iLab STEM Enrichment Program (2019-2020)

A partnership between Cascadia Elementary PTA and Laughing Crow Curriculum LLC

Cascadia Elementary PTA sought our expertise to develop a STEM enrichment program for first and second graders that would utilize the school’s existing makerspace and be facilitated by parent volunteers. We developed curriculum for two six-week programs and designed and facilitated three trainings with parent volunteers and teachers. Both programs are aligned to NGSS and grade-level Amplify science units, while engaging students in hands-on making and engineering practices. Each program engages young learners in a progression across three activities: materials exploration, iterative design, and everyday connections.

The iLab Enrichment Program for both grades launched with a session, Introduction to the Makerspace, that oriented students to the iLab makerspace, introduced them to the concepts of making, tinkering, and engineering, and engaged them in an initial design challenge. Working in teams, first and second graders tried out their first collaborative design challenge, which had them helping out the school mascot–a dragon. They also had the chance to “shop” for materials in the makerspace.

The iLab program begins with an Introduction to the Makerspace session, in which students learn about Makerspaces and maker mindsets.
In the introductory session, students learned about the iLab makerspace classroom and what kinds of materials and supplies were stocked for their projects.

The first grade program, Sink! Float! Swim!: Biomimicry Inspired Design, used marine environments as the context. The first activity engaged students in exploring the properties of different materials to see if they sink, float, or absorb water. This was followed by three design challenges. First students were challenged to design and test a model of plankton that met specific criteria. For the second design challenge, students first learned about biomimicry and the adaptations of marine plants and animals. Then they were challenged to design scuba suits that would meet specific criteria and were inspired by the adaptations of marine life. Finally, students were challenged to design an invention that uses biomimicry to solve a problem in their own life.

The first grade program focused on biomimicry inspired design.
For the final design challenge, students used their understanding of biomimicry and marine life adaptations to design a special scuba suit.

The second grade program, Circuit City, engages students in exploring circuits and their uses. The first activity is a materials exploration of circuit-making components and conductivity testing. Next, we launch a series of mini-design challenges in which students use circuit components to make something that can light up, spin, and alert. Ultimately, the students build circuits to animate a collectively constructed cardboard city. They are also challenged to create an invention that uses circuits to solve a problem in their own lives. In this lesson series, students get comfortable with building circuits using coin cell batteries, alligator clips, LEDs, switches, sensors, buzzers, motors, and more. They explore, build, tinker, create, and make!

The second grade program, Circuit City, engages students in exploring circuity materials and their uses and engages them in a series of design challenges.
After making paper circuits, students move onto building more complex circuits using an assortment of loads.

The iLab Enrichment Program was a fun project authored by Gina Tesoriero and Dr. Kristen Bergsman of Laughing Crow Curriculum LLC. While school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the program hasn’t yet been fully enacted with students, we look forward to a time when kids can engage in these fun making, tinkering, and engineering projects.

(Slide images/templates from