenges that students attempt in groups. Award the top 3 of each group 3, 2, 1 points and add them up at the end to find the true Top Gun of your classroom. 

Example Challenges

  • Fly around a school chair and land.
  • Fly a three chair slalom and land.
  • Spot landing at a distance (helps with the very challenging skill of depth perception).
  • Fly through chair legs
  • Frogger (take off and land on a series of spots). 

Introducing Real World Applications of Drones

While drone pilots are essential, they are flying for a reason. Nathan recommends getting students to present their findings on future uses of drones:

  1. At school
  2. In society

Here are some of the phenomenal uses his students came up with unassisted by him:

  •  Yard duty supervisions
  • Mapping rubbish location to improve bin provisions
  • Aerial views to ensure the sprinklers work effectively
  • Develop drones to deploy defibs in cities
  • Deliver medical supplies to remote parts of the country
  • Delivering pizza
  • Defence
  • Environmental and societal needs
This was from a classroom in 2019, so we can’t wait to see what students are coming up with now.

Real World Scenarios in the Classroom

With microdrones (and a little imagination!) , it is possible to introduce real world scenarios into the classroom — disaster relief teams, mini marine biologists, and so much more. 

At She Maps, we have spent years imagining up real world scenarios and testing them on students. A She Maps Orbit membership provides teachers with these in a ready-to-teach format that’s mapped to US and Australian curriculum. 

Alternatively, you can also explore STEM lessons at home. Read more here.

Find out more about incorporating drones into your classroom with Orbit:

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