Guest Blog: BrainPOP, Middle Schoolers, + STEM

My current state of Tennessee is adopting the STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) approach to learning. A few years ago I was introduced to the idea that our students are “digital natives”. They are constantly immersed in technology, and cannot imagine any true life scenario where it is not used. Because of this mentality, students have an increasingly difficult time engaging with information used in the traditional classroom.

In the past, I made the attempt to use technology in my middle school science classroom. This was usually a computer activity once or twice per grading period and possibly a video covering the topic. I am bored typing that sentence so now it isn’t hard to imagine why my students weren’t engaged in the lessons! After giving the idea of digital natives some serious reflection, I made it my mission to include technology every day. BrainPOP allows me to do this in an effective way much more often than twice per grading period. Middle school students love the videos and how they target several learning styles in their short exchanges. The slower learners appreciate the key word identification, all of the students enjoy the simple visuals and the higher achievers (and their teacher) enjoy Tim’s sarcasm.

Of course, it is important for the students to understand and interact with the written word as well. BrainPOP provides tools for me to do this too. Their collection of resources for each lesson are a fabulous tool. I personally use the graphic organizers to pre-assess for content knowledge and encourage writing on my science topics. While searching for a good BrainPOP video on Electricity (there are actually 5) I had an inspiration for a demonstration graphic organizer. I thought, if students had a format to arrange their thoughts every time they saw a demonstration, they would more easily recall that information later and be able to connect that information to current content. So, I looked through BrainPOP’s collection of graphic organizers to see if they had developed anything I could use. After seeing their 5 senses organizer, I took that idea and created a graphic organizer for my students to use anytime I show them a demonstration. Since BrainPOP was asking for ideas, I sent mine in and they decided to “Mobyize” it for the site! My students now think that I am a celebrity and destined for fame and fortune. While that is not my intent, I hope you can find the Demonstration organizer useful.

My experience with the middle school science student is that they are frequently obsessed with being right. Tim and Moby’s adventures (or should I say mis-adventures?) allow me to reinforce the idea that Science is about a journey of discovery. Their silly mistakes and discussions have been a refreshing way for me to open the minds of my students and continue to emphasize that discovery is a part of their daily life and to enjoy the journey.

Amanda Pullin
6th grade Science teacher
West Creek Middle School
Clarksville Tennessee