Friday, January 13, 2017

5 Books for STEM Activities You Can Do Today (in Grades 1-2)

So, here's the scoop! A STEM teacher friend of mine (Renee of Science School Yard) gave me some advice about working with first and second graders and tackling STEM Challenges.

It's simple: READ THEM A BOOK!

That's what she told me and I finally tried it and, boy, are we hooked on this now!
So, I have some treats for you today! Five books, five challenges, and great fun for your kids!
Reading and STEM go together like peanut butter and jelly! Check this post for five books and five ideas you can do today!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running and helps fund give-aways!


Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup
STEM Challenge: Bear Cages
This precious book is about a bear that doesn't bathe and another bear finally convinces him to do so. He does and they become great friends. The first graders LOVED this book! Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This precious book is about a bear that doesn't bathe and another bear finally convinces him to do so. He does and they become great friends. The first graders LOVED this book!

STEM Challenge: The challenge was to build a cage for the bear. The kids had counting bears, craft sticks, construction paper, pipe cleaners, tape, and scissors. Check the blog post for more!
The challenge was to build a cage for the bear.
The kids had counting bears, craft sticks, construction paper, pipe cleaners, tape, and scissors. The only rule to the task was to build cage that would keep the smelly bear inside it and not out making a big stink!


Rosie Revere, Engineer  by Andrea Beaty
STEM Challenge: Zoo Keeper Hats
This is the story of Rosie, a young lady that takes absolute junk and makes things. She loves to use canned puffy cheese in her inventions. Everyone laughs at her work- even her uncle, who just happens to be a zookeeper. Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This is the story of Rosie, a young lady that takes absolute junk and makes things. She loves to use canned puffy cheese in her inventions. Everyone laughs at her work- even her uncle, who just happens to be a zookeeper. The rest of the book ties her story all neatly together, but we went back to the zoo keeper part. Rosie designed a hat for her uncle that suited his job. So......

STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!
What if we made zoo keeper hats?

STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!
The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. The hat must be functional and not just a pretty thing on their heads. Design a hat that has a purpose for a particular zoo keeper. For example: an elephant keeper might need a hat with a long water hose as a part of it in order to wash down the elephants.
STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!
The kids had newspaper, construction paper, tape, cardboard tubes, a piece of foil, and round pieces of cardboard. I did not cut a hole in the round cardboard, but you could. (The round cardboard came from the cake decorating part of Hobby Lobby, but is not essential. A square piece of cardboard will work fine. I just happened to already have those round pieces.)
In the second photo above the team made a hat for the monkey keeper. It comes with banana trees so the keeper can feed the monkeys! In the bottom photo the team made a hat for the flamingo keeper. It came with bag attached to hold flamingo food.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
STEM Challenge: Robot Dogs
In this fabulous little book you meet a little girl that gathers a huge amount of junk and begins to make things. Yet she is never satisfied with the things that she makes. She is very unhappy and then begins to take a closer look at all her things and she thinks, "What if I took a part off that one and another part off this one"? Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
In this fabulous little book you meet a little girl that gathers a huge amount of junk and begins to make things. Yet she is never satisfied with the things that she makes. She is very unhappy and then begins to take a closer look at all her things and she thinks, "What if I took a part off that one and another part off this one", and finally she takes the best parts of all her inventions and makes something brand new. This turns out to be the most magnificent thing! It's a sidecar to attach to her scooter so her little dog can ride with her.
I let the first graders make suggestions about what we could build after reading this book and they unanimously said : ROBOT DOGS!

STEM Challenge: After reading "The Most Magnificent Thing" students build a robot dog! Check this blog post for more!
The materials they had were small cups, craft sticks, straws, construction paper, foil, and tape.
And they set to work building dog models!
STEM Challenge: After reading "The Most Magnificent Thing" students build a robot dog! Check this blog post for more!
Aren't their little dogs just the best! So cute.
So easy!

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?  by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
STEM Challenge: Animal Adaptations
This book was so fun for the first graders! The first page shows several animal noses and then the next page reveals which animals were pictured and what they can do with their noses. The next page does the same for ears and subsequent pages tell about tails, eyes, mouths, and feet. Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This book was so fun for the first graders! The first page shows several animal noses and then the next page reveals which animals were pictured and what they can do with their noses. The next page does the same for ears and subsequent pages tell about tails, eyes, mouths, and feet. The first graders loved trying to guess the animals, plus we learned a lot!
So, of course we had to build animals that had a special body part that does something that the animal needs!

STEM Challenge: Build animals that had a special body part that does something that animal needs! Check this blog post for more!
The materials for this challenge were: construction paper, straws, and tape! That's all!
In the photo above you have a Turtle whose special long toe nails help him climb up muddy banks of rivers. Next is a money with very large eyes so he can see his food more clearly! Then you have a turkey and this one had a special home it could hide in to get through Thanksgiving. Finally, the last photo is a rooster with very long tail feathers- for balance! This challenge was so fun and the kids especially loved sharing their amazing animals!

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon
STEM Challenge: Pirate Treasure Boxes
This is the story of Jeremy who is at the beach with his family. The family is not paying attention and they don't see the pirate ship approaching and then pirates rowing to shore. Jeremy decides to join the pirates and is soon learning some pirate vocabulary, like "Down the hatch!" Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This is the story of Jeremy who is at the beach with his family. The family is not paying attention and they don't see the pirate ship approaching and then pirates rowing to shore. Jeremy decides to join the pirates and is soon learning some pirate vocabulary, like "Down the hatch!". After a storm the pirates decide to get Jeremy to bury their treasure box for them and he does--- in his own backyard!
These second graders loved the book and set about making a small treasure box!
STEM Challenge: Read "How I Became a Pirate" and then build a small treasure box! Check this blog post for more!
The materials for this one included: beads and buttons (the treasure), construction paper, and tape. If you don't have beads you can use any small item you do have! These second graders built their treasure boxes and then when we had our sharing time they dumped the treasure into the boxes to show us the box would work. The only rule to this task was: The box had to hold the treasure- no leaking!

See how easy this was!
Read your little ones a picture book. Tell them what they will build using an idea from the book.
Give them some simple materials that you most definitely probably already have. Give them about 20 minutes to build it and then take about 5 minutes for every team to share its structure!


By the way, two of the books listed above were purchased by me from Amazon as a Kindle book, but I don't have a Kindle.  Did you know you do not have to have a Kindle reader to buy a Kindle book? You can use a Kindle Cloud Reader and read the book from your desk top computer, a laptop, your phone, or an IPad! When I used them with the students I projected the book on my smart board! And the kids LOVED having the giant book on the screen!


If you are looking for more teacher blog posts, click on the image below to visit Doodlebugs Teaching!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

All About Chemicals!

Hello STEM and Science Friends! Are you ready for "What's Going on in the Lab?"
I was scrolling through old blog posts a few days ago and came across the original version of this post - which made me revisit this product in my TpT store.... and oh my!
Two things:
1. It's such a fabulous study!
2. Boy, did I need to update that product!

Chemical Changes in the Lab with elementary Students! Lessons, photos, hints about lab coats, sources for products, and more! Check this blog post!
In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running and helps fund give-aways!


So, let's first talk about how spectacular this set of lessons is and what fun we had with it in the lab!
Chemical changes with elementary students! Kids mix vinegar and baking soda to see what happens! Check this blog post for details!
It starts with a quick little experiment to introduce or review chemical changes. I am sure you know that baking soda and vinegar have quite a fizzing-popping-expanding reaction when mixed and many of your students also might know this. It is still just fun to see them dump baking soda in the bottle and see what happens. The lab sheet we complete about this has the kids predicting, writing, drawing, and then describing the science behind this chemical reaction.


Chemical changes: Kids love wearing lab coats during this study! Check the blog post for details!
And, just because it is so much fun, here's a fantastic idea for your science class. Notice the kids in the photos above have on white lab coats! Well, these are so easy to make. Grab a package of boys' extra large t-shirts, lay the shirt flat, and cut right up the center of the front of the shirt, and bam! -you have a lab coat. To make this even more fun I make a name tag for each student with labels like this: Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones, etc. These slide into plastic badge holders they clip to their lab coats! And if you really want your kids to enjoy this call them by that name!
Third graders LOVE this! (BTW, I also have some lab coats made from adult t-shirts for those students that need the larger size!)

Chemical changes: Vocabulary sorting to determine the difference between physical and chemical changes! Check this blog post for details!
The next lesson involves examining physical and chemical changes and learning how to tell them apart. Kids complete a little sorting activity and then add those sorts to their lab sheet or notebook. This seems like such an easy sort, but the kids typically miss a few of these. They really don't know what "rust" is and maybe don't understand why an apple turns brown. So, the discussion is really eye-opening.


Chemical Changes: Kids are testing powders to see which react to vinegar! Check this blog post for details!
Next, we take a close look at 6 powders. The powders are all somewhat similar in color and texture, with some differences. The main difference being that one of the powders will react to vinegar and the others will not. Kids drop little drops on the powders and record what happens. This leads to another great discussion of why some of the powders don't react.

Chemical Changes: Kids are testing powders to see which react to vinegar! Check this blog post for details!
Above, you can see a student stirring the powder trying to make it dissolve. This is another great point of learning- stirring makes dissolving faster! And even better, we use a different toothpick for each powder! Do you know why?
(Contamination from one powder to another! This is a variable in the experiment that we control by using different toothpicks.)

Chemical Changes: Getting ready for Elephant Toothpaste! Check this blog post for details!
The best demonstration of a chemical reaction ever is called Elephant Toothpaste. The reaction is immediate and amazing. Kids love it and I usually have to repeat it so they can see it again.

Chemical Changes: It's Elephant Toothpaste! Check this blog post for details!
It's a little messy, but the kids can see a different reaction. This demonstration is followed by another card sort. This one involves situation cards where the kids have to read about something that has happened and decide if it is a chemical or physical change. To extend this one and further assess their learning I have the kids work as partners and write their own situation. Here's the one that perplexed us: "Your dog is sick and dies in your backyard. After a few days you check on the body and notice what is happening to it. Is this a physical or chemical change?"
Yes, third graders wrote that and we had a lively discussion of which type of change it is. Kids wanted to believe that it is physical because even though the dog is dead it is still a dog. True, but the decaying process is a chemical change!

Chemical Changes: Can students use what they have learned about chemical and physical changes to decide what happens with Instant Snow? Check this blog post for details!
Finally, we culminate this study with Instant Snow. In this activity each student has his or her own cups to mix and the resulting "snow" is just cool to watch. Kids have to write whether the change in the snow is chemical or physical and give reasons for their thinking. I love reading what they have to say about this.

So, where can you buy Instant Snow?
It's called:

The one above is one I have used and there is enough in the can to use for six classes, with some left over! I have also used the one below called: Insta-Snow Jar
And this last one is a much larger container, but also works well. It's called: Speedy Snow Bulk Bucket

Those are all different prices, but well worth the money for the finishing part of this great study of chemical reactions.

Chemical Changes: Interactive notebook templates make this study fun! Check this blog post for details!
One more thing: I have tried this study with lab sheets and with interactive notebooks. For me the lab sheets are faster and in a 45 minute class time with multiple classes lab sheets work best. But, I know many of you love your notebooks, so this Chemical Changes resource has templates for each lesson! I updated all the templates and added about 10 pages of extra information, photos, and hints to this product! 

So, there you have it- that's what we have been up to in the STEM Lab! What are you doing in science class?

Coming soon:
Books and STEM with First Grade
The Heart Series
Mazes in First Grade

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ready for Some Snow?

Ready for a snow day? Last year we tried some snow STEM activities that turned out to be really fun!
Here's a quick recap!



First up, we tried designing snowflakes.

I found a website that has close up photos of snowflakes and we looked at those first. They are really incredibly beautiful and shaped in so many different ways, In fact, the different shapes have names.
After seeing all the different kinds, the challenge was to create a snowflake.

STEM Challenge. Here's a winter STEM activity with a touch of art! Students design and create a snowflake. Check the blog post for more!
This activity became much more complicated than you would think. First of all, some kids really didn't understand symmetry and had lop-sided snowflakes. Many of them were quite pretty. We used some easy building materials and when these were finished I stapled all of them to a giant bulletin board labeled "Let It Snow!"
You can find more details for this challenge right {HERE}.

Then we tried snowmen!
STEM Challenge: This STEM activity is all about winter and snowmen! Students use some basic materials and the create their little snowmen. Check this blog post for more winter challenges!
The main material for this one was toilet paper!
Kids had other items to make the body and then they wrapped it with the tissue.

STEM Challenge: This STEM activity is all about winter and snowmen! Students use some basic materials and the create their little snowmen. Check this blog post for more winter challenges!
How fun are these! Students were very imaginative in designing those snowmen faces and props!
You can find more details about this challenge right {HERE}.


Next up- we tried making igloos!
STEM Challenge: This STEM activity is another winter themed one! Kids build an igloo! Check this blog post for more winter STEM!
This one was very interesting! We tried two different materials for the outside of the igloos.
One of the materials we tried was a big oops moment and you can read more about that in #4 below!

STEM Challenge: This STEM activity is another winter themed one! Kids build an igloo! Check this blog post for more winter STEM!
Our final versions that worked the best were the igloos that used cotton balls. We also used a lot of white glue. Kids loved this one and found the arch shapes were challenging to make!
More details about the igloo challenge can be found {HERE}.

Oops! Mistake! Or was it?
STEM Challenge: Sometimes our materials just don't work! Build igloos out of packing peanuts was not good! They looked more like cylinders! Check this blog post for more winter STEM!
One of my favorite things about the STEM Lab is that everything we do is an experiment. Oftentimes I think of a challenge or a material that just doesn't work. My test class always works out the kinks for me so that the remaining classes can design and build.
You would think kids do not like this since the test class sometimes has wacky rules that change in the middle of the building time! Actually they love being the test class.
The oops to the igloo challenge was using packing peanuts for the outside of the igloo. I thought toothpicks as connectors between the packing peanuts would work! Not really! It was very hard to make the arch shape and most of those first igloos looked like cylinders. That's why we switched to using cotton balls and white glue!

Oops #2! Toilet tissue snowmen!
STEM Challenge: The task was to build a snowman! Kids thought their snowmen needed to be gigantic and quickly ran out of materials! What a great learning experience! Check this blog post for more winter STEM challenges!
I really did not see this one coming! I gave each group a roll of tissue and was stunned when groups asked for more! The oops was that they built giant snowmen and didn't have enough tissue. So with the remaining classes I cautioned them before beginning to consider the design as the most important part of the challenge and not the size.

All three of these snow challenges were great fun! Check my TpT store, Teachers Are Terrific, for more seasonal challenges!
And also go check Doodlebugs Teaching for more teacher blogs!