It's All About Those Straws!

A few days ago I was putting together some containers of STEM materials for a class challenge and heard a student say this:

"I see straws in those bins. We use a lot of straws!"
Yes, we do! In fact, we use so many straws for challenges that  I asked for straws to be added to our school supply list this year! So now I have one entire cabinet filled with straws. Just for fun, we counted the boxes one day and there were 40. FORTY. That is 4000 straws, just in boxes. There are also smaller boxes and bags, and more bags, and even more boxes.

Well, I asked for them! Right?
But why?

Let me show a little we have done with straws!
STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive!


This is going to be a quick look at some of our challenges. If possible I have linked these back to blog posts of the past that would give you more details. 

Amazing Mazes!

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! Here's a maze made of straws!
Above is a Quick Challenge called Straw Mazes. The walls of the maze were built of straws. A little bit of tape and that's about it! {Blog Post}

Yes, tennis ball towers!

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! Here's a tower that uses straws!
Above is another Challenge called Tennis Ball Towers. This one has some unusual materials and a surprising constraint- kids must use all the materials. They get so creative!{Blog Post}

Bridges and Boats

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This task is to build a bridge made of straws!
Above is a bridge challenge. This is one of the first STEM challenges I invented and I promise it was a throw- together- some- junk- and- see- what -they- build kind of challenge! We ended up calling these Straw Bridges (with Toothpicks)!{Blog Post}

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This task is to build a boat made of straws!
Above is a VERY popular challenge called Building Boats! All kids LOVE this one! {Blog Post}

Bubbles and Bubble Wands

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This task is to build a bubble wand made of straws!
Above is Making Bubbles! There is actually more to it than that. With a bunch of wacky supplies, kids make bubble wands! They LOVE it!

Platforms and Parachutes

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This task is to build a platform made of straws!
Above is a Straw Platform! This was a little challenging since it had to hold weight!

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This project was an egg drop and kids built the egg container using straws!
Above kids are making a container to hold an egg. It was then dropped with a parachute! So, of course, we called this one Egg Parachutes!

Towers, Rescue Devices, Hoop Flyers, and Geodesic Domes

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This project was a tower event and the kids only received twelve straws!
Above is a Straw Tower! The trick with this one was that the kids only received 12 straws! Ha!

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! This project was a rescue event and students built the turning devices with straws!
Above is one of my all-time favorites! Kids had to build a rescue device and it had to wind up! Awesome and clever solutions were part of this one! {Blog Post}


STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! Here's a flying project that used different sizes of straws for the flyer!
Above is one of our most recent challenges! We made hoop flyers and experimented with changing variables. It was spectacular! {Blog Post}

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! Here's another tower project that used straws and also students had to suspend a container!
Above is another recent challenge building Bucket Towers! We loved this one, too! The bucket had to be suspended and hold weight! {Blog Post}

STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive! Can you build a geodesic dome using straws?
Finally, you have another recent challenge about building Geodesic Domes! This was really, really fun!  Check back next week because it may be my next Wednesday post!

So, now, you ask, 
"Why do we use so many straws?"
Because, my friends, they do not cost very much! I have FIFTEEN classes of STEM each week. I cannot spend a lot of money. 

Advice: Ask parents to send in straws. And another little giblet of knowledge for you is this: The best straw you can get is from the Dollar Tree!

So what are you waiting for? Get some straws!
STEM Challenges: Straws are such a great material to use for your STEM projects. They are easy to use, come in many colors and sizes, and they are inexpensive!







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Five for Friday: Bulletins Boards-Round 3

Are you ready for Friday?
I am!
Are you ready for some new boards?

First, let's recognize the host of this weekly linky:

Thanks Doodlebugs!
I have skipped this linky for a couple of weeks! It's the beginning of the school year and there is so much to do at school and after school and it is hard to get back into a routine - you understand!

Anyway, this week's Friday randomness is all about bulletin boards!
You are a teacher. You get it. You have these big old boards to decorate. What do you do? This is my third round of bulletin board posts. Some have been easy to make and some not so much!
But they have turned out great!


First, an update! (Keep reading because I promise there are NEW boards to view- with directions on how I did them!) Take a look at this one:
You can read more about this one {HERE}, but I need to update you a little. That little house I made stuck out from the board about 3-4 inches and you know what happened, right?
Yes, a very tall fifth grader ran into it and knocked it off the board. It was hot-glued up there and it ripped the paper right off and ruined the board.
I knew it was likely to happen, So, it was okay. Note to you- if you do a dimensional board think about where it is located! A hallway is not a great choice!
I didn't even try to fix it. I just made a whole new display.
Keep reading!

So, I saw a great pin on Pinterest (the perfect place to find bulletin board ideas)!
It had an octopus made from paper chains.
Well, that seemed easy enough.
So, I started making chains.....
I covered the board with black paper (mostly because that was one of the few colors available). The board border is just a mix of colors, but it is what I had!
I placed the center of the eight legs at the top corner and then just stapled them in place across the board and the wall.
Now, for what the board is going to show----

hmmmm, why not something about Hands-on Science!
Here's the end result:


Okay that took care of a hallway board. But, I have another board in one of our main halls to decorate. Here's a reminder of what I put up there last spring:
That one was fun to make! I actually used a large garbage bag for the diver and traced around a student to make the shape. The little boy loved it! You can read more about that board right {HERE}.
So, now I need to create another square board.
Keep Reading...

I saw a pin with a very colorful board. The colors were all different shapes of paper in many, many shades of colors. I loved the look and thought it would be fairly easy to just cut the paper and arrange it.
So, I gathered construction paper and cardstock, arranged it by color family, and used my paper cutter to make smaller rectangles.
Next I needed to arrange these in a large square- actually it is 45 inches square.
Well, I really didn't want to just start stapling it on the board. I thought the staples showing all over the board would look awful. So, I made the shape on my floor and started laying paper on it.
My original plan was to make the pieces line up perfectly, but it only took about 15 minutes to stop doing that. When I got about this much laying the way I wanted it I made tape roly-polies and stuck the papers together. Then I just kept going with more colors and putting roly-polies under the overlaps to hold it together.
Gorgeous, right?
Well, that took a good hour. And then I tried to pick it up. It wanted to come apart in places and I ended up flipping it over and taping along the lines to hold it together.
This was a step I had not planned to do, but I could not carry it down the hall unless it was secure. Then I added the words, and here's the final board:
Overall, I love it, but it took a long time!

Last, but not least!
Join me most Wednesdays for a STEM feature about what we are building and doing!
Here's a sneak peek for an upcoming post.
Yes, those are Barbie shoes.....stay tuned for more information about that project!




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What's Going on in Science Class? Hoop Flyers!

Happy Wednesday Friends!
Hope your week is going well! Here's a great activity we just completed that will make your students very happy!
It's all about flying hoop planes!

STEM Lab

Once again, let me explain something.
I asked students to bring straws to help out with lab supplies this year.
They didn't just bring straws. They brought thousands of straws!
So, we have been trying to invent ways to use these.
Hoop Flyers came from that.

I saw these cute little flyers somewhere in the vast black hole known as Pinterest and knew we could make these easily enough.
But, I wanted this to be somewhat more scientific than that!

So, we started by just building a hoop flyer and exploring!


Nothing like throwing things in a large room to get kids excited.

Okay, time for the experiment.
Take the original design and modify it by changing one variable.
ONE Variable.
One.
1

Kids just don't get this. They want to use heavier paper, add three paperclips, a shorter straw, and then fly it. It really takes some discussion to get them to understand that only one variable is changed. So I came upon a genius idea.
A brain pop, if you will....
Take a look:
We listed the flyer specifications and then highlighted the ONE variable that was being changed. This made the kids focus on how that one change affected the flyer.
It worked very, very well.
Some samples of what we tested:
 Above you see hoop flyers with regular dimensions, narrower paper, wider paper, and cardstock.
Above you see the most popular variable tested- the MILKSHAKE Straw.
I think they just  liked the sound of the milkshake straw...

So, which variables produced the best flyers? Well, that was the point of the whole challenge. So, the next step was to combine features that seemed to work best. Kids did exactly what I thought they would do.
They chose everything!
Cause if card stock worked well, and two paperclips worked well, and a milkshake straw worked great, then all of those should make a fabulous flyer!
Right?

WRONG!
Y'all this was the most eye-opening (accidental) lesson ever. EVER!

A kid said it best:
"We should have been making a new flyer with the things that would make it BEST, not with ALL the things!"
Yep!

Hands-on learning at its best! STEM rocks!

What have you been up to in your science class?

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A Unique Tower Challenge with Startling Results!

I never dreamed when we invented this challenge that it would become so popular. Except for Building Boats and Roller Coasters this is the challenge that I get the most questions about.

I promise this is what happened:

I had a class prepared for a tower building challenge. We were going to build satellite dish towers. But, sadly, I forgot to buy the clear cups I needed, so I opened the cabinets to see what else I had. Those little white cups were all lined up and the Bucket Tower Challenge was born.

STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight!

Seriously, is that how you really plan?

No, of course not. I put a lot of thought into the Satellite Dish Tower, but just didn't have the right materials. We did complete it later, but on this particular day, I grabbed the little white plastic cups and some hole punchers and invented the Bucket Tower Challenge on the spot. 

Okay, there is more of a back story to this one!

Last spring I asked if teachers could add some items to our school supply lists. I figured if some of the kids brought things I use often in the lab it would be very helpful. Now, I know I asked for pencils, but apparently I also asked for straws.
Yep, that's a lot of straws.
So, I started trying to invent things we could build using straws. And I thought about towers first- cause we love to build towers. That's how the idea for the satellite dish tower was invented.

But, we know how that turned out- so how did we invent the bucket tower?
The first class that came in the lab helped me. I gave them the premise of the story-which was basically a reason for needing a tower with a bucket. The test class jumped right into this challenge!

STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight!

The Test Class

I use STEM challenges multiple times and after the second go around I usually have all the kinks worked out. My students LOVE it when I tell them they are the Test Class. They know this means that I have NO IDEA what is going to happen and we kind of make it up as we go....
I am serious.

The test class will start to work on something and we have to stop frequently and talk about what is happening. We often add rules right in the middle of the task when we run into problems.

Here's the first kink in the Bucket Towers.

TAPE!
I knew better, but just didn't think it through and gave each group a roll of tape.
Take a look:
STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight! We did learn to limit the amount of tape that could be used!
Is this tower made of straws or tape?
Needless to say, we added a rule to the next class and limited the amount of tape being used.

Next kink in the task was the BUCKET! Check this photo!

STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight! Make sure you follow the constraints- the bucket cannot be attached!
Mind you, that is a spectacular structure and it held 200+ pennies when we tested it. But is it a bucket if it's attached to the structure? We had quite a discussion about this and decided the rule needed to be added that the bucket could not be restrained. (You can't tell in the photo but the straw through the bucket is attached to the structure's frame. It will turn over, but it does not swing freely.)

Next Kink:

STRING
Was the string provided only to use with the bucket?
STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight! This team found a clever way to use their string!
What if you don't need all the string? Can it be used to help tie down the structure?  The arrow is pointing to a string being used as a guide wire. We decided this was alright and actually very clever!

Here's a couple more looks at the different things made:
STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight! HOw tall is a tower? This team sacrificed height for a bucket that would work!

The one below also used the string to keep the structure upright. And look at the way they used the bendy part of the straw!
STEM Challenges: This amazing challenge uses one basic material- Straws! Add a few more items and see if your students can build a suspended bucket that will hold weight! This team used the bendy part of a straw to help their tower stand up!
Overall, the test class did a great job and helped me refine this challenge for the next four classes. 

CONCLUSION: We LOVED Bucket Towers! And so do other teachers. This little challenge climbed right up the long list of my TpT STEM challenges and is now the number 3 best seller in my store!

Here's why: 
  • It's super easy to put together!
  • Materials are inexpensive and things you probably already have.
  • Kids love it because it's just enough outside the box to allow a lot of creativity!
  • Every tower looks different and the kids love sharing their finished products.

So, if you have not tried Bucket Towers yet--- what are you waiting for?

You can also see more about Bucket Towers right {HERE}!



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Five for Friday! Books of the Summer!

If you have followed me on this blog or Instagram you know I love to read!
So this week's Five for Friday is devoted to that!
It's my Books of the Summer List!
Now, I know my followers are here looking for science related posts and STEM ideas, but I am a reader and it is something I do just for me. We all need something to keep our sanity. I read.
This summer I read a ton of great books and loved some of them. Here are the five I heartily recommend!

BOOKS TO READ: These were my favorites of the summer! I can highly recommend all of them! Check out the blog post for more details! I know you will agree that the number 1 book on my list is to die for!

This is the third book in the Outlander series. I have read this book a few times and listened to it a few times. When I found the series available on Audible.com I started from the beginning again! I listen to books when I do mindless chores like housework and when I exercise. The narrator of this series is spectacular.
If you are not familiar with Outlander here's a brief background. Claire is visiting Scotland with her husband in the 1960's and finds herself at a standing stone circle. When she touches one of the stones she is thrown through time and awakens to the year 1743 in Scotland. Soon after she meets Jamie Fraser and soon after that must marry him to stay safe. It's quite an adventure and totally believable. It is well written, very historical, and my favorite books ever. Start with Outlander and work through all 8 books. 

This book was compared to books by John Grisham. It is a legal thriller and was a page-turner for me. It's the story of a lawyer, Penn Cage, who returns to his hometown in Mississippi and becomes embroiled in several hometown secrets and scandals. He encounters dishonest judges, corruption with the FBI, and even blackmail of his own family. There might even be a fire or two! It was a fun read.

This book was surprisingly good. It was compared to books like The Hunger Games and I did find that to be somewhat true. It's a futuristic look at a group of captured boys that must constantly try to solve a maze. The maze is inhabited by strange metallic creatures that can harm the boys or kill them. The worst part is that the maze changes every day so any progress made is cast aside. Lots of suspenseful moments and then a girl shows up. Yep, that changes things....

Oh my, I loved this book. Alice is in a spin class and blacks out. When she awakens she has forgotten the last ten years of her life, including the birth of three children. She also discovers her husband has filed for divorce. The rest of the book deals with her change in attitude and behavior after discovering she was a real b**** for the previous ten years. 

This was my favorite. It's the story of a kidnapping. Mia is meeting her boyfriend in a bar and when he doesn't show up she impulsively decides to go home with Colin, a stranger she has just met. After this one night stand he takes her to a remote cabin and keeps her captive. It turns out her father is a prominent judge and the family has some pretty startling secrets. I was nearly at the end of this book, like two pages left, when it seemed the story had been resolved. And then something happened that I completely did not see coming. Great ending. 

There you go Science friends- books you can try when you have a moment or two.

Visit here next Wednesday, I promise the post is about STEM:
Wednesday: What's Going on in Science Class? BUCKET TOWERS!

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