a little help.

This is a crazy question.  Let’s say you are given the opportunity to teach what you want outside of standards requires and everything.  The only restrictions are that it is STEM based and has some hands on component. Oh, and they are 9th or 10th graders.

What would you teach? 

(examples if you want them after the break)

some examples:

  1. build trebuchets and explore the math behind
  2. html through blog creation
  3. art using java or ruby
  4. robot building using the 3d printer

I would love your thoughts. 




13 thoughts on “a little help.

  1. I’ve actually done activity #1 as part of a standards-based curriculum. It was a really interesting activity. I’m not sure how much mathematics my students learned, but they did learn that mathematics was useful for modeling the world.

    I have tried teaching HTML to students. They mostly see it as a complete waste, so if you teach that, you need a really good hook to explain why being able to hand-code HTML pages is useful (and I think that it is).

    #3 and #4 sound really interesting.

    How about a course using math + programming + art where students design their own projects?


      1. I’d teach the process, rather than specific content.

        How can you use math + programming + art to create cool things, emphasis on learning the process involved.


  2. I would do a history of mathematics course and use projects centered on historical moments as an organizing principle. Kids could explore both the mathematical principles *and* the inventions/innovations. Plus students who wanted to could write a paper or do a creative/artistic project as well. It would be a unique offering and I think it would be a lot of fun to teach!

    – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)


  3. Trebuchets are cool! Perhaps you could do slightly more, link in with History/engineering a bit more and look at why different catapult forms developed, which are the ‘best’ (for hat definition of best?)

    Students would have to research different periods and siege engines, build and test minature models, come up with a way to compare them. Perhaps a budgeting element for resources as well? Digital models and physics coding?

    Oh my. Now I want to do this project.


    Nik (@nik_d_maths on Twittes)


  4. I’m a history dork, and love Neal Stephenson, so I’ve always wanted to do a course based on the Baroque Cycle. The STEM bit would be replicating some of the experiments and proof development from the dawn of natural philosophy, and then trace what proved, disproved or left obsolete that particular line of thought/inquiry, with more hands on along the way. Love to see how modern tools (and knowledge we just can’t get out of our heads like circulation, etc.) would warp the observations of the same kinds of events.


  5. Ah art and programming. Consider processing.org too.

    Other ideas:
    geometry and art through origami
    History and math would be cool, history of zero etc
    Build a model solar home, put it outside and measure temp


  6. I think building things from scratch and troubleshooting would be an excellent training for scientific minds. One of the key skills that I think kids don’t get nearly enough practice of is “isolating the variable” in a real-life, concrete context. Like, if you’re trying to fix/troubleshoot something, don’t swap out EVERYTHING at once. Swap out one thing at a time. You can teach this as a central concept of the course, and then show how this idea applies to a variety of projects ie. programming, robotics, building a trebuchet (which, since my kids had built one last year for me, I know is really not trivial to get it to swing right and to go far), fixing a computer, building a computer from scratch, designing and building a Rube Goldberg machine, or any such thing. After the kids do some basic projects on their own, then you should let the kids decide what their next project will be. Maybe they’ll build a project that requires external assistance or that combines multiple science skills, which would help to bring the course to the next level towards the end.


  7. Get some Rasberry Pi’s and look into hardware/software interactions. HUGE potential for what they can make with this, and the skills are seriously cross-curricular between the electrical, hardware and software. Would need a specific group of students though.


  8. Definitely Cryptography. You’ve got exciting history, simple mathematics, technological applications/projects and eventually complex mathematics if you want to take it that far.


  9. I would advocate for using Java or Ruby to create art. HTML is a nice notion but if you are going to go for code either Java or Ruby deals heavily with object-oriented concepts. The kids benefit because they can get some mileage out of either programming language and appreciate the artistry and expression that comes through the exercise.

    In HTML you are essentially dealing with the rendering of text and some directory structures in Java you are dealing with the mathematical manipulation of data and logic operators.

    The advantage of a programming language like you are suggesting is that you can create and render 3-D shapes in real time as opposed to a 3-D printer that takes time to print and you can’t readily see the change in shape.

    For instance the analytical data on our web site (http://learnbop.net) shows that children struggling with these concepts frequently benefit from “chunking” the concepts into smaller and more digestible modules. In the programming option everything is arranged into neat bunches for you already so you can pick it apart and reassemble it.


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