What's Going on in the Lab? Flood Barriers!

Welcome back y'all!
I have been promising a post about our Flood Barriers and finally got to it!

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!

So take a look at the video first.
It is going to present a spectacular challenge to you, but then I am going to tell you the nitty-gritty!


Looks like fun, right?
Okay, well here's the real scoop!

I had this amazing idea about having kids experiment with absorbent materials and then choose one to use in building a flood barrier.
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
After determining how much water leakage there would be for each absorbent material the groups would decide what to use.
Well, okay, this part worked pretty well. It was actually fun once I worked out the kinks!

Then we moved on to the flood barrier part.
Well, I had another brain pop and knew that if I just offered a bunch of materials to the groups they would just take some of everything!
Whether they need it or not.
I learned a long time ago that the way around this is to have the kids work using a budget!
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
So I set up a supply station and each item had a price. The kids had to fill out their cost sheet and then go shopping.
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
One class told me they were shopping at STEM Mart! Ha!

Okay, next it's time to build the barrier.
Originally I told them stories about storm surge and flooding and we watched a couple of videos. The plan was to protect your house from flooding.
Okay, just take a look at this:
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
What?????
Obviously, this was not exactly what I had in mind.
This was the Test Class and after they built things like this (and more) I knew I had to revise my thinking and explain it better.

The next classes were told that the flooding was happening in their back yard and it was a doghouse. I also toughened the constraints to the task and added the rule that the absorbent material and other items could NOT touch the house or be taller than the house.

Like this:
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
Much better!!

Well, I know you can see that the tub above has water being added to it!
That was what happened next. When the teams had their barrier ready we added two cups of water, waited 15 seconds, and then checked for leakage!

Here's a couple more of the dog house above:
STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
It worked great. We removed the little house and there was zero leakage!

As you might know, I try to tell you only the truth.
And there are some things we learned in this challenge.
I made mistakes in the materials. Yep. Let's look at those disasters!

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
This was one built before I changed the rules. Looks like it might work, right? Nope. Those sponges are highly absorbent, but when you pack them around your house and they absorb water, guess what happens then? The water is transferred to the house! And I forgot to mention, these were paper houses.

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
SAND. IS. NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA!
I mean I thought it would be. Sand bags are used in floods, aren't they? So, in the test class sand bags were one of the supplies. Only the kids didn't know that a sand bag is meant to be a BAG. They poured the sand into the bottom of the pans. Did you know that sand will float? 
After I poured out the water I left these sandy pans on my back porch in the sun so they would dry out. (Yes, I have two back porches in my classroom!)

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!

STEM Challenge: A Fabulous experiment and design challenge! Kids experiment with absorbent materials and then use the test results to design a flood barrier. Details and a video on my blog!
PLAY DOH. NOT A GOOD IDEA EITHER!
I thought this would be better than sand. So with the next class I took away the sand and offered play-doh. Kids built these neat little fences. It stopped the water! Success, right?
Do you know what happens to play-doh when it gets wet?
Trust me, don't ever do it unless you want slimy gooey stuff that will not wipe up. I scraped it off the bottom of those pans.

Lest you think it was all awful, take a look at the group of kids above. Every single time we tested a pan with water all the kids would gather around to watch. It was so much fun! If the house didn't leak, they would cheer and if it did they would groan.
Awesome!
 Even with the soggy play doh and wet sand.

Thanks for joining me for this week's addition of:

Coming soon:
Water Towers
Building Boxes
Exploring Mean, Median, and Mode
Index Card Bridges
and more!


5

What's Going on in the Lab? Satellite Dish Towers

Oh. My. Goodness. We had the BEST time making these little towers!
Thanks for stopping by- photos and a video are included to share our latest tower extravaganza!
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
This tower idea was hatched after talking with some students that love to build towers. They requested just a box of materials and time to just build a tower. Well, as much as that sounded like fun, I also thought there should be a reason for it. Then two days later I happened to see a row of satellite dish devices lining the back of an apartment complex. Every balcony had one and some had two! I thought, "Why doesn't that apartment complex just have one big satellite dish or tower that everyone can access?
BAM! New Stem Idea!

Take a look:
 

This one has the ULTIMATE in COLLABORATION! This is one of my favorite ways to use a STEM challenge.

Here's the deal.
One group. Two teams.
One team builds the tower. One team build the satellite dish.
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
One bin  of supplies for the Tower team.
One bin of supplies for the Dish team.

So here's one group:
 STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
 The dish!
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
The Tower!

Here's another:
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
 The tower!

STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
The dish!
When they are ready the two parts must be joined together.
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!

STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!

Will they fit correctly? Will the tower stand up to the weight of the dish? Will the dish follow the rules of the task? One of the rules was that the dish must rotate!
I don't like to choose favorites, but I thought this one was very clever! Look at the photo below.
The team cut up pieces of straws and placed them inside the cup, covered it, and then when the "dish" rotated the little pieces moved. They told me these were receptors....
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!

Finally, my groups wanted to name their satellite dish "companies" and they came up with the most clever names.
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!

STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
See that little bat inside the cup above. That is drawn on the bottom of the cup-INSIDE the cup.
I said, to the boy that did this, "How did you get that picture inside the cup?"
He replied, quite dramatically, "A magician never reveals his secrets!"

We also had the S.I.S - which meant the Space International Satellite.
The Trashellite
Dish-o-roma
Supersonic Sky Satellite 3000
and this:
STEM Challenge: It's our latest tower event! One group divided into two teams. Each team builds part of the tower and when they are ready the two teams join their parts together! Fabulous collaboration opportunity!
That's the "I Wish I Had a Dish"!

This was an awesome challenge! It made us collaborate between two teams and I loved it. It was so interesting to hear the talk and see the two teams helping one another.
STEM AT ITS BEST!
Thanks for joining me for:
Come back next Wednesday for more and coming soon you might see:

Water Towers
Flood Barriers
Marble Runs
Index Card Bridges
Exploring Mean, Median, and Mode
Building Boxes


1

Five Excellent Ways to Decorate for Science!

There's always so much to do at the beginning of the school year. For me, this was really brought home when I started a new job with a science lab as my classroom. An empty, undecorated, bare-walled lab. So, let me help you with some excellent ideas and tips for decorating your walls for science!



Bulletin Boards and More! Fabulous ways to add some science decor to your classroom! Includes poster ideas and board ideas!
Of course, you might want to have a couple of really nice bulletin boards to display some science stuff. The story behind the bulletin board pictured above is on my blog already. Links are at the bottom of the post! This is actually my favorite board ever!

But, what if your boards are covered with other stuff and you still need to show some science related things?

Hmmmmm....here's some of the ways I do this!

First, the Scientific Method!

I discovered in the last few years that kids really don't know a lot about this at the elementary age, so I set out to make this part of their vocabulary and hope I am also teaching them a few things about variables and controls and making science-based hypotheses!

I have a poster set that we refer to all the time!

The set includes a title poster and a flow chart of the steps!
Scientific Method posters for the elementary classroom! Featuring the colors of purple, lime, and bright turquoise! The set includes a title poster, a flow chart of the steps, and a poster for each step!

It also includes a poster for each step written in kid-friendly language!
Scientific Method posters for the elementary classroom! Featuring the colors of purple, lime, and bright turquoise! The set includes a title poster, a flow chart of the steps, and a poster for each step!

I have these taped to a column that juts out in my classroom. It's actually the downspout from the roof of the lab to the ground (covered with concrete blocks)! Anyway, I can stand right under those posters and have kids look at the step of the scientific method that we are discussing! We use these all the time!

Simple and Effective

Simple, yet effective bulletin board for a STEM Lab! Check this blog post for more decorating tips!

Okay, this is my second favorite bulletin board. I love that it is so simple. I had planned to add photos and drawings, but decided to leave it alone! The middle word was just one I projected from my computer in a silly font (Jokerman, perhaps) and then cut out the letters!

 Above the board are posters of Little Scientists. These are some I made a really long time ago in an effort to help kids see that scientists come in many varieties and they can be one, too! Science can be extremely specialized! Like, who knew there was a scientist that only studies reptiles? 
Here's a closer look at the posters!
There are 20 kinds of scientists in this set!

Kinds of Scientists posters! Check this blog post for more decorating ideas!


Running out of wall space!

Bulletin Boards and More! Fabulous ways to add some science decor to your classroom! Includes poster ideas and board ideas!
By the time I invented the posters you can see in the photo above I had NO MORE wall space. So I started hanging things over the windows of some of my cabinets. This serves a dual purpose! HA! It also blocks the messes inside the cabinets. Those posters are the STEM Lab Rules. We refer to these every single day- especially -
"Leave your personal belongings outside the lab!" 
Do you have girls at your school that wear a purse all day? 

Above the cabinets is a very decorative little area. You can see a large tree "cookie" and a dried starfish. There are also several conch shells. And a great quote I painted on the wall.

Are you an engineer?

Bulletin Boards and More! Fabulous ways to add some science decor to your classroom! Includes poster ideas and board ideas!
These cabinets are displaying posters of the Engineering Design Process. This was the very first poster set I made. I needed this when I started as the STEM lab teacher and just could not find a set I liked anywhere. Most of the resources I found had all the steps of the process on one piece of paper. So, I made my own.

Below the cabinets, you can see my insect collection and above the cabinets is another quote and some other cute things. I mean, why waste that space up there? Storage bins would be great, but they look awful, so I use that space just to be pretty.

What kind of scientist do you want to be?

Bulletin Boards and More! Fabulous ways to add some science decor to your classroom! Includes poster ideas and board ideas!
Another set of posters! These are a set of Kinds of Engineers. Each poster shows a kind of engineer and the words tell about that person's job. These are so fun to look at because kids get a sense of what jobs involve engineering and they come away knowing they can be one!

Okay, here are the links to other bulletin board posts that show more about the two boards above.
Click 


And there you have it- some easy ways to get science decorating into your classroom and, by the way, the posters are not just pretty. They are useful!
The quotes and doodads on top of my cabinets - well those are just pretty!


1

Please Pardon Our Mess! This is Learning in Progress!

So, I was going back through blog posts the other day, looking for a photo and I kept finding the best little posts all about the STEM Lab.

And y'all, the posts always look just so pretty!

Anyway, I seem to always make my classroom look just perfectly spectacular and all good and you probably think it always looks like a magazine spread.

Right?

WRONG!
Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
I decided to devote this week's Lab Update to telling you the truth.

Sometimes our lab is a mess.

A hot mess.
A chaotic, sand-filled, playdoh covered, paper towels everywhere kind of mess.

Let me just tell you all about one week that happened recently.

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
Let's start right there with those innocent looking little tubs. My fourth graders were experimenting with absorbent materials and the second part of the challenge was to design a flood barrier. So, I had this bright idea that sand would be a great supply.

Epic failure.

Huge.

First of all, kids don't know how to clean up sand when they spill it. Wait a second, they actually do have a technique. It's called "Rake it off onto the floor!"

Well, my idea was that sand BAGS would be the way to stop the flood so in the first (and only) class that tried sand I gave them little bags I had filled up. I was thinking SAND BAGS. Not what the kids had in mind. They dumped the sand into their containers to surround the house we were flooding.
Did you know that small amounts of sand will float? Anyway, then I had all these containers of wet sand.

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
There they are in the photo above drying out. Because, of course, it was raining and I could not put them on the back porch to dry in the sun. (Yes, my lab does have two porches!)

So, let's move on to the second class. I put away the sand and got out the PLAY-DOH!

What was I thinking? Kids and play doh don't always work out so well. Do you know what happens to Play-Doh when it gets wet?

Epic Failure.
Huge.
Take a look:

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
The kids built the flood barrier around their little houses, but for some reason, they thought if they really mashed it flat, like right into the bottom of that pan, it might work better. And it did, except for the cleaning up part. WET PLAY-DOH IS BAD!

Very bad. It turns gooey and slimy and won't come off of anything. I scraped the bottom of pans like that one with plastic spoons to get it all out.

Okay, so move on to the third class making flood barriers. 

I decided to try clay.

Well, that worked and we just had a blast and made all these little barriers and had so much fun. Until it was time to dump all those big pans of water and we ended up with this:

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
Yeah, we had piles of pans all over the place.

In the meantime, I still had a class that was in the experimenting stage of this challenge and that involves ten tons of little cups and graduated cylinders and various other little things that must be washed.

Yes, that is the sink where we do dishes.

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!

The plant in the sink needed to be watered and it was raining outside. So, I resorted to filling both lab sinks with plants and switching them out until I got all the plants taken care of.

Well, now that covers fourth grade. What was fifth grade doing?

Building catapults and testing them!

Blog Post all about the messes we make as we are learning! It's all good, though, because hands-on is the best way!
That would explain all the wood piled on the counter. Way down at the end you can also see some of the absorbent materials we were testing in another class. And the container of dowel sticks was for another class that was building towers.

You know, it would certainly help matters if I could keep all the classes doing the same thing!
But, inevitably one class gets ahead of the others so we constantly have something new going on!

What was third grade doing in the middle of all this?

Building Bridges!

STEM Challenge: Building bridges with index cards! One supply means easy prep and easy clean up!

STEM Challenge: Building bridges with index cards! One supply means easy prep and easy clean up!

STEM Challenge: Building bridges with index cards! One supply means easy prep and easy clean up!
At least index cards are easy to clean up!

So, there you have it. I usually post only the good stuff. But now you know the truth.
We work hard in the lab.
We make a mess!
We learn a ton!


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