Friday, April 22, 2016

5 Books to Recommend! (April)

Time for some Book Reviews!
I know you are here because this is an education blog, specifically science and STEM.
But, friends, I am a reader. I love to read book reviews from people I can trust! That's where I get more titles for my never-ending booklist.
So, let me suggest a few!
"Books are a uniquely portable magic!" Here are five fabulous books I can recommend. The first one was my favorite! Which one is yours?

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
This is a beautifully written, lyrical, view of World War II France and Germany. It is told in the voices of its two main characters- Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris and at the age of 6 she becomes blind. To help her navigate through the city her father recreates their neighborhood in a tiny replica she can touch.

This is a beautifully written, lyrical view of World War II France and Germany. It is told in the voices of its two main characters- Marie-Laure and Werner.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris and at the age of 6 she becomes blind. To help her navigate through the city her father recreates their neighborhood in a tiny replica she can touch.
Several years pass and Nazis invade the city so that Marie-Laure and her father must flee to Saint Malo. Her father takes a precious jewel with him from the museum in which he worked. This later becomes a major part of the story. Her father recreates the new village in miniature for her. Unfortunately, he is arrested while doing this and leaves her with a relative.
 In the meantime Werner has grown up in Germany and becomes part of the advancing army.
Near the end of the book Werner enters Marie-Laure's story and is responsible for her survival.
Poignant, heart-breaking, and beautifully told. I found myself turning page after page, afraid of what would happen next to this blind girl. Well worth your time!



MEMORY MAN
This is a typical David Baldacci- which means it's a page-turner with action everywhere. You will not want to put it down! It's the story of Amos Decker who suffered a brain injury while playing football. After that he remembers everything! EVERYTHING! He marries and has a child and then has a tragic thing happen to both of them. Solving a police investigation is the focus of this book.


This is a typical David Baldacci- which means it's a page-turner with action everywhere. You will not want to put it down! It's the story of Amos Decker who suffered a brain injury while playing football. After that he remembers everything! EVERYTHING! He marries and has a child and then has a tragic thing happen to both of them. Solving a police investigation is the focus of this book. It's pretty fascinating, actually, to read about how he remembers the tiniest of details of things he sees or hears and then can solve parts of the investigation. This was the first book about Amos, but I suspect this will be a new series for Mr. Baldacci! Great, fun read!

LAST BUS TO WISDOM
This is a purely delightful book with amazing descriptions and a great touch of humor. It's the story of 11 year old Donal who is being raised by his grandmother in Montana in 1951. When she has to have surgery Donal is sent to an aunt's home in Wisconsin. The aunt is bossy and mean-spirited, especially to her husband Herman.
This is a purely delightful book with amazing descriptions and a great touch of humor. It's the story of 11 year old Donal who is being raised by his grandmother in Montana in 1951. When she has to have surgery Donal is sent to an aunt's home in Wisconsin. The aunt is bossy and mean-spirited, especially to her husband Herman. In anger one day, Aunt Kate sends Donal back home to Montana on a bus, but to his delight he finds that Herman is traveling with him. Herman was pretty disgusted with the way Kate treated him and is ready for adventures on his own. Donal is a terrific boy with all sorts of misadventures and Herman adds even more. You will love this book!

BLOOM
Oh, Bloom, what a wonderful memoir by Kelle Hampton. This is the story of Nella, a precious baby born to Kelle and her husband. Their second child was welcomed into the world and Kelle knew instantly that something was not right.
Oh, Bloom, what a wonderful memoir by Kelle Hampton. This is the story of Nella, a precious baby born to Kelle and her husband. This baby, their second child, was welcomed into the world and Kelle knew instantly that something was not right. Nella has Down's Syndrome and I know you will cry just like I did when you read these words written by Kelle, "All I can remember of these moments (when Nella was born) is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over...she locked eyes with mine and stared.....bore holes into my soul. Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me." 
This book is beautifully written and contains the best photos you will ever see.
Follow Kelle on Instagram and her blog:


WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR
This is the story of Paul, a neurosurgeon with a promising career ahead of him. At age 36 he is diagnosed with lung cancer. This is his story- a physician as a patient- told in rich, meaningful prose that will have you turning page after page.
Paul is a neurosurgeon with a promising career ahead of him. At age 36 he is diagnosed with lung cancer. This is his story- a physician as a patient- told in rich, meaningful prose that will have you turning page after page. It's a quick read and one that will stick with you. It's heartbreaking and uplifting and you will love it. Paul's wife ends the book with an epilogue that is equally well written and hers to write since he did not survive to end his own story.


I promise! Add these books to your summer reading list! I loved all of them!
Happy reading!

Click over to Doodlebugs to see others that have linked up for Five for Friday this week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? It's Surface Tension!

So, STEM and Science Friends, do you ever have one of those days where you need an activity and you reach out to this magic place called Teachers Pay Teachers and hope the search system works and you can find something quickly and use it, like right then?
Happens to me all the time!!!
STEM Challenge: Can you use different liquids as a surfactant and make those little critters move in a pan of water? Yes, you can!
Not long ago I had two majorly large projects ongoing with my fourth and fifth graders and just could not handle a new project with my thirdies, too.
I turned to my favorite science sellers at TpT and found the cutest little packet from Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy! It was exactly what I needed to grab and go!
It was a STEM Lab Water Surface Tension package!

Did you know that water has the unique property of "Sticking" to itself. Yep, that's why water forms droplets. The science word for this is cohesion and it simply means that water molecules are attracted to one another and they stick together. Can you separate them? Yep! If you have the right item to create this breaking up it can happen. The science word here is surfactant.

Here's the activity!
STEM Challenge: Cutting out our little critters for a surface tension challenge!
First, you copy the provided "Little Critters". Punch a hole in the critter and cut the little channel. (These are marked on the templates.) Then give them out to the kids and they will cut them out. I showed mine how to cut around the critter and not cut out every minute detail.

STEM Challenge: Place those droplets carefully on your little critter and watch him zip through the water!
Next, you place your critter in a pan of water. And you use an eye dropper or pipette to drip into the channel and hole of the critter. If the liquid you drip is a surfactant then the critter will take off across the water. The surface tension is broken and the critter can move.
Take a look below!
STEM Challenge: Place those droplets carefully on your little critter and watch him zip through the water!
The little pink turtle did not move. Sadly, the liquid dripped on him was not the right one!
But, check out the blue frog below!
STEM Challenge: Place those droplets carefully on your little critter and watch him zip through the water!
This little guy zipped across that pan of water amid squeals of delight from my third graders!
They loved this challenge and you can grab it from Mel And Gerdy.
Just click on the link below!


So, what are you doing in your science class?
Check back next week for another edition!

Coming soon:
Math Task Cards in STEM Class

Friday, April 15, 2016

5 STEM Challenges You Should Try Soon!

Welcome back to a little mini-series I started recently. 
This week- it's 5 STEM Challenges You Need to Try Soon!

STEM Challenges! Easy-peasy with simple materials and great fun! These are all sure to be a hit as your kids move towards summer!

These are all just loads of fun. They have easy materials and easy prep. They are great for lots of age groups. They are fabulous for spring and summer (and well, really, any time!)
 Try these soon!


STEM Challenge! This one is a fabulous reminder for what volume is! Kids build a container for a specific amount of popcorn and then test it! There may even be some popcorn to eat!
Oh. My. Goodness! I love this one. Kids build a container for a specific amount of popcorn. I have written about this one several times because it's one of my favorites! You can use a little picture book about popcorn with it or just do the challenge!
One page of the book tells about popcorn being found in a cave and that's the part I share with students:
It's all about the kids' perception of volume and, let me just tell you, their idea of the volume of a container and what they actually need is vastly DIFFERENT! It's a great lesson!
Read more about the POPCORN challenge {HERE}.
And click on the image to try the book:




STEM Challenge: You can't go wrong with this one! The challenge first explores giant bubbles and then the kids use materials you supply to build a bubble wand! Great for spring weather!
This is a fantastic challenge for spring and summer. You can do a lot of the challenge outdoors if your weather is cooperating. I always complete it indoors! First, kids explore with bubble solution and then they use an array of materials to build their own bubble wand! Kids love this one! It's perfect for younger kids!
Read more about the BUBBLE Challenge {HERE}.
STEM Challenge: A great and challenging tower that uses two materials! You can test them with real eggs, too!
You will love this challenge! It uses two materials! Seriously- just TWO! It has absolutely zero prep. Just lay the stuff out and get going. I use plastic eggs filled with pennies  and if the kids have a successful tower we replace the plastic egg with a real one. Oops, that makes it have three materials cause you need eggs, too! Anyway, it is quite challenging and then has the added bonus of cracking some eggs! Which by the way, kids love to do!
Read more about the EGG TOWER Challenge {HERE}.

STEM Challenge: THis is a rescue challenge that has kids creating a cargo container that will save the cargo that is being dropped! They love dropping their containers!
This is a rescue challenge with a great background story. Kids have to build a container to drop cargo from varying heights. The cargo is fragile and cannot move at all. It is quite challenging, but is worth the time. I would do this with 4th-6th graders! My fourth graders loved it, especially the testing part!
Read more about CARGO DROPS {HERE}.
STEM Challenge: This one use two materials and really makes kids learn about perseverance and wise use of materials! It would make a perfect challenge for an afternoon as summer gets nearer!
This one is super simple and really does have two materials. Kids try to build a tower out of something that is very flimsy, so they have to devise ways to make it more sturdy. The towers can get amazingly tall! I have used this with third graders, but I know my older students would love it too. It would be perfect for a rainy afternoon!
Read more about FOIL TOWERS {HERE}.

Alright STEM Friends! This concludes my mini series on STEM challenges for you to tackle. 
Right now, go and visit Doodlebugs for more of her weekly Five for Friday Linky!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? Water Pipelines!

Welcome to this week's edition of What's Going on in the Lab!
Y'all, about five or so months ago I was working on some Christmas STEM ideas and we did actually do one of them. The kids loved it, but then we ran out of time (cause it was December and that's how it goes during that month...you know what I mean) and I abandoned those seasonal specific STEM things.
Then I had  brain pop! What if I could invent some more seasonal STEM challenges? What if I could actually come up with some things for just about every month?
So, I set off to do just that. More about this at the end!
For right now, let me just tell you about the month of APRIL and the EARTH Series!
One month, Earth Day, and three earth related challenges.
Today is all about Water Pipelines!
Yep, real water.....

STEM Challenge: Build a pipeline to transport water? This one amazes kids as it begins to work and then creates fantastic problem solving opportunities as it starts to leak!

The materials behind this challenge are just super easy peasy- three main things (cups, straws, and tape.)
I was actually worried that this might be too easy....
Ha!
Dilemma #1:
STEM Challenge: Building a water pipeline is a fantastic problem solving task. The first big decision is where to place the drain pipe!
I never in a million years thought kids would place the elevated tank draining straw near the top of the cup. Here's the thing. If the straw is close to the top of the cup, then the drain pipe stops working as soon as the water level drops below the straw.
So, the straw drain pipe has to be closer to the bottom- or like the above photos, maybe even smack in the middle of the bottom.

Ready? Here's Dilemma #2:
STEM Challenge: Get that pipeline built and then try it out by pouring water in your elevated tank! Will all the connections keep that water flowing and not dripping?
When kids were ready to test their structure we poured water into the top tank and waited to see what would happen. Two things happened: ONE: It worked and water traveled the whole pipeline and flowed right into the bottom cup, which produced squeals of delight and kids hopping up and down, because they really didn't think it would work.

TWO: It worked, but it LEAKED:
STEM Challenge: Build a water pipeline with water tight connections. What a fabulous learning opportunity as the connections leak and students have to find a way to stop those leaks!
We had lots of dripping and puddles and went through two rolls of paper towels before I thought to bring out the real cotton towels. By the way real towels are much better than paper ones for this challenge. The absolute funniest moment of the lab, like ever, was when one team poured water into their top tank and as the water started its pipeline path, EVERY SINGLE PLACE POSSIBLE dripped. All of them. The team was all standing and holding their hands under the drips to try to catch the water, but they only had six hands, and lots more than six places were dripping, so they were hollering to their friends to bring cups to catch this water and pretty soon we were all just laughing.

We also discovered Dilemma #3:
STEM Challenge: Sometimes those leaks just won't stop dripping! But, do kids give up? Never! They just keep trying new ideas!
First of all, check that photo- I accidentally caught a drop of water falling! Fabulous!
Anyway, the worst thing was patching the leaking places. You cannot put tape over wet spots so kids had to dry off the pipeline and cups to make repairs.
In the end we had a fabulous learning time. The pipelines really did work! I'd say half of them  were functioning with only minor leaking in one or two places and we did have ONE that never leaked at all. We also had great talks about why you would need a pipeline and the scenario behind the reason for this challenge was quite intriguing to consider. It was all about dogs, and water for the dogs, and avoiding a household chore by inventing an easier way! Ha!

Now, here's more about the other EARTH Series challenges:
Click here for Solar Ovens
Click here for Earthquakes

The other Seasonal Series tasks are:

You can also take a look at my Pinterest Board for Seasonal STEM Challenges:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Five Best STEM Challenges! (According to the Teacher)

Thanks for joining me today! About two weeks ago I added a post about the favorite STEM challenges in my classroom- according to the kids! You can read that post right {HERE}
In the meantime I have a new list and it's all about the favorites in my classroom- from my point of view!
STEM: Which STEM challenges are my favorites- from the teacher's point of view! I like the same ones kids do, but these are my favorites and not the top picks of the kids! Read the post to find out why!
Don't get me wrong, I love all the challenges students picked for our top 5! But, if I have to pick the top five, my list is entirely different than the kids. Their opinions tend to be swayed by the fun factor..... just sayin'
So, here's my top FIVE best STEM Challenges and reasons I love them the most!
STEM Challenge: Students learn about volume and surface area and then try to build the box with the greatest volume possible- here's the trick: every group begins with the same size poster board for their box!
This is my number one because of the math involved. Kids learn about volume and surface area and then the question posed to them is, "What do these two measures have to do with one another? Is one affected by the other?"
The boxes we use as models and for measuring are all cereal boxes. So, we also delve into the history of cereal and the marketing of cereal. The box, it turns out, is like a little advertising billboard for the product. So, kids have this task: "Create a cereal and its box. Use a piece of poster board and make your own box, with the goal of having the largest possible volume for the box.
 Every group has the same size poster board. You might think that all the boxes will be the same....nope!
In the end, each team presents its box and a commercial they have written. All the boxes are measured for final surface area and volume and a winner is declared. This STEM activity is just jam-packed with stuff! It makes kids think and plan and work together! (On a side note, the materials are just ridiculously easy: poster board, tape, empty cereal boxes, and markers!)

STEM Challenge: It's a mystery build! Every group gets a task card describing what they must build and then the groups must choose the materials they think will work best! Here's the trick: the materials have a cost and the kids must stay under budget!
This Mystery Build is number 2 on my list! I love the way it turned out! My idea was to have kids all build the same thing, but with different materials OR have the same materials and build something different. I tried both of those ideas, but was not happy with the waste of materials and finally settled on a great plan. Every team builds something different. They all have the same materials from which to choose, but they choose what they think they will need based on their ideas and what they are building. To make it even trickier, they have a budget and must purchase the materials! This is such a crazy good challenge for so many reasons. The structures the kids built were amazing, but the best part for me was watching them plan. They drew elaborate sketches and then checked the materials. I listened as groups tried to decide what was needed and then bargain with each other for items, like this: "Okay, I do think we need craft sticks, but not as many as you think. And I think we need three feet of tape, so let's try this. Let's get 5 craft sticks and 2 feet of tape. That will cost less and we get both things." 
You can read more about this challenge right {HERE} (By the way, this challenge is a freebie in my TpT store!)

STEM Challenge: It's a simple building task with only two materials, but it's the background story of this one that makes it one of my favorite STEM activities!
Coming in at number 3 for me is Pipelines. This is the easiest challenge ever- with paper and tape as the only materials. It's the background story that makes this so fabulous. We researched the country of Panama and talked extensively about how remote villages get water. It seems that many of them get water from a centrally located tank that drains water through piping systems to collection areas. The villagers must carry jugs or buckets on a trek to the collection pipe and fill their containers with water to take back home. This is a daily chore. The main problem is not just the journey to get the water, but the fact that the water is often contaminated by the faulty pipe system. I found images online of pipes and drainage systems that were quite startling to my students. They, of course, think the source of all water is the tap in their kitchens or bathrooms. It has never occurred to them that water is not sent to people like this all over the world. This challenge was eye-opening for my fifth graders. 
The design challenge was to work as a charitable organization with a plan to create a safe pipe system for remote villages. Each group built a model of their pipeline to present to the charity to perhaps be the plan the charity would then adopt in order to make better piping systems for disadvantaged communities.
Kids had specific design constraints for their pipelines. The demo of their systems did not use real water! We made a ping pong ball travel through the pipe system! I love this challenge!


STEM Challenge: It's a real-life challenge involving a great scenario and the ultimate in teamwork. Two teams work as one group. Each team has the same materials and each build half the structure. In the end they must join the two parts to make the device work!
The Same Supplies 2 Tasks challenge was born during the trials I had with thinking about mystery builds. In this type of challenge two groups work together as one team. Each group gets the same materials, but each builds something different. When the two separate devices are completed the two things are joined together. So, ultimately the two groups within the team must work together fabulously. I had no idea how this would work, but it was spectacular. The two smaller groups conferred and kept talking as each separate part was being built. They measured together and made sure pieces fit together. They tried out preliminary parts of the devices to make sure they would work together. It was awesome!!!
We tried three different versions of the same supplies, 2 tasks format, but my favorite was the rescue challenge. In this one the teams had to build a platform and the cranking device that would raise the platform from the ground to a three foot height. The scenario was that the teams had to rescue a friend that has fallen off a cliff side. I love this challenge purely for the team work I saw as kids completed it!
(You can read more about these tasks right {HERE}

STEM Challenge: This one is an experiment and design challenge. Kids keep data tables of the experiment, then build a ramp, and make the ramp the height needed according to their data. Third graders loved this one!
Oh my, did we all love this one, but me especially. I have really enjoyed working with experiment and design challenges. I like having students experiment, control variables, and keep data tables. Then we use the data to make good, scientific decisions about what to build. In the ramp challenge we tested the angle of ramps to decide which one gave the greatest distance and also the smoothest ride. Then kids built their own ramp and placed it at an angle to create the longest distance for their little cars. This produced so many extra design opportunities. Kids wanted side rails on their ramps, the transition from the ramp to the floor was a problem, some wanted free-standing ramps, and some cars just would not stay upright. So many things to consider, but it was amazing to see. We stopped often to talk about why results were not what we expected and what could be going wrong. Total fun and all you need is a lot of cardboard and a bunch of little matching cars!

Alright, STEM Friends, that gives you a little more information about my favorite STEM challenges. How does this compare to the kids choices?
Their choices and mine are all different! All ten of the challenges are just super. Try one of them from each list and decide for yourself. 

KIDS: 
Roller Coasters
Pancakes
Boats
Bungee Jumping
Catapults

MINE:
Building Cereal Boxes
Mystery Builds
Pipelines
Rescue Devices
Ramps

Also, check out Doodlebugs today to see all the teachers that linked up for Five for Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What's Going on in the Lab? Earthquakes!

Shake, Rattle, and Roll!
Hello STEM Friends! Have a got a fun STEM challenge to share!
Are you ready for this? It's earthquakes and jiggly jello......
STEM Challenge: Can you build an earthquake resistant structure? Make it several floors tall and then shake it!
Okay, so I know you have seen these on Pinterest. I spotted a pin about two years ago and saved it to my idea file and recently decided it was time to give it a try.

So, first I needed some pans of jello. That seemed easy. I bought pans at the dollar store and real jello because I thought generic jello might not mix right and then I'd have 8 pans of runny, gummy gunk.
I decided to go on a Sunday afternoon and make all these pans in my classroom.
I mean, seriously, how could I have made all this at home and then transported it to school?
A better questions is why I needed eight pans of jello. 
Well, I ususally have 7 groups and I figured every group needed a pan. And I better make an extra because somebody always spills something.

Anyway, I made 8 pans. But they needed to be refrigerated.
Oops, I hadn't thought that far ahead.
It turned out that the mini fridge that goes with our portable, rolling kitchen cart was available and I just rolled it right into my lab. And, miracle of all miracles, I was able to use plastic trays and stack all those jello pans.
And my lab smelled like fruity, tooty for three days, Just sayin'

Now, it's finally time for the kids' part in this jiggly mess.
STEM Challenge: Since the foundation for the structure is unstable, you must build a house that can still remain intact after being shaken!
Mind you, I had planned to do this with third graders and I did try a class of the littles. Then I swiftly made the decision to move on up to 4th grade. The toothpicks and marshmallows presented quite a challenge in building a sturdy house!

STEM Challenge: Build an earthquake resistant house and then try it! Give it some vigorous shaking for 15 seconds! Will it stay upright?
After building their houses they placed them in the shake pans and shook them vigorously, but not violently. Say that three times fast!
Did all of them work? Take a look below!

STEM Challenge: Buildings that are not built with stable connections may topple over in this challenge!
Nope, some of them collapsed.
Some hints for you: 
YOU ONLY NEED ONE PAN OF THE JIGGLY STUFF!
Have paper towels on hand and wet wipes cause kids are going to touch the stuff just because they want to make sure it's real jello.
A least twelve of them will ask if we are going to eat the jello.
At least one group is going to make some wonky something that won't stand up on its own, much less standing up in jello.
They will LEARN something from this- as silly as it seems to be.
We spent time talking about building codes and creating structures that will move with an earthquake, but not collapse.
It was FUN!

And just because I like to make iMovies I have one of some of our houses being shaken! Take a look at our movie:
 
There you have a peek into a recent challenge. This one is part of the Earth Series!
Go back and read last week's Wednesday post about Solar Ovens. Click {HERE}
Coming soon:
 Water Pipelines
Surface Tension