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I Am Thankful For STEM!

For the last few years, I have been adding STEM to my FOSS science curriculum as well as teaching STEM classes at the local university and after school and summer school programs. I love watching my K-5th grade students having ah-ha moments, finding ways to problem solve, and using positive growth mindset! This year, we welcomed many new students to our school after boundary changes and as they were introduced to STEM activities my veteran STEM students were able to explain to them what they were about to partake in. Here are the top 5 quotes I am thankful for:
1. "STEM stands for Science, technology, engineering, and math and sometimes Mrs. Heinrich even adds Art to make it STEAM!"

2. "It's okay if it doesn't work right away, you can go to plan B and that might just work!"

3. "That's a good idea, but if you tried having a bigger base it might be sturdier!"

4. "We never did STEM at our school. I love STEM!"

5. "Mrs. Heinrich makes Science fun!"

I teach an after school STEM class and on Halloween I had the pleasure of taking every student that showed up at our after school program (which ended up being 12 students out of over 100). I took four high school helpers to join us as well. I set up three competitive STEM challenges: first a pumpkin transporter only using string and a scissors...second candy carrier cars made from candy and had to carry candy...and third candy corn catapults. The students once again told them what STEM stands for when the high school helpers asked. The high school helpers also shared with the kids how lucky they were to be able to have fun in school because they don't get to do things like that and didn't when they were "young". I shared with them that it isn't just "fun"...but so much more. I asked them to step back and watch what they saw. They observed the way they were helping each other...they just fixed a problem by adding to their structure...they were even  trying to explain how it will work when their partner doesn't get it...and even getting the same supplies each group looks different!

 Since Halloween, the high schoolers have "volunteered" in my STEM class and rotate being able to "help". They had so much fun that they now fight over who gets to be in STEM class!

What does this say? That adding STEM is worth a try! That STEM is hands-on fun, yet can tie in academics, the engineering design process, and an amazing amount of reflection and problem solving. Learners are able to share what they made and be proud of their successes! It isn't just engineering and building, but so much more!  Now, time for you to be thankful for STEM, too!

My friends and I over at STEM Activities For Kids would love to share with you a variety of ways to integrate STEM into your November so that you students can be thankful that you did just that! Here are some STEM ideas that I do with my students in November...you will be thankful you stopped on by!

This month, our activities include:
                            Football Games in after school STEM class!

Oak Trees that hold acorns...(kindergarten and the parts of a tree)

Run Turkey Run Mazes...love this one because I used this with an older group and younger group and when the younger kids were done, the older kiddos finished what was started! Love that we focused on what was the structure so far... what needed to be done...and who was going to work on finishing it up! You can see the story line throughout the examples!

Scarecrow making...being taught through Balance and Motion and Language Arts!
All of these STEM Fall and Thanksgiving based ideas can be found in my Fall Into Thanksgiving STEM Pack! Get ready to engage your learners this November!


Pilgrim themed activities including boats...pilgrim hats...a shelter...and harvest holders are just around the corner! (fifth grade learning about history and science with after school STEM class connections). Stop over at STEM Activities For Kids to find even more Thanksgiving ideas from my amazingly talented STEM friends to find out ways that they are thankful for STEM, too!

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Science Weekly Digital and STEM Fun!

My week begins on a Tuesday...yes not Monday...Tuesday. Why? Well we are on a day one through five schedule not day of the week schedule. So it is Tuesday and I wanted to share with you what my week looks like! Getting ready for the kiddos this weekend! I love using digital resources to help my littles show me what they know!


We are starting our first week of wrap ups on our five senses. To use all five senses we are using popcorn to do that! I will be starting with them at the carpet as I review our senses we already used. (I have the popper started!) All of a sudden we hear something! Then...smell something. By that time they figure out what we are making and we then go to the table that is a safe distance away from touching something hot.

While we wait for the popcorn to cool down we meet at the carpet area to use our popcorn slides as a review. They love being able to come to the board and move the pictures to show what sense we use when we see a magic word such as hot or salty.

When they are done, I send them back to their desks to get a cup of popcorn after I salt and butter it. We start with one sense at a time...with tasting being the last sense! As they use each sense I write down on our anchor chart the property words to describe each one.

I give them a popcorn shape to draw one or more ways they use their senses when it comes to popcorn! I play popcorn music as they work!

We finish up with a short story by Frank Asch called of course...Popcorn!

First Graders: 

This week in first grade, we continue to work with vertebrate. We are learning about Amphibians! My favorite thing to do is find a song that we can learn or listen to that will help us retain information! The amphibian song is one of my favorites...but before we start that we talk about what makes us a mammal. I show them pictures of amphibians and I ask them to tell me what they see. Do the animals have fur or hair...give live birth...Then I show the fun song...

We then create the beginning of our anchor chart. What animals did we hear about in our song? We then move onto our non-fiction book, What is An Amphibian? from Epic Books...free for teachers! We then play a game...Is it an amphibian? If it is...they hop like a frog!

We follow it up with a writing and assessment sheet found in my Animal Classifications Pack that is continually getting updated as I add more ideas and activities!

Animal Classification Pack: Mammals, Amphibians, Reptiles, Fish, and Birds!

When we get done we color a salamander pattern that I found on line!

2nd Grade:

We are using our FOSS Air and Weather Kit. I need to follow a road map that indicates which lesson I should be on at a given times so that our eight other Science Educators and I can cover the same "Big Ideas". At times, I can find ways to add some STEM activities that tie in what we are learning about such as last week's parachute lesson and a Jack and the Beanstalk connection...however this week is air pressure. Not quite as exciting for an hour long class. So, sometimes I just can't make my own extras I call upon the help of Ms. Frizzle! I found a perfect video...Goes On Air... and sheet from Scholastic along with our FOSS syringe lesson. This is okay for me because they can't watch videos in their rooms due to the strict road map they are on for virtually everything. I am glad that I have that flexibility!  Here is the link for the video: Magic School Bus Goes On Air. Here is the Scholastic Classroom Activity Site: Scholastic Magic School Bus Activity Page.

3rd Grade: 

Once again FOSS gets me...we are using our mock rocks to learn about crystals. I brought in a crystal for them to see...we read a crystal book from Epic Books called What Are Crystals...ok I just skimmed and paraphrased for them. That is the beauty of using the smart board to project stories. (As a science teacher with no transition time, I can even put on the read the book to me button at times, allowing me to set up supplies on tables).

Once we are done with an intro to crystals, we review what a geologist is and what they do. Geologists use different experiments and techniques to break apart rocks or look more closely at what they are made of. We share how our mock rocks are used to compare what geologists do to real rocks and then we look at our vials to see what ingredients I might have put in our "recipe". I stress the idea of a recipe so they know that rocks are more than one ingredient and minerals are only one ingredient...just like a recipe.

We discuss evaporation, which I taught last year. We then do the FOSS lesson, but we use our iPads to take pictures and not draw the vial. Once done with the writing, this helps me get them finished...I then let them come to the crystal table which has hand lenses set out as well as the identification chart. We need evidence as to why I put in the ingredient I did! How do you know...is the big question of the day!

We celebrate our learning by eating a bit of rock candy and writing in our crystal ball! Here is the sheet that we used! Enjoy the quick and easy freebie I use with crystals to check for understanding. I take a picture of this with my iPad, then air drop it to them. They put it into Explain Everything!
Free Crystal (Ball) Facts Sheet

Fourth Grade:

We just finished up on our FOSS lessons with magnets. This week, we are reviewing with magnet stations! I set up eight stations that I made in my Magnet Pack using all of the supplies from my FOSS magnet kit, however I also use other supplies that I have for this unit to add some added magnets and magnet toys. Once they are done reviewing they assess their effort and then we review the answers. This helps them focus on getting a certain amount done in the time they have to finish the stations and it also helps my lower level learners understand and review what they might not know yet. Take a look at the stations in action!
I love these Magnet Stations Found HERE! They keep our FOSS magnet lesson more engaging and allow for more assessments!
Fifth Grade:

We are learning about life boats so what a perfect time for this History minor to teach a history lesson! I give each fifth grader a steerage ticket that I made as they walk in the room...of course to the Titanic Theme Song as an instrumental.

I let them pick from my hand to get their fate. First class has nice cushioned chairs and a glass of water. I get them their supplies all ready as well and they sit up front. My second class ticket holders sit at tables away from the front and get pencils, and the third class passengers sit on the floor in the back and share a few pencils between them. They love it!

I use the Book National Geographic Titanic to read to them on the smart board, which once again is from  Epic Books! Once done, we discuss what a life boat is and what capacity means. We share what we know about boat size and capacity! I get them all together and we watch a quick video on what happened on the Titanic and the capacity of the life boats that were launched. It is a perfect connector!

I then share that we are making our own life boats using a controlled experiment model.  I give them each a piece of aluminum foil the same size, the variable how they build and form the boat. We then test how many "penny passengers" fit in the life boat. What a great STEM lesson to tie it all together!

Next week, our FOSS life boat lesson and another STEM project found in my Titanic Pack!
Find the STEM Titanic Pack HERE

So that is my week in review. I didn't mention yet that I am also teaching an after school STEM class...that will be another post this next week!

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October STEM Stations

I see October right around that corner and you know what that means? Halloween, Candy, and Bat Stations! I am so fortunate to be able to teach science, but you know how I love to add STEM to my lessons! This year, I am hosting an after school STEM class and each week leading up to Halloween I am going to be working on a different activity that centers around a fun and timely October theme! Most importantly, I want my learners to understand the science (and math)  behind the activity or idea...from echolocation to push and pull...there is science to add to every great engineering project!

Week 1: 
Bats! Starting this week...I will not only teach the science behind echolocation, we also tie in different types of bats and their characteristics. I will have my kiddos working on building a bat and a bat habitat...from cave to tree as the STEM connection!

Week 2: 
Weaving Webs! We will learn about spiders and the science behind not only how they make their webs, but how spiders catch and eat insects! Once they are done, they will create their own web along with a way to make their web a game.

Week 3:
Getting ready for trick-or-treating with candy carriers! We will focus on capacity...volume...perimeter and area to add some math into our STEM stations! Once they are done, we will measure to see how many pieces of candy we can fit into their candy carrier! I love how they have to figure out a way to create a carrier out of ONE piece of paper!

Week 4: 
Building Frankenstein...perfect to share what they will wear! We will focus on movement of an object along with push and pull! I love putting movement to our Frankenstein designs. These two examples show how their models can slide as well as swing.

Week 5: 
Too much candy? Now, let's build with it! I will host three stations for them to try to wrap up our first session of STEM after school fun! Candy cars...candy playground...and candy corn catapults! We will discuss motion with all three!

It isn't always easy finding ways to find time for science, but if you are adding STEM activities why not find a science and math connection! It is a perfect way to put it all together!

Looking to find ways to tie Science and engineering together? Here are the packs that I am using for my after school STEM classes... from CANDY STEM...  to STEM HALLOWEEN FUN... or even BAT SCIENCE AND STEM... your kids will love a chance to build and connect this October!

Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter for exclusive freebies and access to my free resource library! Check out the free STEM bat pack exclusive in my resource library along with other goodies sent right to your inbox!

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Measuring Up In Science With Hands On Stations

At the beginning of each school year I like to make sure that my students are ready for using science tools by creating and sharing Science Center's geared around measurement. 

Not only does that help them understand how to measure, but it also will help them get ready for each of our FOSS kits that require them to measure with a variety of tools! For my older students,  I focus on the tools that will allow them to measure capacity such as syringes, measuring cups, and graduated cylinders. We focus on helping them measure length, width, and height with a ruler, tape measure, and meter stick.
 Finally, we focus on mass or weight using a scale and a balance. Measuring the weight of something can be as easy as using cubes or as complicated as using grams. With my younger scientists, I focus on learning how to use a hand lens properly, how a balance balances and how can we fill capacity tools to a given line. Depending on the grade, the more I use a variety of tools that get them working hands-on.

We also focus on the universal way to measure things in science which is the metric system. That means working with centimeters ... grams... and milliliters! If you need to focus on Customary Standard Unit, do what is necessary for you. I use the metric system in our science room in all of my classes kindergarten through 5th grade. 

 What I love most about starting our school year off with measurement stations in science is that I can have my kindergarten through 5th graders be able to do Hands-On activities!  To get them started on the right track when we start our experiments is critical to saving valuable time especially when it is hard enough to fit science into a busy school day for my dear teacher friends. 

I want to share with you  ways to  to be able to set up stations so that you too can add measurement into your science lesson time making science child's play! 

Themed Stations Are the Way to Go!

It doesn't matter if it's kindergarten through fifth-grade you can set out tools and station cards and then go from station to station with guiding them on how to use the tools then you can release them to be able to try using those tools on their own. 

Finding a theme in measurement is a great way to get them excited about doing something that  isn't always easy for them. We don't spend a ton of time on measurement so this is another way to tie science and math together. From Measurement Olympics to I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell which I use...creating themes allows those kiddos to be able to be excited as they learn the tools along the way. 

I have them show me what they know. With the stations in place it also allows me to walk around the room and help students that are having a difficult time. While others are busy, I can reteach and support struggling students. 

So grab those hand lenses... those balances and scales...a handful of rulers and even those syringes as well as timers and you are set to go. If you want to save time setting them up, grab these Science Measurement Review Packs! 

Find these Packs {HERE}

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Science Incentives and Positive Behaviors For Specialists

Discipline is never easy, and after 26 years of teaching it still isn't, but I am hoping to focus this year on a new way to encourage making good choices! My biggest challenges always come in kindergarten and first grade so I am hoping to find a way to get even our struggling readers motivated to make good choices for the good of the team!

Here is how it works...
1. You will notice the K-5 yellow cards. That shows the grade level.
2. The colors are coordinated by the day of the week I have them. I have four regular ed. Science classes on Day one or red cards featured on the top lines.
3. The yellow poster above the grades shows our core values at our school which are Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe.
I made faces that have a smiley on one side and a frown on the other. There are three faces clipped to each core value...because they get three strikes before the class is out! That is what the three boxes on the bottom...
When a negative behavior occurs, a reteach happens. I always refer to our behavior chart as I do that. If the same child is causing the whole class to be unsuccessful three times, that child is not able to participate in group activities and their job is to watch for what respectful, responsible, and/or safe behavior in our room looks like. They may join the group after a conference and at times may do the activity at a table by themselves.

Now, what happens if the class gets through a whole science hour long class without getting three strikes? I place a smiley face on the first letter of science. Each week, they can add a new letter to science until they spell the whole word! Once the word science is spelled by a particular class, they get a STEM reward! Sneaky enough, I will tie it into something we are doing!

Whether it is a STEM reward or a fun activity that is ready to go when they reach their goal, working together as a team to help ALL students achieve is a goal that I am sure that we all have. In the regular ed. classroom your chart is different than a specialist, but working with over 15 different classrooms allows me to find ways to help our classrooms teachers, too. Having students learn positive ways to be respectful, responsible, and safe is good for EVERYONE!

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Getting Ready For Back To School With New Resources!

You know when you are almost ready to head back to school, as I know some of my teacher friends are already there, you start planning what your bulletin boards will look like... you start buying supplies to fill all your needs, and you start thinking about curriculum...at least that is what this week entailed.

I met with my lovely friend, both of us lost sections of science, so both of us are in the same bind...we need to create a program that will be data driven, teach science or STEM, engaging, hit second through fifth grade and is completed in 40 minutes. That is a lot to muster, but I was up for the challenge.

Then, I started thinking isn't that a problem that we all face? Lessons that need to be:
1. Fun
2. Data driven
3. Hit standards
4. short enough to fit in to a 40-60 minute block
5. And seeing that I need to do four classes, one of each 2-5...differentiated. (otherwise I am prepping for 10 lessons each week, no thank you)

Goal 1: Digital Assessment for my FOSS units

Time to get crackin'. My first thing I had to think about was that I need to create some digital science activities because my first graders and second graders need more assessments that are easy to grade and have them be part of their learning! The thing that drove me was our FOSS kits. First grade themes I worked on were: DAY and NIGHT, SOUND and LIGHT, INSECT and SPIDER, and VERTEBRATE. Second grade focuses on: PLANTS, HABITATS, WEATHER, and MATTER!

                       Find them for first grade {HERE} and for second grade {HERE}.

Goal 2: Grade 2-5th Grade resource for my Science/STEM enrichment classes

Now, I have to create four packs for my third through fifth graders. Using our iPads is one of our key goals for use in assessment this next year. I am also on Evaluation so I set this as a goal of mine. I am hoping this can help you, too!

My second goal was to find a way to not have to prep for 10 science lessons a week...yes a week. I needed to find a way to differentiate a pack that includes science and STEM as well as ways to gather data, focus on NGSS, and be engaging. Yikes. That is a handful!

I focused on NGSS themes that were cross cutting! I created STEM Quick Picks because I needed to use them quickly within the 40 minute time period that I work with them each week...above and beyond the hour they get with their own class.

How I will use the pack: first week...introduction of the NGSS concept, then reading connection, followed by small science activity. Second week, review of concept, interactive notebook and vocabulary review...followed by STEM lesson and then task card review.

Friends...I have 10 weeks to do so that means I have three more to make! I am on it though...they take a long time, but they will be worth it! Find the STEM Quick Picks {HERE}.

Goal 3: STEM Connections for After School Classes, Extensions, and our new STEM Lab in our Library

Each fall, when our after school program starts, our students love STEM stations...but that is not the only reason I worked hard to create new STEM activities...

This year, we are creating a STEM lab in our library! We were able to get some funding for some great resources, but that is never enough. I was able to utilize the Makerspace packs that I made last summer by printing them off and putting them on ring clips ready to go this year. I also created Seasonal School Box STEM packs so that our Library/Tech teacher can have interchangeable activities that can be featured each season! Find Seasonal School Box STEM Packs {HERE}

I might have another few packs up my sleeve this next week before I have to go back to school! I will post about them next week along with a new freebie! But for now...here is a free Seasonal School Box STEM bonus for stopping by and getting to the end! {HERE} 

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Great Sites For Science

Getting ready for back to school or already there? I have compiled Great Science Sites that can help you add science to your school day with ease! These sites are my go to's for what they have to offer as well as their ability to add to the structure of my lessons, as well as enhance what I am teaching.

For informative  videos for 2-5th grade I love Crash Course Kids found on Youtube. There is such a great variety of science topics from space to food chains, animals and matter just to name a few that I have used. They are extremely short in time (2-4 minutes), while others like gravity is over 20 minutes in length. Here is an introduction...
Another go to for great science themed videos is SciShow Kids found on YouTube. This site has such a different variety of science topics, and can be shown to younger learners, too. There is a great eclipse video that really explains it well! Check out their intro below!

Let's take a look at non-fiction books. As a science teacher, it is imperative that I use interactive read-alouds to teach a science concept. Remembering that what I am reading is not necessary at their reading level. Whether you paraphrase or read a quick non-fiction book that helps you teach a science concept my three go-to's are perfect for projecting the books on my smartboard!

The first one is free to educators! It is Epic Books! It has an amazing selection of non-fiction science books for all ages! I use them with all of my K-5 classes! As for the other two that I go to for non-fiction resources are Myon which our district has purchased a subscription to. It provides other options that Epic Books doesn't have. My third go to is Science A-Z. It is also a paid subscription, but gives me the ability to print books for my kids so they can take them home. They also are project-able and can be used on their iPads.

Looking for a free year of science lessons? Go to Mystery Science. After that you pay for it, but it is filled with lessons, videos, and experiments as well as ideas!

For Science review...check out Study Jams! Video Review, picture review, and even assessments for Science and now Math! Here is an example of one that I use...

Onto NGSS resources...I love looking for great resources on NGSS Hub. Now, I can't say I use everything that I see or that it fits just right into my roadmap that I need to follow, but sometimes you just need a little more...

Here are great simulations for science found at PhET Interactive Simulations! Love PhEt for balance and motion, concentration in our Mixtures and Solutions unit, and Static Electricity to name a few that I have used!

Finally, if you want to learn a little bit more about STEM and how to implement it into your classroom, there are some great professional development videos and guidance from STEM Teaching Tools.

The recipe for a great science lesson doesn't have to be so difficult. Use the framework you have in place...mine is FOSS...add a non-fiction book to start your lesson off...(there are also great picture books that connect perfectly, too!)

Followed by an engaging activity or experiment...even a STEM lesson...followed by a video to help you with the facts and you are on your way to making science child's play! And even more fun for you!

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