Visualizing Your Learning

Throughout our time together we have talked about about how making your thinking visible and visualizing a students learning are so important for them. It is so important that educational leaders have begun to add to the famous concept of STEM fields. They have added the arts and therefore made the concept STE(A)M. STE(A)M is something that is important for our students because it encompasses so many important skills that have value inside and outside of the classroom such as organization, critical thinking, and solving problems in a creative manner. Now with this added area it adds some difficulty in our classrooms with being able to incorporate the arts into a STEM lesson. This is why in this blog I have decided to include a STE(A)M activity to give a concrete example for you to build off of or use in your classroom.

First, fill a mason jar up to the top with water and add blue food coloring and shaving cream

Then, put a dollop of shaving cream on the table for your students.  Tell the students that the shaving cream represents something in the sky and have them hypothesize what it could be. Hopefully they will hypothesize that the shaving cream represents clouds.

Next, we put the shaving cream on top of the water to represent a cloud.

Talk about how water droplets and ice crystals are up high in the sky on the clouds and sometimes they collect and get too heavy that the cloud can’t hold them up anymore.  Then ask what he thinks would happen next?  Hopefully using knowledge about concentrations and saturation they students will say the the blue food coloring will fall through the cloud of white shaving cream.

Pretty soon you can see the beautiful artistic representation of how rain occurs. This lesson includes concepts of density, saturation, concentration, and fluid properties all into one aesthetically pleasing representation of those concepts. This activity is also great because students can replicate this experiment to have visual representations of the concepts they may be evaluated on.

Engage: Begin by showing videos of heavy downpours and discuss the natural phenomena of flash floods

Explore: In small groups have students discuss possible factors that could cause flash floods and heavy sudden rainfall. Then conduct the above experiment to show what causes rainfall

Explain: Then show the below video from the National Science Foundation

Elaborate: Have students think, pair, and share about factors that could influence the water cycle after watching the video in the explain section.

Evaluate: Have the students write about the life cycle of a rain drop from falling to the ground and back to when it would fall again. Be sure to emphasize that they should include things that the droplet is picking up on its journey have how that may influence how soon it falls again. This should relate to debris it picks up on its travels and how that effects the droplets behavior when in a cloud.

Here is a link to my twitter where I will posting this blog and others about science education



  1. Tom,
    I really liked your demonstration for the explore activity. However, I wonder if it would work better as an Engage activity since it is so attention grabbing. Regardless, it is a wonderful activity and you should definitely use it in your classroom. Another thing I liked was your Evaluate section. This is a great way to gauge students’ understanding and some of the misconceptions they may have. And, the evaluation can be fun! I wonder if the Elaboration activity could be a bit more engaging. I don’t necessarily think it is a bad activity, I just wonder if there is another strategy that could work better. Perhaps, circle of viewpoints? Nonetheless, I enjoyed your post!

  2. Tom–
    I thought your blog post gave an excellent example of how to bring art into the science classroom! Creating an environment where science and art can flourish together can actually really allow students to grow SO MUCH, and your example was just one case of that! Honestly, this is something that I think teachers have been trying to implement for a while (using art projects and such in other subjects), but now we have a name for it and your post really brought out the concrete definitions in that. Great job!

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