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!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

FREE Subway Art Pack for STEM

I love framing quotes and subway art in my classroom!  I always looks great hanging up in the classroom, or even in the hallway.  There are two versions in the pack!

Click here for a FREE Subway Art Pack for STEM!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

STEM Classroom Set-Up - Bulletin Board Idea

Looking for a colorful way to display STEM, STEAM, or STREAM information in your classroom?

Just mount these onto a bulletin board or white board and add related information, research, data, etc. for each letter in the acronym!  The file can also be modified to work as STEM, STEAM, or STREAM!

Get your students thinking and talking about STEM, STEAM, or STREAM!

Click here for the link for this pack!  For $3 you get the posters as well as some interactive notebook pages and even a notebook cover design!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Let's do STEM Together ~ Part One: Introducing STEM to Teachers

Looking for a way to get your building involved in STEM?  You don't have to be a "STEM" school to do STEM!  STEM teaching and learning really benefits ALL students.  Through STEM based lessons, students learn skills in collaboration, cooperation, communication, and perseverance, just to name a few!

The first step is getting teachers to TRY it!  STEM can be a little scary, especially to elementary teachers who are often uncomfortable in the areas of science and technology.  An easy way to get teachers to try it, is to give each one a pool noodle.  Yes, a pool noodle!  These are easy to find and really cheap during the summer (especially in August).

Teachers simply need to cut up the pool noodle into various sizes and shapes (use a kitchen knife) and as students to build the tallest free-standing tower using all of the cut pieces.  The supplies are easy to find and QUIET when they crash (which they inevitably do at least once).  

 Here are a few examples of the towers student groups built using pool noodles.  One of the best parts of STEM challenges is that there is no "right" way to do things.  Many different ideas will work!

If you really get into using pool noodles, you may want to check out my pool noodle challenge pack. It contains five different STEM challenges using pool noodles and other, easy to find supplies.  The 

Five Challenges Included in this Pool Noodle Challenge Set:

Pool Noodle Race Track Challenge
Pool Noodle Shooter Challenge
Pool Noodle Rocket Challenge
Pool Noodle Structure Challenge
Pool Noodle Sculpture Challenge

Start out with an easy to prep and complete STEM challenge and teachers will hopefully get a little out of their own comfort zones in order to let their students try STEM!

Stay tuned for more ways to get STEM going in your school!

Friday, July 8, 2016

About The Blog Author!

Hi there!  I am a 4th and 5th grade teacher with 20 years of experience in urban public schools.  I have taught in four different buildings and I have been lucky enough to work with many different student populations.  I spent seven years in a self-contained gifted classroom and I am currently working at a STEM K-5 school.  As the STEM Coordinator  at my building, I have developed many different monthly school-wide challenges, STEM breaks and engineering challenges for my own building.  Elementary teachers are often more comfortable with themes and literature, so many of my challenge packs are organized around themes and literature.

I am always looking for ways to connect with other teachers who are exploring and experimenting with STEM in their own classrooms.  STEM can be so overwhelming and challenging at first, but the amazing ways the kids respond to STEM will make you want to keep trying things.  My own students are so much better at collaboration, communication and risk taking thanks to STEM activities.

My newest collection is called Stories and STEM!  It is a great way to get kids reading and connecting their reading with STEM engineering challenges.  Stay tuned to my TPT store for more of these packs as I add them!

I am also a wife and mom to three amazing kids, an 11th grader, a 9th grader and a 4th grader.  They keep me pretty busy, too!  Stay tuned for more posts!  Comment or email me with any questions or comments!
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