In Italy, as in most parts of the world, schools were closed because of coronavirus pandemic. Teachers started DAD (distance learning) in March and never stopped till the school year ended. Distance learning was a hard and challenging experience. For a STEM teacher is quite impossible to teach without a laboratory approach. I spent time asking myself: “How can I try to overcome this problem?” My answer was: “I have to redesign my teaching”. I prepared a project. I suggested my students consider their home, especially their kitchens, their garages, and their gardens as their new STEM labs. I also explained my ideas to the parents, and I asked them to collaborate with me. I prepared some lessons to be done at home but above all I asked my students to be curious, to observe carefully, to make hypotheses, and prove them, to prepare reports in their notebook, among others… In a few words, I asked them to act like “little scientists”.
The most important activities were cooking, gardening, inventing, observing plants, and animals. Through these activities, my students became able to learn about STEM subjects in a more motivating methodology.
Let’s get to know our new STEM labs?!
Cooking was a perfect way to learn the Physics behind thermal effects, the Biology of leavening, and the Mathematics of recipes proportions. We used plastic bottles to experiment with hydrostatic pressure and potatoes to see the osmosis.
Students prepared bread, cakes, and biscuits with their parents and tried and exchange new recipes. This was perfect to enhance creativity and to enjoy during the lockdown.
The garage became a lab to invent, to restore, and to build handmade objects (especially from waste or raw materials). Collaboration with parents was very important in these activities, and we had amazing results! One of my students restore his father’s old scooter and made a great video with a clear explanation about all the phases of the project. Another built an egg incubator and took photos of newborn baby chickens. One of my smartest students made musical instruments, an underwater flashlight, and a barbecue using an old cabinet and other waste materials. See below picture of the egg incubator and of the underwater flashlight.
Gardens were labs to observe and learn a lot about Biology, Zoology, Botany, and Sustainability. Growing plants is not only a good way to learn about germination, the different plants’ needs (more or less water, more or less sunlight, etc.) but can be an opportunity for a student to produce his own food, to enjoy the genuine flavor and to start learning about sustainability. Cultivating flowers can help the bees and other insects and contribute to biodiversity. See photo of one of my students gardening:
Students observed their gardens and made reports on their notebooks about their observations. Students found an incredible variety of things in their gardens: a very large mushroom, a frog, insect eggs, a snail on the watering cans, bees, butterflies, etc. See some of their notes:
My project was a success, students sent me a lot of interesting reports and some parents were happy and actively involved in the activities. I assigned to continue this work during the summer holidays, and I plan to organize all the materials produced by my students during the next school year in order to learn more and more together.
Author: Mariapia Borghesan – Italian Scientix Ambassador
Mariapia Borghesan has been a Maths and Science teacher in a middle school in the north of Italy for 30 years. She is a Scientix and an eTwinning Ambassador. She loves experimenting with new ways of teaching, reading, and traveling.