Monday, October 2, 2017

STEAM and Skinny Pigs

The focus for our school's PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) this year is STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math). Everyone is expected to help support the Engineering Design Process somehow through their program. It can be relatively easy to implement in the library, as the Library Learning Commons Maker Space at Agnes Macphail P.S. is still alive and kicking, and inquiry based learning is a hallmark of what happens in that space as well. An authentic opportunity arose, thanks to another element of my school library that my students love: the school skinny pigs.

(You can see how much my students dote on the skinny pigs based on some of the recent responses to the new OSLA initiative, "My School Library Rocks".)

The format I'm using for the STEAM inquiry is Ask/Imagine/Plan/Create/Improve. To be honest, I think we need to make it STREAM because I noticed that Research plays an important part.

Ernie and Bert are my two current skinny pigs. Since about mid-August, my family and I have noticed that the skinny pigs aren't getting along. I'm used to typical scuffles, but this was getting more serious. Ernie's back was covered in scratches, wounds, and bite marks! This level of aggression was worse than anything I had seen previously. My Ask was: How can I get the skinny pigs to stop fighting?

My husband conducted some preliminary research online and found this article: The article suggested extra hideouts, extra food, and possibly some sort of divider to temporarily separate them. I set up the cage in a new way with two copies of everything.

In the picture above, I put a dustpan up as to keep the two of them away from each other. The dust pan fell over almost immediately. I knew this wouldn't last. My Imagine was: How can I build a wall between the skinny pigs that will keep them both safe but also be temporary? (Permanent walls aren't always the answer to problems, a lesson I hope some powerful people will learn eventually.)

Ms. Keberer, the HSP/MART teacher, and I did our Plan informally and then we Created a simple wall with cardboard and pipe cleaners. 

Our wall lasted about a day. Both skinny pigs chewed right through the barrier and made a big enough gap for them both to squeeze through. We knew we needed to Improve our design.

My students are often crowded around the skinny pigs' cage, observing them intently. Some immediately noticed the damage to Ernie's back. I mentioned to my Grade 1-3 library and media students about the problem with Bert bullying Ernie. (This misbehaviour led to the "cancellation" of the skinny pigs' first birthday party on September 18, but I caught some students quietly singing Happy Birthday to Ernie and Bert that day.) The students heard me read them the wonderful book by Ashley Spires, The Most Magnificent Thing. When they saw the chewed remains of the first prototype, they had many suggestions on how to improve it. I asked for their help, and they jumped right in. They drew plans. I asked them to list what materials they'd need and they wrote all sorts of things. When I asked how much of these materials they'd need, one pair realized they needed to measure the cage.

I've only just begun this STEAM inquiry but it looks like it will be engaging and hopefully will solve my skinny pig problem. I'll share some of the designs and prototypes as they develop.

No comments:

Post a Comment