Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Want your Students to Try Coding?

The best site I have ever found for teaching students about everything coding is definitely!  My kids cannot get enough of this site!  We started with the Hour of Code section, they currently have Minecraft, Star Wars, Frozen, Flappy Bird and more!  We visit the computer lab once a month and on one of those days each month, we spend the whole time on this site.  The coding challenges are perfect for elementary students!
There are 14 different challenges to complete and they get more difficult as you go.  There are tips and hints along the way AND more than one right answer!  We share our answers and the kids are always very impressed with one another!

I have a few "Coding Unplugged" packs in my store in case students need practice with physical objects!

This is a website you should try TODAY!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Balloon Globe STEM Challenge

I love connecting STEM Challenges to other content areas, especially unexpected ones, like social studies.  After learning all about the continents, oceans, and lines of latitude and longitude, we created these Balloon Globes.

This STEM Challenge requires pretty easy to find and cheap materials.  Students just need punch balloons (I got a great deal on them at Amazon) and black sharpie markers.  We started by marking the equator and prime meridian, then I pretty much let the kids go to work.

They all turned out great and it was a hands-on, engaging way to check student understanding of these topics.  They also look fantastic hanging up in the hallway!

Looking for this STEM pack?  Click here!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Connecting Literature and STEM ~ The One and Only Ivan

I love finding opportunities to connect STEM Challenges with the books we are reading in class.  We read, "The One and Only Ivan", by Katherine Applegate.  This book is simply amazing.  It is the story of a silverback gorilla that spends 27 years of his life in a shopping mall as an attraction.  It is based on a true story.  We did a lot of discussing and a lot of persuasive writing with this book.

We also did a lot of STEM...

Of the five STEM challenges we did with this book, this was my students' favorite one.  They each got five straws, a piece of cardboard, some air-dry clay and a plastic zoo animal.  Their goal was to create a cage for their animal that could hold the most weight.  These pictures show our animal cages AFTER we tested them.

We had quite a few different ideas.  Students always get SO excited when we extend our reading into STEM challenge lessons.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Growing Indian Corn ~ A Monthly STEM Challenge

Each month I organize a STEM Challenge pack for the classrooms in my school.  These challenges are more long-term in nature.  (The baggies on the window are our bean seeds sprouting.)  Our October Challenge, was based on the question:

How tall can your class grow corn plants on an ear of Indian corn in only a pan of water?

The kids were so excited to get started on this challenge in my classroom.  We placed the ears of corn into tubs of water and then we waited.  After a few days, we already had sprouts!  Amazing!  After two weeks, we placed soil into the containers in order to continue growing the corn.

Some are growing better than others, but they are all growing.  We used one ear of Indian corn per table group.  We observe them weekly and water them as needed.

For each monthly STEM challenge, we pair a book or two.  For this challenge we used these books.


My students were fascinated with the information in both books.  We jigsawed the second book and students created informational posters of a two page spread of the book and then shared the information with the rest of the class.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May the 4th Be With You... (STAR WARS Engineering)

Who doesn't love Star Wars?  Well, you can do some Star Wars engineering and a great day to do it is...May the 4th!

Our Star Wars engineering question was...

How many identical paper clone troopers can your group make in 40 minutes?

Students had many different ideas and strategies to complete this STEM Engineering Challenge.  We completed the challenge and then recorded our data.  We had several other classes also complete the challenge, so we were able to compare data.

Is it time for you to use the force to get some engineering inspiration?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Finding the S in STEM...with a Freebie to Use Today!

I am often asked about the science behind the STEM challenges and while I could write a quick blurb to explain it, I feel like we may be losing an authentic opportunity to give students the chance to do some real research based on what they are actually learning!  Talk about real-world learning, rigor and critical thinking!  All three are wrapped up in this natural extension of doing a STEM Engineering Challenge.

I think we are moving away from the teacher being the one with all of the knowledge and all of the answers.  Our students are more than capable of doing a lot of the WORK, so why not let them do it? When we finish a STEM Challenge, I ask the students to go to work on our Google Chromebooks to find the science behind the challenge and you know what...they kinda surprise me every time by doing such a great job!

Here is the sheet that we use to record our research.  It is pretty easy to follow and we usually hang them up with our STEM Challenge data sheets (another part of the challenge that the kids design and create themselves).

Why not let your students do some of the work by finding the science behind the STEM challenge?  We share our results and then defend them as necessary with evidence.  The kids are immediately engaged and they retain the concepts much easier than if I just explained the science to them after the lesson.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

STEM BREAK with Color Chromatography

My students always have trouble coming up with testable questions.  I am always looking for labs that naturally generate a lot of questions and this one is a good one!

Students need the following materials:

- coffee filters
- assorted markers (not permanent)
- plastic cup with about an inch of water

Just draw some designs on the coffee filter with different colors of markers.  Then fold the coffee filter in half and then in half again.  Place the triangular end into the cup of water and wait...

The water travels up the coffee filter and....WOW!  Can you believe it?  The kids go crazy!

Now for the fun part, ask the students to start writing ANY questions they may have down on a large sheet of white bulletin board paper at each group.  Once you have a bunch of questions generated, you can discuss the difference between testable and non-testable questions.

As an extension, you can have students conduct some of the tests.

Here is a link to the google doc of the STEM break sheet!

With some cheap and easy to find materials, you can get a lot of questioning done!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

STEM Break with Pipe Cleaners

My favorite thing about STEM Breaks is that teachers have the freedom to do them at any time and it gives them the chance to see how to use cheap, easy to find materials in STEM ways!

As I have mentioned before, I love the Dollar Tree!  I found packs of pipe cleaners there for $1 each. For this STEM Break, each teacher got one pack of pipe cleaners.  Super easy!  We have been on our millionth (that may be a bit of an exaggeration) day of indoor recess and these STEM Breaks are an engaging way to spend that indoor recess time!

All of my STEM Breaks can be extended with additional materials. They are designed to be a starting point!

Click here for the google doc of this STEM Break sheet!

These pipe cleaner towers look great displayed outside the classrooms!  We have a display case in the front hallway of our building and we put them there for everyone to enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

STEM Break with Seed Sponges

I cannot believe it will soon be spring, and spring makes me think of growing plants!  This activity is a great one to use in the month of March!  The materials are pretty simple and I got everything from my local dollar tree!  You will need paper plates, cellulose sponges, and seed packets.  We used radishes, lettuce, and grass seeds.  Any tiny sized seeds will do!

Click here for the link to the STEM Break google doc.

Getting students to notice changes over time can be tough!  What better way to do it than with plant growth!  Students may also be surprised to see that seeds will grow without soil!  You may want to extend this idea into growing seeds in other ways (we even grew seeds in a clean baby diaper)!  The seeds need water and sunlight.  You may want to use this STEM Break as a lead-in to the needs of plants!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

STEM Breaks Download ~ All STEM Breaks in One Place!

Get all of the STEM Break sheets in one download!  I will be adding to the FREE download of all of my STEM Break sheets as I make them, so stay tuned for more!

Click here for the FREE download link!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

STEM Break with Water Marbles

Who doesn't love water marbles?  Kids and adults alike are totally fascinated with these little water-loving (hydrophilic) beads!  You can find these beads on-line, at the dollar store (check the floral aisle), or even at a toy store.  I buy them in bulk on ebay!

Click here for the free google doc of this STEM Break!

For this STEM Break, I gave each classroom a pack of dry water marbles.  They added their own container and water, of course!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Questioning with Crystal Kits ~ A STEM Break

Get ready for another STEM break!  I frequent the Dollar Tree for the supplies for many of my STEM Break activities that I give to each of the teachers in my building!  You can find some great stuff there!

Our students are always working on their questioning skills.  This STEM Break always causes a lot of questions to be asked!  All you need for this STEM Break is a crystal kit for each classroom.  The kit contains everything you need!  I ordered mine from the Dollar Tree.  Click on the picture for the link to purchase these kits!

Click here for the STEM Break ~ Crystals google doc!

It is so important for students to ask the right questions!  This is an easy way to encourage questioning!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Making Connections with a STEM Break!

Time for another STEM Break!  This one is to accompany the skill of making comparisons!  When I give the teachers in my building a STEM Break, I also give them the supplies needed to complete it. We have begun including book connections as well!

Here is the information about the growing alligator toy!  I got them for $1 each!

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