Global STEM project-based learning

BY Julia Sigalovsky 

 Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School 

Project Description

This proposal serves to benefit the Global STEM “Space Exploration” semester-long course where 8-10 grade students study the Solar System, starts and galaxies and discuss the goals, social and economic aspects, and engineering challenges of the space exploration and the human expansion to other planets.

As a part of the course, we developed an innovative project that uses gaming software, Minecraft, to engage students in engineering. The approach is similar to the last year grant-awarded project, Future City, which uses SimCity gaming software to engineer a futuristic city model.

In the Space Exploration project, DY students collaborate with students in other countries (Mexico and Norway) to design and build virtual models related to space exploration such as a rocket, an international space station, or a settlement on Mars.

The innovation of this approach includes student simultaneous collaboration in three different types of virtual “spaces”: interpersonal Skype communication, Minecraft 3D simulation space, and joint cloud-based Google documents where students develop their design concepts. In addition, students will participate in hands-on activities building physical scaled models of the spacecraft.

This proposal includes two components:

* Purchase of time of an on-line MinecraftEdu (www.minecraftedu.com) server time that provides virtual building space. This is necessary for virtual collaboration with our international partners.

* Adding a new hands-on component of building spacecraft using multi-parts scale physical models.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

The program evaluation will be conducted through class grades reflecting day-to-day student work, final student projects, verbal project presentations, and student program reflection.

Students are graded daily based on their teamwork collaboration, participation, and weekly project progress.

The culmination part of the every project in every GTEC course is the international joint presentations and awards ceremony when mix (DY and other countries) student teams present their projects to the Global class and get awarded by the Certificates of Completion. During the presentations, the student work is evaluated based on the merit of the collected and organized information, innovative approach, original solution, and verbal presentation skills.

After each program, students have a chance to reflect on how the program improved their STEM knowledge and skills as well as their cross-cultural communication skills.

Benefit to the students and the school

The grant would afford us purchasing of three different spacecraft model kits and 14 months of the external MinecraftEdu server time (about 5 months per a school year) necessary for international collaboration in 3D virtual space to build spacecraft models virtually. The international partner list will include schools in Norway, Mexico, UK, and Canada.

This will provide an opportunity to about 45 Dennis and Yarmouth students annually (about 130 students in three years) enrolled in the semester-long courses to collaborate internationally in the MinecraftEdu virtual gaming environment building spacecraft models as well as collaborate locally building 3D physical models.

Through design and construction of the virtual and physical models, students will learn about scientific, technical, engineering, social and economic challenges of space exploration as well as about the importance of international collaboration for successful space exploration missions.

The project is a part of the 4-year effort of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School of development and implementation of a comprehensive STEM program for 8-10 grade students with the goal of encouraging them to take more rigorous STEM subjects in higher grades and to choose STEM professions for their future.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

We estimate that in every semester-long “Space Exploration” course, designing and building of the Minecraft virtual models will take approximately 4-5 weeks of international collaboration time. Building of physical models will take about 2-3 weeks depending of the age and the number of participants.

Depending on the time of award, we plan to implement the project either in the first or second semester of 2015-16 school year. Because we can purchase the server time in convenient increments, we estimate that the purchased time and materials can serve us for up to six semesters (three school years).

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