Are You Ready for a Great Book? (The Best of 2018)

Are you constantly looking for the next great read? I always have several books lined up to read and can't wait to get started on some of them. Some of them I do not want to finish because I love them so much and sometimes I just throw a book down because I do not like it.

The ones I loved the most in 2018 are featured in this post. These books are the ones you definitely should read! 


Rescue Me! A Challenge with Two Teams

The very first STEM Challenge we tried in fifth grade was a real-life dilemma. My idea was that a student group was camping in a desert and needed to elevate their food while they slept. They could only build the elevation device using the materials in their camping gear.

It was fun and certainly a learning experience. And it led to more real-life challenges because we loved the scenario of solving a problem that we might face one day.

Our Rescue Device Challenge was another real-life event that we loved! This challenge also has a very interesting twist!


An Unbelievable Adventure with Newton's Cradles

If you have ever had a Newton's Cradle in your classroom then you will totally understand the fascination with this STEM Challenge! Kids absolutely love to watch a Newton's Cradle clack endlessly together.

I promise the first time we tried this challenge my fifth graders actually cheered when I announced what we were doing.

It's the Famous Newton's Cradle Challenge!

This is the best STEM Challenge for your upper elementary students. Check this post full of tips about trying the resource- Build a Newton's Cradle!


How We Accidentally Created a Bucket Tower Challenge

This is going to be hard to believe, but some of our best STEM Challenges have been created by accident.

Building boats was one such total spur-of-the-moment challenge. I literally came to school one morning and started going through cabinets to pull out materials I thought kids would want to use to build a boat. They loved this activity so much and it's still one of favorites.

Bucket Towers is another great example of an "accidental" challenge.

This is a STEM Challenge all about a tower with a unique feature. We call these Bucket Towers and it's a favorite challenge for a reason. It involves some great problem solving and the design must also include a reason a tower would need a bucket! Check this post for more!


5 Page-Turners That Will Keep You Reading (and Reading)

Have you ever finished a book and dreaded choosing your next read? This happens especially when you have read a good one! Somehow the next choice just cannot measure up!

Here's how I solve that dilemma! I switch genres. If a thriller is amazing then my next-read is likely to be a memoir!

Whatever your method might be in choosing books I have some absolutely amazing selections to recommend this month!


6 Ways to Make December Full of Learning

Is Christmas your favorite time of year? It certainly is mine and there are two really big reasons...

First of all, I was born on Christmas Day!

And, secondly, my name is Carol.

Do you get it? Sometimes I have to explain that to my students, but then they think it is amazing and it is - Christmas Carol!

Know what else is amazing - Christmas in the classroom. And I have some truly spectacular STEM events and resources to share with you to make this season magical in your classroom.

STEM projects for the busy holiday season. This blog post will share many different ways you can keep your elementary students engaged during the busy month of December. This include STEM challenges and an Escape Room.


Why Roller Coasters is the Best STEM Challenge Ever

Hands-down, not kidding, this is the ONE challenge that my students love, beg to do again, and cheer when they see it on our agenda.

It's Roller Coasters.

So, I am sure you want to know why it is the best challenge ever!

Do you love roller coasters? Kids do! This STEM activity is a roller coaster event. Students have specific supplies and must design and construct a roller coaster model. You will love the very detailed teacher's guide with tons of embedded tips. It is truly exciting to watch them work and test their roller coasters. Students learn about momentum, centripetal force, and use a lot of trial and error! It's the best challenge ever! #STEM #elementary


Conquering the Great Bottle Flip Challenge

I will admit I am a little late to this game- the Bottle Flip Challenge, that is!

I considered inventing a challenge over a year ago, but just didn't have time and I also knew I would want my version to be a little different... but I couldn't decide how.

So, recently I had one of those Brain Pops I have sometimes and thought about this: What if we tested the bottles with water and then the students could use the gathered data and design their own challenge?

Sounds great, right? But, you know me! I thought of a really neat twist. What if we could fill the bottles with something other than water? Would it work?

Well, we tried it and I have some stories to tell you. Let's conquer this challenge! 

Can you flip a water bottle and land it? What if you fill the bottle with something other than water? This post will give you some great tips and a freebie!


Keeping Students Engaged with a Sports Theme

I don't know about you, but somewhere around the real beginning of fall, I start losing kids. There is just something about the crisp fall air and football season that grabs their attention.

Now, mind you, we live in Alabama, where the normal outside temperature during recess is about 95 degrees with 100% humidity. Seriously, sometimes the playground equipment is not used because the bars are too hot to touch.

So, naturally, when the weather finally cools kids love to play outside.

But, what about inside? How do we keep them engaged?
If you need to keep elementary students engaged during the fall football season this post has ideas to help. This includes a Sports Escape Room and Sports STEM Challenges. One of the challenges is a FREEBIE!


Escaping into a Book (I Love Books)

I love writing book reviews and sometimes I even plan a theme before the month starts. (see my Books About Wives post!)

On the other hand, some months I read a variety of books and then look for a theme. Isn't it funny how the books will fall into a common thread? What was it this month?

This one is all about real-life.
  • An incarcerated man that is innocent and must fight for his life for 30 years.
  • A young woman that travels to Cuba to learn about her home country and discover family secrets.
  • A plane crash and survival story on a small Pacific island.
  • A family growing up in a polygamous community and encountering poverty and abuse and somehow surviving.
  • A dystopian story of a world without books.
The selection this month is a superb one! You should definitely read all of them!

Book Reviews! This post is all about books reflecting real life- including a death-row inmate, a plane crash, a visit to Cuba, a polygamous compound, and a world without books. Must-reads!


The Drawbridge Project That Made Us Cheer

This amazing challenge was inspired by a real-life event! My husband and I were vacationing in South Carolina and drove out to visit an island. As we started across a bridge we were suddenly stopped and then watched as the bridge swung open. 

It was a drawbridge! Instead of opening in the center it had a span than hinged open like a doorway. So fascinating to watch...

And it made me start thinking of what I could do in the STEM Lab, of course! We have completed so many challenges and it is quite common to hear us cheer when something works. This challenge produced the most excited cheers ever!

Let's try a drawbridge! Here’s a terrific STEM challenge! It’s all about using school supplies for building and that supply is brand new pencils!  In this challenge, students will design and build a drawbridge that follows specific constraints. The final structure must open and close in some way. Included are two versions that use different materials instead of pencils. Lots of choices in the use of this challenge. Editable lab sheets and constraints posters are provided. #STEM #engineering


How to Have a Blast with Balloon Cars!

Are you ready for a very exciting STEM Challenge?

Actually, that's a statement that can be true of all STEM Challenges! This one has a unique quality and a competitive component. Hold onto your hats!

In this STEM activity, your students will create a car that rolls using simple supplies. The added bonus is to make the car propel forward with the power of a blown up balloon. Will it roll? Will it travel on a straight path? How will the balloons be attached? Great questions for your problem-solving group! And there will be problem-solving. Your students will amaze you with their designs and ways to make this car work. They will love competing after completing the design of their Balloon car.

Ways to Tackle Halloween in Your Classroom

The month of October can just fly by! And then it can be the longest month of the year (well, except for May!)

For most of my classroom teaching years, I had third graders and they loved Halloween. I did, too, but I always stressed over the chaos of the few days before that last day of the month. 

That crazy Halloween 'party' and the excitement of trick or treating just about did me in every year. I tried everything to maintain some procedures and decorum and still have fun! Our favorite activity was a pumpkin BINGO game using Halloween words. (with candy prizes, of course)

So, how can I help you tackle this day with STEM? Keep reading!

STEM and Halloween! This post has tips for using Halloween resources to create excitement and maintain engagement during the busy weeks leading up to Halloween. #teachersareterrific


Books are a Passport to Great Adventures

Ah, it's all about relationships! The theme of this month's book choices are all relationships.

Real life, folks! It's about an older mom and her secrets from her ten-year-old daughter. It's about an agoraphobic woman that spies on her neighbors. It's about identical twins that do not speak to one another. It's about a five-year-old that loses his way and ends up adopted to parents in another country. And, it's about a family that is torn apart by secrets long kept from one another and the laws of a state that threatens them.

These books will keep you reading way past your bedtime!

Book Reviews- five books with the common theme of relationships. These reviews will start your interest! Which one will you read first?


Blow Tubes - An Easy Way to Hook Your Kids on STEM

Once upon a time... I was a classroom teacher. Third grade!

Then one summer I made the switch to be a specialist- the STEM Lab teacher.

Our students had never had STEM. So, I knew I was going to have to open the first few classes with a sure "hook" to get them interested and excited. With my fourth graders, we tried Paper Airplanes and that was spectacular. With 5th grade, we tried a rescue device that was really fun.

And, with third graders, I tried Blow Tubes.

Yep, you read that right.
STEM Challenge featuring Newton's Second Law of Motion and Blow Tubes! Students experiment and keep data tables which results in a design challenge Great fun and full of learning!


5 Tips for STEM Newbies

Do you shop at Teachers Pay Teachers? I sure do and I am so excited that many of my blog readers also shop at TpT and at my store! I started creating STEM Challenges about 5 years ago and it has been quite a learning experience - both in the creation process and all the things I have learned about STEM in the classroom.

I love hearing from teachers that have purchased my challenges and used them with their students. Probably a day I will never forget is when a customer used a challenge and then posted photos on her Instagram account. When I saw the photos it was very humbling but was made even more so when I noticed the teacher was from Australia. How is it possible that something I created is being used in a STEM class all the way on the other side of the world?

On the flip side of the happy moments are those times I do hear from teachers that are not pleased with their STEM results. Recently I received feedback in my store that let me know the challenge did not work with the teacher's students.

Oh, wow, I wish I could help and I would be happy to do so! This was the inspiration for this post. I wonder if I can point you in the right directions with tips for being a first-time STEM user.

STEM Challenge advice and tips for teachers new to STEM! This post can be a great help with your expectations and planning for a STEM activity! #teachersareterrific #STEM #elementary


7 Tips for the Busiest Month of the Year

I love the freshness of a new school year, don't you? I also love the busy-ness of the first few weeks of school!

But, and there is always a but, I don't love the overwhelming feeling we all get as we try to write lesson plans, make nametags, hang bulletin boards, create new projects, and teach our classroom routines.

So, let's see if I can give you some ideas and quick tips to get going smoothly in the busiest month of the school year!


The Bluebird Group and How I Started to Love Reading

Why do you read?

I started reading as a very young girl - in the Bluebird group. We sat in a circle and each of us read a page. I would always skip ahead and read all the pages until it was my turn to read again. I did not like my first-grade readers at all. 

Then one day, I noticed some books on a shelf in a second-grade classroom. The books were much larger than the little basals we read. So, I borrowed one. 

And that is when I fell in love with books. Those second-grade books had real stories in them and I will never forget reading about Dr. Doolittle and the animals he could talk to. For me, reading is a relationship with books and the rich characters found within.

Book Reviews all about our relationship with books. Is it our feelings about the characters, the setting, or the author? Is it the writing style or the type of book? Five book reviews for fabulous reads this month!

Fabulous Boat Challenge and It's Our Favorite

So, here's the truth about the Boat Challenge. One day I walked into the STEM Lab and decided that my plans for third grade were not going to work and I needed to throw something different together quickly.

Looking around I spied my blue dish pans and decided we could build boats. (Yeah, I know that is the unlikeliest decision ever, but it worked!)

Then I started pulling junk out of the cabinets. Seriously.

STEM Challenge- It's a bestselling STEM Challenge. Building Boats is our favorite!


7 Terrific & Easy Tips for Printing Posters

Once upon a time, the only way I could find posters for my classroom was to buy them at a school supply store or order them from a catalog.

Then I became a STEM Lab teacher and I needed some really specific posters and could not find them anywhere. So, I started making them!

And it is probably the most fun I have in creating for my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Have I learned anything from making my own poster sets? Well, of course! And I have some fabulous tips for you to print the best posters ever!

Seven tips for printing posters on your home printer. This blog post includes some bulletin board tips, too! Practical tips to save time and show you how to print enlarged versions at home!


Why Catapults Bring Cheers to the Lab!

It's Catapult Week!

This is always met by cheers when kids see it on our agenda board. Outside our classroom, we have a large whiteboard and each week I list what each grade level will be building. Kids seriously take a look at this as they walk through and I often hear and see them cheering at the lists.

Catapults are definitely something to cheer about!

STEM Challenge: Testing catapults - students experiment with different angles and then compete with their ultimate catapult designs.

This is an amazing challenge with so many components! You will love it!


How to Make the Scientific Method Fun with Hoop Flyers

Are you using straws as a building material in your STEM Class?

Let me just tell you that you can build just about anything with straws. The thing I love most is how the kids will use the bendy part of the straw in their structures. They are so clever. (*Side Note: Yes, I am aware that there is currently an outcry about the use of plastic, especially straws. We use them because it's an extremely inexpensive material option for a STEM class that has multiple units and grade levels. Yes, I wish I had programmable robots and iPads for every student, but we don't have that... yet! So, I must stick with cardboard, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, and straws!)

So, how do you get a great collection of straws? Ask parents!

I asked students to bring straws to help out with lab supplies a couple of years ago and we are still using them! They didn't just bring straws. They brought thousands of straws!

So, we invented ways to use these. Hoop Flyers came from that.
A great STEM experiment and building challenge with the easiest of supplies: Straws and paper! The challenge is to create the ultimate hoop flyer. Students experiment with changing the variables of a standard hoop flyer. Then they will be challenged to consider which variables to include in the final ultimate hoop flyer. Will they choose everything or only the best possibilities? Students will use their experiment data to make decisions! The resource includes data sheets and photos!  #STEM


5 Books You Will Not Want to Stop Reading

Do you ever start a book and know by the end of the first page that you are not going to like it? Do you stick with it anyway?

I give myself 50 pages and if I am not enjoying the book by then I give up. Too many books, not enough time.

My reading friends, I have some treats for you this month. This post has five fabulous books that I enjoyed from page 1 until the end. Mysterious events, suspenseful moments, and characters I loved. I did not want any of these to end!

Book Reviews of five fabulous books!


Terrific & Timely Tips for Back to School

Are you excited to think about school starting back? I always wish there were a few more days of summer until I actually go to school and start working in my classroom!

I love putting up fresh bulletin board paper and new borders and I love working on all the ideas I have thought about during the summer.

Let's face it- part of teaching is the anticipation of the new year and getting ready to greet those new students. For me, I will have brand new third graders in my lab that will need to work on team building and learning the steps of the Engineering Design Process. My older students will need some team activities and some easy STEM challenges to get back into the routine!

If you are looking for a few tips to get your STEM classroom ready I have some great ideas for you!

It's Back to School time and we all can use some fabulous tips to ease into the year! This post coves teamwork and includes some activities. Teaching your classroom rules can be so much fun using the Rules challenge.  And, suggestions for easy challenges and a Back to School Escape Room are included! #STEM #Escaperoom #backtoschool

The Must-Haves for Your STEM Decor

Don't we just love to decorate our classrooms! I have a Pinterest board (and you probably do, as well) that is devoted to cute decor.

Unfortunately, a few years ago when I needed to decorate my STEM classroom, I could not find models that resembled an elementary lab. I wanted it to be well-organized and also have some basic components about science and STEM. (think posters)

So, after all the organizing was finished it was time to tackle bulletin boards and posters.

Well, let me just tell you how difficult that was! I could not find resources for the posters I needed. I knew I wanted Scientific Method posters and the Engineering Design Process, but all I could find were one-page documents that listed a flow chart or a circular arrangement of the steps.

So, I started creating my own posters. These initial sets have turned out to be the ones we use all the time!

STEM and Science posters are essential to your classroom space. Here's a great way to make decorating easy! Tips in this post and samples of great posters will get you started. #STEM #ScientificMethod #posters


How-To Tips for Successful Teamwork

Teamwork - the most interesting dynamic of STEM challenges! And, the one that creates all kinds of interesting dilemmas!

When my students trooped into my lab for the first time (five years ago) I seated them at our lab tables and explained what we would be doing and also let them know the table groups would now be teams and they would work together. 

I naively believed we could just move forward with no further explanation. #oops

Well, that didn't work.

As a  classroom teacher for many years, I should have known that the group dynamics that ground each STEM challenge and make it successful would be something cultivated and learned. Taught and practiced. Developed over time. Maybe a few tips will help you! 

STEM Challenges and Teamwork! This is truly the most exciting part of STEM events! How will students work together? This post gives you tips and ideas for making these events come alive with the way your students encourage one another and collaborate to complete their STEM structures. From two-team challenges to ways of dividing students into groups to ideas for team building activities, this is a post that will get you started! #teamwork #STEM


The Heart of Stem - Problem Solving

This is truly the best part of STEM for me! It's watching kids "figure things out". Problem-solve, rethink, and do it again.

Let's face it! Solving problems is what STEM is all about. Everything the students do leads to solving a problem and then another and then another.

But, it's beautiful to watch.

And, always, always, their solutions are way different than my thinking. I say these words often, "Oh, my goodness, I would have never thought of that!"

STEM Challenges are the ultimate test for problem-solving with the students in your classroom. Your elementary students will astound you with the way they think through projects and redesign when needed. STEM projects definitely make them try again and again and work together to finish the building tasks. This blog post will give some great examples of things kids have done! #STEM #problemsolving


5 Mesmerizing Books for Your Summer List

This month I found books that are just incredible. Some months are like that. I find books that hold my attention. I can't wait to read them, and I don't want them to end.

This was one of those months.
Book Review! Five beautiful books- all so different, but all will keep you reading! An American Marriage, It's Not Yet Dark, Educated, The Identicals, and Long Way Gone! Blog post will give you the details!

The Most Overlooked Step of the Engineering Design Process

I know, I know, how do you overlook one of the steps in engineering?

Let's just say it can easily be underestimated. Which makes it easy to not even recognize- until you really watch what kids are doing.

Then it becomes fascinating. Stick with me as I share some examples of improvements and at the end, I will make some great points about this very important step of the EDP!

The Improving step of the Engineering Design Process is the best!  KIds automatically problems as soon as they happen. When their first design plan isn't going together as expected they adjust their thinking and change it. Kids will just keep trying one more thing to make it work better. It means constant adjustments and trying again. Don't overlook this step as it unfolds before you. It's my favorite! I love to see how kids solve problems and try and try again. Check this blog post for more!


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!


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.


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


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!


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 WATERSLIDES!

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!


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.

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!

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!

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.  They use test results help choose an absorbent item and design the flood-proof barrier. It is tested when water is poured into the structure's container. Great problem solving occurs with this STEM project! #teachersareterrific #STEM #elementary


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!

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!

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.


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!

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!

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.

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.

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.


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!

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!
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