Back to School Time-Savers

Alright, it's mid-July! I know you are thinking about back to school time. You can't go shopping without seeing school supplies on sale or displays of new shoes and clothing, and I know you are getting excited.

It's a fun time of year, isn't it? But... it's also stressful. You have ten tons to do in getting your classroom set up and your family ready to get back in school mode.

So, let me help! I have some amazing resources for the first month of school that are already completed for you. Time-savers!

Fabulous resources and ideas to get you started back to school! This blog post will give you details about an Escape Room, a STEM Challenge, math and reading worksheets, newsletter templates, and posters that are all perfect for the beginning of your school year!


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The Great Spaghetti Challenge (and a Few Variations)

If you have been following my blog for very long you may already know my story. If not, here is the quick version: I taught third grade for many years and then switched to a STEM Lab position in 2013. I had no idea what I was doing...seriously.

I had no resources and learned from reading blogs. My first STEM challenges with students worked and we had fun and we learned a ton. The problem was the length of time it took to complete the challenges. We spent as long as five weeks to complete the activities!

Not good! Storing the student's work from week to week with 16-17 classes was just too much. We also lost some continuity from week to week.

I had to re-think this. Thank goodness for the Spaghetti Challenge!

Such a simple idea but this STEM Challenge is packed with difficulty! This post will give you many versions of the spaghetti challenge and resources to use! #STEM #elementary


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Let's Get You Ready for Shark Week!

Have you ever seen the movie Jaws? We saw it in the theater when it first came out (aging myself there). I still remember the feeling I had when the lady at the very beginning decides to go swimming -at night time. AT NIGHT TIME! In the ocean.

I didn't even need dramatic music to know this was going to forever change the way I feel about swimming in the ocean. 

Years later, I still do not venture into the ocean, but it's more about the waves and the sand than sharks. Turns out- sharks are really interesting and kids love learning about them.

So, let's talk about ways I can help you with transforming your classroom for Shark Week!

This blog post includes many ideas, tips, and resources for celebrating sharks in the elementary classroom. From Escape Rooms to flip books to STEM Challenges, and more!



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Life's A Beach - Book Reviews

Life is a beach!

Well, to be honest, I am not a beach person. I really do like the sand and do not get in the water at all. My family is much more likely to take a winter vacation than a summer one.

But I do like beach books. I read one of these recently and then realized I had another in my next-read stack that also had the word 'beach' in the title. Then I started looking and quickly found a long list of books that feature that word.

So, I thought, why not! A beach themed month of books! Enjoy!

Book Reviews of five books that all have 'beach' in the title! Great beach-reads!


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The Perfect Planner for Specialists

If you have been teaching for a while then you probably remember those very large planners your admin would hand out at your first faculty meeting of the year. You know the ones with very large boxes and you had to write everything by hand? And those plan books would not fit in your teacher bag! Wow, times have changed.

A few years back some very popular companies invented a teacher planner that is quite spectacular. It has all sorts of bells and whistles and design elements. When I still taught third grade I did buy one of those one year and loved it. It had so many extra features- like birthday charts, seating charts, parent contacts, and password sections. Lots of extra pages!

Except, now as a specialist, I don't need all those extra pages.

I teach one subject. I need small spaces to jot down the basics of what we are doing. I don't need a birthday page for 350+ students. I need a calendar and some basic planner pages with small sections. I don't need a lunch count page. I looked for something that would fit the needs of a specialist and was not overwhelmed by any of the options, so...

 I started making my own planner. 

Are you looking for a teacher binder or planner or calendar? If you are like me and only teach ONE subject your planner/binder/calendar needs are different! This product is designed for specialists that want a calendar specifically for a teacher of one subject!



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Problem Solving with Straws and Cards

Sometimes I invent the best things! No, I'm actually serious. Sometimes I have an idea for the STEM Lab and it just works. Beautifully!

Now, don't get me wrong. I also have moments where everything goes south and the project fizzles and we just laugh it off.

But, occasionally a moment of genius happens and it is amazing and fun. These two tower projects just happen to be the best of times!


STEM Challenges using the easiest materials and only 12. It's either 12 straws or 12 cards and both projects are challenging. Both include many variations to make kids think outside the box! #STEM #teachersareterrific

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Can You Save the Egg? A Parachute Project

Well, let me just tell you how excited students were to see "Egg Drop" on our agenda board! In fact, we had Egg Week!

I had third graders designing Egg Cars. Fourth graders were working on Egg Towers.

Fifth graders were doing the ultimate Egg Drop from a 20-foot height.

What a fabulous week we had!

It’s the Ultimate Egg Drop! A favorite for kids- using eggs and Parachutes! This STEM activity will have your students working to design and build a parachute that will safely land fragile cargo. Not only will they need to make the parachute, they will also create a container in which to store the cargo. The cargo, of course, is an egg! Can they create the best parachute canopy? Will their egg container protect the egg? Will the device all land safely?



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5 Thrillers to Keep You Up All Night!

Do you love a good thriller? I sure do! I do try to alternate genres because this keeps reading interesting and fun, but I will throw in a thriller when I need a pick-me-up.

I have several to highly recommend to you this month!

Book reviews of five fabulous thrillers! Take a look at this blog post to find some highly recommended page-turners!



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How to Create the Perfect Summer Camp STEM

Does your school system have summer school or summer camp? I hope so! Summer camp is the perfect setting for STEM activities- many of which can be completed outdoors.

Kids love STEM and summertime is the perfect time to continue to work on those collaboration skills. I have some super engaging challenges to share with you!

STEM Challenges that are perfect for Summertime or Summer Camp! This post features 6 STEM Challenges that your elementary STEM Summer Camp needs to try! #STEM #summercamp

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Building Hammocks in a Few Easy Steps

Oh, how we love lying in a hammock on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, and listening to the sounds of the waves rolling in slowly. Now, I am not promising you that this challenge will recreate that scene for you- but it is still fun!

Let's build some hammock models!

Here’s another fantastic real-life STEM challenge featuring a Hammock! This one is just pure fun (and challenging!) Students must build a model of a hammock. There are two versions of this challenge provided. Both are challenging and full of problem-solving! Check this blog post for more!

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The Great Cereal Box Project (with a little bit of math)

This STEM project is one of my personal favorites! It's a 2-3 session challenge packed full of Math!

There are several ways you can add to the creativity of this project- with advertising, commercials, and performing- if you wish to expand the experience.

What is it all about? Keep reading and enjoy this project soon!

It's the Cereal Box Project! Students learn how to calculate volume and surface area as they design a new cereal box. They explore marketing as they present their final designs! Fabulous STEM multi-day activity!

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Making Marvelous Mazes - 3 Easy Ways

A few years ago I had a great idea about having students create mazes from boxes and paper. I thought they would like making these, but I was wrong. They LOVED it!

It never occurred to me they would enjoy mazes so much, but they really do. They try so hard to make all the paths work and have dead ends. Their mazes are also decorated so creatively. 

Since this is such a fabulous project we have tried this challenge many times and in different ways.

STEM Challenges- Build mazes! This blog post gives tips about creating three different kinds of mazes. Links to the resources are included! Easy materials and easy prep challenges are the best!


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5 Books That You Won't Want to End

I know this has happened to you!

The end of the book comes too soon. And later in the day, you think about reading that book and then remember you finished it.

It's awful, isn't? Sometimes I just don't want to get to the end.

This month I am sharing 5 of those books. Enjoy!

Five fabulous books reviewed! Check this blog post for the details!




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Staying Engaged at the End of the Year

Let's face it! The last two months of school are just jam-packed and busy and chaotic. We have so many things to do and so many last minute things happening. How do you keep your students engaged in their work?

Well, I have some ideas for you! These are fun and will save you some time in planning and creating! Take a look!

Ways to keep students engaged during the busy spring months leading to the last day of school. The post includes escape rooms, STEM, flip books, and tips!


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Do You Need a Robot to Make Your Life Easier?

This is the question I posed to my third graders one day. Just imagine what they told me!

Of course they needed a robot, but the imaginings about what the robot could do for them were... maybe not very realistic.

So, we had to back up and really think about what it would mean to own a robot!


STEM Challenge- Build a robot that has a useful purpose! What could a robot specifically do that would be helpful at your home? Students make the decision and then choose the materials to build a model.




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A Simple Guide to Bubbles in the Classroom

Have you ever tried bubbles in your classroom? I mean, inside your classroom?

Sounds pretty daunting, I know, but I am about to let you in on some little secrets!

STEM Challenge and experiment- students experiment with tasks using bubble solution. Then they design their own bubble wand. This post will help with tips and the resource has even more. It includes a detailed teacher's guide, photos, a lab sheet, and scoring rubric. #STEM #elementary


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Everything You Need to Know About Seed Dispersal

Many years ago I taught third grade and every year we completed a hands-on study of seeds. We planted a fast growing seed called the Brassica and watched our little plants go through their entire life cycle- from seed to seed. It was a spectacular study.

While we waited for the growth spurts (and it really only took about 45 days to see bubs, blooms, pollen, and then seed pods) we learned the parts of the flower and also learned about pollination.

Seriously, this was one of my favorite science units.

So, how can we take that study one step further and have a STEM Challenge? Here is everything you need to know!

Seed dispersal, flower parts, bird feeders- all fabulous STEM Challenges featured on this post. Also includes little flip books you can make with your students. The resources have detailed teacher's guides, photos, and more! #STEM #elementary


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Books Can Make You Happy

This month's selections don't have a common thread at all. They were all so good, however, so I guess that might be the theme. Just good books!

These five books have friends attacking their bucket list, children being sold, people spending millions of dollars in one shopping trip, a supernatural thriller, and a story about a boy that wants to be a girl.

Five book reviews on this post- all 5 star books for me. See which one is your favorite!
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Earth Day: Here's Why It's the Best Day Ever!

Celebrating this great earth of ours is such a fun thing to think about- especially in a STEM classroom! 

We have so many activities we do in preparation for Earth Day in April- but really a lot of these projects will work all year long!

Join me with this post as we explore why Earth Day projects can make the best day ever happen in your classroom, too!




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4 Things to Avoid with the Robotic Hand Challenge

So much Fun!  My students were a little skeptical when I started talking about this challenge.

Turns out- they loved it! (I think their skepticism was in not understanding what we were building!)

And then they learned so much. That's a win-win for me (and for them). So, as always, let me share a few things- especially four things to absolutely avoid when you try this.

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary

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Sailing Away with Sailboats in the STEM Lab!

I never could have predicted how much STEM kids love to make boats. Building boats is one of the first projects we tackled a few years ago and they loved it so much.

But, the boats we built were not sailboats. That didn't seem to matter to some of the groups, however. They built a mast and sail anyway.

That got me to thinking.... could we try sailboats? What would make them move?
STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

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Toothpick Towers Tips and Tricks

This challenge, with only two materials, is the best ever.

Yes, you have heard me say that many times, but this time I mean it.

It is fun. It is hard. Really hard. And the kids want it to work so much. They persevere. They start over. They never give up.

It's pretty perfect. 

It's the great Toothpick Tower Challenge!


The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

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Can You See Me Now? (Animal Adaptations)

Did you know that there are spiders that can totally immerse themselves in the pollen-covered center of a flower and there they will lay- just waiting for a flying insect to stop by to sip some nectar? And then, without much movement at all, the spider catches some dinner!

Totally fascinating! And it's all about animal adaptations. We learned so much recently with our latest challenges and Escape Room!

It's all animal adaptations! This post features several resources that will complement your study of animals. The first is an Escape Room and then the STEM challenge inspired by a picture book about animals. You will also see a reading comprehension resource that includes 4 reading passages with questions and a mock-up of a newspaper about animals. There are 3 graphic organizers for the newspaper. Last, create an Animal Adaptation booklet with a study of non-fiction text features! #STEM #animals


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Some Parts of Books Stay with You Forever (Book Reviews)

There are, occasionally, books that are so profound that I reread the details and love the characters and don't want the book to end. Aren't those the best?

This month's selections have that profound quality. They are all are mesmerizing, some made me angry, some made me laugh out loud., and one is just tragic.

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How to Engage Students thru the Windy Month


The longest month of the year is March.

I know many of you think it is January or May. But I think it's March.

For my school system, March is the month of Spring Break, which is typically the third week of March. Those first two weeks last forever. Then you have a week-long break.

Then you come back to school and it's still March. 

If this is true for you, too, let me see if I can help you with a few engaging activities to weather this windy month!

Let me see if I can help you with a few engaging activities to weather this windy month!



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Everything You Need to Know about Using Cardboard in STEM

There are two materials we use in STEM class every day.

Cardboard and masking tape. 

Mind you, the cardboard can be card stock or brown cardboard or even foam board. The masking tape is a heavy duty, very sticky brand that works well. We prefer thin tape.

So, you would have to think that we (I mean, myself and the students) have mastered these two materials. We should be experts by now, right?

Well, a little. Let's see if we can share some tips with you!

Tips and tricks for using cardboard in STEM class. This post includes close up views of 3-D models of cardboard techniques and how to make them. Create your own Cardboard Techniques poster using these tips!



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The Best STEM Tower Ever!

Without a doubt, this little challenge is one of the best ever! It's super simple and amazingly complex.

I know, oxymoron, right? Let me explain!

The simplicity is for you since the challenge uses one material. The complexity is for the students because this challenge is not easy for them. Oh, they think it will be, but it turns out to be frustrating.

Trust me- there will be groaning.


This STEM Tower Challenge is one of the easiest to prepare and the most challenging to complete! It's a perfect challenge to get all kids involved in problem-solving and practicing perseverance. For you, it involves prepping only one material. The resource includes a detailed Teacher's Guide, hints, lab sheets, photos, and a bonus Christmas version of the challenge. #STEM #elementary

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Just How Much Popcorn Do You have?

If you have students that struggle with understanding volume - this is the challenge for you! Especially with my third graders, it is so hard to help them visualize the meaning of volume. 

One thing I have tried is to tell them to think about placing a fence around the outer edge of the classroom. That would be perimeter. Think about putting carpet in the classroom. That would be the area. Now, fill the room with water like a swimming pool. That is volume.

This Popcorn Challenge will help understand that concept even better because it is hands-on!



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5 Books Destined to be Favorites!

I love a good page-turning book. Oh, you know what I mean! It's those books we cannot put down, we stay awake til the wee hours of the morning, and finish it sadly because it was so good. We don't want it to end!

The selections this month were page-turners for me. One I gave up on but came back to later. Two are very familiar authors and I am never disappointed in their work. Two are brand new authors that I loved!

Book Reviews of five page-turners you will enjoy! Check this blog post!


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STEM Challenges with Lots of Heart!

Have you ever had a contest with your students to create a Valentine Card Box? You know, on Valentine's Day they bring in a decorated box for other students to stuff full of cards and candy. And you turn it into a contest to find the best one!

This is fun as the teacher, but I always hated it when I was the parent that had to oversee creating that box. I would send in cupcakes or drinks or paper plates for the party day but ask me to make a box. No, thank you!

Now that I have been a STEM teacher for a few years I know exactly what I would do for Valentine's Day in a regular classroom!

We'd start off with an Escape Room and end with a STEM Challenge- exchange a few cards and call it a day! Let me share a few ideas with you!

Here's a round-up of Valentine Activities that will help a busy teacher during February. It includes an Escape Room, three STEM Challenges, and several sets of Math worksheets.



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Ooey-Gooey Marshmallows for the Win!

Oh my, the first time we used marshmallows as a building material was such a learning experience! I have some tips for you sprinkled throughout this post that will help you breeze right through a STEM Challenge with marshmallows!

Our first building project was a Bridge!

It's a STEM Challenge about Building a Bridge (with marshmallows) and it has been a kid-favorite for several years. Kids love the simple materials and the task of making this one work. The bridges are not very long but will test the patience and diligence of students as they work to finish this successfully. And, they will! Great cheering will happen when a bridge spans the gap and holds a little bit of weight! A few simple materials and they are off! The resource includes editable forms!
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Amazing Airplanes for the Win!

One spring day my principal announced we would be having a STEM lab the following year. I never even thought twice about this! I applied for the job and two months later I was cleaning out our lab and getting ready for school to begin.

What an exciting adventure was ahead of me!

But, I had zero resources. I was given a few idea books and I found blogs online that gave me some ideas for projects to use at the beginning of the year.

One of those projects was about paper airplanes. I knew this was the perfect project because kids love throwing planes anyway. Why not take that enthusiasm and turn it into a science experiment and design project!

It's a Paper Plane STEM Challenge. This multi-day activity will have your students experimenting and modifying planes to finally use their flight data to design the best airplane model. Includes detailed teacher directions!



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How to Add Some Winter Time to Your Classroom

Do your students love a snow day? Mine always do, but unfortunately, in the state of Alabama, we rarely see snow. When we do it's a major event and the schools can be closed for days!

In the meantime, kids are fascinated with snow - even if we don't see those flakes falling -  so when I can, I bring that snow right into what we are studying or into our engineerings projects. It adds a little bit of fun and makes the learning a blast!
An assortment of winter activities and resources for your upper elementary classrooms. This blog post will give you details about each resource to engage your kids during the winter months.

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