What Have you Been up to Lately?

February.
The shortest month and the hardest to pronounce
and spell.....

It's Currently time again and let's say hello to Farley! By the way, Have you seen Farley's blog re-design! Gorgeous!

  
This will be my 38th edition of this monthly blog post! Wow, Farley, I should get some kind of award!

Anyway, here we go!


LISTENING to pod casts!

Oh.my.goodness. This has become my new obsession. How do you find podcasts if you listen to them? And what are your favorites?
Here's my list of favs right now!
Favorite podcasts lately! Here's a list of podcasts and specific names that are worth listening to. SOme are laugh out loud funny and others are just interesting and thoughtful.

  • Of course, there is Serial! I loved the first season and I am finding the second season to be interesting, but not nearly as mesmerizing as the first. And now you must try the third in the Serial series called S-Town!
  • TED Radio Hour- You should listen to Unstoppable Learning- it's quite funny and so interesting. Also, Adaptations was really good. 
  • This American Life- Try How to Win Friends.
  • Death, Sex, and Money- Try Brooke Shields  and Living Alone, One Year Later, and Stop Calling Me the Homeless Valedictorian.

I listen to podcasts driving to school everyday and then coming home. I once listened to country radio, but now our local station plays Luke Bryan non-stop......can't do it.

LOVING Sir Isaac Newton.

Yep, that's right! We have been tackling Newton's Laws of Motion head on! All three grade levels are in the middle of the best STEM challenges ever and all of them are proving and helping us understand the laws of motion. Y'all a THIRD GRADER came up with the best idea for demonstrating the third law of motion using Hot Wheels track!
STEM Challenge featuring Newton's Laws of Motion! Students build models of cars that are propelled forward on a straight track! Which Law of Motion is this?
This photo is showing something my fourth graders are making. Third graders are also making cars and fifth graders are making Newton's Cradles! You can read more about these on blog posts:


THINKING About Valentine's Day!

STEM Challenges: Are you ready for Valentine's Day? Here are three fabulous challenges to get through this exciting holiday!


When I had a regular third grade class this one day of the year was, like, our second favorite. Birthdays are the first favorite, duh...


The next best thing to birthdays was always Valentine's Day. You had to make that decorated box (or your mom had to....just sayin') and bring that to school to collect all your Valentine Cards. It always cracked me up to watch the kids actually opening all those tiny white envelopes and reading what the cards said. Cause, mostly I think kids randomly write names on those cards and don't pay attention to what they say.
Anyway, now that I have no regular class Valentine's day is a bust.... until I came up some fabulous STEM challenges. You can read a blog post about these Valentine's Day Challenges right {HERE}.


WANTING Vintage Currently Images...


Just take a look at this:
Currently: Here are some cover images of old posts to the weekly link up called Currently!
That just made me laugh when I looked back through some old images of my Currently posts. Here's what I noticed - I am always wanting - a new purse or a housekeeper. Those seem to be repeated the most....sadly I don't have a housekeeper and I am still looking for the perfect handbag!

Do you save your Currently images? Better question--- why do I still have them from 2013?


NEEDING

Let's Talk about Pinterest?
Using Pinterest: How do you choose your pins? Do you follow boards? What catches your eye while you are scrolling through your Pinterest feed? What's your favorite pin ever? This Currently blog post asks a few more questions to get you thinking!


I have been totally overhauling some of my Pinterest boards and trying to make them have a cohesive, interesting look, and wondered if this is ever something you think about. Do you only look at single pins in your main feed? Or do you actually follow boards of other people and scroll through those boards? If you belong to a collaborative board, do you ever visit it or do you just pin to it? Do you like the phone app for Pinterest? I don't, by the way! It has reordered my boards and I can't find anything! Do you use Secret Boards? Here's my favorite secret board: It's called "Read It Later"! I pin things to it that I don't have time to look at and after I read it I can pin it to the right place or delete it!

Anyway, here's my Pinterest Board that features this little blog of mine! You should follow it and then you will never miss anything!



SWOONING over  BOOKS!

What have you read lately? Here's my last three and they were all wonderful!





I love to read. I cannot imagine a day without a book in my hand. I was this way as a first grader and I hope to be this way when I am 93. (Books are linked for you using my Amazon affiliate link).

Have a great February!
10

5 Super Simple and Delicious Recipes for Busy Teachers

If you come here to visit my blog often you know my normal focus is all about Science and STEM.
Well, today, not so much!

Today is all about food and cooking and how busy teachers are and how when you get home after school and had one of those days.......the last thing you want to do is a cook. Right?

Okay, here's the story. We used to eat out. Like a lot. Maybe even every single day. Then that got really old and then we started cooking. Here's what I discovered. If you have some really good recipes, and a crock pot, supper is pretty easy and, truth be told, it becomes a habit to cook. And you can cook in your pajamas. Can't go out to eat in your pj's.

So, I am going to share some tried and true, super easy, seriously simple recipes you just might want to try.
Easy Chicken and crockpot recipes! You will find several great recipes with simple ingredients and quick prep on this post! Great for busy teachers!

I didn't invent these, but I have changed some things about them. Like one of them has rosemary as an ingredient and I have no idea what that even is so I left it out.
I also tend to do the easy way sometimes. Like I don't make cornbread. I use a Jiffy Mix. It's less than a dollar and tastes pretty delicious when you drown it in butter.

Okay, are you ready? Here are the Super Simple Recipes for Busy Teachers!

Crock Pot Chili

Crockpot Chili: I make this with chicken, but you can also try ground beef! It's so good! Make it as spicy as you can stand it and serve with corn bread muffins! This post includes several fabulous recipes!
We have this even in the summer time. Occasionally I forget to get the non-hot chili seasoning envelope and it will be so spicy our noses run. If that happens to you just crumble up your cornbread muffin and stir it into your chili bowl.  And, have plenty of cold water close by.


Lemon Shrimp with Parmesan Rice

Easy Recipe: Lemon Shrimp with Parmesan Rice: I promise this is an easy recipe and so delicious! You will love it! The post includes several easy recipes for busy people!
Now, let me just tell you how scary that photo is. Looks fancy, right? I promise, cross my heart, this was extremely easy. Add more cheese than the recipe says and maybe, even more, chicken broth and then you will have this nice sauce. Maybe throw some broccoli in there, too!


Fiesta Corn Chowder

Easy Crockpot Recipe: It's Fiesta Corn Chowder! My faculty loves this soup! I make it in a crockpot and let it cook all morning and then serve it at lunch time! Good and spicy!
Yes, that is corn soup. Call it chowder, though, and people will think you are a chef. Seriously, you open some cans and pour it all in a pan, and you have soup. And it's really good. Very versatile- I even gave you some options for serving right there on the recipe. Let me just tell, I took this to school once and cooked it in my classroom all morning and then took it for our lunch time teacher feast. One of the teachers liked it so much she went and scouted out a Tupperware bowl from someone and took what was left in the pot home for her supper. You could also add some bacon to it and it would be a killer soup!


Tex-Mex Lasagna

Easy Recipe: It's Tex-Mex Lasagna! Don't be fooled by the word lasagna in the title! This is a really easy to put together dinner. It's also quite tasty! Several more easy recipes on this blog post!
Yeah, I know exactly what you are thinking. When you see the word LASAGNA you cringe. Cause most lasagna is just a pain to make. This one is NOT. I promise. The hardest part was stirring the meat and beans together. After that, you just spread it all in a pan and cook it forever. This would be another great dish to take to a family reunion or teacher feast.
(My faculty feasts a lot. One time we had a feast that was just all salads. Another time we just had all desserts. We don't do Whole 30 at my school.)


 Tuscan T-Bones

Easy Grilling Recipe: It's Tuscan T-Bones! My hubs' favorite meal! This is a grilled steak using a gas grill, but you can try a charcoal grill. Throw some potatoes in to bake when you get home and this steak is ready in less than ten minutes! More easy and quick recipes on this blog post!
Okay, I threw this one in just for your husbands. I don't eat steak. I really don't like steak meat at all. That's why we have chicken and Mexican all the time. But this is my husband's all-time favorite. He loves seeing Tuscan T-bones on the menu. It's really easy to prepare. You just have to have a gas grill. Throw some potatoes in to bake when you get home from school. Even better buy those pre-wrapped potatoes and cook them in the microwave. Get a pre-packaged already made salad and toss a chopped up tomato in it and it will look like you have slaved in the kitchen for a day or two.

When I make this steak for my family I eat a pop tart for supper.
Nothing wrong with pop tarts for supper. I mean, I am already cooking in my pajamas.....right?

5

Can You Rescue Lego Man?

Oh. My. Goodness.
We had the MOST fun ever with this design challenge! My test class loved being the guinea pigs for this challenge and helping decide on the rules of the task!

It's the second in a trio of rescue operations. The basic premise is that a team member has fallen over a drop-off and must be rescued. The remaining teammates must use what they have in their backpacks and sticks laying nearby to build a contraption that will reach the bottom of the ravine and then successfully wind up the fallen team member.

STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!

Who are we going to rescue?

My first idea about this challenge was to give kids some basic building supplies and they would make a cranking or winding device. The fallen teammate would be a Lego man.

Okay........I should have thought about that a little longer.
STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
The group in the above photo made a fishing pole and scooped the Lego man right out of that ravine. It took them about 2.5 minutes to do this.

Now, my students are quite understanding and patient with new challenges. In fact, they LOVE to be the test class. They know when I announce that the group is testing the challenge that it will be interesting. I am quite honest with groups when I tell them, "Oops, that didn't work exactly like I thought it would!" As soon as I say this we all know that we are about to STOP and talk about what is going wrong and how we can change the task rules and make it work better.
As soon as I saw that fishing pole I said. "AGHHHHH, time to talk about adding some rules to this task!"
We came up with this: the device must wind up.

STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
Then we had this! The group above just laid the long pole on the table top and wound it up.
Oops, that is not exactly what I was thinking.

How heavy is a log?

That is when I climbed up on a stool and retrieved this giant log. (I have no idea why I have that giant log in my room, but it came in handy.) 
I climbed down with it and handed it to the first student I came to. Whereupon, he almost dropped it!
Ha! A log is maybe a little bit heavier than you expect! That log is about two and half feet long and 8 inches in diameter.

After letting everyone try holding the log and attempting to hold it and wind it, the kids understood that this would not be possible with a real log on a cliff side! So, we went back to make sure our rules for this task were detailed.

The device that extends over into the ravine must be strong enough to attach a container and then be wound up. To wind it up we decided a handle would be best. This was after a discussion of what kinds of real things kids have seen that would work like this. Two things were mentioned- a fishing rod and reel and the jack system used in a car. A student said the jack his dad uses has a fold out handle that makes it easy to turn.

So, we got back to work!
STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
I love this photo. Sometimes I worry that groups of four students is just too many. Partners are sometimes the ideal number, but the cost of supplies keeps me from always using partners. However, we also discover that many hands are sometimes needed!

So, were we able to solve this dilemma and follow the rules of the task?

STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
Can you see what is going on with this one? The string is threaded through a straw and the straw is attached to a dowel stick. The handle to turn the dowel stick was added later and when the kids turned it the string traveled through the straw and wound around it.

By far, the hardest part of this challenge was getting the log (dowel stick) to turn. Here are a few fabulous ways kids solved this.
STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
The one above has a straw folded over the stick. This gave it enough space to turn when the handle was cranked.

STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
The arrow in the one above is showing you that a piece of tape that is folded over a straw and taped to itself. Then they punched a hole in the tape to thread the stick through. This group resorted to this because they had used all of their other supplies!
STEM Challenge! Building real-life models of rescue devices! Students must build a cranking device. Using a real life scenario the idea is to build a device to rescue a fallen friend- and it has a tricky part!
The one above is showing that the team punched holes in the straws and then threaded the stick through. Pretty clever!

I loved this challenge! We (the test class) worked so hard to refine and rework the task rules until we came up with constraints that made the task difficult, but doable. By the time I tried this with the next group all the kinks were worked out. The best part is that all week long I would see the test class kids and they would ask how it was going!


2

Getting Rid of the Fear of Failure

The topic of failure is one I write about often. You see, my classroom is a lab.

A place to experiment. A place to make mistakes and learn from them. A risk-free, test-it-and-see-what-happens kind of place.

We mess up all the time.

And it is OKAY!
STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!

WARNING: There is a good bit of hyperbole in this post! I don't yell in my classroom unless we are cheering. And I don't actually say some of the things I havewritten  in this post- at least not in the exact words :)

So, last spring I spent a blog post writing all about some major goof-ups we had experienced and it was a popular post. Not a pretty post at all, as you have come to expect. Little did you know, that not ALL of my STEM events are spectacular.

Some are rather ugly.

So, here are our latest flubs, awfulness, and total wacky mess-ups.

Enjoy! And just know that these failures have taught us so much- mostly we learned that being scared to fail is a perfect way to never risk trying.... Keep reading!

SNOWMEN

STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!

Okay, I had this terrific idea about making snowmen. And, mind you, it was a GREAT idea and eventually worked in the best way, like ever. But only after the test class helped me work it all out.
In the test class, I neglected to mention that the snowman might need to be small. And because my kids are super competitive (even though there is NEVER a prize for winning), they set out to make the largest possible snowman they could.

Hence that monstrous looking thing in the photo.

One of the supplies is a roll of toilet paper. I never dreamed any group would literally use the entire roll, but this group did. I would not give them a second roll so part of their finished guy was purely the food ads from the paper.

Next class had better rules about the task from me!
Failure on my part in not thinking through the task rules or at least my instructions! 

ARROWS

Yes, you read that right.
ARROWS
STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!


I had this brain pop one night and thought some Cupid Bow and Arrows would just be the best STEM event in the world. I know what you are thinking, and no, I am not crazy. Just excited about the possibilities---- so much so that I didn't think this one through all the way.

Failure on my part in not expecting kids to do what you see in that photo.

Using a box of materials, which included toothpicks, they were to build the bow and an arrow. 
What did I think they would do with those toothpicks? Well, jeez, I never thought they would use them for the point of the arrows. And when I saw it happening I distinctly remember yelling, "Are you guys nuts? You can't use those pointy things on your arrows!" At which point a kid with a very arched and raised eyebrow said, "What did you think we would make the arrows out of?" 
"THE STRAWS!" I yelled back.
Then I went around with scissors and cut the points off all their arrows. Cause, yep, they all made pointy arrows. And let me just tell you this in case you don't know it---- round toothpicks can stab you. Like poke into your finger and stab you. So, at the end of this test class, I put the toothpicks away and the next classes had Cotton Swabs instead. Keep going. There is more about the bow and arrows....

 TARGET PRACTICE

STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!

Now, you have to admit that is the BEST picture. You can see the arrow flying through the air! Total accident- I am not that good with a camera! Anyway, total failure on my part (again) in thinking that target practice using the lab tables would work.

I put those cute little heart targets up and told the kids to shoot at the hearts when they needed to test their bows. A few minutes later I distinctly remember yelling, "What are you doing? Are you guys nuts?"  Cause it was about then I looked around and saw an arrow flying toward a lab table, but all the teammates were standing behind the lab table!!!!!!

We had to stop class for me to get my blood pressure under control and then sweetly explain to the children that they could NOT stand in the line of fire, particularly with an unpredictable craft stick bow and pointy ended arrow flying at them!

DISCLAIMER HERE (AGAIN): I am maybe using some (okay, a lot of)  hyperbole or similar figurative language in describing exactly what I yelled or that I yelled at all. I do not normally call my students nuts. Or yell at them. But with the target practice thing, I might have.

By the next class, I had targets on ONE spot of my wall and a list of strictly followed rules about when and how you could fire your Q-tip arrows.

 MAGNETIC MAZES

STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!

 I truly thought this would work.

We have built a lot of mazes and kids love them. So, I thought a magnetic one would just be super cool! I found the cookie sheets at the dollar store and for a mere $8 had enough for a whole class. I gave them a pan and a magnetic marble and some magnets- fully expecting that a magnet pushed on the bottom of the pan would make the magnetic marble on the top of the pan move.

Uh, well, no.

Epic failure on my part in not testing ONE pan before I purchased eight of them. My magnets were just not strong enough. We could make a paper clip move, but the magnetic ball stubbornly stuck to one spot. This one did turn out okay, however, because the kids did build some great mazes and I did find one hockey puck size magnet that we shared and were able to follow our maze paths.

FAILURE IS OKAY

STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!

Now, I just have to end by telling you this. We fail every day in the lab. My test classes always know that I have no idea how something is going to work and they know I will stop them when something is going badly wrong so we can re-do, redesign, add a rule, or otherwise fix an unsafe thing- like toothpick arrows.

These examples were all failures on my part and that is the coolest thing ever. The kids see me fail and pick up on how I handle it. For the most part, they see me getting wide-eyed and puzzled at why something didn't work like I thought it would, but here's the thing.

THEY NEVER SEE ME GIVE UP. They never see me being afraid to stick my neck out and try something over.

I hope, with all my heart, that this triggers in my students a diligence and perseverance to finish every task, even when it seems that it will just never work. Never give up. Try again.

I really believe that kids learn best from the things that go wrong than from the things that work correctly. When is failure alright? When you learn something from it- that's when! And this happens with us every single day!

That is why I love STEM so much.
Well, that and the fact that it's not every day you see a toothpick arrow flying through the air.


STEM Lab Failures: Sometimes we have some epic failures in the lab and it is just really okay! Children learn from errors much more so than from always being correct! Read about some great failures on my part lately!


0

5 Ways to Get Started in STEM

I get so many questions about STEM and, in fact, I devoted a whole blog series to the topic last summer. Questions include: 
"How hard it is to get started? What supplies will I need? Where will I get ideas?"

So, I thought I would devote a post to five questions I am asked often about STEM !
Have you considered trying a STEM Challenge in your classroom? Are you a little apprehensive when you try something new? Do you have questions? I'd love to help you! In fact, I have written several blog posts about this very topic. Zip over to my blog right now to find five questions answered that I am asked most often. You will find easy answers, photos, advice, links to more reading about STEM, and a small freebie! Best of all, you will discover your kids LOVE STEM and will beg to do more!

First Question:
How will I make time for STEM?

Easy answer: Integrate! Overlap your subjects! If you are reading about inventions, add a STEM task at the end. If you reading and writing about forms of energy, have your students design and build a windmill. You guys know how to do this! You do it all the time.
Here's the best example I can give you and it comes from a feedback a buyer left me recently!
What a fabulous idea! Complete the STEM challenge and then incorporate the results into your writing plan!

Here's another idea?

Are you reading about Snowflake Bentley right now? Is it snowing where you live? Why not spend some time reading about snow, writing poems about snow, and then throw in a couple of STEAM tasks?
STEM Challenge: Build a Snowflake! Easy materials and great fun- plus the added mathematical element of symmetry and measurement!

STEM Challenge: Build a snowman! Follow specific design constraints to make a cute snowman model. This works for wintery climates and places that never get snow!
Those two photos are showing you two winter STEM/STEAM tasks we just finished and they were so much fun! We spent time learning how snowflakes form, talked about how to build a snowman, and then made each.
We also designed igloos after viewing a video of how to build one and why they are built! Do you know why igloos have a dome shaped roof?

Anyway, pull some STEM right into what you are already doing! I promise, it will be worth your time!

Second Question: How will I get my kids to work together?

Easy Answer: Work on it!
Team work in my classroom doesn't just happen. We spend lots of time on team building activities when school begins in August and this is also how I started us out when school resumed this week!
Here are two of our favorite team activities:
STEM Challenge: Make a paper chain using one piece of paper! What a great community building activity this is!
 In this one teams are given one piece of paper and the task is to build a paper chain as long as possible. It's a great way to introduce team collaboration, listening to each other's ideas, and then dividing the jobs within a group. You can read more about it {HERE}
Team Building in STEM class
This is one my kids love so much. The kids form a circle and then each one picks up a string or two. In the photo the strings are pink and they are all attached to a center ring. I start off with having kids lift a tennis ball and then get progressively harder with the items they have to pick up. You can read more about this {HERE}.

My advice is to try some team building events and talk through decisions kids have to make in order for their team to work best.

I often use a poster to work on Group Dynamics.
Have you considered trying a STEM Challenge in your classroom? Are you a little apprehensive when you try something new? Do you have questions? I'd love to help you! In fact, I have written several blog posts about this very topic. Zip over to my blog right now to find five questions answered that I am asked most often. You will find easy answers, photos, advice, links to more reading about STEM, and a small freebie! Best of all, you will discover your kids LOVE STEM and will beg to do more!
We talk about each one of the things on the poster (not all on the same day). Click on the poster to get your free copy!

Third Question:
What is STEM? What is the Engineering Design Process?

Easy Answer: Get kids to design something with the steps of the EDP!
I have posters in my lab that show these things along with the Scientific Method. I can bet you money that my students can recite the Scientific Method steps and what each means-- but about a month ago I realized that they might not be able to tell you very much about the EDP! So, I created a way to help cement this information for them. They loved it because it involved coloring and cutting (BUT NO GLUE)!
STEM Class: Make Little Flipper books to introduce topics and get your kids ready for STEM!
This really did help with my thirdies and I will start this off in August next year with my new third graders. It's a fabulous way to get kids to write in Science class and it also has parts where they can show off their creativity. You can read more about this {HERE}

Fourth Question: Where will I get supplies? Aren't there a lot of things I need?

EASY ANSWER: The dollar store. Next easy answer: Ask parents to send in things.
This year I asked for paper towel roll tubes and toilet tissue tubes. I now have enough of those stored to last for about 30 years.
I'm not kidding!
 I also asked for straws. Take a look at this:
STEM: Team Building in STEM class is as easy as trying to lift an object with a set of connected strings. Kids have to work together tho keep that center object aloft. We make the center object easy to begin and then get progressively harder!
Those are straws.
About 4000.
I am not kidding.
Parents sent all those in. I also have enough craft sticks to last about forever. 
Seriously though, try the dollar store- we have one called the Dollar Tree. (Not sure why tree is in its name, but it is still a fun place for teachers!)
You can read more about STEM supplies from the Dollar Tree right {HERE}


Fifth Question: Doesn't STEM require a lot of prep and setting up the stuff?

Easy Answer: Yes. Second Easy Answer: NO!
This entirely depends on the challenge you choose.
We absolutely loved designing Pancakes. This required setting up griddles and mixing bowls, learning how to measure ingredients, and then cooking batch after batch as we experimented. The kids loved this. I would NEVER recommend this to someone that is just starting out!
But I would heartily recommend this one:
STEM Challenge: This one use one supply! Easy prep, easy clean up, great learning, and super fun! What could be easier!
It has one supply.
ONE.
SUPPLY.
Index cards. That is all.
You can  opt to use tape, too!
This is super easy and yet it follows the engineering design process, involves great team work and collaboration, definitely makes kids think and problem solve, and most assuredly leads to learning about many things!

So, there you have it! Answers to some perplexing questions that will help you get going in STEM as this second semester begins.

You can also try my Summer STEM Series:
Click on the links below to get to those topics:

You can also contact me. Find the link at the top of the page!
I would love to answer your questions! 




5

How to Cross a Chasm in a STEM lab

Are you ready for a rescue challenge?

I knew my students would like this because we tried one last year! It was in a series that I called Same Supplies-Two Tasks. (You can read more about that one right HERE.)
In that series, two groups were given the same supplies, built different things, and then joined the two things together! It was pretty spectacular!

Anyway, I knew kids liked the rescue idea, so we worked on this:
STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
First, we learned how to say the word "chasm"! Do you know how?


Here's the premise behind this challenge.

The group is hiking and some of them make it across a chasm. They are stranded, however, without food. The other half of the team must devise a way to get food across the chasm.
Sounds pretty simple, right?

WRONG!
I added a twist to it.
Of course.
Do you know me?
There is always a twist to make it challenging!
In this one, the way the food carrier is transported across the chasm is:
by the WIND!
Yep.

STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
I rigged up the apparatus above. It's just two desks with a fishing line strung between them- four feet wide.
STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
Then I added a fan sitting on the floor. It's aimed at the crossing line. Now, the kids have to build something to hang from the line that the fan will blow all the way across!
STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
There's one going above. The kids knew right away that they would have to have something built that would catch the wind. The group above made a very tiny little sail.

STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
One problem was building the container to place the "food" in. (The food was actually a ping pong ball.)
STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!

This group is making a parachute contraption! Will that work?

STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
Here it goes....
 STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
It didn't go all the way! The problem the kids discovered is that a parachute can't catch the wind when it is facing the floor. It would have to be turned parallel to the floor.
STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
The group above thought the wind would just be driven into the opening of the cup and sail across. NOPE! The opening is too small and the device also tended to turn around backward.

STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!

I LOVE THIS ONE! It looks like a ski lift chair. Sadly, it didn't work very well!


STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
This group added a large piece of foil behind the food carrier and it worked fairly well. The foil is heavier than you would think!

STEM Challenge: It's a real life challenge involving a rescue. Students build a device to cross a chasm powered only by wind! Wait until you hear the cheers when this one works! Awesome!
Finally, I had so many groups that thought a paper airplane would work! What do you think?


So, that's our first (of a trio) of rescue challenges! 

We loved it. The kids would gather around the testing tables and encourage the devices to go-go-go and then cheer when they did. Believe it or not, one group made a contraption that sailed across in 5.09 seconds!

One final thing! How do you say the word "chasm"? It's a hard C sound --kaz em! 




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9 Ways to Enjoy Winter Vacation 2015!

I hope you have had a very relaxing and much-needed school break! It is so good to be off and sleep later and wear yoga pants and t-shirts and just be calm. I even wore yoga pants to Wal-Mart yesterday and I never do that!

If you have been hanging with me on this blog for a while you know that my family takes a winter vacation about every year. We have done this since our kids were very small and they are now adults- old adults, like 27 and 30!

Anyway, this year we took off for Lake Tahoe!
We stopped in Reno and did some ski shopping and then zipped into South Lake Tahoe after dark.
The rest, is very interesting........
So, here's the top 9 ways this winter break was......different...

First day was all travel, including a shopping excursion in Reno- where I found new ski boots!

If you have ever skied you know how important it is to have well-fitted and warm boots. These are spectacular!
Oops, sorry, that is not one of the 9 Ways to Enjoy a Ski Vacation, but worth mentioning anyway.

So, here are the  NINE WAYS!

#1 and #2 Sierra at Tahoe

Our first day of skiing we opted to go to a resort about 30 minutes away from South Lake Tahoe where we were staying and off we went in heavy snow:
It is hard to take a photo of falling snow, but there you have it- it snowed non-stop.
Now, I know what you are thinking......if you are skiing you would want snow, right?
Nope.
Nada.
Snow on the ground is a big yes.
But falling from the sky, not so much.
When you are snow covered here are the things that happen- your goggles fog over or get crusted with frozen snow flakes- which means you cannot see. Everything gets covered with snowflakes and then they melt and you are wet.
WET.
We skied until we were all soaked and cold and just ready to go back to the condo and rest.
Sierra at Tahoe is a fabulous resort. The weather gets zero stars....

#3 Board Games

Normally we play Settlers of Cataan when we are traveling. This year my son purchased a new game for us. It's called Carcasonne!
I like it so much more than Settlers! You pull the pieces from a pile and build a landscape. Points are scored based on where you place your tiles. Let me just tell you this- if you ever play this game you need to place some farmers in the fields. Those guys score big in the end! And they just lay there doing nothing for the entire game!

#4 Day 2 and an Attempt to ski in another place!

Lake Tahoe is surrounded by ski resorts and the main one is called Heavenly. However, we know that Heavenly can be a little difficult unless the sun is shining, so when we got up on day 2 and it was still snowing and cloudy, we decided to take off for Homewood. This is the cutest small resort across the lake and we piled in the van to go!
Along the way we finally saw our first, yes FIRST, glimpse of the lake. Did I mention that it was snowing and cloudy and foggy....
Breath-taking.
This shot was taken around the bend from the single most beautiful place on earth. 
Emerald Bay.
But.....we never made it to Emerald Bay.
Because right after we stopped and took photos of the lake we set off driving again and the road was blocked- by an avalanche.
Yes, friends.
An Avalanche.
So, we turned around and headed back to South Lake Tahoe.

#5 and #6 Let's try a different resort! 

Well, that sounded great when we talked about it. Kirkwood was on our way back to SLT, so we headed there.
Kirkwood was a bust. The roads to get to Kirkwood were impassable unless you had chains on your tires.
So, we decided to drive north to Incline Village. This is the sweetest little town at the north shore of Tahoe on the Nevada side. We tried two fabulous things there.
One was a coffee shop called IV Coffee. 
As in I.V. Funny, right?
The barista had some fun with our lattes. We each had a picture "painted" in the foam.
Just look at this:
Seriously. The guy was talented. He drew a heart for me and a snowman for my daughter, and an eagle for our son-in-law. The elephant was for hubs- who just happened to be wearing a Roll Tide cap.....

After coffee we headed to a rock climbing gym and I watched the kids climb:
Zipping up the wall is my daughter and my son and his girlfriend are watching her.
I didn't climb, but I did enjoy this book:
Have you read this? You seriously should. It is a beautifully written memoir!

#7 Happy Birthday!

My daughter surprised me with a birthday cake one night. My birthday is Christmas Day and she always tries to recognize the day in a sweet way.
This was delicious.
The doodads on the cake were not edible- even though we all tried pieces of it....


#8 Finally.

FINALLY.
Wednesday was a sunny day and not snowing and we tackled Heavenly.
It is truly amazing to see this.
The skiing was mostly good, but a little crowded.

#9 Art

We were standing in line to ride the Heavenly gondola back to the bottom at the end of the day and I looked around and saw this:
The trees were covered in these little balls of frozen snow. They were works of art. Beautiful.

So, there you have it. Nine ways to have an interesting winter break!
Go skiing. If you have never tried it you should put it on your bucket list.
If you want to read about our winter vacation from last year click right {HERE}!

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