By: Michelle Sautro | First Grade Teacher, Weatherstone Elementary School

The goal of SummerSTEM is to connect educators with STEM professionals to enhance classroom instruction. What a lofty goal! In July, my co-teacher, Mrs. Rhyne, and I arrived for a week of training with SummerSTEM and did not know what to expect. While we are experienced PBL and STEM teachers, the goal ahead of us still made us uneasy. How would we incorporate our experiences from SummerSTEM into our first grade classrooms? Throughout the week we brainstormed, drafted, ripped up, started over and revised multiple PBLs. Then we went our excursion to BASF; the ideas started rolling in and we were ecstatic. Our day at BASF was filled with learning, experimenting, models, tours and conversations with STEM professionals. By the end of the day we knew BASF is who we wanted to work with when creating our PBL. With the information presented to us, we were able to align our social studies, language arts and science curriculum to topics BASF presented to us. Isn’t it amazing that scientists, entomologists and botanists can make a connection with first grade teachers about their curriculum?  We were able to bring real world problems to our first graders and challenge them to find a solution. We learned through BASF the challenges of crop protection and we were able to recreate the scenario for our students and challenge them to investigate solutions. Students researched ways to protect corn from hail, wind and rootworm. Using what they learned students chose what their product would protect against. Using recycled materials they created some amazing and creative corn protectors! The culminating activity was having actual scientists from BASF visit our classroom and giving students feedback on their corn protectors. Our students had the best time learning all about corn, how we use it, what we use it for and why it is so important. You could say we, teachers and students, became corn obsessed for couple of weeks! We even used corn vocabulary for our school’s annual vocabulary parade! Our students took such pride in their work and it was awesome to see the connection between first graders and the BASF scientists. We could not have created this PBL unit had we not attended Summer STEM, which lead us to such an important business-educator relationship with BASF.  Mrs. Rhyne and I are so proud of our first graders hard work and dedication, thankful for the scientists and employees at BASF and so grateful for the opportunity to participate in WakeEd SummerSTEM. Thanks for the a-maize-ing experience BASF and WakeEd!

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