STEM School Highlands Ranch

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STEM Third Graders Design Their “Dream Homes”

Lauren Swihart's Class PBL

When it comes to a “dream home,” most adults have an idea of what they would want theirs to look like.  In Lauren Swihart’s third-grade class at STEM School Highlands Ranch, not only do the students have a vision for their “dream home,” but they are also applying mathematics to design it.

The “dream home” project is an example of how Problem-Based Learning (PBL) works, which is an instructional model that sets STEM apart from other schools.  The PBL model allows for teachers to infuse solving real-world problems into the classroom while teaching the standards of the curriculum.

“It starts off with students designing their own dream home, beginning with the floor plan, and they’re given a certain set of requirements, a certain number of rooms,” explained Swihart.  “And then they can kind of just go crazy.  They’re very creative, so they  have things like trampoline rooms, and ball pit rooms and bunkers and rocket launchers, so that part is a lot of fun.”

The “dream home” PBL is more than just a fun project for the students because the class is actually learning multiplication, and how it applies to a real-world situation.  Their dream home requires an understanding of square footage, materials, and cost.

“It’s a lot better than just giving them a worksheet where they fill out a list of math problems,” Swihart said.  “It’s much more relevant.  It allows them to take ownership and I find that a lot of the students are challenging themselves in a way that I haven’t seen before.  They really want to dive in and make this project their own.”

One of those students is eight-year-old Araya, who has her “dream home” all planned out, which includes a ball bit, a pet room, sand area, and a ‘very deep ball pit’ as well.

“And this is going to give your feet a nice way, and I really like these for the living room, so I’m going to put them there and this carpeting is perfect for the hallway,” Miller said as she was searching Google for the materials for her home.

Araya added that she might want to be a home designer someday, and the students don’t have to look far for inspiration.  Right outside of the window across the street from the classroom sits a row of newer homes where professional designers and architects applied the same mathematics that the class is currently learning from their PBL.

“The reason I like this project so much is that it goes beyond just worksheets and solving equations,” Swihart pointed out.  “It really makes it relatable to the kids and allows for that creativity and autonomy in their own learning.  It allows them to really challenge themselves and go beyond just solving a random math problem.  They can really make those connections to things that people are doing in the real world, in their careers.”

To see the video feature on the “dream home” PBL, check out the video below.

STEM 3rd grade teacher Lauren Swihart says the "dream home" project is a PBL that helps students apply mathematics to the real world
STEM 3rd grader Araya Miller designs her "dream home", which includes a sand area, ball pit, and a 'very deep ball pit'
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