Monday, December 5, 2016

What to do With a Box? Challenge - Connecting Literature and STEM

Connecting picture books and STEM seems so natural in an elementary classroom, but I know it can also be successfully done in even middle and high school classrooms.  Each quarter, we send home a STEM Challenge Project and this is one of the students' favorites!  Here are some of their projects!

We based this set of STEM projects on the book, What Can You Do With a Box?,  by Jane Yolen.

Students got a 6 x 6 x 6 cardboard box, which you can buy in bulk on Amazon (you can get 25 of them for $6.95)!  

If you want detailed directions and lab sheets, you can buy this STEM pack in my TpT store!  Click here for the link.

These look great displayed in the hallway or classroom!  Our students were so proud of their creations and they loved giving a short presentation to their classmates about their box project!

What can you do with a cardboard box?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Straw Tower Challenge - Can you Break a World Record?

Who doesn't dream of breaking a world record?  This new STEM pack will give your students a chance to do just that!

As we were reading the novel, Masters of Disaster, by Gary Paulsen, we worked on learning more about world records since the main characters try to break them in the book (with hilarious results).

This was one of the simplest, but also the most challenging!

Out of six groups, only two were successful this time.  Students got straws and a limited amount of tape.  They learned a lot about design during this challenge.  You do not have to be successful in a STEM challenge in order to learn a lot!

We learned that you need a wide base in order to support the weight of the tower as it grows in height.  

Want to break a real world record?  Try this one!  You can find the straws/connectors on Amazon!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Flocabulary...Get Singing and Learning!

I was offered a free subscription for Flocabulary. My students LOVE it! It is a site that I will continue to use in my classroom for many years to come. It is well worth the cost of the subscription, in my opinion.

The best part? How excited my students are when we log in.

What is Flocabulary?

  • Flocabulary is a web-based learning program for all grades and subjects that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement.
  • Teachers in more than 60,000 schools have used Flocabulary’s standards-based videos, instructional activities and formative assessments to develop core literacy skills and supplement instruction across the curriculum.
  • Flocabulary offers more than 750 instructional units to support instruction in math, science, social studies, ELA, vocabulary, current events and life skills, with new content every week.
  • We offer a deep instructional sequence that teaches standards-aligned skills and content while helping students develop literacy skills across the academic curriculum. We support teachers in all content areas teach and assess reading and writing skills through the recently-released instructional tools we offer like Read & Respond and Lyric Lab.
  • Engagement has long been the “bread and butter” of Flocabulary—our roots are in catchy and accurate educational hip-hop videos. Flocabulary’s videos create authentic engagement, our complementary instructional tools provide new opportunities for learning, and our rhyme writing tool, Lyric Lab, empowers students to get the creative juices flowing with their own educational raps.

One of our favorites is the Food Chain song. I cannot even count how many times we have played it, but my whole class pretty much knows it by heart, AND they refer back to the lyrics in science class. not only does the site have these great videos and songs, it has great worksheets to go with them!

Flocabulary is giving away three subscriptions for each blogger!  You can enter this giveaway by clicking here! must enter by October 16th at 11:59pm ET.   Winners will be drawn October 18th!  Good luck!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Strongest Pasta Bridges Challenge

We are reading the book, Masters of Disaster, by Gary Paulsen in our classroom.  In the book, the three characters are trying to break a world record.  They have epic fails, but never give up.  It is a great book for upper elementary and it really gets kids excited about reading because the book is absolutely hysterical!

I created a set of STEM challenges based on real world records and then we tried to do them!  One of the challenges was to create the strongest pasta bridge with a span of at least 15 inches.  Students got 4 feet of masking tape and one box of spaghetti noodles.  Some groups were successful, and some were not, but students learned a lot and had a lot of fun!  They also got more experience working together to complete a task.

Our strongest pasta bridge actually held seven pounds of weight!  As you can see from the pictures, groups had some very different ways of completing the challenge.  I always love to see their creativity!  Click here for the link to this STEm pack.

We also used our STEM Reference Sheets for Bridges when doing this challenge.  The reference sheets help students troubleshoot and come up with ideas for a specific topic.  Click here to purchase the reference sheet.  I laminated the two pages of the reference sheet back to back on colored paper.  We can then access them whenever we do a STEm challenge with bridges!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2 STEM Challenges to Start the Year

I always like to start the school year with 2 specific STEM Challenges.  The first STEM Challenge we do is Tiny Glasses.  Students have to build the tallest structure using 48 tiny glasses in only 20 minutes.

This is the first challenge I like to do for a few reasons.  First, it is a challenge that no one is very good at the first few times they try it.  Students have to be able to not give up in order to be successful and the time limit makes them even more likely to think it is impossible.  We always have a great discussion once the challenge is over about growth mindset and the importance of continued trying, even in the midst of utter failure.

The second challenge we complete is the Puzzle Building Challenge.  This challenge requires students to build a 24-60 piece puzzle together without the picture on the box.  As if that wasn't challenging enough, students have to do it without talking to one another.  They can use hand gestures, but no actually talking.

This challenge shows the students the value of communication during a STEM challenge.  They also come up with really clever ways to communicate with one another without words, which always seems to strengthen the team.

Which STEM challenges do you like to begin the year with?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Monthly STEM Challenge for September

I am so excited about our first school-wide monthly STEM challenge!  This one requires very few materials!  All you need is a pack of assorted balloons from the Dollar Tree and a roll of masking tape (also from the Dollar Tree).  Each month, I also add a book or two and I love these two!

Stay tuned for pictures of our balloon towers once school starts!  Click here to purchase this monthly STEM challenge pack!

Here are some of our finished balloon towers!

Our tallest free-standing balloon tower was 64 inches tall.  We used a pack of 25 assorted balloons per group!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Make Your Own Microscope Slides

Did you know you can make your own microscope slides?  It is really easy!

All you need is:

- plastic microscope slides
- clear nail polish
- assorted items (salt, glitter, sugar, leaf, penny, bead, etc.)
   {or anything else you want to put on a microscope slide}


1. Place a pool of clear nail polish on the center of the slide.

2, Place the item onto the clear nail polish.

3. Let dry.

4. Examine under a microscope.

You can place one item on each end of the microscope slide to save space.  Try placing comparable items together, like salt and sugar crystals - salt on one end and sugar on the other.  You can label each slide's contents with a fine sharpie marker!

Super easy and the kids have a blast!  You can store slides in a plastic school box so students can examine items more than once!
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