How to Make the Most with STEM Materials

The number one, absolute, most-asked question I receive from my readers and those interested in STEM resources have the same topic.

MATERIALS! Where do I get materials? How much will this cost? What if I do not have the right things? What if my kids ruin things? What if I do not have enough?

Well, let me help you with this a little! (Or a lot) I mean, I don't think you can become an expert on using STEM materials, but my experiences in a real STEM lab just might save you some time- and money!

The number one, absolute, most-asked question I receive from my readers and those interested in STEM resources have the same topic. MATERIALS! Where do I get materials? How much will this cost? What if I do not have the right things? What if my kids ruin things? What if I do not have enough? Well, let me help you with this a little! My experiences in a real STEM lab just might save you some time- and money!


0

Is the Engineering Design Process Really Important?

As a teacher, I am sure you have been overwhelmed! The last week of school, the first week of school, right before report cards go out, parent conference week, during an observation, and so many more occasions are when we all get that feeling that it's just too much.

That is the exact situation I was in a few years ago when I left the regular classroom to take on a STEM Lab position. I spent the entire summer decorating and organizing the lab and then started gathering resources.

Now, let's talk about those resources! I had practically nothing and most of the idea books I had were too difficult for my age group.

There was, however, one thing I began to see in those resources- over and over.

It was the Engineering Design Process and I began to think that this little process might be important for STEM.




0

How to Get Your Money's Worth with STEM Resources

I like big bundles.....

I could not resist that opening, sorry, but this could be the truth. We all like bargains and saving money. And that is the reason for the larger bundles of items you can purchase at Teachers Pay Teachers. Before we get into that I need to give you a little bit of background...

You may already know this story - if you have been reading my blog for a while. But this story is what led me to start creating resources for teachers (including bundles).

One day my principal announced we would have a STEM Lab the following school year and I knew I wanted the job. I love teaching science and I'm a pretty good engineer #problemsolver

So, I applied for the job, interviewed for it, and snagged it. Yay! Well, except for the part of discovering I had no resources. ZERO.  A local hands-on science program lent me some idea books, but they were all way too complicated for elementary students and 45-minute class sessions.

So, I started searching for ideas. I found a source that claimed to have 50 STEM Challenges in it. Sounded great to me so I purchased it. And it did have 50+ challenges, but many of them were just variations of the same challenge and the most dismaying part- there were no directions.

Y'all I am a directions reader. I need the basics of how to do things and as a new STEM teacher, I will freely admit that I had no clue what I was doing. How could I take a basic list of materials and a one-sentence directive and teach a class?  Well, I couldn't, so I started developing my own resources. The things I include are the things I needed when I first started my STEM journey:
  • Details, details, details, and directions for how to do things!
  • Photos and samples
  • Tips for what works and what does not work
  • The Engineering Design Process



2

Books you Will Want to Keep Near You

Do you have books you keep? Books you re-read? Books that are dear to you?

I do. I have books I remember- not because of the great writing or the author- but just because of how they made me feel. I have some I read this month that I want to share with you.

These just might be books you want to save and keep nearby.
Book Review of five books that are all great. Highly recommend all five!

2

Don't Worry - It's Just Water! (Slides, That is)

My STEM students all have their favorite challenges! Fourth graders love cooking pancakes and building roller coasters. Fifth graders love catapults and Newton's Cradles.

The hands-down favorite challenge for third graders is WATER SLIDES!

When I first started working on this challenge a few years back I knew kids would love it. It's messy, but it's just water that splashes- which is usually pretty funny!

Take a look at this spectacular project!

STEM challenge: students will be using materials to plan a design and then build a working water slide that will take a toy figure down the slide- without leaking water. Students will have to select materials to line their slide so it won’t spill water. The slide must resemble a slide, have a turn, and have a ladder. Students will use the steps of the Engineering Design Process as you follow the pages of detailed and labeled teacher directions pages. Your students will love this challenge!
0

An Exciting Escape Room for the End of the Year

And suddenly it was May!

How does this happen? I mean, one minute we are coming back from Christmas Break and then it's March, and you blink and it's May!

I know we all have a secret countdown for the days that are left, but I also know this for sure- It is panic-time when mid-May hits. There is so much to do in a classroom by the time those May days arrive. We have end-of-year tests, scrapbooks to finish, last minute lessons, field day, awards to prepare, and countless other things (not to mention taking down decor and packing up for the summer.)

Seriously, the last thing you need is a project, right?

Well, what if I have an engaging activity that will keep your kids busy AND it requires minimal prep from you? Hmmm...sounds good!

If you are looking for an Escape Room experience for your kids to end their school year, this will be perfect! An Escape room is a puzzle game in which students solve riddles and puzzles and find clues to finish tasks. In this Quest, students solve puzzles to open locked boxes. Students will complete a scavenger hunt to find clues, they have a maze to draw paths through to collect clues, and they have a secret coded message! In the end, they can complete the STEM Challenge that is included.
0

A Real Life Challenge with Cargo Drops

We all have those moments in our lives that we will remember forever. One that I still think about is the tragic tsunami in 2004. The scenes of the devastated islands of Indonesia were haunting. And yet, with all the destruction there were people that survived. And for days after the tsunami rescue flights with airplanes and helicopters landed or participated in cargo drops of water and meals-ready-to-eat.

When we first tried this STEM challenge I had just seen a replay of some of the footage from the tsunami and I wondered if my students had heard of it. They were too young to have memories of it, but we talked at length about the earthquake and the resulting waves.

We wondered about cargo drops and I found videos of many different kinds and we watched those. Finally, it was time to see if we could build a cargo carrier that could withstand being dropped.

STEM Challenge: students will learn about cargo or air drops and design a container to experiment with dropping from different heights. Students will follow the steps of the Engineering Design Process for this challenge. The package contains detailed step-by-step procedures for the teacher that are marked with the Design Process steps. The accompanying lab sheets for students are also marked. Your students will love building and testing their cargo carriers. You will love the teamwork they show!
0

How to Put Together a Perfect Planner for Specialists

Raise your hand if you can remember those awful "Plan Books" your admin passed out when school started every year. You know the ones with all those big boxes and the whole thing was larger than a legal size piece of paper. And it did not fit into any cute teacher bag you had ...

Then along came some companies that started making a planner that works for a teacher with ten tons of extra pages for everything that you might ever need.

Except, I don't need all those extra pages.

I am a specialist. I teach one subject. I have 361 students and I do not need a page for their birthdays in my planner. Or their personal passwords. 

So, I started making my own planner. 

Are you looking for a teacher binder or planner? If you are like me and only teach ONE subject your needs are different! This product is designed for specialists that want a calendar specifically for a teacher of one subject! Provided in color combos of teal and purple or cacti/succulents. Includes editable covers and grade book. One page and 2-page calendars and lesson planning pages are fabulous choices. Notes and reflection pages are provided in two formats. Black/white choices are included!
0

How to Control That Flooding - Grab Some Towels!

Get your towels ready for this one! But, I promise, cross my heart, it will be worth it.

And it's just water, after all.

It's the Great Flood Barrier Challenge and it is one of our absolute favorites. I love it because it involves experimentation and keeping data and then making decisions based on the data.

The kids love it because.... well it's messy!

In this STEM Challenge, students build a barrier that will slow or stop the flow of water. First, they test various absorbent items.  After experimenting, test results help choose an absorbent item and then they design the flood-proof barrier. It is tested when water is poured into the structure's container. Can students effectively use the materials to build a fence system and pack it with absorbent items? Will the house flood? Great problem solving occurs with this STEM project!

0

The Wives Win Every Time

So, the other day I was flipping through a recommended booklist and saw a book with 'wife' in the title. It looked familiar and it turns out that I had already read it, but here's the weird thing.

I found several books in my journal that had 'wife' in the title.

So, of course, I searched Amazon and found even more. Goodness....I ordered three books and added two more to this post which is all about wife books. How fun is this!



Book Reviews- five recommended books that all have 'wife' in the title!
In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon passes tiny amounts on to me- if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!
0

6 Engaging Ways to Close Out the Year

The school year's end is fast approaching and if you are like me it's time for Panic Mode!

How on earth are you going to get everything finished and keep the kids busy and engaged with meaningful work and still have some end-of-the-year fun?

Is this even possible?

Well, I have some ideas for you!

Highly engaging and fun ideas to end your school year with meaningful work. This post includes six resources that will keep your kids working together and enjoying the last few weeks of school as they complete a STEM challenge or two and maybe an end of the year memory flip book. The challenges are kid favorites, easy to prepare, and one of them is a free resource! The little Flipper booklet is fun to complete and will have students looking back on their great year!
0

How to Make Seed Dispersal Hands-On

Once upon a time, our third graders planted seeds every spring and we watched the Brassica plant change through its entire lifecycle- including pollinating them with dried bees. This was always my favorite day of the year!

I would hint to my third graders that the "bees were coming" and they just assumed the bees were alive. On Bee Day I would have my door closed and a note on it saying to be quiet because the bees had arrived.

They would come in whispering and looking around for the bees. Later I would bring out the dried bees. I loved it! Fooled them every time.

So, how can we add some of this excitement to the STEM Lab....hmmmm.....
STEM Challenge- students design a model of one of the ways seeds are dispersed. Each group is assigned one of the methods and then must determine which of the materials can be used to best build a model. They must choose their materials wisely to gather exactly what is needed to build the model. Finally, the teams will share their creation and demonstrate how it works. Students will be incredibly creative in finding a way to disperse the seeds and will love sharing their final product.

0

How to Make an Easy Bulletin Board

Many years ago when I was just beginning teacher training in college I remember being told to start a bulletin board portfolio. We were required to take photographs and create displays of ideas. During my observations and then internship I dutifully took pictures and kept my scrapbook of photos. I don't remember, but I probably got an A on that little assignment.

Truth: That scrapbook did not prepare me for making bulletin boards. Those photos did not teach me how to attach border quickly or how to add doo-dads to make the boards more interesting.

And now here I am in my teaching journey and I still have to make bulletin boards. And to this, I say, "Thank you Pinterest and cute fonts!"

And, thank you to the party section at Target... Keep reading!

Science and STEM Bulletin Boards! Templates for four boards with great ideas for elementary science or STEM displays and projects for classroom teachers. Images are included to customize your boards by printing letters and designing your own displays. Easy and fun ideas to add a science bulletin board to your classroom! Templates include letters and decorative images and ideas for using the set!
0

Are You a Little "Under the Weather"?

A few months back I experimented with a STEM Challenge we called a Quest.

Whoa! I could not have found a more perfect way to add a design challenge together with some intense problem-solving. It's a race against the clock and other teams to open locked boxes after completing a task.

My fourth and fifth graders cannot get enough of these! I wish I could invent them more quickly! The latest one is about the Weather.

STEM Quest for elementary students - a highly engaging activity that involves incredible problem-solving and collaboration. Kids complete tasks leading to displays where they use clues to discover the lock code to open a box. After opening that last box they earn materials for a STEM challenge. This one is all about the weather with matching weather instruments with descriptions, completing math problems, and using weather idioms. What a fabulous hands-on activity for your weather unit!
0

How Many Ways Can You Stop a Pipeline Leak?

Earth day will be here before you know it, but why wait for a specific day. Celebrate the Earth every day! 

We have so many STEM challenges that we try in the spring and this one is perfect.

It's the Water Pipeline Challenge! We also try Solar Ovens and Earthquake Resistant Structures!

STEM Challenges for elementary students! Students will experiment with heat-resistant materials and then use their test results to design the best oven possible. This is so exciting as they troop outside to test the materials, record the temperatures of the ovens, & choose the materials to design the best oven. Finally, they put together a chocolate treat and use the sun to help cook the item.  This STEM resource includes detailed teacher directions, photos, lab sheets, and rubrics.
0

All You Need is Sunshine and Chocolate!

Every year I repeat certain STEM Challenges! Which ones do we repeat? Why, the ones we love the best, of course!

Fourth graders always try Roller Coasters, fifth graders always try Catapults, and third graders always try Building Boats. Those three challenges are amazing and definitely are kid favorites.

In the month of April, we have three Earth related challenges we always repeat. Fifth graders build Water Pipelines and fourth graders build Earthquake Resistant Structures.

My third graders build Solar Ovens!

STEM Challenges for elementary students! Students will experiment with heat-resistant materials and then use their test results to design the best oven possible. This is so exciting as they troop outside to test the materials, record the temperatures of the ovens, & choose the materials to design the best oven. Finally, they put together a chocolate treat and use the sun to help cook the item.  This STEM resource includes detailed teacher directions, photos, lab sheets, and rubrics.
0

So Many Ways to Create an Earthquake!

Do you have favorite STEM Challenges? We sure do!

We love the Roller Coaster Challenge and the Pancake Challenge. But we also love the three challenges that created the Earth Series bundle.

This post will focus on only the Earthquake Structures. The other two challenges in the Earth Series will be featured soon! Trust me! Your kids will love these three challenges, too!

STEM Challenges for elementary students! Students will design and build a structure to withstand a simulated earthquake. Photos of ways to build the shake tray are included. Kids use only a few materials that are easy to gather for the teacher and will be fun for kids to use in your classroom. The building of the structure and then testing it on your shake tray are so much fun. This STEM resource includes detailed teacher directions, photos, lab sheets, and rubrics.


2

Craft Sticks for the Win with an Amazing Challenge

We have a waterpark in our town and because of this, it is really easy to talk about platforms. The Olympic sized pool has a three-tiered diving platform. In fact, many years ago an Olympic diver came to our town to use the pool and diving platform to train for the Olympics- where she eventually won a gold medal!

To set this challenge up we talk about the platform and also the lifeguard chairs. This gives the kids a great visual of what they are building. 

The rules of our STEM challenge are simple- build a platform that holds weight- which is something they love to do! Testing structures to see if they hold weight is super fun! Take a look!

STEM Challenges for elementary school students! This challenge is so versatile. With older students try building the craft stick platform using hot glue. With younger students use masking tape. The platform has a height requirement and must hold weight. Bring STEM into your upper elementary class with this simple two material challenge. The resource includes detailed instructions with several versions described. Photos, lab sheets, answer samples, and editable forms are provided!
0

Can you Find the Area of Your Home Sweet Home?

Do you have a fabulous way to get students to remember the difference between area and perimeter? 

If you are like me you know all the tricks! But, if you still need some ideas, stick with this post- especially because there's a free activity hidden in it somewhere!

STEM Math Challenge FREEBIE! Students design their Home Sweet Home using grid paper and a set of rules. They must have 15 rooms and calculate the area of each as they draw. In the end, they calculate the total cost of the home! Using the total square units they use a predetermined number to find the home's cost. The forms are editable! This FREE resource helps students practice finding area, addition, multiplication, and more!
1

Are You Choosing to be a Reader?

Some months when I read a set of books I will see a common theme. I don't usually plan for that to happen. This month was one of those months.

A theme developed accidentally. See if you can decide what it is ( and I will tell you later)!
Monthly Book Reviews- Each month I review five books and present summaries for you! These are books I can recommend! My reviews will give you reasons to try the book and enough information to make you interested in reading, but not give the story away! Enjoy!

2

How to Create a Foosball Frenzy in STEM

I still remember playing foosball when I was a teenager. We lived overseas, in Germany. I was an Army kid! Yep, grew up in Germany where we lived on an Army base, went to American schools, and all of us were from the states.

I could write a whole blog post on what it meant to grow up in that culture... but today we are talking all about foosball!

This one was just amazingly fun! And, it's going to be fun for you too- especially because there is a freebie involved! Take a look!

STEM Foosball! This challenge will have students building a foosball model that has two teams trying to kick a ball or marble. Students create the foosball players, design the format of the players, and add details to make the set fun. Let the competitions begin!

0

Bulletin Board Bonanza!

If you join me here very often you know I love three things- STEM, Reading, and...

BULLETIN BOARDS!

That's right. I love creating bulletin board displays. Here are some of my latest creations!

Science Bulletin Boards! Templates for four boards with great ideas for elementary science displays and projects for classroom teachers. Images are included to customize your boards by printing letters and designing your own displays. Easy and fun ideas to add a science bulletin board to your classroom!

Those little square boards are just too much fun!

0

Fun Ways to Celebrate Winter Sports

About two weeks ago a group of fifth graders asked me when we would be doing another Quest.

They actually cheered when I told them I was working on a new one. This one was actually inspired by a family trip to Crested Butte during Christmas break. I started thinking about a STEM challenge while riding a lift to the top of the mountain and BAM this Quest and Challenge were born!

It's based on all the sporting events that happen during the winter and also has a little inspiration from the upcoming sports celebrations in South Korea.
STEM Quest- It's an Unlock the Box event featuring Winter Sports and it includes a STEM Challenge!


0

Secrets and Page-Turners To Keep You Reading

A book with a secret you say? Can you guess what is going to happen? How often are you right?

This month's selection kept me reading just trying to get to the good parts! I know you understand. Some books just keep you hanging and you know the secret is coming, but when and how is another thing. I guess these are called page-turners....

or secret-keepers...

Whatever you call this writing style we can all agree that we love it!
0

Hearts for You This February!

So, are you one of those classroom teachers that will have kids make a Valentine's Day box for their party goodies? I will admit I was one of those.... until a parent sweetly let me know how much she hated it.

It was ultimately a contest to see which students would have the most creative box and, boy, there were some cute ones. And there were some recycled ones! I had a different parent tell me she saved boxes from one year to the next and just touched them up a bit and the kids had a box.

So, what is my point? Have you ever thought about doing a STEM Challenge instead? What if you had moms send in some Valentine candy and decorative items to complete these projects? I think the moms would be sooooo happy!

STEM Challenges for Valentine's Day! Build a Delivery Zip Line, Build a Candy Box, and Build a working Bow and Arrow.

0

18 Reasons to Try STEM in 2018-PART 2

I read an article a little while back that gave advice about writing blog post titles. One suggestion was to try using numbers. Well, maybe not the number 18.

Nevertheless, it is 2018 and 18 seemed like the perfect number. I also felt pretty certain I could think of 18 reasons you should try STEM!

The big reveal today will be reasons numbered 10-18. If you missed last week's post you should also read it to see what's going on with reasons 1-9! (Links for many things will appear at the end of this post!)

0

18 Reasons to Try STEM in 2018-PART 1

A few years ago I switched from a regular classroom to the STEM Lab! I had no idea what I was going to do with this new job. I had no curriculum, no resources, no textbooks... nothing.

It was, to say the least, daunting and quite scary.

But, I believe in hands-on learning and inquiry-based, student-driven activities, and I knew we could make this work.

Wow. That is an understatement. It works. It's fabulous. Kids love it and I am having a blast.

So, let's see if I can convince you to try STEM in 2018- because I thought of at least 18 reasons that you should! This is Part 1- only half of the reasons! Check back next week for Part 2!

2
Back to Top