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2022 Chicago National Conference - Sessions




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Thursday, July 21
8:20 AM - 9:20 AM
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Homes for the Hurricane Homeless: The Integration of STEM, Place-Based Learning, and Designing Thinking in the Elementary Classroom

McCormick Place - W180

Hurricanes, flash floods, and wildfires. Climate change brings more extreme weather, and the results can be catastrophic to our communities. As the weather becomes more severe, there is an increased need for shelters that can be easily transported and assembled to provide relief shelter for families who have been displaced from their homes. In this session, attendees will engage in an authentic STEM inquiry implemented in third and fourth-grade classrooms. The inquiry was designed so that students would be able to explore homelessness caused by natural disasters and design a tiny house prototype for a family in need. Participants will learn about planning and implementing a place-based and integrated STEM inquiry during this session. A major focus will be on planning and sensemaking as students learn through authentic opportunities and real-world mathematics and science. The presenter will share experiences using the Design Thinking Framework and place-based methodology as a guide for implementing and designing integrated STEM inquiries. In addition, the presenter will give specific strategies for developing problem statements to engage students in empathetic responses within STEM inquiries. The presenter will also share specific strategies for developing empathy during STEM inquiries for elementary-aged students. Participants will have the opportunity to experience key parts of the inquiry and view student examples.

Takeaways: 1. Engage participants in NGSS-based engineering design challenge where participants are required to design a solution for homelessness caused by natural disasters (hurricane, floods, wildfire); 2. Learn the role of empathy in authentic STEM inquiries by using Design Thinking principles; and 3. Outline possible place-based strategies for implementing STEM inquiries in upper elementary classrooms that engage all learners in STEM.


Jennifer Williams (Isidore Newman School: New Orleans, LA)

Thursday, July 21
9:40 AM - 10:40 AM
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Science + Engineering + Math = Parachute STEM Activity

McCormick Place - W181a

The basic physical science principles of gravitational force and air resistance are explored as students design, build, test, and evaluate parachutes. K-W-L charts are used to assess students’ knowledge of the engineering design process and the scientific method. The book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” by Margot Theis Ravin, is read to students and they discuss whether the pilot acted like an engineer as he wanted to share sweets with children during the Berlin Airlift. The students are presented with a problem, getting food and water to islanders whose homes and roads have been damaged by hurricanes. Simple materials such as paper napkins, paper towels, crocheting thread, and paper clips are used to build the parachutes. The students use the five ‘E’s’: engagement, exploration, explanation, evaluation, and elaboration as they compare their various parachute models. Students learn that air contains particles, and it is these particles that place forces on bodies moving in the air and counteract the force of gravity. Students use math in the analysis of their models. Students learn that models representing parachutes can be designed in many ways and may behave differently when tested. Students learn the many ways engineering and science are used to explore and explain nature and are employed in manufacturing and technology processes.

Takeaways: Student groups learn that the engineering design process and the scientific method are circular processes as they design, build, test, and evaluate a parachute model then improve it.


Suzanne Cunningham (Purdue University: West Lafayette, IN)

Friday, July 22
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
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Unmasking Engineering Practices

McCormick Place - W175c

In this hands-on workshop, participants will make and preform tests on COVID masks to use engineering practices to design a mask that is both comfortable and protective.

Takeaways: Inquiry-based STEM is a collaborative process in which students act and think like engineers and scientists to make the learning environment inclusive for ALL learners.


Karen Ostlund (The University of Texas at Austin: Austin, TX)

Saturday, July 23
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
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Using NSTA's Sensemaking Model with Engineering Design Challenges

McCormick Place - W181b

Using NSTA's Sensemaking model we can design instruction that develops student knowledge and skills in the SEP. By completing units with Engineering Design Challenges we can integrate all the aspects of student learning in an Authentic Assessment. Combining these tools may build student competence, confidence, and identities in science and STEM. Experience and get the materials from one well tested example involving climate change effects.

Takeaways: Combine student resources and interests with DCIs and practices to solve problems facing their own communities, powering learning and building identities as skillful science students.


Robert Wallace ( : No City, No State), Rob Wallace (Teacher PD and Curriculum Design: Kenner, LA)