Differentiated STEM Challenges: Remote Learning Style


Sean hugging the earth

The past year has been filled with so many challenges. We lost many friends and colleagues in NYC and there were challenges with inequitable and meaningful learning, especially for our students with disabilities. But I had the idea of creating a challenge that was fun. Out of that came my idea for Reimagine your world which was a series of STEM Challenges for students in my district that would be engaging while also having the students feel like they were having an impact on their world at a time when it seemed like little mattered.

So I fashioned an exciting summer adventure awaiting the students. District 75 students were invited to reimagine their world through a series of challenges, fun projects, and exploration. The challenges are connected to meaningful instructional goals that would empower students to impact the world around them, even if it’s from their own home. And we partnered with several EdTech organizations like BrainPOP and Discovery Education to connect the activities to lessons and resources across each level and theme.

There are 6 challenge themes, each with 3 levels. And while we created a guiding calendar you can use for each week, it is meant to give you the freedom to choose 1, 2, or even all 6 challenges. You can decide what fits your instructional needs. To further allow for differentiation, each theme is broken into 3 levels. These are not meant to be sequential but rather based on skill levels that may be appropriate for your students. You can decide based on grade level, population, or interest. You can have multiple levels within one class.

The activities we share are just suggestions of how to meet that standard. We offer alternative activities if you need them, and you are free to find a related activity using hands-on materials or a digital platform (Nearpod, Minecraft: EE, etc.) that your students are familiar with. We make it so you can simply engage in the challenge or you can utilize an array of connection and extension activities including virtual field trips and meetings with experts.

There is a document for each theme that contains an essential question, video examples of each leveled activity, supporting documents for each activity, related virtual field trips, a submission zone and additional resources and instructional materials that you can connect to the topic. Check out the overview document for more information.

A Celebration of Success

What we got back from the students was better than we expected. We culminated the summer with an event filled with games and questions and this video celebrates some of the student’s efforts.

Welcome to Camp

So here is the virtual camp (STEM Challenge slide activities) where you experience all of the adventures. Grab a snack and dive in.

Summer STEM Challenge Campout with 7 people, a camper, and a tent

Teacher Process Walkthrough

That document is meant to be teacher-facing. It has far too much information to share it directly with students. As a teacher, you can follow the sequence or choose which theme is best suited to your curriculum at the moment. Decide which leveled activities are We need to explore the process though.

  • Choose Theme(s): Pick 1 or work towards all 6.
  • Choose Level(s)/Activity(ies): There are 3 key leveled activities, but other options and extensions are referenced as well.
  • Watch Video Guide: Watch the video guide for the selected activity(ies) and decide if you will adapt it or share it directly with your students.
  • View Activity Guide (optional): There is an activity guide that reviews processes, materials, and related standards. It also links to alternative options and links to related tools like a Full BrainPOP alignment.
  • Access Any Additional Resources (optional): There are virtual trips, expert interviews, related lessons, and much more in the additional resources links.
  • Submit Completed Challenge: Let students know how they can submit their work. If it’s for an individual class an LMS or Google Classroom will work great. For a larger district initiative, we used Flipgrid for video submissions and Wakelet for all other submission types (documents, slides, photos, etc.). We have a different topic area for each theme, but they can all be found through the general informational Wakelet and camp slides overview above.
  • Receive Badge: I honestly didn’t think this part was a big thing, but students got really serious about getting their badges quickly. You decide the best method of whether email or an automated form that distributes it is best.
  • Final Event: Again, we had a culminating virtual event with video reviews, games, and interactive activities. You decide what best meets your needs and incentivizes students.

Your Turn

How will you use the resources? You can take each theme individually or collectively. Will you need to adapt them? Will the focus and your assessments be based on the end projects or the process? How will you determine student/event success? You have many options available to you to use these resources I’m giving you.

  • Teachers, Run With It: The deck of activities is ready for you to run with it. You will only need to adjust the submissions portion and create your own inputs as ours is locked for our students.
  • Leaders, Make It Work: Adjust and adapt it for your organization or share only the portions that work for you.
  • Build Your Own: Here’s a Blank STEM Challenge Template that I put together, so you can create your own from scratch and copy anything from our original version you like.

Whatever you do, make sure you build excitement for the whole experience for all the wonderful things students will explore. And do hesitate to ask me any questions.

Next Steps slide (info in text)

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