Scaffolding Inquiry and Engineering Experiences

Scaffolding Inquiry and Engineering Experiences

Tomorrow I am presenting at the VMI STEM Conference. Excited to finally see VMI! I have lived in Virginia my whole life and this will be the first time visiting. Woo Hoo!

Scaffolding. When you hear that world do you think of scaffolding used for painting? This is what I think of when I hear the word! In fact, when my mom was a little kid, she climbed up a whole set of scaffolds so that she could get as high as she could to call out to a special friend who she believed lived behind her house. Talk about my great grandmother having a panic attack!! But those scaffolds certainly did get her up high!

Scaffolds in education are those things we use to help all students reach the learning goals. When we scaffold, we don’t use them too long or else our students come to become dependent upon them.  We use them to get them to a point where they feel comfortable with content or skills they are trying to learn. As we design our lessons, we can scaffold graphic organizers by using question prompts. We can also scaffold skills like find mean, median, and mode by creating “hint” cards that remind them of the process how to find the mean. Or how to find the mode of a data set.  As they practice and use these “hint” cards, they gain confidence. When we pull the cards away after they have had time to practice, they should be able to do the skill independently!

There are several scaffolds I love to use when teaching science. But the two I love the most are the 4 Question Strategy and SCAMPER. If you want to read them in action, check out the two articles I wrote for NSTA. The 4 Question Strategy is originally from a book called Students and Research. I modified it and have used it with students in grades K through college! It is easy to use and helps students to learn how to brainstorm their own testable questions.

SCAMPER is a tool to use when students need to brainstorm ideas during engineering tasks. You can use just one of the letters or you can use all of them. SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange.  If you want more information, check out these resources:

If you would like to see a copy of my presentation, click here.

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