Wednesday, August 2, 2017

INSPIRE - Summer Academy

April Wolf from Dayton Elementary School told me about a summer program that she and her "K Squad" attended.  It sounded so exciting and meaningful that I asked her to tell you more about it.

What happens when Engineers work side by side with Educators to create STEM Curriculum?

INSPIRE-ing things happen!

The INSPIRE Summer Academy is a research project that teams up classroom teachers with researchers and engineers. Participation requires educators to teach one PictureSTEM unit in their classroom. Researchers collect data through observations and video. Educators who attend the Academy receive all materials needed to teach the unit.

All four of our kindergarten teachers, a first grade teacher and second grade teacher were accepted to attend the INSPIRE Summer Academy this past June. My motivation for attending was due to our district’s new focus for the upcoming school year on teaching a minimum of 4 STEM units with very little PD available. I figured this academy would give me some guidance to how to approach our new unit requirements. (And spending quality time my colleagues is always a PLUS!)

We had no idea that we were going to be introduced to a curriculum that has been near perfected to teach K-2 students a true engineering process. During the 3 days of training, our team remarked how we need the INSPIRE team to write the curriculum for the other required units from our district. In fact, we will be using this unit first so we can use the framework to teach the other required units from our district.

There are two things that stand out about this curriculum in its current form. First, this curriculum is a “living document” during the research phase. As each group of educators teaches the unit of STEM in their classroom, tweaks are made to the unit. There is a unit specific for each grade level—Kindergarten through Second grade.

Second, PictureSTEM means that there is authentic literature tied into the unit. The kindergarten unit has a total of SIX quality picture books tied into literacy skills as well as STEM skills. Each title brings something new to the engineering process. Other Science or STEM units I have seen may have 1 or 2 texts to use. I love when authentic literature is tied into other areas of study. It helps my students dive deeper into the meaning and make connections.

If you want to view this curriculum, visit for a pdf version of the lessons. (This is not the live document, but it has all the lessons if you want to take a look.)
Here is the list of Picture Books used for the Kindergarten Unit:

If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian

Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber

I Get Wet by Vicki Cobb

Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Rocks, Jeans and Busy Machines by Alane & Raymundo Rivera



You can contact April Wolf for more information: