Strawbees: A STEM Tool for Every Classroom

There are unlimited amounts of EdTech tools on the market today. So many in fact that it is somethings very difficult to choose the right tool for your classroom or children.

Buying EdTech tools can get very expensive. So how do you know if you are really getting your money’s worth.

Over the past ten years, I’ve integrated numerous kinds of EdTech tools into my STEM classes as well as my English classes.

During this summer break, I am going to review some of what I think are the best tools that every teacher or parent should have.

Strawbees

I discovered Strawbees on Instagram. What piqued my interest was how bright and colorful the kits were. I was looking for something that I could use with my primary students, and something that might challenge my more experienced students as well.

Strawbees were kind enough to send me two kits to try out in my classes.

What are Strawbees?

Strawbees are small straw connectors. Developed by the Swedish company of the same name back in 2013, Strawbees is a creative and colorful way to engage students in problem solving, creativity, and engineering.

Strawbees give students a unique hands-on experience to design, construct, and invent in an open-ended system.

Kits

Strawbees come in two kinds of kits, Retail and Education. Each Retail kit is based on a different theme, like imagination, maker, or crazy scientist. Education kits are more for large classrooms with tons of parts and accessories.

In this blog post we will take a closer look at one of the retail kits, the Imagination Kit.

What’s in the Box?

The imagination kit is one of the larger kits. In the box you will find:

  • 150 straws

  • 250 Strawbees

  • 105 idea cards

  • 1 Activity book

So how does it work?

To get started I recommend following the First Tricks in the activity book. Here you will learn how to connect the Strawbees and straws as well as making different joints.

Also, there is a simple guide to creating 4 different shapes or forms. Connecting the Stawbees together to create joints and locks looks pretty simple, but younger students will definitely need some assistance in the beginning.

Once you’re comfortable with the Strawbees and basic shapes the real fun begins! Inside the box are two sets of idea or challenge cards.

Inventor: These cards challenge students to create simple run fun prototypes like a helmet for a spider or a house in the jungle.

Crazy Inventor: These cards are much more challenging and will really help your students think outside the box. I suggest you pair students or have them work in small groups for these challenges.

Some challenges are “The Loch Ness Monster needs to hide its young from being discovered while hunting for food.” What can you invent to help?

Online Lessons and Activities

If you are looking for a more structured approach in the beginning then I recommend the online lesson plans and activities.

As of June 2019, there are about 21 lesson plans and activities on Strawbees.com. The activities consist of a short video tutorial without narration or explanation. Which I like because I don’t have to worry about students not being able to follow the verbal instructions.

The videos look simple enough but don’t be fooled. You will need to practice making these designs before introducing them to your students. Like I mentioned before, connecting the Strawbees can be challenging for younger students.

The lesson plans are well organized and easy to follow with objectives, reflection ideas, and most lesson plans come with resources to support each concept explored in the lessons.


In My Classroom

I use a lot of different tools to help students find their creativity, learn to cooperate, and develop 21st century skills. That’s why I was thrilled when Strawbees sent me a couple of kits to try out with my classes.

Strawbees fits perfectly in my design thinking units. I’ve used Strawbees in my classes earlier in the spring, and I am happy to say that my students loved it.

My older students really enjoyed tacking the tough challenges on the Crazy Invention cards as well as making up their own creations.

My primary students needed a lot more guidance and support (especially with connecting Strawbees) however, that didn’t stop them from having fun and completing a lot of the easier challenges.

Conclusion

Overall, I highly recommend Strawbees for any classroom.

The lesson plans are a great way to introduce Strawbees into most STEM classrooms.

The Pocketful of Ideas (cards), offer fun, but imaginative challenges for students of all ages.

I teach in a culture where rote memory is still highly valued. Students in South Korea spend a lot of time on test preparation. This does not leave much time for play or creativity.

With Strawbees, my students tackle creative challenges by experimenting, thinking for themselves, and collaborating.

If you have used Strawbees I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

If you would like to know more about Strawbees feel free to ask me, or check out their website www.strawbees.com