Monday, November 10, 2014

Let's try a Quick Challenge! Pom-Pom Blasters!

Well, thanks for stopping by!
I hope that intriguing title drew you in....
I once wrote a blog post about how to be the perfect blogger. One of the things you need is a great title....just sayin'

If you missed that little gem of a post, click {here}.

In the meantime.... How on earth do you keep multiple classes together?
Hmmmm....Take a look!
STEM Quick Challenges - These quick challenges are fabulous for so many reasons! Easy prep, easy materials, and super fun! A sub can do one of these, they are great for spur-of-the-moment needs, and each has two methods of recording data.

Let me explain.
I teach only Science.

I have 15 classes in three grade levels.
Now, that appears to be rather easy to plan, you would think. I mean, jeez, I would just need to plan for one science activity for each grade level and then just repeat it a few times. Easy peasy.


I promise, rarely do I have every class doing the same thing. We have days off, assemblies, field trips, kid with two broken arms, and any number of other things that change my schedule. Inevitably, there will be some classes that are off by a week or even two. So, I am in a constant state of getting everyone caught up so we can begin the next activity together! (Have I mentioned I am OCD...about order and stuff?)

Okay, here's my point.
I have a need for some filler activities. When one class in a grade level gets behind and I need to wait a week before beginning something new with the all of them at the same time then I need a Filler science activity. Sometimes I need a filler for every grade level at the same time (like right NOW!) I just need something that has
NO background work. 
No lesson.
NO research.
Just- here are your supplies.
Get busy!

Most of my STEM activities take more time than that.
I mean we do some pretty cool stuff, but you can't throw cooking pancakes together without some background and gathering of supplies and a lot of prep.....



Really, I had this amazing brain pop yesterday.
Why not just hand kids a box of stuff and give them some very SIMPLE directions!

Give them most of the class time to design.
Share the designs!
Move on!

It is brilliant.
Then I started thinking of all the things we could do. My list now has TWENTY ideas on it!
And the ideas are so cool! I am very excited about sharing these with my students.

Then I started thinking about all the uses for a Quick Challenge. It's an amazing list:

1. If you teach multiple classes, like me, and need something for a class or two, but not the others, then try it.
2. If you have  a sub day and need something that is easy to prepare, easy supplies, and very little teacher instruction, here ya go!
3. If you teach gifted students and need something for an hour long class, this will work.
4. If you are trying STEM for the first time and just want something fairly easy just to get your feet wet, this is for you!
5. What about your early finishers? Could you hand them a prepared  box and let them go to work? Of course you could.
6. Dare I say use a Quick challenge box for homework? You could- just send the box and directions card home for a weekend and see what the family comes up with!
7. What about Science night at your school? A Quick challenge box sitting out on kid's desks would be perfect!
8. What about  those weird days of school? You know, like the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving when you somehow have to still have class, but for only two days. Use a Quick Challenge!  (Once a long time ago we came back to school after Christmas break - on a FRIDAY! Really, one day of school that week!)
9. Use this as a class reward! 
10. EMERGENCY Plans- you know we all have those days when things are just not going right. The quick challenges are easy to assemble, with supplies you probably already have in your classroom. Put together some boxes and let your kids go to work.
11. Have you ever had a combined class? Every spring my school sends fifth graders to an Environmental Camp, but every student does not go. Usually about 20-25 kids stay at school in a combined class. A Quick Challenge would be great for that!
12. Enrichment class- We have a special day when students go to a class they have chosen- like line dancing, cheer-leading, chess, or robotics. A Quick Challenge could be a choice for this kind of enrichment.
13. What about your Science Club? I had an after school Science club for many years. I used quick challenges all the time back then- before STEM became a buzz word!
14. Homeschoolers! Whoa! A Quick Challenge would be so cool! The supplies for most of the ideas I have are simple things you already have or can easily get at the dollar store. The challenges can work with a single students or a small group.

So, how does it work?
This is the best part! Especially if you have multiple classes, because the prep is so easy. (A  lot of prep doesn't bother me, mind you, but sometimes it is overwhelming to prepare. You know, I did the pancake activity with NINE classes! We loved it!)
Anyway, Easy prep.
Use a lab sheet if you want to or just design and build.
Easy clean up.
100% engagement with students.
Collaboration, communication, hands-on, critical thinking, creativity, awesomeness!

Take a look at the Prep:
Gather the supplies and get boxes ready. (I used plastic shoe boxes, but any kind of container will work- even a paper sack!) Now, just add stuff to each box- like an assembly line!

Finally, add the student instruction card:
I know, right? Easiest prep ever!

But it gets better. Now the last ingredient...

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
Look at that one closely. The straw on the left goes through the first cup and into the second cup. They used the twisty part of the straw to make an L shape and then tried to put the pom pom on top of the straw. When the pom pom would not stay on the straw they took the bottom of the cup (already cut off) and used it as a platform to put the pom pom on. Now, blow in the straw and the pom pom blasts off! Genius!

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
Pull back on the middle rubber bands and it launches the pom pom. The way they attached the rubber bands is really cool, but too hard to describe! Also, this one actually does not follow the constraints of the task- it's taped to the table, but I still love it!

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
I love this photo because you can see the kids working together.
This task was amazingly cool to see as they kids collaborated intensely!

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
This actually worked, but was very flimsy.

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
Okay, it is just a slingshot. But here's what happened. They worked diligently, but everything they tried failed. When time was nearly over, they threw this together and announced, "We wanted to have something and we know it's little, but it works and we tried hard!" How can you not love that?

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!
Finally, this group built a very nice catapult launcher! It worked great!

Friends, this challenge was spectacular! The kids loved it! They were very excited about the idea of opening those boxes and seeing what was inside and what the challenge would be! 

So, we will do more of these!
I have a ton of ideas and can't wait to share them with my students and with you!
Here's the FIRST one:

STEM QUICK Challenge- This one is all about building a device to propel pom- poms. We call it a Pom-pom Blaster!


  1. I absolutely agree. Some adult and the majority of students usually think that it is easy to be a teacher because, hey, you have only one discipline to teach (while student have many to study). But in reality it’s really hard to keep up with everything. You have to be extremely organized not to mess something at least once in a while. Here I enjoy personal essay writer as it helps me gather all plans and make sure I've got everything prepared for the next lesson. Anyway, thanks for a great post, I really enjoyed reading your ideas.

  2. yeah...not sure making slingshots and catapults would be the best in my classroom.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog! Depending on your age group you can certainly decide the catapults and pom pom blasters are not for you. The projectiles we used in both of these challenges were fuzzy pom poms. These are quite harmless and kids had very strict guidelines about not firing anything else. Another idea is to have parent volunteers work with small groups to help with any safety issue you think you might have!

  3. Could you share the instructions that you put in the box?

    1. You can find more information about this challenge right here: Thanks for visiting!


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