What's Going on in the Lab? Solar Ovens!

Hello again STEM and Science People!
Today's post is all about our latest and most fun STEM challenge ever!
And I know I say that about all of them!
But I mean it this time. This one is topped only by  building boats and roller coasters.
It's about building little ovens and testing them and then cooking in them!
Yep!

STEM Challenge: A box and a sunny day will make the best STEM task ever and a delicious treat!

First, of all I needed boxes. A local restaurant offered to give me some pizza boxes and I had a gazillion shoe boxes, but in the end I ordered a supply from Amazon.com. Cause you can buy anything from Amazon and you get it the next day. So, I got this very heavy box with 100 pizza boxes in it.
This brings up the next question:
STEM Challenge: Can you really use the sun's heat to toast a treat? Yes, you can! It works surprisingly well!
Can this actually work? After the huge box of pizza boxes came I sure hoped this challenge would work. Otherwise I would have a large supply of unused, sad pizza boxes.

Then I had another thought.
It's only going to take about four and a half minutes to build this and then ten or so to cook the stuff and my class lasts for an HOUR.
So, of course I had to add some science to the whole process.
We ended up doing some experimenting first with different kinds of materials to reflect or absorb heat. Kids kept data charts of the changes in temperature. We had to use a thermometer inside the box and check the beginning and ending temperatures.

I THEN LEARNED A REALLY BIG THING!
Third graders do not know how to read a thermometer.
So, that added some more to our class time because I had to get each group to tell me the reading on their thermometer and then I checked to see what it really was.
Cause 220 degrees inside the classroom did seem a wee bit over the actual temp.
Yeah, it was really 76 degrees.

STEM Challenge: Experiment with different heat reflecting or heat absorbing materials to see just how to make the solar oven work best!
So, after that we took our ovens outside to test them.
That's when I LEARNED ANOTHER REALLY BIG THING.
Kids don't really care if their experiment is laying on DIRT.
Dirt, people. They put their stuff down right on the dirt. Never mind, that there was grass available.
STEM Challenge: Just how long does the solar oven need to soak up the sun? Can we play on the playground while they are baking?
But, anyway, we soaked up some sun and then checked the temps and they did go up!
One even went up to 98 degrees. Pretty impressive for a pizza box.
So we, tested some more materials and talked about what made the temps go up and then we tried it all again.
Finally, finally, finally we ready to cook something!

STEM Challenge: This task involves some experimentation with finding the right materials to use for the solar oven. Then you cook!
We layered up some s'mores goodies and trooped back outside to see if it would turn into a gooey delicious mess.

STEM Challenge: Finally, we have experimented and the ovens have done their work! Time to enjoy our desserts!
An of course, we ate the stuff when we came back inside. So, did this work?
Does it really matter?
We ate chocolate and crackers and marshmallows and did some science!
And it lasted for the whole one hour class!
Sounds good to me!


Thanks for joining me for this week's featured activity!
What's going on in your science class?
Coming soon:
Earthquakes
Water Pipelines



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5 Best STEM Challenges! (According to the Kids)

Happy Friday everyone!
It's getting so close to being the last Friday of the school year! Only 8 more Fridays for us!

In the meantime I decided to recap the last three years of STEM class with a post about the best challenges we have tried---
according to the KIDS!
The challenges  I am sharing today are the ones kids LOVE, and beg to do again, a lot. Like weekly.
Like, "When are we making pancakes again?"
Seriously!

So, let's take a look at the TOP 5 STEM Challenges ever- according to KIDS!
STEM Challenges: Ask the students about their favorite STEM tasks and these five are the ones they will mention! They love these! You will, too!



STEM Challenge: This one is a kid favorite! Using foam tubes students try many versions and then design a marble coaster with twists, turns, and loops!
Of course, this is number ONE! I have not yet found a kid that didn't love this one. When we use this challenge with kids I have them do some experimenting first and then they get to build a model. I do have rules about the model- it has to have a certain number of turns and loops.
These are fun, kids give them a name, and they absolutely love demonstrating them with the entire class! Trust me, if one group makes a giant loop, every group will try it. If one group makes a completely vertical drop, then all of them will try it. They just want to have the most outrageous model ever! Total kid fun! (I might add that there is a lot of science involved in this challenge: force and motion, Newton's Laws, scientific method, and the engineering design process!)
More details about Roller Coasters {HERE}

STEM Challenge: Kids love this one because it involves food! After testing a recipe to determine the right amount of ingredients kids design the ultimate pancake -- and eat it!
This challenge is number 2, but for some kids it is even better than roller coasters! I guess the ones that love it must love pancakes!
In this one I have kids experiment with different versions of the pancake ingredients and they keep data tables to show results of each trial. In the end they use the data to determine the best recipe and then we make it. And eat it. And they bring toppings. And eat until they are groaning! (There is so much science behind this one and math: chemical reactions, measuring liquids and solids, mixing, and cooking!)
More details about Pancakes {HERE}

STEM Challenge: This one is on our best challenges list because all kids love it. After building a boat students test it with weights! How many pennies can it hold? It all depends on the boat's design!
Every kid loves building boats which makes it #3. I am just not sure why, but they love to build them and watch them sink. We add weights to them and keep track of the number. I know the competition is part of why they love this challenge! It's super easy to prep for this and the materials for the boat are easy-peasy, too! I love this one because kids choose the materials based on using a budget!  (Science: floating and sinking, measuring, engineering design process, and budgeting.)
More details about Boats {HERE}

STEM Challenge: Kids really enjoyed this challenge. They tested the bungee jumping doll at many heights and kept data tables. The data was plotted on a graph and kids used it to determine a predicted height for a much higher jump! Did Barbie survive?
Oh, my goodness, Barbie bungee jumping is number 4! I knew I would like this challenge, but kids did, too! We experimented with dropping from many heights and kept extensive data. This included graphing the results of the drops which included averaging the distances. The graph was used to predict the length of the bungee cord that would be needed to drop Barbie from a much higher distance. This was such a great challenge for teamwork- one kid dropped Barbie, one kept the data, and others did the averaging and graphing. (Science and math are covered in this one: force and motion, Newton's laws, averaging numbers, graphing, and using data.)
More about Bungee Jumping {HERE}


STEM Challenge: Another kid favorite! There is just something fantastic about making catapults! This challenge has the added benefit of testing and keeping data on the catapult distances. Kids then use their data to build versions of the catapult to complete distance challenges.
Coming in at number 5 is Catapults. Kids love these almost as much as roller coasters. First, they experiment with different angles of catapults made by the number of cross beams added to the model. Then that data is used to build models that will launch a projectile the longest distance or over an obstruction. (Yes, I squeezed some science and math into this one, too! It's: force and motion, Newton's laws, measuring, averaging numbers, using data, and predicting.)
More about Catapults {HERE}

So, there you have it! These are the top five STEM challenges we have completed- as voted on by my students. They love them and I made sure they included science and math.
Come back in two weeks and check out the "TOP FIVE CHALLENGES from MY Point of View!
My favorites are different from the kids!

Also, go and check Doodlebugs for the Five for Friday link up:



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What's Going on in the Lab? Mystery Builds


Happy Wednesday Friends! 
Today's post is a terrific one with a freebie link- if you have not already snagged this fabulous challenge!
This is one that I have been mulling over for quite some time. I wanted to do something that would have each group building something different.
I did try this- with mixed results. The original challenge was that each group would use the exact same supplies, but each would build a different structure. This ended up being rather wasteful since some of the materials were not needed for every task (and kids will try to use them anyway!) So, I re-thought it and came up with this:
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! FREEBIE!

I call it a Mystery Build!
Here's the premise of this one:
Each group will receive a task card describing what will be built along with the rules for each task.
Then each group gets a price list of the materials that are available.
They must decide exactly what they need and stay within a budget.
My third graders LOVED THIS!

First, they received their task cards!
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget!  Each group receives a task card listing the rules of the task! FREEBIE!
This one is hand written because this was a test class! Later, I made these fancier!

Next they filled out their price list.
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget!  Each group must choose materials and stay on budget! FREEBIE!
Of course, they had to be mindful of the budget and they could get more materials- only if they still had money left!
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget!  Each group must choose materials and stay on budget! FREEBIE!
Then they started building whatever their task card said to build. 
Just take a look at this deliciousness!

STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A rocking chair is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
This task was to build rocking chair that would actually rock. It also had to hold weights!

STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A rocket is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
This task was to build a rocket. It had to resemble a rocket. This team spent a lot of time decorating their rocket ship! Look at that little flag!

STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A marble run is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
This task was to build a small marble run. So, of course, this team made sure to purchase some cardboard tubes!

STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A bridge is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
This task was to build a bridge and the span had to be a certain width.
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! The bridge span task has a rule about its width! FREEBIE!


STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A tower is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
This tower had to be a certain height and hold weight.
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! The tower task must hold weight! FREEBIE!


STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget! A swing set is one of the tasks! FREEBIE!
And, my favorite was the swing set- which had to hold Lego man and he had to actually swing!
This was totally amazing fun and made the kids think SO HARD! Choosing the right materials for their task and staying on a budget was really interesting to watch. In the end we had presentations during which each group had to share their specific task constraints and then show off the structure.

Best News for YOU! This Mystery Challenge is a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and you can grab it right {HERE}
STEM Challenge Mystery Build: Each team builds something different. They must choose the materials needed for the task and stay within a budget!  FREEBIE!


Coming soon:
May Builds
Pipelines
Solar Ovens
Earthquakes
and More!


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Five Ways to Add STEAM to Your Science Class!

Happy Friday STEM and Science Friends.... and maybe STEAM Friends!
I do find occasionally that the design part of STEM just naturally turns into art work. Today's post is all about some particular things we have tackled that just work great as art tasks- maybe with some math or science thrown in!

STEM Challenges that turn into STEAM- Here are five ways your can add some art to your STEM and science classes!
So, let's take a look at how you can add some art to your science and math classes!

This is a terrific little project I have been completing with kids for a really long time. I call them kaleidoscopes. The finished product is a great review and/or use of symmetry and geometry!.
STEAM Activity: Kids draw one shape and then trace it seven times to form a symmetrical figure. Color it with bright colors and you have a kaleidoscope!
Kids start with a blank piece of paper and fold it into a triangle. They draw a design on one triangle and then open the paper and fold it in half. The half sheet is placed on a window so you can use the light to see through the paper. Then the kids trace one triangular space at a time. If they connect their lines carefully all the triangles are joined into a symmetrical drawing. Next, they use bright colors to finish the design. You can read more about this right {HERE} and this post has complete directions for how to make these. They turn out spectacular!

One day last spring I came across a stash of clay in gorgeous colors and this is what we did with it.
Kids picked a random card telling them what to sculpt and then they could pick the clay colors they thought would form the sculpture.
STEAM Activity: Give kids an randomly chosen card telling them what to sculpt. They must choose the colors for that given task and then make it!

Aren't these fabulous? The good thing about clay is that it doesn't dry out so we were able to recycle the sculptures when they began to fall over. Great little artists!

This is one of my favorite long term projects we do in the STEM Lab. It takes three to four weeks to complete! Kids form large groups and the task is to create a food delivery company.
Teams within each group have different jobs. One team designs the delivery box. Look at some of these in the photo below!
STEAM meets STEM in this fabulous design challenge as students create a food delivery company, design delivery boxes, posters, and create a commercial.
The food delivery company in the top left is the Freaky Fast Potatoes. Then you have the Hot Pink Potatoes on the right and at the bottom is Potato Express!
The box team must design a box that protects the food product and keeps it hot. So, we actually cook baked potatoes and test them with thermometers. Pretty cool stuff!
Another team within the group must design billboards for the company. Check out the one just below that even has an Instagram account!
STEAM meets STEM in this fabulous design challenge as students create a food delivery company, design delivery boxes, posters, and create a commercial.
In the end the third team within the group has written a script and the entire group must perform a commercial for the food delivery company! Lots of artwork going on in this challenge!

My fourth graders LOVE this Area and design challenge. It's all about designing your dream house.
STEAM Challenge: Design your dream house using graph paper and a great imagination!
Let me say this quickly: I did not invent this activity. I will share with you in just a few more words where you can grab this- FOR FREE!

Step-by-step----- 1) Draw the outline of your dream house.  2) Fill in the inside walls, making sure all walls meet at right angles.  3) Give each room a name and be creative! Color them, too! 4) Calculate the area of each room by listing them all on your data table and then calculate the area of your entire house.

Y'all this is the most fun! The kids love it. But, here's where some real learning takes place. If each square on the grid paper is a square foot, then their final houses are less than 600 square feet in size! So,all those kids that made indoor swimming pools, Starbucks, shopping malls, and Disney World are really having an eye-opening moment. Especially when I tell them the square footage of our STEM lab- which is 1500 square feet.
Their little faces are so perplexed when they realize their entire house will fit inside the lab.
Of course, then we have a discussion about scale and they are very encouraged to learn that the grid paper squares could represent square yards, or 6 foot squares!
Okay, here is where you can grab this really fun little activity:
A little STEAM challenge in the lab- Design your dream house and calculate its area! Fabulous FREEBIE by Blair Turner!
It's by Blair Turner and you can click on the image or {HERE} to grab this!

So, one day right about Christmas time I knew a room full of excited little third graders would be coming soon for a STEM event. However, I knew they were too excited about Santa and parties and gifts and reindeer for our normal class, so I threw together a little building activity I call STEM Buffet.
And it just happened to use a material I have 10 shoe boxes full of.....LEGO!
STEAM Challenge: It's called STEM Buffet! Give each group and box of LEGO and a card telling them what to build. Work for 5 minutes, share, and then rotate to a new box and new task! Great fun and perfect for a sub day!
I could have made this a free build time, but I decided to make it interesting. I made a little index card for each table telling the group at that table what to build! Since it was almost Christmas I made all the cards have a Christmas theme- like Build Santa's Workshop, Build a house with lights, Build a house decorated for Christmas, Build Santa's sleigh, and so on.
The kids came in, opened their box of LEGO, grabbed the card, and set out to build whatever the card said. After 6 minutes each group shared, took apart their creation, and rotated to the next table.
THEY LOVE THIS!
Try it and it doesn't have to be related to Christmas at all. It gives your little sculptural, artistic architects a fun way to show off!

Have a great weekend ya'll!
And go visit Doodlebugs Teaching for more Five for Fridays posts


3

What's Going on in the Lab! Another Bulletin Board!

Hello STEM and Science Friends! This weekly post of mine is almost always about the STEM tasks we are currently doing. Sometimes the post is about something we did a long time ago.

And sometimes it's about Bulletin Boards!
It's a popular topic and I know why!
We LOVE to decorate those boards! 
Okay, maybe not so much! Anyway I have shared some of my fabulous boards and I am featuring a new one today!
I promise it's easy!

Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom!

So, here you go, step-by-step!
Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Step 1 is to choose the pictures!
First, this bulletin board features a lot of pictures or photos. One idea is to give your students a camera and have them snap whatever science means to them and use those photos. That sounded like a fabulous idea to me, but my bulletin board is seriously 7 feet long and 3.5 feet tall, so that many photos was out of my cost range! So, I started going through old science files and workbooks. I found several old science related calendars and a couple of really old textbooks and BAM I had my photos. I just selected the best ones and most colorful. I chose about 30 and trimmed them with a paper cutter.

Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Step 2 is to make backgrounds for your pictures!
Second, the photos need to be mounted on dark paper. I cut black construction paper in a square and then glued the photos in place.
You also need to make the letter cards. The word SCIENCE is spelled out on the bulletin board in symbols from the Periodic table. You will need those symbols and corresponding numbers for your letter cards.
I printed my letter cards by making a power point of the symbols on a black background and then printed this on a copier. When these were all finished I also laminated them!

Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Step 3 is take your finished pictures and decide on a layout for them!
Third, decide how you want to arrange your letter cards and photo cards. I spread these all out on my floor and just kept moving them around until I had the arrangement I liked. (It kinda reminded me of setting up a gallery wall in my house....)

Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Step 4 is to hang your pictures on your board, but they do need to be in a straight line!
Fourth, it's time to go to the board. First, I covered it with a light blue paper and a neutral border. Then I had to measure the leftover space and calculate the placement of all those cards.
This took some work, I will say. I wanted them all to be as even as possible. I think mine ended up being an inch and a half apart horizontally and an inch apart vertically.
Well, then my OCD-ness really kicked in because I knew that when I started in  one corner that by the time I got to the other side my straight line would be angling down hill.
So, I tacked up a string along the top line to use as a guide!
Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Step 5 is to admire the finished board!
I used a ruler to measure the distances between each card and it's pretty straight, but not perfect. Some of my cards turned out somehow slightly not the same shape.
But I love it anyway.

Science Bulletin Boards: Here's an easy and fun way to decorate a board for your science classroom! Science Rocks!
It makes a spectacular display!
One of these days I will repeat this with the same idea but use pictures I have taken of my students completing STEM Challenges.
On that note, you could change this up for just about anything.
Here's an idea- make your letter cards spell READ and show photos of your students reading books!
OR make the letter cards spell History and have photos of your kids dressed up as their historical book report characters.
The possibilities for this one are endless!

Need more ideas for a science bulletin board:
Try these blog posts!
Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4

You can also take a look at my Bulletin Board Pinterest Board:

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