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Nature-Inspired Design: A PictureSTEM Project Curriculum Module (Curriculum Exchange)

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Division Curriculum Exchange

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.928.1 - 24.928.2



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Paper Authors


Tamara J. Moore Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Moore’s research is centered on the integration of STEM concepts in K-12 and higher education mathematics, science, and engineering classrooms in order to help students make connections among the STEM disciplines and achieve deep understanding. Her research agenda focuses on defining STEM integration and investigating its power for student learning. She is creating and testing innovative, interdisciplinary curricular approaches that engage students in developing models of real world problems and their solutions. Her research also involves working with educators to shift their expectations and instructional practice to facilitate effective STEM integration. Tamara is the recipient of a 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her work on STEM integration with underrepresented minority and underprivileged urban K-12 students.

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Kristina Maruyama Tank University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Kristina is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota majoring in science education with a supporting field in literacy education. She is a former elementary teacher, and her research interests include improving children’s science and engineering learning and increasing teachers’ use of effective STEM instruction in the elementary grades. More recently, her research has focused on using literacy to support scientific inquiry, engineering design and STEM integration.

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Nature-­‐Inspired  Design:  A  PictureSTEM  Project  Curriculum  Module   (Curriculum  Exchange)  Description of the ProjectThe PictureSTEM Project is developing an instructional module at each grade level, K-5, whichemploys engineering and literary contexts to integrate science, technology, and mathematicscontent instruction in meaningful and significant ways. These transformative new models forSTEM learning use picture books and an engineering design challenge to provide students withauthentic, contextual activities that engage learners in specific STEM content as well as integrateconcepts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. These curricular units go through anextensive design research cycle to ensure a quality product. These modules have the potential totransform the way literacy and STEM are taught at the elementary level by attending to thelearning goals of all areas.Description of the UnitThis 7-day unit is geared towards the upper elementary grades (4-5). It connects learning in theareas of life science, geometry, measurement, data analysis, and engineering design through 7pairs of literacy and STEM integration activities, each with their own age- and activity-appropriate high-quality trade book.Lesson Literacy Activity STEM Activity1 Book: Students are introduced to the design Nature  Got  There  First:  Inventions   challenge: A chapter of Engineers without Inspired  by  Nature   Borders has asked the student teams to help Goal:   them design a prototype water collection tank Introduce how plants and animals for individual families on Isle Popa in gather water and brainstorm some Panama. The water collection tanks have two biomimicry ideas. parts, a rectangular prism shaped storage container and a nature-inspired top, which collects the rainwater.2 Book: Nets and centimeter cubes are used to For  Good  Measure:  The  Ways  We   develop conceptions of surface area and Say  How  Much,  How  Far,  How   volume in order to better understand the Heavy,  How  Big,  How  Old   trade-off of materials vs. dimensions and size Goal:   for the water storage tank. Connect  standard  and  metric   measures.3 Book: Data analysis using rainfall data from Isle Our  World  of  Water:  Children  and   Popa to design the dimensions of the rain Water  Around  the  World   storage container. Competing variables of Goal:   cost of materials vs. volume are highlighted. Global issues involving water.4 Book: Nine stations explore different advantages What Do You Do When Something that specific adaptations provide. Wants to Eat You? Goal: Learn about animal adaptations.5 The literacy and STEM lessons are integrated by students doing research on specific biomes and the adaptations that plants have developed in order to survive in that biome.6 Book: Plan for design: Biomimicry Students use their background knowledge to Goal: make a plan for the top water collection More background on nature- portion of the tank considering cost, ability inspired design. and efficiency of collecting water, and size of the top, which are competing variables in the design.7 Book: Build a prototype and test design. Then A Cool Drink of Water students share their initial design with the Goal: class before improving and retesting their Discuss how different cultures prototype. collect water.

Moore, T. J., & Tank, K. M. (2014, June), Nature-Inspired Design: A PictureSTEM Project Curriculum Module (Curriculum Exchange) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22861

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