PBS and Design Squad Global have created outstanding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) resources for parents, teachers, and kids. This blockbuster site grew out of the PBS TV series, “Design Squad.” The stated goal of the site is “to give kids a stronger understanding of the design process, and the connection between engineering and the things we all use in everyday life.” This means a whole lot of fun, videos, and games! The biggest dilemma is where to start! There are resources (lesson, videos, and more) on electricity, force/energy, green, health, simple machines, sound/music, space/transportation., sports/games, structures, and technology/materials.
My interest in this site for special needs kids is threefold:
- To provide role models and encouragement for kids through the excellent online video profiles and other visually organized materials, especially for those twice exceptional kids who feel stupid because of reading and writing weaknesses. This site has hands-on, interactive, cool stuff which is likely to engage gifted kids.
- To offer multiple resources for engaging kids with a limited range of interests, such as those on the autism spectrum. As I’ve posted before, giving this population a means of leadership/mentoring opportunities in a classroom setting is important. The wide scope of these activities means that you could more easily find a connection to your student’s specialized interests. The site includes a special module on training adults and kids to lead groups.
- To provide an authentic experience for specialized instruction in reading, writing, and math. It’s one thing to give students a writing prompt on their area of interest. It’s even better to let them experiment and then use that process for a a specialized lesson on an area of weakness. For example, I am using the watercraft experiment to improve a student’s grasp of main ideas and details.
- I am not requiring written responses for this “writing” project; any writing will be by dictation or talk to text. This takes away the dreaded “when is the other shoe is going to fall?” Kids think, “I am having fun now but the painful part is about to land on my head.” Yes, it is hard for my student to sort through relevant information and derive a concise main idea. But he does NOT have to write a paragraph about his fun experiment to learn that skill. His work is mental, with plenty of visuals and first-hand experience.
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Let me know if you find other uses for the cool stuff on this site!