Introduction to VEX 123 STEM Labs

At VEX Robotics, we make it easy to get started teaching with VEX 123 STEM Labs. VEX 123 is an interactive, programmable robot that takes STEM, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking off of the screen and brings them to life for younger students. VEX 123 STEM Labs are supplemental educational resources that support teachers with free, easy to follow STEM lessons and activities that align with educational standards.

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This article will cover the following:


What is a STEM Lab?

STEM Labs function as “plugin” lessons that can fit into your existing curriculum. You can also utilize multiple Labs in sequential order to create a unique, extended learning experience for your students. 123 STEM Lab Units and lessons are aligned with standards from NGSS, CSTA, ISTE, and Common Core Math/ELA. STEM Labs can be adapted in various ways to fit into any classroom or learning environment.

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STEM Labs are organized by Units, and each Unit contains one or more Labs. Each STEM Lab can be completed in as little as 40 minutes and includes the following three sections: Engage, Play, and Share (optional).


How do I implement STEM Labs?

STEM Lab Units provide hands-on, minds-on engagement that encourages students to design creative solutions and innovate through experimentation. Every STEM Lab has a common structure that should make it easy to find what you need.

Engage

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This is the “whole class” portion of the Lab where students are introduced to the concepts with a “Hook," to allow the students to make a personal connection to the concepts that will be introduced in the Lab. This introductory 'Hook' is further broken down into a guided conversation, through the Acts & Asks section. Here you can see step by step what the teacher will do, and what the students will do, taking the guesswork out of how to connect students to the concepts and activities in the Lab that they may be unfamiliar with.

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Get suggestions from experienced teachers on how to implement the STEM Lab in your classroom with the “Teacher Troubleshooting” and “Facilitation Strategies” sections also found on the Engage page of the Lab.

Play

The Play section will guide you through the process of introducing and facilitating activities that provoke STEM thinking, build teamwork, and spark creative problem-solving.The Play section is broken up into two parts (Play Part 1 and Play Part 2) with a Mid-Play Break in between where students have a chance to show their learning, and teachers can check for understanding.

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In Play Part 1, activities are introduced through guided practice. Often the students are following along with the teacher, then have an opportunity to practice independently.

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In the Mid-Play Break, the teacher and students come together to share their learning, ask questions, and check for understanding.

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In Play Part 2, students work with their groups to expand on the activities in Play Part 1 to build a deeper understanding of STEM Lab concepts and apply creative solutions to challenges.

The Play sections have a consistent organization around the following verbs to make it easy to follow along and focus on facilitating an engaging experience for your students.

  • Instruct - introduces the activities and establishes a shared goal.
  • Model - gives teacher tips on how to make the learning visible.
  • Facilitate - provides discussion prompts to provoke discussion around the goals of the activity, and encourage students to think spatially.
  • Remind - includes prompts to remind students that trial and error is a part of learning.
  • Ask - prompts are given to develop a growth mindset. (“Did something go wrong? Great! How can you use this mistake to improve for when you try again?”)

Share

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Students make their learning visible through demonstrations and discussions in the Share section. We provide prompts for students to share their learning during the Active Share, where students physically share what they have learned by holding up their Coder, showing their 123 Robot driving, or another means of sharing what they have learned throughout the Lab. Discussion prompts are also provided that focus on three areas: Digital Documentation, Student-Driven Visible Thinking, and Metacognition-Reflecting Together.

View this Implementation Guide to see how quickly and easily you can begin teaching a STEM Lab. The Implementation Guide gives you step by step guidance on how to get started teaching STEM in your classroom.


What materials are provided in the STEM Labs?

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STEM Labs are teacher-facing resources that provide you with everything you need to facilitate STEM Labs with students. All 123 STEM Labs are designed to be your online teacher’s manual, and instructional supports are embedded into every lesson, so that you can get up and running quickly, and focus on facilitating engaging, hands-on activities with your students.

Some of these resources include the Background Information in the Unit Overview that provides teachers with supplementary information on the concepts and topics investigated in the Labs; the ‘Alternate Coding Methods’ section that is provided to help differentiate instruction, and also enables you to see the natural progression as you and your students grow with VEX 123; as well as the Pacing Guide that is found in the Unit Overview and provides information on what, how, and when to teach content for each Lab.

For an overview of the teacher resources mentioned above, as well as many others that are provided in the 123 STEM Labs, view this article from the Knowledge Base.