5 New Books to Share! (May)

Today's the day!
It's Book Review Day and here are five that I know you will love.
*Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.
Isn't that the truth!? This post is my May Book Review with five books you should try! My favorite was the last one! Check it out!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Me Before You is the story of Louisa, called Lou by her family. Lou is unemployed as the book begins, but soon takes a job as a sitter for a quadriplegic young man. He is bitter and lonely and really just wants to die. Lou sets out to alter his state of mind and comes to understand him better and also to be an excellent caregiver for him.
Me Before You is the story of Louisa, called Lou by her family. Lou is unemployed as the book begins, but soon takes a job as a sitter for a quadriplegic young man. He is bitter and lonely and really just wants to die. Lou sets out to alter his state of mind and comes to understand him better and also to be an excellent caregiver for him. She attempts to get him to leave his home and do things and even plans outings. Some end disastrously, like visiting a race track, while others provide him with some ways to relax and do things. Since he was formerly a very active man it's hard to find something he has not already done and, of course, can no longer do in the same way. There are poignant moments and hilarious moments as Lou grows into herself through this experience. There is an under current of romance to this one, but nothing too startling or dramatic. It's a light, quick read. The ending may surprise you! It did me! (This book has also been made into a movie that is coming soon or already out!)

Looking for Alaska by John Green
This is a young person's book, maybe high school age. In fact, the main characters are about 16. Miles is the main voice and he is a quirky, fun young man, a little obsessed with reading about and quoting the last words of famous people. His main quote he lives by is "I go to seeks a great perhaps."
This is a young person's book, maybe high school age. In fact, the main characters are about 16. Miles is the main voice and he is a quirky, fun young man, a little obsessed with reading about and quoting the last words of famous people. His main quote he lives by is, "I go to seek a great perhaps." He leaves home to go to a boarding school in Alabama and meets an interesting new set of friends that just happens to include a girl named Alaska. The kids all do the sort of things teenagers do and you may find yourself wishing they would stop being so immature, but that is what makes this book click. Eventually, you will find a tragedy occurring, but this book is quite good, funny, and somewhat poignant. A great and quick read!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
This is the beautiful story of Molly and an elderly woman named Vivian. They both share the fact they are orphans. The story of both of them is woven together as Vivian tells Molly about her girlhood. Vivian was born as Niamh in Ireland and immigrated with her parents to the USA. When her parents both die she is turned over to the Children's Aid Society where she then is placed aboard a train to the west- the Orphan train.
This is the beautiful story of Molly and an elderly woman named Vivian. They both share the fact they are orphans. The story of both of them is woven together as Vivian tells Molly about her girlhood. Vivian was born as Niamh in Ireland and immigrated with her parents to the USA. When her parents both die she is turned over to the Children's Aid Society in New York where she then is placed aboard a train to the west- the Orphan train. As the train stops at various stations the group of orphans is paraded out to meet their prospective new "families". The evening before the first stop of the train the children are told what is going to happen. They will stand before the crowd and wait to be picked.
One little boy asks, "What if no one wants me?"
Oh, just break my heart!
It turns out that strong boys are picked first because they will be workers on the farms. Some people want the babies. Others might pick the girls to work in their houses. 
Heart-breaking and based on true stories. You will love this book and the way the characters are brought to life. It's a book you will not want to end! And one you will not forget!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
This is a book that every parent should read. You will learn all about what kids really do to each other in today's world. This is the story of Kate, who gets a phone call at work telling her something has happened at her teenage daughter's boarding school.
This is a book that every parent should read. You will learn all about what kids really do to each other in today's world. This is the story of Kate, who gets a phone call at work telling her something has happened at her teenage daughter's boarding school. Later she is told that her daughter, Amelia, was upset over being caught cheating and jumped to her death. However, Kate soon receives an anonymous text message that says, "She didn't jump." Amelia's story is told with her text messages and emails as her mom fights to find out what really happened to her. Very intense little book!

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
Oh my, I loved this book so much. It's the story of Alice and her dad. Dad is a librarian and loves books and reading. When Alice is young he sets out to read to her for 100 days straight. This becomes an obsession with the two of them as they tackle book after book. Soon, their reading streak has grown to enormous numbers of days (in the thousands).
Oh my, I loved this book so much. It's the story of Alice and her dad. Dad is a librarian and loves books and reading. When Alice is young he sets out to read to her for 100 days straight. This becomes an obsession with the two of them as they tackle book after book. Soon, their reading streak has grown to enormous numbers of days (in the thousands). A few times one of them cannot be at home at night (think teenager sleepovers) and dad will call her to read over the phone. This continues until she goes away to college. Profound book. Each chapter tells a story of their life and some about the reading and books they choose. The ending is bittersweet, but marvelous. Dad is forced out of his job as a librarian and he starts going to a local nursing home to read to the old folks. Near the end of the book you will find this passage and you will probably cry. I did.
The setting is at the nursing home as dad arrives.
"I came in to read to my last group of the day, and there was this huge crowd in one room, in rows and rows of chairs, maybe forty or fifty people. They were all facing the same way, and I assumed they were watching a movie. Well I was pretty disappointed, since this was my usual reading time and they knew I was coming, but I decided I would just have to read to whoever was free. I went up to the front desk to sign in, and the woman told me, "They're waiting for you." She pointed at that same room, and I realized that everyone was sitting quietly, looking at me."
That day the dad read to this very large audience.
The book ends with Alice writing about the Reading Promise because that is really what the reading was all about.  Her dad promised to read to her everyday and he did.
Precious book!

Okay, friends, these are some books I can recommend and I hope you try them. Come back in a month for the June Book Review edition!
Also, go right now and visit Doodlebugs teaching and see all the other blogs that are linked up today! Better yet, link up yourself!

8

5 Ways Painting with Kids is Fun!

Happy Friday!
This week's list of five is all about Bird feeders we have been making!

Part of making these was to paint the finished product.......
Yep.
I said paint.
I am not an art teacher.
I am a STEM teacher.
And an OCD one that doesn't do messes.

However, these are turning out too cute and I thought I would share  some things I have learned about painting with kids.
Painting in STEM class has the same dilemmas as other structures and you just have be prepared for the splatters and re-dos and kids getting paint on their fingers!


Okay, first up is Fun with Spatter Painting
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and then decorate it. The team for this one decided to paint it a team color and then apply spatter paint. They went outside for that part!
Y'all take a look at that bird feeder. It is spectacular. The black tube on the side is where you pour in the bird seed and it collects in the tallest room of the structure. The team added the second room and we cut holes in it for a bird house attached to the bird feeder. Then they started painting it.

At first it was just orange and black (our local high school uses those colors) and then they started adding a white stripe.  Look at this:
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! This team found a very clever way to make the lines on their bird feeder straight! Great problem solving!
They added strips of clear tape to make that line perfect and it turned out extremely well! (I do have painter's tape, but they didn't ask!)

Then I turned around just in time to see paint flying as they had decided to make a spatter effect.
Everywhere. On them, the table, the floor, the bird feeder.....
So I sent them outside and they finished this unique little bird feeder!


Next, up is the Life Saver Candy bird feeder.
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! We called this finished feeder the Life Saver model. The team learned a lot about mixing paint colors!
This one is interesting. It's card stock glued around a tissue tube and then painted in stripes. It reminds me of Life Saver candy. The problem this group had was making a top for the feeder. They attached some craft sticks to a round piece of cardboard and then found this was hard to paint. Without talking to me first, they decided it would be neat to paint the lid all of the paint colors they had and, maybe, swirling all those colors together would make rainbow paint.
Nope.
It makes BROWN paint and it pretty much messed up their top.
Later, they painted the top a solid red, but you can still the dark brown popping through.
We learned a valuable lesson about mixing lots of colors!


Next, you have painting of water bottles.....
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! Several teams opted to use plastic water bottles and they make great feeders. They are just more challenging to paint!
This is harder than you would think. It takes many coats of paint to cover a plastic bottle. Primer would have helped, but I didn't think of that. We still had some cute bird feeders made of water bottles! Take a look:
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! This team cut holes in the bottom of the bottle and added cardboard slides. When you pour the bird seed into the bottle it slides out onto the bird feeding platform!

STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! This team built a platform of craft sticks and added a dowel for the bird to stand on. They painted the bottle with about 6 coats of paint to get it to cover well!

STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it. This team covered everything with white paint and then used cotton tipped swabs to make the dots. They have a standing platform for the bird that resembles a front porch!





Next, another lesson we learned.
Kids don't always understand what to do with painting mistakes.
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! This team layered straws as the roof of their feeder and then decided to paint the straws. Oops, plastic straws are challenging to paint!
This team had the cutest bird feeder. They made the roof out of large milk shake straws. I had several colors of these straws and they made a pattern on the roof that was really nice.
Then they started flipping paint brushes at each other (cause that's what kids will do sometimes) and some paint flew onto their roof and instead of wiping it off or getting me to help, they decided to just paint over the straws.
We learned that you should probably not do that. The pattern of colors they previously had was all covered and the paint didn't adhere well.
Hard lesson to learn (which I might add all started with kids playing with paint brushes!)

Finally, we have the most amazing group's bird feeder.
STEM Challenge: Build a bird feeder and decorate it! This team made a box out of craft sticks and then had to decide how to create an inside platform so the layer of bird seed would work. Clever solution to this problem!

This group wanted a box built of craft sticks. They painted each stick and then hot glued them into place and did a really good job with all that. Then they had a dilemma!
Are we going to fill that box with bird seed? If we do and the bird seed gets low in the box, will the birds be able to get to it?
So, I stood with them as we discussed options.
Y'all.
I can't even tell you how hard they worked at this.
It was amazing.
First, they wanted to build a pulley system that would automatically raise the bottom of the box as the bird seed is eaten. This is fantastic, but we did not have the resources to build that.
So, next, they decided to attach a cardboard piece in the bottom of the bird feeder box that could manually be raising by pulling on a cord as the bird seed gets eaten. We tried to make this work, but the weight of the bird seed made it hard to do.

So, take a look at the final solution.
STEM Challenge: The bird feeder box was too large so this team added a smaller box inside it. On top of that box they glued a platform which made a much more shallow area for the bird seed! Very clever!
They placed a smaller box in the bird feeder and then added a cardboard piece as a floor on top of that box. They sealed it all in with a layer of glue and this makes a very shallow bird seed section. The birds can get to the seed and it weighs a lot less!
This is why I love STEM so much!
The kids that will persevere with a task like this are just amazing!

Have a great weekend!
And go visit Doodlebugs for more Five for Friday!

5

April Showers Bring May Flowers! Lab Happenings!

Happy Wednesday Friends!
Was it rainy during April where you live?
It was not here, but we are still enjoying our May flowers that are blooming. This prompted me to think about using seeds and flowers in STEM class and this first challenge we tried was the best ever!
Take a peek!

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students have a method of seed dispersal and must build a model to spread seeds! Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!

Here's the story of this challenge!
I drew a fabulous anchor chart showing the methods of seed dispersal and we had a great discussion including ideas of how we could build something for each method.  Then I passed out the assignment cards.
Each group had a different one. They had some decisions to make!
How would they build a model and what materials would they need?

Here are some of their models! Are you ready? These are FABULOUS!

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how animals disperse seeds! Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
Basically, animals move seeds by eating the fruit of a plant and then expelling the seeds. They might also move seeds by taking the seeds back to the homes. Kids really enjoyed thinking about this one- mostly because they like to say the word 'poop'!
The ant in the photo is carrying away seeds in his feet.

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how seeds attach to animals in order to be dispersed. Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
Attachment is the dispersal method that involves plant parts clinging to an animal. This one has an interesting story that involves the invention of velcro! Think about it! The group in the photo made a turkey! They even included the turkey's wattle with a piece of red yarn. Their seeds are clinging to the turkey 'feathers'.

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how seeds travel by water to be dispersed.  Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
Did you know that most seeds float? So, what would you build to show this dispersal method? Most of my groups built a form of a boat that carried the seeds away. The one in the photo looks fabulous, but it was made entirely of cotton balls so it sunk immediately!

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how seeds travel by wind to be dispersed.  Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
Kids loved this one! Most groups hoped they would be assigned this dispersal method or the last one!
Some form of a parachute was what the teams built.  And the parachute dispersed their seeds.

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how gravity causes seed dispersal. Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
Gravity is a form of dispersal, but generally results in dropping the seeds right near the parent plant. This is really not what you want to happen. You want those seeds to travel away. The team in the photo made a cherry by wrapping red yarn around the seeds and adding a green straw as the stem. They cut that red yarn to show the cherry drop to the ground. 

STEM Challenge with seeds! Students build a model to show how seed pods explode to disperse seeds. Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!
This dispersal method was, by far, the one all the kids wanted. They just loved thinking about placing seeds inside a balloon and then popping the balloon to create the exploding and seed dispersal. 

Y'all we had the best time with this challenge! The kids learned so much about seed dispersal and their models were precious!
STEM Challenge with seeds! Students have a method of seed dispersal and must build a model to spread seeds! Fantastic extension to use after you study plants and flower parts!

So, what have you been doing in your science class?
Coming Soon:
Bird Feeders
3-D Flowers
Potatoes


0

5 Neat Tricks for STEM Supplies!

Happy Friday everyone!
Thanks for joining me today as we discuss one of my favorite topics!
STEM
Specifically STEM supplies....
It can be daunting to think about, but today's post may give you some practical solutions to a few supply dilemmas!

Just a few Tips and Tricks about STEM Materials- Check this blog post for some fabulous ideas to help you stretch those materials and make them last!




STEM Class: The number one material used is masking tape. Check this blog posts for some tips and tricks about using this supply!
We use a lot of masking tape. I actually have two suggestions for you with masking tape. First, buy the least expensive kind you can find, but mark these so that you know it's the cheap stuff. Use this tape when you want to give kids unlimited amounts or when they are creating something that tape will not be a determining factor in the structure. I keep a bin of the cheap tape and give teams the entire roll when I am not worried about how much they will use.
HOWEVER....
sometimes they need the stronger, better tape and I limit how much they can have.
How do you do this?
Easy, peasy. tear off a strip the length you are giving them and tape it to the edge of their work table! It still stay sticky enough to use and the kids will cut or tear off only what they need. They learn to be very frugal when the tape is limited.
So, here's a trick: How do I measure how much they are getting?
I use the floor tiles as a visual measuring device. Each tile is 12 inches and I "eyeball" the length by using the tiles as a guide!

STEM Class: Here's a great tip fro this blog post- Collect gently used or unused materials and sort them for use in later challenges. Check the post for more ideas!
RECYCLE materials! Oh my, we are so gooooood at this! When it is clean up time I have kids take things apart and place gently used items in my recycle bin. Of course, anything they didn't use is also placed in that bin. Later, I sort through those items and return them to their proper places in my lab to be used again another day. I even have a large zip lock bag full of pieces of straws. You never know when that might come in handy!


STEM Class: Need a great trick about the materials of the challenge! Cut things in half. It will still be enough and will help on wastefulness! More tricks and tips on this blog post!
This trick one is just one I discovered the hard way. You know what kids do when you give them entire pieces of construction paper or card stock, right? They cut something out of the middle of the paper......
Ugh! So, whenever we use paper for any structure I just give them a half sheet. They still have enough for whatever we are building, but it becomes so much less wasteful! I do the same thing with pipe cleaners- cut them in half. Here's one more trick- use the narrow craft sticks instead of the wider ones. They cost a lot less!


STEM: What one supply does your science or STEM class need the most? Plastic bins! Check this post for more great tricks about supplies!
Here's my number one, most valuable, most used, and cannot live without TRICK!
Have tons of plastic bins. TONS. You cannot have too many.
We use those clear plastic shoe boxes all the time. ALL THE TIME! I organize materials for use in them. I pile them full of things for each group to use. The kids store their unfinished structures in them. Another thing you can grab (from the dollar store) is dish pans. Get a bunch of those. They also work great for holding materials or storing unfinished work. And, best of all, dishpans full of water are the most fun ever- The Build a Boat challenge is our absolute favorite!



STEM Challenges: Sometimes you just don't have the right materials, so what can you substitute? Check this post for a few ideas!
Last, but not least, I know you are just like me....you plan an activity, only to discover you forgot to get one of the materials you needed.....

So, learn to improvise (and I know you already know this).
Here are my favorite substitutions:
Instead of pipettes- use straws
Instead of Pom-poms- use cotton balls
Instead of Paper clips- use pipe cleaners
Instead of card stock - use construction paper scraps
Instead of dowel sticks- use straws
Instead of dowel sticks- use pencils (unsharpened ones)
Instead of 1 ounce cups (which cost more) - use 3 ounce cups that are cut in half
Instead of graduated cylinders- use 3 ounce cups with measures marked on the side

Thanks for stopping by! If you need more about STEM Materials try these posts:

Also, go check out Doodlebugs Link up to see more Friday sharing!



2

It's All About That Baking Powder!

Wow.
Kids love pancakes.
I knew this already, but we recently had Pancake Week with fourth grade and I remembered that the kids are a little crazy during pancake week. This was the second annual Pancake week.
Let me explain.

STEM Challenge! Can you design the ultimate pancake. This involves testing different amounts of the ingredients until you get it just right!
I had this fabulous idea about a year ago that involved pancakes. I really wanted the kids to experiment with some kind of food and I thought about cornbread or cupcakes. But, pancakes just seemed easier. So I started working on this to refine it for FOURTH GRADERS!
Yep.

So, here's the short version of this fantastic STEM event.
First, you need a bunch of griddles.
STEM Challenge! Can you design the ultimate pancake. This involves testing different amounts of the ingredients until you get it just right! And you need plenty of griddles!
Last year I had two griddles and it was HARD to get all the experimental pancakes cooked and on the day we did the big pancakes it was really HARD. Like kids getting impatient hard. So, this year I added two more griddles.
Here's a great truth for you. If you decide to try this with a bunch of griddles, you might also find that too many griddles makes the breakers click off and the power goes out.
With pancakes on the griddles cooking.
And kids waiting with forks in their hands.
So, I learned the hard way to spread the griddles all over the room and use different circuits instead of overloading one. Which also meant that I easily had 15,000 steps on my FitBit on pancake cooking days.

STEM Challenge: Kids measuring out the amount of each ingredient as they test their pancake recipes!
Okay, ready for the testing! The idea was that the kids would use a very small amount of the ingredients and make tiny pancakes to taste. The first batch was missing the baking powder. After that the kids added different amounts of baking powder trying to determine the ideal measurement. Each batch was mixed, cooked, and tasted.
Let's just talk about measuring and kids.
The truth is they can do it. They actually know how to use a plastic knife to level the measuring spoon and they do pretty well at this.
It just takes about 4 thousand years.
So, I learned to place pre-measured amounts of flour into cups they could just dump. The other ingredients are much less messy than the flour!
By the way, this pancake recipe had no eggs.

STEM Challenge: Hands on learning at its best as kids watch the chemical reaction created by baking powder in their pancake recipes!
Here's where it got interesting. While the first batch (with no baking powder) was cooking not one student said anything. They watched and then tasted it. It was gummy and rubbery and not good.
Then we added a small amount of baking powder and tried again. When those little bubbles began to form we had AHA moments. The kids all talked about how those bubbles are always on pancakes and this was when we talked about chemical reactions! Excellent hands-on learning!

STEM Challenge: The perfect little pancake with just the right amount of ingredients! Great activity involving experimenting and tasting!
The right amount of baking powder produced these tiny perfect little pancakes!

STEM Challenge: Time to clean up after experimenting! Great activity involving experimenting and tasting!
What about clean up? Well, we used large measuring cups as our mixing bowls. Each team had a clean up crew (that rotated) and they rinsed the cups and then used soap to thoroughly scrub them. I inspected these to make sure they were clean before they were used again.

STEM Challenge: What happens when you use too much baking powder in your pancake recipe?
On to the next amounts of baking powder. As the amount of this ingredient increased we began to see fluffier and fluffier pancakes that began to resemble biscuits!

STEM Challenge: Use the right amount of each ingredient to create this pancake masterpiece. Great STEM Challenge that involves experimenting and then designing!
Finally, the kids decided which amount of baking powder was the ideal amount and we multiplied the ingredients by 8. A fabulous math portion of this task, I might add! On the final pancake day the kids brought toppings and then made their recipes by their own math calculations. They added chocolate chips, whipped topping, strawberries, and syrup and ate until their little tummies were full!

One of our favorite STEM Challenges!
Well, except for this part:
STEM Challenges are sometimes messy, but the hands-on learning makes it all okay!
It is a little messy!
But so worth it!
Put this one on your list to try!
Click right here to see this challenge in more detail: PANCAKES

0
Back to Top