Since moving our homeschool back to a more unit study/project-based approach smack-dab in the middle of the 9th grade, I’ve been working on some ideas for some hands-on STEM learning for homeschool high school credit. Ben is a very hands-on learner (as are most boys), and he loves science, so I believe adding in some of these types of projects will keep him engaged with learning.
You might wonder what the difference is between unit studies and project-based learning. They are very similar in that the student is diving into learning about one particular topic very thoroughly. But with project-based learning, there is something to show for the learning when the student completes the project. With unit studies, while Ben generally notebooks his studies, there’s not really a anything more to show for what he has learned. Project-based learning is a more hands-on method.
The following is a compilation of what I’ve decided to use with Ben over the next year or so. Ben is excited to get started (and actually has already begun some of it). If you know of other projects you think he would enjoy, please share in the comments.
Where possible, I will share how many high school credit hours you can assign for each project or course. If I’m unable to determine that based on the descriptions, you can use this suggestion from HSLDA:
One credit is approximately 120-180 hours of work. The upper end of this range (180 hours) is usually appropriate for lab science courses, while 150 hours is the average for a year long academic course such as English or History. Using this formula, you could also assign 1/2 credit for 60-90 hours.
Compound Microscope Learning – Purchasing a compound microscope is sort of a right of passage for the homeschool teacher. I bought this microscope a few years ago, and this digital handheld microscope last year. They have both proven to be fun learning for Ben. But for high school, I wanted to direct his use of these tools in a way that would continue to fun for him while giving him solid experience. Here are a few ideas I’ve found that I think will be beneficial in meeting those goals:
The Ultimate Guide to Your Microscope – Looking at little things—things too small to see with the naked eye—can be big fun. It’s certainly smart science, and award-winning authors Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone are here to show kids the basics of creating their own professional-quality slides and using their own microscopes. A whole world will open up to budding scientists as they learn to identify the microscope’s different pieces, practice focusing, and prepare different kinds of samples for viewing. Illustrated throughout with photomicrographs (pictures taken through a microscope), and complete with a reproducible form for documenting specimens, this fascinating, in-depth guide explains how to put bugs, water, food, plants and pollen, and even parts of the body (like fingernails) under the scope for a close-up glimpse. Of course, there are troubleshooting answers to common questions and safety instructions for parents and teachers, too.
Microscope Slide-making Ideas – In order for a compound microscope to work, light must be able to pass through the object you’re viewing. The best way to ensure this is by making a slide. You can make simple homemade slides.
Computer Science/Programming – Chris Yust, a software engineering professional and homeschool father of two, teaches Computer Science and Programming to your students through SchoolhouseTeachers.com to help prepare them to join the job market. The demand for software engineers in the United States is expected to grow in the next decade. To take this course, the student must have access to the proper equipment and realize that this course is designed to teach computer science, not computer literacy. The student must be familiar with the day-to-day use of a computer before taking this course. This course is best studied by starting with the first lesson and progressing sequentially through the lessons as they build on each other throughout the course. Any student who completes the entire year of this course will have earned one-half Computer Science credit on a transcript.
Video Making – Experience Videomaking is an elective course to help your student learn to use software, often free, to make videos for private use. The videos your student makes can be video gifts, resumes, and tutorials. They can also be used to share your faith. These lessons are best followed in sequential order as they build on each other throughout the course. This course counts as a computer/technology credit, and students who complete all 18 weekly lessons can earn 0.5 academic credit.
Internet Entrepreneurship for Teens -Internet Entrepreneurship for Teens is taught through weekly lessons containing practical study, questions, and assignments to enable teens to create a real or mock Internet-based business from scratch. The student will learn how to market their business through multimedia, through a website, and through social media. Topics covered will include learning the essential elements of a well-designed logo or brand, generating ideas, selecting software, writing a slogan, and much more. Options, both free and paid, for the software capable of design and image manipulation are given in one of the course lessons. Students are encouraged to explore their talents and interests and to discover their purpose and calling in life and in the job market. These lessons are best covered in the order they are presented as they build on one another throughout the course. This course counts as a computer/technology credit and students who complete all 24 lessons can earn one academic credit.
How to Make a Professional Stop Motion Animation Video – This is a you tube video I’m using to help Ben begin learning how to make more professional stop-motion videos. He’s been interested in these types of projects for a very long time. I’m also considering purchasing HUE Animation Studio. I’m still researching this though, to make sure we buy the best product for the money. I’ll also allow Ben is use my ShotBox portable light studio.
Lego Mindstorms Ev3 Core Set – This pack includes all you need to teach using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3. It enables students to build, program, and test their solutions based on real-life robotics technology. With the EV3 Core Set and a single license of the EV3 Software, students will be able to: design and build programmable robots using motors, sensors, gears, wheels and axles, and other technical components, understand and interpret two-dimensional drawings to create three-dimensional models, build, test, troubleshoot, and revise designs to improve robot performance, gain practical, hands-on experience using mathematical concepts such as estimating and measuring distance, time, and speed, and communicate effectively using scientific and technical language.
Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 25 Projects – This fun and educational introduction to the exciting field of robotics—the science of designing, building, and operating robots—gives kids the basic tools for creating their own robots using ordinary craft materials and parts salvaged from recycled toys and other household devices. Early chapters teach budding roboticists how to create working models of robot hands and write “pencil and paper” computer programs, while later chapters show them how to build robots that move and react to light or touch. A great gateway to getting kids interested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math), the activities in this book let kids use all their talents to come up with creative solutions to tricky problems and figure out how things work. Here are
30 more robotics project ideas, some using the Lego Mindstorms set listed above.
These projects are pricey, as you can see. I will do my best to develop this into a full-credit science course for Ben.
Your Business Math – This course is written for younger students, but I found it helpful for my math-hating 9th grader as a “Living” Math Project – he learned to write checks, figure sales tax, pay bills, and keep a bank account ledger current, all while practicing basic skills like addition, subtraction, and multiplication. I am beefing up the course by also assigning to Ben courses from Lynda.com — Excel Tips to keep a spreadsheet and Publisher 2016 Essential Training for creating ads and flyers for his business. We also discussed the use of social media for marketing his store. If you have a student who struggles with math, you might find this helpful, too. I will be assigning Ben 1/2 math credit for finishing this course and his additional assignments.
I will continue to add resources to this article as I develop more projects for Ben. Be sure you are subscribed to our newsletter, so you won’t miss important announcements, new articles, and great deals from our sponsors.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to click over to learn more about high school record-keeping with Homeschooling High School in 12-Week Modules.