Launching a Food Delivery Project in the Classroom

Well, my goodness, I am sure you have had pizza delivered to your house or sandwiches. So, I was thinking about another form of food delivery and wondered what people would like to eat- different from pizza and sandwiches....

How about a giant baked potato with all the fixings? I would order that!

Keep reading for the whole story!
STEM Project! This is a big one! It's all about baked potatoes and a delivery company. Kids invent a company, create the marketing, design a delivery box, and then share their ads! Total fun and so much learning! Check this blog post!
So, I had some other ideas a while back that cooking in our lab might be fun. We tried pancakes and the kids loved it. I kept thinking about other ways to involve food and happened upon this idea quite by accident. I overheard someone complaining one day about only being able to get pizza delivered and wishing other restaurants did the same. (Yes, we know others do deliver, but not in our small town!)

So, I started thinking about what people would want to have delivered..... BAM! I had invented a STEM challenge- not to mention a delivery restaurant idea!

Design a Delivery Box

So, here's the premise: The kids must invent a delivery restaurant that will bring baked potatoes to your door. How, you ask, do we get STEM involved in this?

Alright, let's go step by step. First, the kids had to design a delivery box. It had to keep the potato hot and crush proof in case they dropped the delivery box. Check these photos:
STEM Challenge: Kids are using packing materials of their choice to line the boxes, but they must also consider what kind of materials will keep the food hot. It's the great Baked Potato challenge!
Kids are using packing materials of their choice to line the boxes, but they must also consider what kind of materials will keep the food hot.

The Heat Test

And just how are we going to know the food will stay hot? We tested it!

After the boxes were stuffed we actually cooked some potatoes and placed them in the box. We used digital thermometers and tested the potatoes to see how much the temperature would drop in 20 minutes. The kids recorded data every minute. Can you see the temps in those pictures? One is 204 degrees and the other says 197!

Advertising

At the same time that this box designing was happening other team members were making advertisements for the potato company. The team chose a name, a logo, and a slogan and then made billboards for their companies.
Take note of the social media on these posters- websites and Instagram!

Some companies offered refunds and Buy One Get One Free! Notice that the company called Potato Tots is also advertising that they now have Sweet Tea! (Yes, we live in the south!)

Decorating the Delivery Boxes

Another thing each company had to do was decorate their delivery boxes. We looked at some pizza boxes to see what needed to be on our boxes and then created some masterpieces!

I don't have any photos of the last thing each company did, but they also had to perform a television commercial- which meant writing a script and then acting out their ad.

We love this challenge! The kids are so excited by all of this as they work together in larger than normal groups to invent their own delivery company. Your natural little artists will take over the advertising and your technical kids will take on the data recording of the heat test. The best part is the commercial they invent. 

Super fun challenge!

It has so many parts to it and takes about three weeks to complete! Of course, that includes baking some extra taters and eating them! 



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The Last Page is Like Losing a Friend

Do you ever read the end of a book and put it away only to find yourself later still thinking about reading it? Then you realize you finished it. When this happens to me I still think about the characters and miss them. I miss reading the book. These are the best books, aren't they? Here's some I read recently that I can recommend to you!
Five books you should probably read! Check this blog post for more!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

This is a book in the series about a lawyer turned writer named Penn Cage. In this book he is involved with solving the murder of a teenager from the local high school. The story involves more murders, drugs, an exchange student from Croatia, and Penn's best friend, Drew. Somehow these are all tangled together.

This is by an author compared to John Grisham. This book is one of a series about Penn Cage- a lawyer turned writer- that returns to his home in Natchez, Mississippi with his very young daughter. In the first book, I read in this series his wife had died and he then found himself embroiled in solving a decades-old civil rights murder mystery. In this book,  he is involved in solving the murder of a teenager from the local high school. The story involves more murders, drugs, an exchange student from Croatia, and Penn's best friend, Drew. Somehow these are all tangled together. Penn is helped in solving the case by his babysitter, an old friend, his father, and a few other people. I enjoyed this book- definitely a page-turner! It's a fast-paced and a jam-packed with action kind of book, which I like better than normal chick books. 

Now, having said that, it is quite graphic in the details of some of the things that went on with the murders and the way high school students deal with one another. I did raise an eyebrow a few times and wondered how true to real life this all might be. But, considering that we all have read Harry Potter I think that's hardly a reason not to like a book!

Anyway, it was a good read- if you like investigative or lawyer style books! (But read the first book before you read this one- It's called The Quiet Game.)

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

It's the story of Shep who has just purchased one way tickets to an island in Africa and has plans to move there for retirement, never to return to the USA. When he informs his wife, Glynis, she simply says, "Well, I'm going to need your health insurance" and then proceeds to tell him she has mesothelioma.

This book was on my list for a long time and I finally found it in my favorite second-hand store. It's the story of Shep who has just purchased one-way tickets to an island in Africa and has plans to move there for retirement, never to return to the USA. When he informs his wife, Glynis, she simply says, "Well, I'm going to need your health insurance" and then proceeds to tell him she has mesothelioma. 

In the next few chapters you learn about her diagnosis and then she undergoes surgery. It turns out that this specific type of cancer is difficult to deal with, the surgery is hit-or-miss, and response to chemo is also not good. Glynis battles for her life as Shep takes care of her. It also turns out that she may have gotten this cancer from exposure to asbestos. As the two main characters deal with this, Shep's retirement money flies out the window. 

There's another story line about Shep's best friend Jackson. The story is somewhat amusing- Jackson decides to have a certain body part enlarged and the doctor he sees for this makes a mess of it. This, of course, changes Jackson's marriage drastically. And, eventually, this problem Jackson has comes to a tragic conclusion. There are other characters woven into this story- Shep's sister that asks for money constantly. Shep's dad who is in need of elderly care, Jackson's disabled daughter, and Shep's boss. There is also a lawsuit to be dealt with.

There were parts of this book, to be honest, that I skimmed through. There are a lot of back-stories that I did not find interesting. The heart of the story, however, comes down to the care that Shep provides for his wife and how it is handled in the end. It turns out to be a beautiful story.

Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith

This is the story of Charlie and William, identical twins, that adopt a walkie-talkie type language as youngsters. They soon learn the NATO phonetic alphabet- Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.... and William is dismayed that his name is not part of the alphabet. Hence, he becomes Whiskey. Charlie is often (practically always) overshadowed by the more outgoing popular Whiskey and grows increasingly resentful. Their estrangement continues into adulthood until a tragic accident leaves Whiskey in a coma.
Fabulous book! I was hooked from the very first page and read all of it! (I often skim books that have long yucky passages!)

This is the story of Charlie and William, identical twins, that adopt a walkie-talkie type language as youngsters. They soon learn the NATO phonetic alphabet- Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.... and William is dismayed that his name is not part of the alphabet. Hence, he becomes Whiskey. Charlie is often (practically always) overshadowed by the more outgoing popular Whiskey and grows increasingly resentful. Their estrangement continues into adulthood until a tragic accident leaves Whiskey in a coma.

 The chapters alternate between their childhood and present-day as the family continues a vigil at Whiskey's hospital bedside. It was about mid-way through the book that I realized that the chapter names (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie... actually had something to do with the story unfolding in each chapter!)

Spectacular book! I loved the story lines and things are revealed throughout that you don't expect- including the way it ended. You need to read this one!

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

The book opens with meeting Cat, an alcoholic young woman that is struggling. You quickly learn her back story- a cruel father and a mother that was chronically depressed. The story switches then after her father's death and her mom begins to tell her a secret. Ends up being somewhat predictable, but light reading with a few twists that are a surprise.

This book's cover proclaims it to be the perfect summer beach read and although I don't normally like chick lit, I thought I would try this one.

The book opens with meeting Cat, an alcoholic young woman that is struggling. You quickly learn her story- a cruel father and a mother that was chronically depressed. The story switches then after her father's death and her mom begins to tell her a secret.

Interwoven into her mom's revelation you learn about mom's early life. Mom, named Audrey, married Richard and moved to London. Richard was not a pleasant person, and after a few months, Audrey returned to the US, to Nantucket, to help her aunt Judith organize a home for sale. There Audrey meets Brooks. Brooks, it turns out, is part of Audrey's secret. When this is revealed to the daughter, Cat, it also sends Cat to Nantucket to meet Brooks and his family. The meeting is a huge disaster.
Eventually, the story delves into Cat's struggle with overcoming alcoholism and the meltdown of her own family back in London. She does return to Nantucket and the book ends with all the things that happen there.

 It does turn out to be somewhat predictable (like all chick lit books), but I did stick with it. Most definitely, you will learn a lot about AA meetings and alcoholism. This would make a perfect beach book (like the cover says) because it's light reading and you will not think about it for days afterward.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

Oh my.  This is the story of Joseph an eighth grader, 13 years old. After some trouble with a juvenile center Joseph is taken in as a foster child with Jack's family. There Joseph learns to do farm chores as he struggles with his past. This includes the fact that he has a daughter- named Jupiter. Yes, he is 13. This was a fabulous, very short little book!
Oh, my. 
This is the story of Joseph an eighth grader, 13 years old. After some trouble with a juvenile center, Joseph is taken in as a foster child with Jack's family. There Joseph learns to do farm chores as he struggles with his past. This includes the fact that he has a daughter- named Jupiter. Yes, he is 13. So, was the mother. Little by little Joseph's story is told- abusive father, never cared for, and when he meets Maddie things change. He loves her, despite their ages and improbably she has a baby. Joseph attends school with Jack and they have several encounters with bullies that create a touching and brother-like relationship. I won't reveal what happens eventually, but this tiny little book will startle you in many ways. The ending was a surprise.

Now, you also have to totally get past the fact that two 13 year-olds became parents, but here's the main thing I loved about this book. There are no vivid details about these events. When there are adults or kids that are speaking profanely you never see their words. The author just tells you that words not fit to be heard are being spoken. This is a young person's book for sure, but a very clean and appropriate one. I don't think it would be one I would recommend to elementary age kids!  But, for you, I would highly recommend this little book (75 pages). It will stay with you for a while.

There you go reading friends, five new books for you to try! Some of them may stay with you for while- you might even miss them!

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5 Things I Learned about STEM from First Graders!

After a few years with upper elementary grades, I am in the midst of a new adventure! I will now have first and second graders! Oh, my! Let's just say this is a tad scary.....
But, a few surprises came my way during the first days with the very smallest engineers.

We built bridges!


STEM Challenges and First Graders! This post will encourage you to try STEM Challenges with first graders as I describe the things the smallest engineers taught me. They love STEM and approach tasks with their own unique style. Examples are listed of our experience building bridges! Are you ready for STEM and Grade 1? Yes! #STEM

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A Real Life Story to Inspire a Bridge Challenge

One day, a long time ago, I saw a news bulletin that included a photo of children in Nepal crossing a river to get to school. They had a footbridge to use and one side of it had collapsed. The children moved their feet along a rope and clung to the remaining sections of the bridge with their hands. In this precarious way, the crossed the river.

I have never forgotten that image of those precious children clinging to a collapsed bridge, risking their lives to go to school.

Some years later I saw that the government of Nepal and private charitable organizations were building gliding bridges for these people. They would be able to sit in a glider box (think about a ski lift) and pull themselves along a rope to get to the other side.

Which then led to this STEM Challenge!
STEM Challenge: In Nepal, people in remote villages build a bridge that crosses rivers by installing a rope across the river. Dangling from the rope is a passenger carrier and once you are seated in the carrier the passengers pull on the rope to glide the carrier across the river. We decided to try to build a model of this gliding bridge! Check this blog post for more!
We have built a lot of bridges in STEM Class!
In fact, you can read more about bridges right here:

What is a Gliding Bridge?

We watched videos about the bridges in STEM class and then decided to try to build a model.
First, we had to decide what a gliding bridge is!

STEM Challenge: After a little research we determined that a gliding bridge is a rope pulley system that carries passengers across a river or canyon by means of the passengers themselves. Once seated in the carrier the passengers reach to the overhead ropes and pull until they have crossed over to the other side. Check this blog post for more!
After a little research, we determined that a gliding bridge is a rope pulley system that carries passengers across a river or canyon by means of the passengers themselves. Once seated in the carrier the passengers reach to the overhead ropes and pull until they have crossed over to the other side. What makes this work is two things: great supports on each side of the river and pulleys or some kind of ability for the rope to be easily pulled.

A good foundation is necessary!

STEM Challenge: Build a bridge. Knowing that the supports on each side of the river were very important led to the first decision each team had to make. They were given a choice of what material to use for their anchors on each side. Check this blog post for more!
Knowing that the supports on each side of the river were very important led to the first decision each team had to make. They were given a choice of what material to use for their anchors on each side. We used two lab tables that were about 2 feet apart for our river banks. The kids could choose from three types of foundations- rocky soil, sandy soil, or clay.

Can you also build the passenger car?

STEM Challenge: Build a passenger car for a bridge system. The next decision was the passenger carrier. What should it look like? Wow! We had so many different ways to cross that river! Our passengers were ping pong balls! Check this post for more!
The next decision was the passenger carrier. What should it look like? Wow! We had so many different ways to cross that river! Our passengers were ping pong balls! Again, the kids had to choose from available materials and decide how to build the carrier. Some of them chose craft sticks! What do you think happened when these carriers were tested? (Hint: They might have been heavy!)

Solving Problems

STEM Challenge: This challenge presented so many dilemmas! One of the biggest problems to solve had to do with connecting the "rope" for the pulley system. Kids learned very quickly that the rope had to be securely attached to the support on each side. Check this post for ore!
This challenge presented so many dilemmas! One of the biggest problems to solve had to do with connecting the "rope" for the pulley system. Kids learned very quickly that the rope had to be securely attached to the support on each side. Look at the clever ways they found to attach the rope! The photo on the bottom right is a pulley the team designed!

Now, put it all together! Will it work?

STEM Challenge: To test the final bridge system kids had to demonstrate a crossing. We all cheered if their passenger car made it across without a mishap! Check this blog post for more!
To test the final bridge system kids had to demonstrate a crossing. We all cheered if their passenger car made it across without a mishap! 

What a fabulous global lesson this turned out to be!
You can read more about this challenge {HERE}.
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5 Routines for Specialists!

It's August/September and it's time to go back to school!

Are you ready?

I have some new parts (like more classes) to my job this year and it is making me even more aware of the need for teaching routines and procedures in the first weeks of school. I know you are like me in expecting things to run smoothly and like clockwork as students come in that door every morning. I learned a long time ago that this is not the way it happens! The procedures and routines of any classroom have to be explicitly taught and practiced- just as much as math skills or swinging a golf club.

So, if you are a specialist, this will be a fun read and may give you some ideas. If you are a NEW specialist, you need this post and dozens more like it, to get you ready to start with multiple classes!
Let's get going with the top routines I am planning to work on!
Specialists need to really work on those classroom routines and procedures because of the limited time students are in their classrooms. Check this blog post or a few ideas!
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Amazing Charleston and Feats of Engineering

Ready for some vacation engineering?
So, early in the summer, we went to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days! It is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL and fun place to visit. I highly recommend that you spend some time there. Take a horse and buggy ride first and have your driver tell you the things you need to do.

In the meantime, I was captivated by things we saw that I tried to figure out.
I mean, really, who looks at bridges and thinks about STEM......

STEM on vacation! Check this blog post for some things we saw on a recent vacation that made me think of STEM and what I could do in the classroom!

So, here's what happened. We went to this fort and one of the things we kept seeing were these little metal tracks, like railroad tracks, only curved. It took a while (and our tour guide's explanation) to figure out what these were. And then I was blown away. How on earth did people engineer that in the 1800's?

So that made me take a closer look at everything we saw- as a feat of engineering. I went back through my photos just to see what other things I captured .... Take a look!


The Pineapple Fountain

This is the famous Pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!
This is the famous Pineapple fountain. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!

Look at the photo below to see the whole thing and all the spouts working together. Amazing.
This is the famous Pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!
It's actually much larger than it appears to be. There were kids all over the place wading in the water at the bottom and playing. This is a little waterfront park with giant houses right across from the park. And in the distance, you can see the bridge that was completely overwhelming!

A Suspension Bridge!

STEM! The photo is showing only one of the cable sections. There are two. From a distance those cable look like strings, but when we drove across you realize these are gigantic steel cables. This photo will make students so excited about building suspension bridge models!
We drove across this bridge when we first got to Charleston and then back and forth across it several more times. It is truly a marvel. The photo above is showing only one of the cable sections. There are two. From a distance, those cables look like strings, but when we drove across you realize these are gigantic steel cables. Look at the photos below to see more.

STEM! Driving across this fabulous bridge you realize these are gigantic steel cables. This photo will make students so excited about building suspension bridge models!
Even with those pictures, you cannot truly understand the size of those cables. Those are light poles beside them if that will give you some perspective. My first thought when I saw this bridge was, "Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to show pictures of this to my students when we get ready to build suspension bridges again!" Yeah, I know, that is totally weird. But, I know they will be so excited. It's one thing to build a bridge from craft sticks and hot glue and quite another to see this marvel up close. It makes you appreciate those engineers that had this concept and then made it happen!
Our classroom Suspension Bridge project is located right {HERE}

Fort Moultrie


Those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim?  Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks. That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them. More feats of engineering on this blog post!
Okay, this is the moment when I was blown away by how these cannons were engineered. First, of all, I thought cannons from the Revolutionary War or the Civil War were small. Y'all those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim? 

Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks.
That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them.
Those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim?  Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks. That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them. More feats of engineering on this blog post!
You can see the tracks in these photos, too. I thought this was truly genius and I can't wait to show my students these pictures. What do you think we can build- using this knowledge?!

The Angel Oak Tree

This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Okay, I am guilty of buying those tourist guidebooks when we go places. You know, the ones that always have a page called "The Top 10 Places You Must Visit"! And this little tree was strongly recommended. So, off we went, in pouring rain, to visit the Angel Oak Tree. This tree is in its own little park and the tree is not little.

First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old. It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. That number seems little until you take a look at a tree in your yard. Our largest tree is about four feet in circumference. So, 28 feet is ridiculous. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly astounding.

This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
So, how is this engineering. Well, you are going to have look closely. As we walked up under the gigantic branches I noticed giant nuts and bolts and then began to really look closely and found wires bolted to the branches and then bolted to lower branches. The tree limbs are so heavy that these cables are helping to hold them up. That's pretty clever, but also the folks that came up with the right places to add the cables and bolt them together is pretty genius. Look at that branch above! It's is bigger around than the largest tree in my yard!

This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Then I noticed one more thing! A lot of the branches that are sweeping the ground have blocks of wood under them. I added an arrow to the photo to show you. Now, I am not sure why that block is there, but the engineers that helped this tree must have had  a good reason. Maybe to help alleviate the stress of laying on the ground. This made me think of a way to use the photo in class. What if I had this photo displayed, with the arrow, and had kids brainstorm the reason for those little blocks.....which led me to thinking about all kinds of photos we could use for this same reason! Wouldn't this make a great entry thinking question to start your science class?!

In the meantime, we stood at the base of this tree in total awe of its beauty and size. Not to mention being 500  years old!

Fort Sumter

This is Fort Sumter and a lot of it is still standing. Probably due to the way it was engineered and built. See the arches. Engineers know that an arch supports itself with downward compression and will remain standing long after other things have crashed. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Alright, so how is a fort engineered? We actually visited two! Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. We rode a ferry out to Fort Sumter and, let me tell you, approaching that island fort was an awesome sight. It is just so tiny and when you consider its history and what its purpose was, it is just mind-boggling that this tiny island and fort withstood assaults. But, it did. And  a lot of it is still standing. Probably due to the way it was engineered and built.

See the arches. Engineers know that an arch supports itself with downward compression and will remain standing long after other things have crashed. Think about the arched bridges in Italy that are hundreds of years old and still function. So, definitely the builders of this little fort thought about how to get the walls to remain standing even during attacks. The buildings you can see in the photo that have fallen were barracks that were built in rectangular shapes and you can see what is left of them!
I am guessing we need to build a house out of arches if we ever move. And I need to invent a STEM challenge that involves arches!

In the meantime, you should go visit Charleston, South Carolina. You will love it! Be sure you try the restaurants listed on that top ten list!

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5 Towers That are Perfect for Back to School Time!

Are you ready to go back to school? I am guessing you are and I know you are excited to get busy decorating and organizing and planning! 

Let me help you with some easy-peasy STEM Challenges!

It's all about Towers!


Now, let me just tell you---- we build towers ALL THE TIME! Kids love towers! They love talking about them, telling us which tall buildings or towers they know something about, and they love building them!

Of course, I would say they really love the competitive part of towers! I mean, who doesn't want to have the tallest tower, right? So, last year we invented some towers that aren't always going to be very tall. I came up with some ideas for towers that have a function (and one that is just purely silly fun) - and height might not be part of it. 

Here are FIVE towers that your kids will love!
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