Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow and More! Sounds like S'MORES!

I know that when most of you saw that title you hopped right on in here....

who can resist S'mores, after all!
Sadly, this post is not about S'mores!

First it's about this:

That's the view from my front driveway just ONE WEEK AGO! Yes, we had five inches of snow in north ALABAMA. Unheard of....

Now fast forward to today:

Why, yes, that says 69 degrees. 
I'm thinking of dragging my flip-flops out for tomorrow.

Now it's TIME FOR:
I'm linking with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper to tell you about something I have tried lately!

 I have to tell you what third grade is doing in the STEM Lab! Most awesome stuff since the Spaghetti Challenge. And if you missed that click right {HERE}.

Anyway, I had this fairly major brain pop the other day (ok, like three weeks ago) and invented some Volume Challenges.

Here's the first one we did and it is amazingly wonderful because it is a STEM activity featuring (are you ready for this?) a picture book!

First we read this:

In the book you are told that some archaeologists found popcorn in a bat cave in New Mexico and determined that it was 5,600 years old (I'd like to know how they figured that one out, myself!) They actually found 293 pieces of popped popcorn. 

So, my challenge was this: What if you were those guys that found the popcorn and all you had with you was your backpack full of weird archaeologist stuff.  Could you make a container to exactly fit that popcorn? (And, no, you can't just use the backpack- this is a design challenge, people.)
STEM Volume

Popcorn is ready! 

Great activity, right! First, we talked a little about what volume means, but not much. (I don't like to say too much cause most kids will just do what you say since teachers always have the right answers. So, if I am intentionally vague it makes them THINK on their own!) Then I gave the kids their supplies. They began to make containers:
STEM Volume

STEM Volume

They used ten tons of tape and had a blast! Did they for one second think about how much space 293 pieces of popcorn would take up? 


In one of those photos above you can see some finished containers.
Okay, that tube-shaped  one is about three feet long. The square at the top right is big enough for me to sit in (not really, but it's about 11 inches on each side.) The 293 pieces of popcorn barely covered the bottom of the container. By the way, 293 pieces won't even fill a small bag at the theater.

So, did we learn anything about volume. Of course we did! And it's priceless learning- because as a group they all said the same thing- wow, we messed that up- can we do it again? 

I said, "No, not right now!"

We moved on to Lesson 2!
Ta-Da! Let's see if we can think about how many scoops of a material will fill a larger container.
First I demo-ed with beads. It took 6 scoops of beads to fill the container. Then the kids rotated from station to station using a scoop to fill their containers with bird seed, beans, rice, and other stuff.
STEM Volume

So about halfway through this little adventure I kept hearing this, "It's always six? Hey Mrs. Davis, we keep getting six!"
It was hard for me to hear, however, as I was grinding my teeth at the time......part of the task was to predict before counting, so why, I ask you, after seeing that six was happening over and over, why are you predicting that the next one will be 10??????

I didn't say that out loud.
But the answer is, "Because we are 8 years old."

Okay, so at the end we talked about why this happened the way it did......

THEN on to Lesson 3:
More containers.
STEM Volume

This challenge was about comparing volume. Can you place seven containers in order of least to greatest volume?
We did that activity three different ways and spilled a lot of rice....

In the end we had to use a kitchen scale to check our answers because even I could not decide which was order was right. Ha! Kids love it when then teacher doesn't know. Sometimes I even pretend I don't know just so they will pay attention.

Now, to end this volume extravaganza we repeated the first design challenge. Were the re-designs more successful than the first designs? Did all that rice and cups of beans make us really learn about volume so we could build a better popcorn container???
Not tellin' ya!

That will be another post some day!

Have a great week!


  1. Super Cute idea!! I love the lab you set up - and that book is always a fun one :) Found you on the link up, cute blog!

  2. I love being vague and I love popcorn! I'm all over this! Thank you for sharing and all of the pictures!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. Oh my...I thoroughly enjoyed reading this awesome post and now you're making me wait to see how it turned out! Haha!! This activity is full of learning opportunities and I love how you only briefly discussed volume before starting. Amazing work and can't wait to read more! Thanks for linking up. :)
    Fourth Grade Flipper


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