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STEM Activities for Interdisciplinary Teams

STEM education provides a world of opportunities

Dee Dee Whitaker
Product Content Manager

Polly Dornette
eCommerce Content Manager

May 2018


When teaching on an interdisciplinary team, you can easily link science content to math concepts and language arts lessons through data manipulations, supplemental reading passages, and written lab reports. Relating science lessons to social studies content, however, can be more challenging.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be difficult. By creating a cross-curricular lesson based on a Carolina STEM Challenge® kit, you can simplify the planning for your interdisciplinary team.


Carolina STEM Challenge®

Carolina STEM Challenge® kits are student-led inquiry kits that provide STEM instruction for students in grades 6 to 12. The activities are designed for whole-class or small-group use. Independent design projects are applicable not only to science topics, but also to many history, economic, and general social studies concepts.

The kits engage students and get them asking questions. With guidance and prompting, student questions can blend interdisciplinary topics. The engineering problems can be culminating activities where students use principles and concepts from both science and social studies to solve a novel problem.

The background research required and the context of the problem can have a social studies slant while having a STEM focus. This matrix identifies science and social studies topics applicable to Carolina STEM Challenge® kits. The cross-curricular suggestions can help your interdisciplinary team bring real-world design activities to the classroom.


Cross-curricular matrix

Life Science

Kit Title

Science Topics

Social Studies Concepts

Further Applications

Quick View

Circulatory System

Body systems

Circulatory system

Homeostasis

Fluid dynamics

Lack of access to advanced health care in developing parts of the world

Discuss the lack of health care in other parts of the world. Explain to students that lack of access to vaccines and other preventive medicine can lead to disease outbreaks.

Quick View

How to Train Your Isopod

Ecosystems

Adaptations

Niches

Sensation and perception

Animal behavior

Domestication of animals

Discuss the role and process of domestication of animals in society throughout history. Address how the shift from hunting and gathering to farming allowed for settlement.

Quick View

Hydroponics

Plant anatomy

Plant growth

Photosynthesis

Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture

Global population

Discuss world population growth and the use of hydroponics to feed a rapidly growing population.

Quick View

How to Train a Plant

Plant tropism

Plant anatomy

Photosynthesis

Cell communication

Different growing methods of indigenous populations in various regions

Discuss with students how cultivation techniques differ in different parts of the world. Also discuss how various plants such as corn, wheat, and rice became such a staple of diets in many parts of the world.


Chemistry

Kit Title

Science Topics

Social Studies Concepts

Further Applications

Quick View

Make it Bounce

Solutions

Polymers

Intramolecular forces

Gravitational potential Energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conservation

The role of plastic and polymers in our disposable culture

Discuss with students how plastic and other polymers have been used in medical advances and safe food packaging to benefit society. Also discuss the dilemma of how a community should dispose of these products.


Quick View

Chemical Reaction Rockets

Reactions

Reaction rates

Kinetics

Stoichiometry

Forces

Newton's laws of motion

Space race and development of missiles

This is a great lead-in to a unit on the space race as well as the development of missiles for warfare.

Quick View

Separation of a Mixture

Matter

Physical properties

Chemical properties

Matter classification

Separating mined minerals from their ore

Discuss with students the process of extracting the minerals from the ore. This discussion should cover the energy requirements for many of these processes and include a discussion of mining wastes and what happens after a mine is no longer profitable.


Quick View

Crystal Growing

Solution

Solubility

Concentration

Solution equilibrium

Le Châtelier's principle

Rocks and minerals

Mineral formation and deposits

Mining

Natural resources, mining, and the salt trade

Work this activity into a lesson on the importance of a region's natural resources and how those resources relate to a country's wealth and stability. Mining, overuse of natural resources, and ownership of natural resources can lead to discussions of governmental systems and economics. This is a great opportunity to discuss the current and historical importance of table salt as a commodity, ancient currency, and early preservative.


Emerging Energies

Kit Title

Science Topics

Social Studies Concepts

Further Applications

Quick View

Battery Dilemma

Electrochemistry

Redox

Electricity

Electrical cells

Power

Energy

Renewable energy

History of batteries (Baghdad battery or Parthian battery)

Archeologists have discovered items they believe to be batteries that date back over 2000 years. Based on knowledge of the culture of the area and the time period, have students hypothesize potential uses.

Quick View

Geothermal

Thermochemistry

Electricity

Electrical cells

Power

Energy

Renewable energy

Plate tectonics

Plate boundaries

Map study

Use the kit in conjunction with a map study. Tie in the locations of naturally occurring thermal vents like hot springs to areas where people gather for healing, general health benefits, and tourism. Iceland is a case study for the use of geothermal power and tourism.


Quick View

Passive Solar Design

Kinetics

Thermodynamics

Energy

Renewable energy

Ancient passive solar designs

Socrates said that a south-facing portico is warmed by the sun in the winter but shaded in the summer. The classical Roman atrium and heated bathhouses are based on passive solar design. The homes of Anasazi Native Americans were built into the sides of cliffs to be shaded in the summer and warmed by the sun in the winter.


Quick View

Biofuels

Reactions

Reaction raters

Kinetics

Energy

Renewable energy

Agriculture

Biochemistry

Sustainability

Impact on local food economy when more land is used to support biofuel production

The use of crops for fuel can have an impact on the price of those crops. Incorporate this activity into a discussion of supply and demand and how that impacts prices.


Quick View

Hydroelectric Power

Fluid dynamics

Energy

Power

Gravitational potential energy

Ecosystems

Species diversity

Sustainable energy

Land use

Hydrology

River systems

Water sheds

Use of dams throughout history

Use this kit during a unit on dam building. The Hoover Dam in the Unites States, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, and the Three Gorges Dam in China are well- documented examples in different regions of the world. Egyptians built the first dams around 2800 BC. Water use and control (water rights) is a topic for both science and politics.


Quick View

Solar Car Design

Energy

Energy conversion

Sustainability

Renewable energy

Electricity

Power

Electromagnetic radiation

Motion

Newton’s laws of motion

Use of photovoltaic cells to bring electric power to remote areas

Over a billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia do not have access to electricity. Extending the grid to these remote regions is impractical. Discuss with students how solar or wind energy could provide access to electricity in these remote areas.


Quick View

Solar Water Distillation

Matter

Properties of matter

Mixture separation

Solutions

Phase changes

Thermodynamics

Human health

Renewable resources

Resource conservation

Water resources and infrastructure

Tie this activity into a lesson on the importance of a region's water resources (amount of water available and cleanliness of water) and how those resources relate to a country's wealth and stability and the health of its populations. A discussion of available technologies related to infrastructure availability could point out the benefits of solar distillation.

Quick View

Wind Farm

Energy

Energy conversion

Meteorology

Pressure systems

Sustainability

Renewable energy

Electricity

Power

Land use

Species diversity

Windmills

Windmills have been used for centuries in many parts of the world for many reasons. Let students research the technology and provide a timeline with location, use, and design of windmills.



Physical Science

Kit Title

Science Topics

Social Studies Concepts

Further Applications

Quick View

Balloon Race Cars

Forces

Newton's laws

Speed

Acceleration

Linear motion

Industrial revolution and mass production

After the challenge is complete, demonstrate Henry Ford's idea of mass production. Time single students making a car from raw materials and compare that to assembly line construction.

Quick View

Egg Drop

Forces

Gravitational

potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conservation

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

The socioeconomics of safety

Try the baby egg exercise. Place students in different socioeconomic groups, distribute different amounts of “money” to each group, and require that students buy supplies to protect their eggs. Full instructions can be found online.

Quick View

Mousetrap Cars

Forces

Gravitational

potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Linear motion

Newton's laws of motion

Momentum


Industrial revolution and mass production

After the challenge is complete, demonstrate Henry Ford's idea of mass production. Time single students making a car from raw materials and compare that to assembly line construction.

Quick View

Projectile Launcher

Forces

Gravitational

potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Motion in 2 dimensions

Newton's laws of motion

Machines

Projectile motion

History and development of tools across cultures

Use the projectile launcher to spur a discussion of the transition of humans to hunters (throwing a spear, the invention of the bow and arrow, and the impact of those tools on human development).

Quick View

Sound Off

Energy

Waves

Wave amplification

Wave interactions

Information transfer through history

Theater and stadium architecture

Discuss the inventions of the gramophone, phonograph, radio, and phone. Students can trace the development of communication science from posting in the middle ages to digital communication today.

This STEM challenge can also be used in a discussion of the sporting complexes built by the Mayans and Romans. From the right location, a whisper could be heard throughout those theaters.

Quick View

Structures

Forces

Vector analysis

Geohazards

Matter composition and structure

Structures and dwellings of ancient cultures

Many cultures can be identified by the structures they have built. Use this kit as a segue to investigate the importance of architecture to cultural development.

Quick View

Bubbles

Forces

Intermolecular forces

Matter

Matter properties

Solutions

Concentration

Laundry methods throughout history

What did people do before the invention of detergents for cleaning their clothes? Have a discussion of laundry methods throughout history.


Quick View

Boats and Buoyancy

Forces

Density

Fluid dynamics

Buoyancy

Historical trade routes and migration

Use this kit during a unit on trade routes (ancient and modern). Pennies added to the boat emphasize the strategic need for deep water ports, which can inform a geography lesson on ancient and modern port locations and human population distribution.


Quick View

Cartesian Divers

Forces

Density

Fluid dynamics

Buoyancy

Gas laws

Boyle's law

Military use of submarines

This kit can be used as a hook when learning about the Civil War, the World Wars, and submarine warfare. As the ballast is added and removed, the diver rises and falls (just like a submarine).


Quick View

Motors

Forces

Energy

Energy transfer

Motion

Compound machines

Industrial revolution

Use the results of the motors challenge to introduce mechanization in transportation and manufacturing. Students should recognize that hp means horsepower. Motors had to perform better than draught horses.

Quick View

Paint Stirrer Catapult

Forces

Gravitational potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Motion in 2 dimensions

Newton's laws of motion

Machines

Medieval warfare

Include the catapult activity results in a discussion of ancient warfare technology and the importance of simple machines to changing the course of history.

Quick View

Roller Coasters

Forces

Gravitational potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Motion in 2 dimensions

Friction

Newton’s laws of motion


Mining cars and mountain railways

Funicular railways have been in use since as early as 1515 to transport loads over steep grades. Have students investigate some of these early uses of steep railways for transporting goods along steep grades.

Quick View

Balloon Rockets

Forces

Gravitational potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Linear motion

Newton’s laws of motion

The use of rockets to assemble, staff, and maintain the International Space Station

The International Space Station is a joint venture between NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (European Union), and CSA (Canada). Have students discuss the collaboration between these countries to build and maintain the station. The discussion should cover the importance of international treaties and agreements such as those that made the International Space Station a possibility.

Quick View

Keep It Hot

Energy

Energy transfer

Thermodynamics

Food and food distribution

Students can design the best way to keep food hot for the longest period of time. This kit could also be used as a manufacturing/marketing example for an economics unit.

Quick View

Trebuchets

Forces

Gravitational potential energy

Kinetic energy

Energy conversion

Energy transfer

Speed

Acceleration

Vector analysis

Motion in 2 dimensions

Projectile motion

Machines

Ancient warfare

Include the trebuchet activity results in a discussion of ancient warfare technology, reminding students that territorial conquest impacts people their culture, and natural resources.

Quick View

Take Flight

Forces

Density

Fluid dynamics

Buoyancy

Gas laws

Flight

Bernoulli's principle

Vector analysis

Aerodynamics

History of transportation and aviation

Include this kit in a transportation unit or as a supplemental activity to introduce the history of aviation in the United States.


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