One acronym that keeps popping its head up in staff meetings like a super-inquisitive Meerkat is STEM which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
It’s an abbreviation that has been imported from the US and is cementing itself in the UK too thanks to a substantial increase in interest and investment in STEM education from government, charities, subject associations, learned societies and industry.
The government believes that if the UK is to continue as a global leader in research and technology then it needs a future generation that is enthusiastic about, and skilled in STEM subjects.
STEM resources are everywhere but decent STEM resources that can inspire 6-8 year olds to become innovators and problem solvers can be about as rare as catching albino lobsters in succession.
One resource though does stand out and that is Ron’s Ramp Adventure Kit.
Now I’m not sure about you but I don’t know many skateboarding armadillos called Ron; in fact, only one springs to mind and he’s the lovable star of this hands-on STEM in Action resource kit.
Ron’s Ramp Adventure kit is devoted to helping children at Year 2 come to a better understanding of the properties of friction and its effects.
It also facilitates and prompts children into thinking along scientific lines and so helps to improve their skills observing, predicting, investigating and analysing.
The kit is great for introducing fair testing and provoking ‘what if…?’ questions. He helps children bring slopes and surfaces to life while they use graphs to problem solve.
The idea is that children help Ron design and engineer a safe skateboarding ramp that lets him and his friends go far but not too far.
It’s a simple problem that engrosses and engages children in a relevant, real-life and collaborative challenge through fun project-based practical explorations.
The kit comes with everything you need for a little series of friction fun lessons including: a reversible wooden ramp (114cm x 30cm), a wooden ladder, a graphing mat (178cm x 59cm), a lesson-by-lesson teacher guide card, 4 step-by-step activity cards, photocopiable activity sheets, homework activities, 400 foam colour tiles, a story poster, padded rug, felt rug, tape measure. Last but not least there’s Ron (+ helmet) and his skateboard.
A handy storage tub is included for keeping all the bits and pieces together in one place. All the materials are quality products that will withstand plenty of use and the content has been developed between world-class engineering leaders and experts in hands-on learning.
There are four well-thought out activities that Ron’s Ramp concentrates on and these effortlessly cover a range of maths, science and design and technology attainment targets. Children get to make a graph, explore different surfaces and the effects of friction, explore gradient on motion and distance and then apply their knowledge to design a ramp that allows Ron to stop at a certain distance.
The four lessons will take around half an hour each. Whilst there is plenty of science at work within the investigations there is also plenty of maths as children develop counting and measuring skills. The opportunities for vocabulary building and writing are also plentiful too.
The glossy and colourful teacher cards are just the job as they tell you what you need, what the key concepts are and what to do with question prompts and directions about how to conduct the investigations. The activity sheets are clear, user-friendly and challenging and certainly cleverly planned and written as they build on each other and introduce children to an authentic engineering experience.
The Home Connection sheets are inspired as they help continue the learning at home with further activities and are brilliantly family focused so that everyone is eager and engaged. There are also accompanying online resources including videos, STEM prompts and a teamwork principles worksheet.
STEM in Action Kits are an easy-to-implement solution for assimilating science, maths, literacy, and engineering skills within real-world problems. Increasing pupil engagement and igniting their passion for STEM will be easy using Ron’s Ram Adventure.
It’s perfect for collaborative teamwork investigations where children learn how to think like engineers, test out ideas and fail in a productive way as well as succeed. This is the sort of resource that builds classroom equity and removes the stigma from failure; instead children share ideas, and problem-solve in a positive way.
Hands-on project based learning is the essence of engineering as children collaborate, think critically and creatively and communicate with one another.
This is a pupil-dilating resource created by people that really understand what STEM is all about. In order to motivate more pupils to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields, children’s exposure to engineering should begin at the primary level and I can’t think of a better resource to set the wheels in motion.
The only issue I have is the price: an eye-watering £239 makes this a significant outlay but one that you can rely on and use year after year. One kit serves all and so would be just perfect for STEM clubs, science clubs, and interactive after-school clubs so you would get your money’s worth.
There is a definite need for more resources to help teachers implement STEM integration in their classrooms in a meaningful way which is why it is well worth looking at the STEM in Action range.
Thanks to Ron, children will be able to ramp up their STEM skills and when they come to learn about potential and kinetic energy and Newton’s laws in future years they will think back to this memorable exploratory resource and make the connection. It’s a great foundation and makes STEM a playground experience full of fun.
My only quibble – it’s not STEM – it’s STEAM! Let’s invite the Arts to join the fun because without the A, STEM is really not inclusive.