My Favorite Books of 2019

It's time for my annual round-up of my favorite books of the year! Oh, my.

I read so many books this year. Like over 100. Some were really, really good and some I had to plod through.

I tried to pick my top ten favorites but ended up with eleven. So, here we go.

(By the way, these are in order with the very best of the year at the end!)

Annual round-up of the best books read during the year. This list of 11 books has some must-reads for you!


Full Steam Ahead with Baked Potatoes!

Hold onto your hats for this one, folks! It's a doozy!

This multi-day activity is one that brings cheers and smiles from my fifth graders. Of course, that might be because they are expecting to eat something when they hear about the Food Delivery Challenge.

This challenge was created a few years back- before food delivery companies started delivering just about anything. My idea was to deliver baked potatoes. Now, I know that seems weird. However, in our town, we have a famous BBQ restaurant that makes a giant baked potato loaded with meat. It is a very popular item.

And it is quite good!

STEAM Activity- this multi-day event has students creating a potato delivery company. They test potatoes to keep them warm and crush proof, design ads, and perform a commercial.


Amazing Ways to Use Quotes Posters

As with most of my posts, there is a back-story. Always.

The first set of posters I made for my classroom happened because I needed the set and could not find anything I liked. I was looking for a Scientific Method poster set and all I found were one-page posters listing everything. I wanted a poster with one step on each page.

So, I made my own.

Next, I needed a set for the Engineering Design Process. And, of course, I had to make my own set for that, too!

More recently I branched out and started creating quotes posters. And, I love them!

Poster ideas for the elementary classroom. The posters include positive quotes, book quotes, teamwork quotes, and figurative language quotes. #elementary #teachersareterrific


What is the Best News Ever? No Locks!

Have you ever been to an Escape Room event? I mean one where you are actually locked in a room! I have been twice and, wow! The puzzles are hard. Thank goodness the people with me were very clever. The most recent Escape we attended was so fun and we escaped with only 49 seconds left on the clock.

So, keeping all that in mind, a few years back I started creating Escape Rooms for elementary classrooms! Mine are puzzles and tasks that require students to open a locked box. My students cannot get enough of these events and I cannot invent them quickly enough.

But.... I have had several questions about creating an Escape Room that does not have locks and boxes.

So, here you are!
Are you ready for Escape Rooms with no locks! Just print and go! This post has the details for several Escape Rooms and the STEM Challenges that accompany each one.


Books Take You Where You Have Never Been

I love the quote on the opening of this month's set of book reviews. I have always picked up a book to get away from stress or problems or boredom. Nothing is better.

Now, I must confess I actually took the photo on the quote below! About two years ago my husband and I traveled to Maine and spent many hours driving from lighthouse to lighthouse. That photo looks like a postcard! It was just as beautiful when we were standing across the water from it. If you have never been to Maine- add it to your bucket list!

This month's set of books are some of my favorites of the year. I listened to three of them and will highly recommend that you do the same. Here are some profound books for you to think about reading!


5 Things to Think About with Building Bridges

One of the very first structures I ever built with kids was a bridge. This was many, many years ago when I was the Science Club sponsor. At one of our club meetings, I gave students some spaghetti strands (uncooked), some tape, and a cup of pennies. Their task was to build a bridge that would hold the pennies.

Who knew that one day I would be standing in a STEM Lab, looking around, trying to decide what on earth to do with multiple classes?

STEM Challenges- this post features tips and ideas for using bridge building challenges at five grade levels. #elementary #STEM #teachersareterrific


How Pom-Poms Saved the Day

Ah, yes! The Great Pom-Pom Challenge!

But, did it start out to be a pompom? Well, no. The test class used marshmallows. The tiny ones.

And, yes, in case you were wondering, the tiny marshmallows are just as sticky as the big ones.

So, something had to save the day, right?

STEM Challenge- Build a catapulting device that will propel a pom-pom through the air. This blog post and details and tips! #teachersareterrific #STEM #elementary


Everything You Need to Know About Bottle Cars

Not too long ago I was asked some questions about this amazing STEM challenge and I started searching for a blog post to recommend. Well, oh my goodness, I could not find where I have ever written very much about Bottle Cars!

So, let's do it! I hope I can convince you to try this challenge.

STEM Challenge- This one is about racing Bottle Cars. This will challenge your upper elementary students. #STEM #teachersareterrific #elementary


Here's Why You Need to Tackle Space Topics

To be honest there are several reasons we need to teach space topics! But first, a story...

When the movie Apollo 13 was showing in theaters our children were 8 and 11. We decided to take them to see the movie as a way to learn some history of the space program. At that time they both had knowledge that astronauts had been to the moon, but all they had seen in the news was coverage of the space shuttle program. 

We watched that movie on the edge of our seats! Y'all it was pretty suspenseful and I knew the outcome! We enjoyed the movie so much, but here is the thing I remember. As we left the theater my daughter (age 8) said, "I was so scared they were going to die."

Worst mom ever award for me! I should have assured both children that the movie would have a good ending. I knew the history. They did not. 

The history is the number 1 reason we should teach about space!

Here are some fabulous ways to save you time while your students are studying space topics. This includes an escape rooms, task cards, and reading resources. #teachersareterrific #STEM #escaperoom #elementary


The Never-ending Book List - Monthly Reviews

Do you have a wishlist for your books?

I have several....

I have my Amazon list, my Audible list, my Goodreads list, and a list on my phone. That's actually a good thing since I choose books based on these lists and recommendations. If you ever have a book to recommend, please let me know!

Book reviews of five great books. A crime drama, a couple of chick-it books, and a family with multiple problems. All great reads! Check this blog post for the reviews.


How to Add a Twist to any STEM Challenge

Are you ready for a frequently asked question? I decided to start a series of these! Last month was all about tips to get you started in STEM- especially if you are overwhelmed.

This month the question is: "How can I change a STEM Challenge to make it more challenging or just add a little zest to it?"

What a great question and I have the perfect answer and some samples to show you!

STEM Challenge blog post to help you add a little zest to any activity to make it even more engaging and add some skills (math). #teachersareterrific


How to Change a STEM Challenge with a Book

Let's be honest. Every time we teach a lesson we approach it a little differently. We learn as the students learn and the next time we try something we build from that experience.

This is especially true for me and STEM. Every single time I try a challenge I change it up in some way. Change the rules, add a material, use fake money to purchase materials, or add a little flair- like an apple or a pumpkin.

Ha! Keep reading!

STEM and Reading! Here is a blog post telling ways to use a book as inspiration for a platform challenge! #teachersareterrific


Surefire Way to Engage (Hint: It's Candy!)

You know this already, I am sure. One way to grab the attention of your students is to add food to whatever you are doing!

I always used food items as math manipulatives when I taught third grade. We graphed the colors of M &M's. We use Hershey's candy bars to show plate tectonics. On Valentine's Day, we used conversation hearts for graphing, predicting, and compiling tables of information about the words.

So, of course, I have tried food in the STEM Lab. But, I had to make it all about science!

Science Experiments with candy. After experimenting by using the scientific method, students design their own challenge. #teachersareterrific #science


Adding a Little Halloween - with Spiders and Skeletons

Do you celebrate Halloween in the classroom? I know some school systems are moving away from holiday celebrations. My school has a Halloween 'snack' - not a party. The students do not dress in costumes at school. It is a very low key day.

But, what if you are interested in something that is a Halloween topic? Maybe you need something that will work for the fall season.

I have resources that are perfect for October. Here's the best news. These resources are perfect for all year long.

So, you can add a little to your Halloween/fall/October festivities or try these activities at any time! #winwin

Escape Rooms and STEM Challenges perfect for October. These sets are all about spiders and skeletons! #teachersareterrific #STEM #elementary


Escape into a Good Book

When all else fails, I need a book.

But I need a good book.  I have no patience with a contrived story. I do not like books with no real meaning. I do not like a book with too much conversation.

Just tell the story. Make me part of it. I need a book that I don't want to end.

This month I found five really good ones. One or two will likely be in my top books of this year.

Book reviews for five spectacular books. Try them all!


Let Me Help with Ideas about Getting Started

I get questions all the time. If you are part of my Terrific Team you will understand what I am talking about. I frequently feature a question in a team email and answer it based on my experience as a STEM Specialist. 

I thought it would be fun to feature some of those questions and tips for everyone. Today's question is all about those struggles we have as our school year begins- especially if a job is new for you.

There just might be a bonus link for you- so keep reading!

Are you ready to begin STEM in your elementary classroom? This post has some great ideas and tips for you! #teachersareterrific


Rushing for Gold

I have a funny story for you! First, what style was your first computer? What was the first game you played on the computer?

Here's the funny part- our first family computer was a Gateway. We went to the Gateway store and picked out the components we wanted. They also talked us into buying the newest model of an HP printer. We still laugh about that printer being the HP 1. And, of course, we brought that computer home and hooked it up to dial-up internet.

And, we played Oregon Trail.

Do you remember that game? Oh, we loved it. Even with its really poor graphics, we loved buying supplies and heading out west and hoping we would survive those river crossings.

Which brings me to our latest adventures in the STEM Lab- crossing the country to grab some gold!

Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes an Escape Room., a STEM Challenge, and a reading resource. #teachersareterrific #goldrush


Adding Rigor to a STEM Challenge - with the Elevator Express

There is always a back story to the STEM Challenges I invent. This one is a novel-length story.

Just kidding. But, it is an on-going story. I tend to change the rules to tasks and even the materials sometimes.

And that changes everything. But, guess what! It makes me re-think the challenge, add rigor to it, create a new problem-solving opportunity for students, and it is never boring!

So, hold onto your hats, friends, and leap onto the Elevator Express with me!

STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific


Designing a Dream House - Elementary Style!

What a perfect idea this little project is! I can still remember designing my dream house when I was a little girl.

I filled notebooks with drawings of the rooms and where the furniture would be. I colored the walls all different colors (because this was way before the monochromatic neutral palettes that are popular today).

One of my favorite memories was painting and decorating the bathroom in the first apartment my husband and I lived in. It had a claw foot tub- I mean a real one, antique and everything. 

So, I knew I would love this STEM Challenge! What about the students?

STEM Challenge- Using graph paper students design their dream house, calculate the area of each room, and then determine the final cost of the home. Fabulous practice for area and perimeter. #teachersareterrific


How to Make Music with Words

This month has a fabulous collection for you! I loved all of these and can recommend them to you! It was a month of very good reads!

Speaking of good reads... Do you ever re-read a line or a paragraph? I sure do! When the words are just striking all the right notes, when they sing with anxiousness or reach a high note of's music. Don't you agree?

Books are like music- for those who listen!

Book Reviews- five books that will keep you up and night and stick with you for a long time!


Ahoy- Let's Talk About Pirates!

Can we talk about how much kids love pirates and treasure chests and birds that talk? A few years ago I had a cockatiel in the STEM Lab and we tried so hard to get the silly thing to say anything. But, sadly, he only squawked. Loudly.  All. The. Time.

Anyway, I have discovered any task that involves boats, treasure, pirates, or birds is one that kids will stay engaged with and that is enough reason for me to invent more challenges and tasks for them!

This should be just in time for "Talk Like a Pirate Day"! (September 19th)


'Egg-Static' Over These Projects

Kids love a good joke, so try this one:

How do monsters like their eggs?  (terri-fried)

They will giggle and want to hear more! Kids also love any experiment or structure challenge that involves eggs. And I have several!

It’s  exciting Egg Challenges! This includes four STEM Challenges that all use eggs as part of the structure or drop. Take a look at this blog post for the details!


Fizz, Bubble, and Expand- Chemicals in the Elementary Classroom

Long ago, when I taught third grade, we started a hands-on science program. Teachers were provided with four kits per year that included a teacher's guide and all the materials to teach the 8-week unit.

Can you say FABULOUS! I mean, seriously, the first kit I received (I was teaching 5th grade) was called Microworlds. The kit included a microscope for every student. Every. Student. This was a game-changer for me.

It was purely wonderful to have all the materials I needed. Then I moved to third grade and also loved, loved, loved the kits we taught.

My favorite one was about chemical testing. 

So, of course, I needed to add some chemicals to the STEM Lab! #ofcourse

Chemical Changes in the elementary classroom! Tips for completing experiments and demonstrations that will help your young students understand the difference between chemical and physical changes. #teachersareterrific #elementary #science


Weather Tips That Will Put You on Cloud 9

My message today could be about weather or idioms, right? Because you are not really on cloud nine when we use that phrase.

I have several things to share that are all about weather and, believe it or not, one of them does have some idioms in it! Keep reading!


Will This Book Be the One?

Sometimes I notice the oddest thing about books. Quite some time back, I noticed that every book I was reading had the word 'girl' in the title. Or if the word girl was not in the title, the book was about a girl in distress.

Then there were the 'wife' books.

And then the 'beach' books.

And, not surprisingly at all, I noticed I had read several books that all had the number 'one' in the title. So, I thought I would share the best of those books with you today. (I am also linking reviews to all the above categories.)


So Many Landform Projects!

A few years ago (when I was teaching third grade) our state standards for Science and Social Studies both included landforms. 

It didn't take long for me to have tons of landform activities since we had to hit those standards with two subjects. At that time we also had a basal reading series that we had to use and it had landform related stories so I just moved those stories to our landform theme week. It just made more sense to do it all together! #right

One thing I discovered is just how fascinated students were in learning about all the shapes of the earth and how some were formed. So, let me help you with some lessons and resources that will save you oodles of time.


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!


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


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!


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!


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!


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


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?


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!


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


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!


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!


3 Easy Ways for Making Marvelous Mazes

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!


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!


Ways to Stay 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!


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.


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


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


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!

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!

Let's get you ready for Earth Day, or springtime, or any time you are ready to study landforms and the earth. This post includes Escape Rooms, Reading resources, STEM Challenges, and tips for preparing for these events.


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


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!


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


Animal Adaptations Resources Round-Up

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


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.


The Windy Month of March

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!


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!


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.


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!


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!


STEM Resources 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.


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!

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!


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 engineering projects. It adds a little bit of fun and makes 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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