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STEM Activities That Are Engaging and Rigorous: Explore and Design! (virtual included!)

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Sunday, November 29, 12:30–1:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Leigh Fitzgerald  
Dr. Mark Hines  

Research supports that learning is most powerful when learners are actively engaged in grappling with authentic content. We will explore co-design activities and learn design principles that support math, science, engineering and technology with implementation of hands-on, minds-on activities w strategies that address F2F, virtual and blended.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Vernier Graphical Analysis

*other apps are just web based

Topic: Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Science
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Math, Science, Engineering and Technology teachers understand that STEM learning must stand on three legs: Content Knowledge, Understanding and Application. Many classroom teachers struggle with ways to have students apply their knowledge and demonstrate true understanding. For example, Common Core in Mathematics states that students should be able to:

Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3)
Model with mathematics (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4)
Use appropriate tools strategically (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5)

In the national standards for all STEM disciplines there are similar statements.

We will dive into and explore STEM activities and look at student examples from 8 years of Deeper Learning classes that the presenter has designed. We will use free tools like Graphical Analysis (from Vernier Software), Desmos (also available as a web app on any device at, Google Sheets and Wolfram Alpha to have students move from simple rote understanding and repetition to critical thinking about the ways relationships can be expressed and explained through form (graphically), function (mathematical models and equations) and modeling.

We will debrief each activity using the thinking routine “Connect, Extend, Challenge” to consider how to use backwards design principles accomplish this task. Participants will share and receive supportive feedback on their project ideas.

We will introduce a design framework that supports engaging and rigorous activity designs that can be part of a larger Project-Based Learning and Design Thinking Process.


We will use the good instructional design mantra: Tell, Show, Do.
5’ Intros and Setting the goal

5’ We will first explore the language of standards from Common Core, NCTM, NGSS and the International Baccalaureate (IB). This will give participants the chance to look at the standards for their level and students.

50’ We will walk through activities that were designed for Middle and High STEM students. We will look at the design brief, explore the timeline for completion including scaffolded activities, look at examples of student work, and map these projects to the standards. Time will be given for attendees to explore the activities as “learners” to grapple with the tools and the design.

20’ After experiencing the activities, participants will be walked through a framework for designing engaging rigorous STEM activities, choose a particular standard that they are designing for, and create an apply their understanding for a project of their own making. These will be shared via a common digital dropbox.

10’ Questions, Next Steps and Feedback

Supporting research
UbD Principles:

National Academy of Sciences on Active Learning:

Common Core for Mathematics

Next Generation Science Standards:

Vernier STEM:

International Baccalaureate Mathematics and Science

NCTM principles and standards:


Steve Leinwand, American Institute for Research:

Emergent Math:


Wolfram Alpha:

More [+]


Leigh Fitzgerald, Mid-Pacific Institute
Dr. Mark Hines, Mid-Pacific Institute/Kupu Hou Academy

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