Academic journal article Science and Children

Designing Healthy Ice Pops: A STEM Enrichment Project for Second Graders Incorporates Nutrition and Design Principles

Academic journal article Science and Children

Designing Healthy Ice Pops: A STEM Enrichment Project for Second Graders Incorporates Nutrition and Design Principles

Article excerpt

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education piques students' innate curiosity and opens their eyes to hundreds of career possibilities. However, it can also be hard to infuse STEM into a course if it is not a planned, integral part of the curriculum. With the standards that need to be covered, reading and writing initiatives, and preparation for standardized tests, teachers can find it challenging to integrate STEM projects into their lessons.

In grades 3-12, attitudes regarding STEM range from total enthusiasm to sheer unwillingness to participate. Often, teachers hold a misconception that students--specifically, elementary students--can't do STEM. At the start of this school year, I met an exception. Julie Egbers at Independence Elementary wanted to try something new with her second graders. Time had been carved out in the school's schedule--40 minutes each day--for "Tutorial and Enrichment" (TE). Across the building, students were grouped into classes based on need: some for remediation in math and reading, others for enrichment experiences. Mrs. Egbers's TE class consisted of a rambunctious and advanced group of second graders who needed enrichment in the form of a good challenge. She felt a solid and rigorous STEM lesson would be a great place to start.

Luckily, the building principal had some extra funds to support the project. Katie Enneking (the academic coach) joined in as we searched the web and some district-designated STEM sites, but none of their projects seemed to capture the interests and talents of this group of students. We pooled our ideas and created the STEM lesson "Designing Healthy Ice Pops." This lesson, designed to take approximately four weeks, would allow students to experience the process of research, design, evaluation, modification, and presentation, skills that are tied to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013). In addition, we used the "Seven Essentials for Project-Based Learning" (Larmer and Mergendoller 2010) to guide our design process. The "Essentials" stress that a project must inspire students with "a need to know;" have a good driving question; allow learners to have more voice and choice; provide opportunities for 21st-century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and use of technology; provide opportunities for feedback and revision; and make schoolwork more meaningful by presenting it to a real audience.

Our planning time focused on those ideals. For example, while we sketched out milestones for students to reach each week, there was ample time built in for students to affect the process through their questioning and revisions. We strove to integrate this because most "regular" science lessons do not include time for students to redo an experiment and make revisions to their process. We wanted to allow students the time and ability to update their product based on peer feedback. We felt students needed to design their own recipes and have opportunities to communicate about what was and was not working well. Lastly, students would be given the opportunity to present their final product--a healthy ice pop--to both their peers (i.e., the consumers) and the administration, which would buy the product to sell in the cafeteria.

Week 1: Questions and Research

At the project kickoff, students were given the following scenario:

You are ice pop experts who have worked for several years in the frozen snacks business. Your task is to create a new flavor that will be a tasty and healthy treat. Your goal is to sell it to school districts to offer to students at lunch. Your challenge is to present to the principal your new flavor. Include the steps that you have taken in the production of the ice pop to ensure that it is a healthy alternative to the other snacks offered by the school.

The work focuses around two essential questions:

1. What are the essential ingredients needed to make a healthy ice pop to sell in the school cafeteria? …

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