Fine Motor Fridays - Creating STEM Learning Resources in the classroom
In Australian education, our school curricula can feel overcrowded, over-planned and overwhelming. The first things to be dropped off the end of the week of Reading, Writing and Mathematics activities are hands on craft and Art-based tasks that build and maintain fine-motor skills, as well as developing problem solving skills, patience, team work, and creativity - the things that make us human.
To combat this I have built a regular time slot into my weekly learning program for these integral creative and STEM style tasks that I call 'Fine Motor Fridays' which can include a range of activities such as cardboard construction projects, weaving, dream catchers, beading, pom pom and tassel making, embroidery, and so many others! Students love the mindful aspect of taking time to create something or build a skill they didn't have previously, but also they also thrive in an open-ended, magical world of colour and endless possibility.
Fine Motor Fridays (FMF) have become such a staple of the week that students bring in their own craft and construction materials from home, ready for their team or individual projects at the end of the week.
I can see a definite improvement in students' fine-motor abilities over time, and this translates into their letter formation and handwriting, but also into their concentration and mindful approach to all tasks.
To set up your Fine Motor Fridays style lesson, I would suggest some serious online inspiration time spent on Pinterest and Instagram, and then start compiling a 'Maker Station' or craft supply area with some of the following:
- PVA glue in small squeezable bottles (At least one per 3 students)
- Paper plates, paper cups, and patty pans
- Masking tape
- Yarn (At least seven or eight balls in different colours)
- Icy pole/popsicle sticks (Hundreds! You never seem to have enough!)
- Long wooden craft doweling rods
- Beads in a variety of colours and materials
- Children-friendly sewing needles
- Hessian for sewing
- Watercolour paper
This gives you enough materials to do a huge range of tasks, and creates a sense of wonder and excitement even before you begin your Fine-Motor Friday sessions.
I am a huge believer in making learning fun and enjoyable, so weaving some of these STEM and craft based projects into your other learning areas is another way of increasing the engagement and enjoyment students get in your classroom learning environment, but also the amount of content they retain. Having fun and doing hands on activities while learning many concepts, particularly abstract ones, gives students a way of anchoring their stream of daily learning onto something memorable and relatable.
For example, when teaching fractions I got students to make a Mexican "God's Eye" using wool and wooden dowelling rods. We all measured out a one meter length of coloured wool. This was our "whole." Next, I had them measure out two half lengths in another colour, quarter lengths in another, etc. and then tie all of these different coloured, different length pieces together to create their craft project. So, Maths was embedded within the creation of something beautiful. All the while, students had to tie knots and weave the pieces of wool in between the rods, again building and maintaining their fine motor abilities.
I really believe that craft and STEM based learning tasks should be a central part of every learning space. And if you haven't done so already, try including an activity like one of these in your classroom and just take note of how much of an opportunity it provides for students to improve their social, emotional, skill-based, and fine-motor abilities.