Friday, February 26, 2016

Five for Friday! Tools of the Lab!

Hey Friends! If you are here thinking this might be lab tools like beakers and Bunsen burners then stop right here.
Just kidding, you should go ahead and read this anyway. It might be helpful, 
especially if you have crazy kids in your room that think scissors are meant to poke and stab things...
But first,
Thanks Kacey for this weekly platform on which I may expound on randomness or a theme topic, list, what have you!

So, let's get going. Mind you, I will say this repeatedly, these tools are for teachers to use ONLY!  
Danger, danger, danger! Seriously, I will explain!
Tools fof the Lab: Here's a fabulous post about incidents we have had that prompted me to start using some tools for safety's sake!
Here's the truth. Kids have no idea about using sharp things correctly. And, I mean even if you have told them eight bajillion times, they will still pick up scissors and swing them in the air on the end of their index fingers. (Am I right?) They will still use the point of scissors to try to stab a hole into something like cardboard. They will try to cut craft sticks in two with scissors. Do I need to continue? I think you get it. They think they have no kryptonite. They are invincible.
So, listed below are five things that have happened to us and the tools that I found to try to keep us safe and keep me less crazy.


"Danger, danger, danger!"

Lab Tools: Use a compass for making small holes. Use a large dowel or a straw to reach into narrow places.
Now, that is a pretty weird combination of tools! But, let me tell how this came to be. We were using water bottles for something and the kids needed holes in them. I didn't think through this one very well and nearly had a heart attack when I saw a kid bearing down with his scissors to poke a hole. I mean teeth-gritted-bearing-down like he was drilling to China! I probably screamed and I couldn't think of words to say fast enough so I just hollered, "Danger, danger, danger!" And that pretty much is what we still use. My lab kids have learned that when they hear me say that phrase they MUST stop what they are doing. FAST. Cause Nurse Buck doesn't like to run down the hallway to revive me.
So, what are those tools in the photo you ask?
Well. at the bottom is a device called a compass. It's actually for making circles, but I use it for sticking through things to make tiny holes. It's super pointy and will go through about anything.
The large dowel and milkshake straw and for sticking into things to pop them back into shape- like a squished water bottle!


"I am not your momma!"

Lab Tools: Screwdrivers are perfect for making holes through cardboard. Teacher use only!
Not long after the water bottle catastrophe I glanced up just in time to see a kid trying to slice into a piece of cardboard with, you guessed it, open scissors. Like he was holding the blade in his hand and pushing at the same time to get the other blade through the cardboard.
"Danger, danger, danger," came out of my mouth.
I flew  across the room and was probably saying something like, "Are you nuts?" but probably not cause I could get in trouble for that. But anyway, the kid was quite surprised that I thought he shouldn't do this and said words you should never say to your teacher, "My mom lets me do this!"
My reply was, "I'm not your momma!"
So, those tools are all screwdrivers and all are used to make holes in cardboard. To be safer for me I usually use the compass to start a hole and then make it larger with the screwdrivers. They also come in handy for tightening the two labs stools that have wonky legs or for repairing glasses!


"Think like ME!"

Lab Tools: Box cutters are perfect for cutting cardboard into pieces or poster board. Teacher use only!
Well, you would think I have yelped about safety often enough that the kids would get it, but no, they will still try to cut things with scissors that just won't cut. Like long pieces of cardboard. One day, I looked up just in time (why does this happen all the time, I should pay more attention or be less busy or something) to see a kid with his scissors jammed in the middle of a piece of cardboard and he was trying to open and close them with both hands. The cardboard was just dangling. Of course, I shouted the danger thing and zipped over to tell him I was not his momma either, and he said, "Well I thought it was safe and okay." At which point I said, "Where safety is concerned, THINK LIKE ME!" I probably hollered that, too, cause I could see that whole cardboard piece slipping and him stabbing himself in the leg and that would be a problem.
So, of course those two tools are box cutters or razor blade knives and you just have to say those words to think, "Danger, danger, danger", especially if you are thinking like ME!
I mostly use them to cut cardboard apart. I have a large really thick piece of poster board that I lay across my work table and kids bring me whatever it is they need cut and I lay it on the poster board and cut it in about 2.5 seconds. (The poster board protects my tabletop!)

"Scissors are for cutting paper!"

Lab Tools: Wire cutters can be used  for snipping off the pointy ends off skewers or for cutting small dowel sticks in half.
Seriously I thought kids knew this about scissors, but apparently that is not something they are taught until I get them and look across the lab just in time to see them trying to cut a craft stick in half. Or a dowel stick. Or a pipe cleaner. So, the first time I yelled, "Danger, danger, danger" and then proceeded to stop class to announce that scissors are only for cutting paper, good grief, you would have thought I had suddenly grown two heads. They looked at me like I was crazy. I think I said, "And don't even try to tell me your momma let's you do this!" So, now we have the rule that anything wooden can only be broken or cut by the cut master, which just happens to be me.
I use those little wire cutters that you see in the photo. And just so you will know, you should always snip off the ends of bamboo skewers before you give them to kids because they WILL poke each other with the pointy end. (Just be safe and hold the pointy end in your hand when you snip it because it will fly off and that's a danger, danger, danger thing.)

"But now it has slob all over it!"

Lab Tools: Large needles are used for threading string through tiny openings!
Yeah, well, you are going to love this one. We were building suspension bridges when I looked around just in time to see someone (again) putting the end of the suspension string in her mouth. "Danger, danger, danger" didn't seem like the appropriate thing to scream at the time, so I think I just said, "AGHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Then I ran over to try to sweetly ask why the string that they were using on their structure had been in her mouth and was now dangling in the air covered in her spit.
She explained that they were trying to thread the string through the holes in the bridge to help hold it up, which, she reminded me, they were supposed to be doing. I answered, "But now it has slob all over it!" (You would just be surprised how often I hear that phrase repeated now, cause the kids just thought it was hilarious. Me, not so much.)
The tools I found just for this circumstance were some quite gigantic needles that we could thread the string through- after we cut off the wet part- and the kids could finish stringing up their bridge.

So, there you have it, some basic tools for you to have for making holes, and threading things, and cutting things, and keeping your kids safe. Do keep your own little fingers out of the way of those sharp things and keep them all stored away from the kids!

Have a great and safe weekend! 
(All references about yelling, screaming, and hollering are hyperbole. Just so you will know!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? It's the Wind-Powered Series!

Welcome to the Windy Month of March!
We recently tried a few challenges that all deal with using wind power! This was great fun in celebration of a new month, but these challenges can definitely be used any time!!
Here we go!!!

STEM Challenges all about Wind Power! Explore with wind-powered cars, boats, and windmills! Fantastic problem solving and collaboration opportunities!

First up are Wind-Powered Cars!
This was somewhat more challenging than you would think!
STEM Challenge: Just in time for the windy month of March is a series of STEM events including this one about making a car powered by the wind!
Kids really had to work hard to make the axles and wheels work. They had to turn and catch the wind- from a fan!

STEM Challenge: Just in time for the windy month of March is a series of STEM events including this one about making a car powered by the wind!
Once their cars were working they decided to decorate them. We had race cars, a car driven by Mr. Mustache Man (he's in one of the photos above), the Pirate Clipper, the Fuzzy Lemons, and so many more.
STEM Challenge: Just in time for the windy month of March is a series of STEM events including this one about making a car powered by the wind!
Wind-Powered cars! One of the things the kids had to record on their lab sheets was why on earth you would ever need a car powered by the wind.
My favorite answer was, "Maybe you had no more credit on your debit card to buy gas!" 

Next, we tried wind-powered boats!
Now, I know what you are thinking.....isn't that a sail boat?
Well, yeah....
STEM Challenge: Students experiment with different kinds of sails and then build the ultimate sail for racing an unsinkable boat!
But, here's the thing. I have tried sail boats with kids and we learned a lot and they loved it. But, the focus of that sail boat task was building the boat and the sail. Many of our boats did not float very well and that made the sail not work. So, with this challenge I gave the kids an unsinkable material for the body of their boats.......
A POOL NOODLE!
STEM Challenge: Students experiment with different kinds of sails and then build the ultimate sail for racing an unsinkable boat!
That made the task all about creating the best sail! They had to test different shapes and sizes and then use their testing data to build the final sail.
STEM Challenge: Students experiment with different kinds of sails and then build the ultimate sail for racing an unsinkable boat!
My favorite sail they made was called the Human Sail. It looked like a scarecrow.

Finally, fifth graders tried Windmills!
Holy WOW! This was so much harder than we thought it would be!
STEM Challenge: A fan-tastic STEM task that uses wind power! Students build a windmill using their choice of a center wheel and blades they design! Will the wheel turn?
I gave them a choice of lots of different round things to be the center wheel of the windmill and then they had to make the blades. Guess what, flat blades don't work!
STEM Challenge: A fan-tastic STEM task that uses wind power! Students build a windmill using their choice of a center wheel and blades they design! Will the wheel turn?
This one worked the best of all of them and it was super cute! The blades were just the right size and bent in just the right way!
STEM Challenge: A fan-tastic STEM task that uses wind power! Students build a windmill using their choice of a center wheel and blades they design! Will the wheel turn?
This one got the prize for being the most color coordinated and it also worked well!

Here's a great little movie I made to show some of these challenges in action:

That was our latest from a seasonal series of challenges I am working on!
January was the Snow Series
February was the Heart Series
March is the Wind Series

Meet me back here next Wednesday for more of:


Coming Soon:
Mystery Builds
Pipelines
Cargo Drops

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five for Friday! It's Craft Stick Day!

Hello Friday Friends! Hope you had a fabulous and short week- if you were off on Monday that is!
Thanks for joining me for this week's Five for Friday link up. Thanks to Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for providing this weekly platform!
So, here's the story behind this week's Friday theme! A few months ago I noticed that we were using tons of straws in the lab and I decided to write a post all about that. You can read that post right {HERE}.
In the meantime we moved on to other challenges and recently I had a student mention that we were using a lot of craft sticks........and we do! So let me show you how we are using this great little material, also known as a popsicle stick!
STEM Challenges: Gathering supplies for STEM seems daunting, but it really not! Just grab some craft sticks and kids will build about anything!

Here we go with Project # 1!

STEM Challenge: Build a platform using craft sticks! There's a trick to getting this built just right because of the task constraints!
We built bridges and towers before we tackled platforms. In fact, one of the bridges we built was called a platform bridge. This idea came from needing to solve a way to hold something aloft, but not as high as a tower. Wouldn't this be like a balcony or deck on your house? So, I came up with building a platform and we tried several materials for this- including craft sticks!
What made this challenge tricky is the height requirement! It had to be taller than the length of a craft stick so kids had to determine a way to join lengths of sticks to make it tall enough! Ha! They turned out great and most of them held up tons of pennies. (Well, maybe not tons, maybe about all the pennies I had at the time!)
You can read more about Craft Stick Platforms {HERE}.

Here's Project #2!

STEM Challenge: Can you build a tower using ALL of the materials? Here's the trick to this one: It has to hold a tennis ball aloft!
We built towers from so many materials in the last two years and of course my kids always want to have the tallest tower possible. They are quite competitive and will not give up until their tower is the smallest fraction taller than all the others. I usually keep a board chart for each class and the kids from different classes can't wait to beat each other. (By the way, there is never a prize for being the tallest....)
Anyway, just having a craft stick tower by itself didn't seem very creative to me....so I played with this idea a little and came up with Tennis Ball Towers! This is one of our favorite towers to build. The tennis ball has to be held aloft and the scarcity of materials makes it a short tower. Also, the kids have to use ALL of the supplies in some way. This makes it tricky!
You can read more about Tennis Ball Towers right {HERE}.

Here's Project #3!

STEM Challenge: It's all about catapults. The frame is super easy to build! Kids experiment and keep data tables of the results! Then those results are used to build the best version of a catapult!
Oh my goodness! My students love seeing Catapult day on my big board! ( I display what each grade level is doing each week on a big board the students can see when they arrive for class!)
Anyway, this challenge uses craft sticks to build the catapult frame and then more craft sticks to stack together to change the angle of the projectile. What I LOVE about this challenge is that we experiment first. The kids test about 8 different angles and then must use their test data to build the best version of the catapult! Best of all, this challenge uses only rubber bands as an additional supply- no glue!
You can read more about Catapults right {HERE}.

STEM Challenge: Using craft sticks and marbles can you build a Newton's Cradle? These are perfect to help kids understand Newton's 3rd Law of Motion!
This is a challenge we just completed about two weeks ago! And my fifth graders loved it! Come back next week and read more about it on my Wednesday post.
We used glue guns and craft sticks, marbles and string and built these amazing Newton's Cradles. It was a fabulous challenge and helped us further understand Newton's Laws of Motion!
You can read more about Newton's Cradles {HERE}.

STEM Challenge: Learn about suspension bridges and then build one! This takes great care with determining the right size for the bridge supports and the placement of the suspending cable (string)!
This is another challenge that my fifth graders cheer about when they see it announced on my board! They love building these bridges. We spend some time researching exactly what a suspension bridge is and then they build one. It takes some cardboard or foam board and a bunch of craft sticks! In the end each team decides which team member gets to take the bridge home- most of them stay together well enough to be transported!
Total FUN!
You can read more about Suspension Bridges right {HERE}. 

All five of these STEM challenges give some amazing opportunities to problem solve!
If you need craft sticks I really recommend you get the giant boxes. It's the best way to save on this frequently used material! And recycle them! We take things apart and reuse sticks all the time!


If you need more problem solving ideas check my Pinterest board that shows more!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? Marble Runs!

I know. I know. I have been promising a post about Marble Runs forever!
But other stuff just kept getting in the way!

But here you are- All About our Marble Runs!
STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!

This is going to be a simple one for you to try!

You need three things:
LOTS of cardboard tubes
Large cardboard pieces or foam board
Masking tape and lots of it

That's all.
Seriously.
Okay, ask parents to send in the cardboard tubes from toilet tissue rolls and paper towel rolls. If you really want to get a ton of these, just mention that this is material they can send in and IT'S FREE!
That's what I did and I have enough tubes to last until the end of time.

You really need good sticky masking tape, but you are going to use a lot of it so get some at Wal Mart. It's in the painting department and they have rolls that are 96 cents.
For the cardboard pieces, I used packing boxes that I cut apart with a razor blade knife. You can probably ask your cafeteria to save their boxes for you.
If you decide to use foam board, get it at the Dollar Tree. The cardboard or foam board is for the base of the marble run.

Here's what you do: Show your kids some images of marble runs to give them an idea of what to do. I showed images of upright runs that resemble roller coasters and also images that are taped to a wall or the front of a table.

Give them the stuff and sit back and watch what happens!
STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
If you happen to have any really long tubes you will have groups that try to use them. Trust me, that really long tube in the photo did not work. It is just too heavy to be able to stand upright. Taping it at the bottom was just not enough.


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
How do you join tubes together? Kids found some clever ways to do this. Mostly they cut a slit into one tube and slipped the second tube into it. We had a lot of cutting tubes in half to make the paths.



STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
You can see the holes the kids cut into the tubes in this picture. Yes, you will have to supervise this and show them how. If you have an expert you can send that kid around to show others how to do it. Basically, you flatten the tube and cut out the rectangle and then pop the tube back into a round shape. It works!


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Here's a close up of tubes connected. The only problem was that if the tube inside moved a little the marble had enough room to drop down into the standing tube. Which was pretty hard to retrieve unless you took apart the taped down tube.


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Next problem we encountered was making a turn in the pathway. How do you do that? Here's what one group did: They cut a tube in half horizontally and then cut that half tube into inch wide pieces. Those pieces were taped one at a time barely overlapping each other and gradually making the turn. Can you see it in the photo?


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Here's another way to turn! Make side rails with tube pieces and the marble will be forced to stay on the path. And yes, we chased marbles around a lot!



STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Here's another way to make those turns. See the colored paper? This team had too much space and exposed pieces of tubes. So, they used construction paper to cover their paths.
This was a messy project by the way.
Lots of pieces laying everywhere and the finished marble runs also had a messy look to them.



STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Here's another problem we had to solve! How on earth do you connect those standing tubes to a piece of cardboard. Well, this group decide a whole roll of tape would do the trick.


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Then I remembered an old sewing trick about fanning out the edges of rounded shapes as you sew. So I showed kids how to do this with the tape. See the arrow pointing at this? It works! And kids taught each other how to do after I showed one team.


STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
Here's one that has an interesting turn thing going on close to the hands in the photo. Looks like it needs side rails to me. Actually I included this photo so you could see my messy room. Look at that counter top in the background. 
Are you kidding me?
What a mess.
Hey - 15 classes- sometimes doing 6 different projects all at the same time.
It gets messy.


Finally take a look at this:
STEM Challenge: It's all about Marble Runs! Read about our experience and try this in your classroom! Easy, easy, materials that are just about all free. Very little preparation. Total engagement!
All finished!
Don't you love the way the sunshine comes in my classroom?

So, are you brave enough to tackle this one?!
It was messy.
It took two weeks, which meant I had to store all those marble runs for a week. Yes, 5 classes of stored marble runs.
It used a lot of tape. The cardboard was free.
Did the kids learn anything?
Are you kidding?
They learned a TON!
And I will add that this one was completely, entirely, no doubt about it, 100% engaging!

So what are you doing in Science lately?
and, by the way, if you like STEM Challenges, here's a great idea: Follow my STEM Photo board on Pinterest.


Coming soon:
Suspension Bridges
Windmills
Newton's Laws of Motion