The Science School Yard: April 2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Best STEM Challenge EVER

Each year, I teach a simple machines unit. Each year, I try to figure out ways to integrate STEM ideas into the mix. This year, I wanted to find ways to engage my learners right away. Sometimes the simplest thing to do is grab simple items to create the perfect STEM project!
Renee The Best STEM Challenge Ever header.jpg
The best part...you just need  4 simple supplies or less for the each challenge. The first challenge is to create a way to get the cup of cubes to the top of the table. This is all I gave them:

 Toilet paper tubes, a cup of cubes, string, and tape. The best challenge

The second challenge that we did  was to make a way to move a cup of candy from one side of the room to another without using your hands to touch the cup. All I gave them for this challenge was spoons, rubber bands, and tubes.

The best part about these two challenges is that each design was so uniquely different. Each team was able to work together to find a solution to each problem and after they completed the challenge they shared what they created!

Now, this is the kicker...I was sick one of the days my classes did these challenges. Boy, did I realize that one of the integral components of setting up STEM challenges is to really SET...IT...UP.  What they were able to accomplish when I was there, instead of the sub,  was significant. It got me thinking... how can anyone make a STEM challenge the best EVER?

What I learned about making this STEM challenge the best ever is that as the facilitator of a STEM challenge, you must get them engaged. You must set the stage with everything they will need to complete the challenge. Consider these components:


1. How will you give them supplies? I set out a table with the items they can use. Each team is numbered and I send a special number to get what is needed.

2. What are the constraints as well as expectations? The first challenge was about moving an object from the floor to the table. This could be done as a pulley system or in some cases groups made a lever. We were able to share and explain as we observed the final product.

3. How will you get them excited about the activity? This can be done with a picture book, a question, or even a problem that needs solving. In both challenges I posed a problem that needed solving.

4. How much time will you give for a challenge. Our first challenge was 10 minutes. The second challenge was a race!


It is one thing to give your learners supplies and a challenge, it is another thing to remember to add the engineering process to each challenge you offer. We chose a simple machine challenge and it was perfect for learning several simple machines. They loved them so much that I have had to design a new challenge to show the other simple machines. Any STEM project can be your best STEM challenge ever! Setting it up for success is the key!

I have included my Simple Machines Unit that I use to add even more STEM stations including our annual Cardboard Arcade! Find my Simple Machines Pack HERE!
I challenge you to also make STEM challenges something your learners will say..."That was the best STEM challenge EVER!"

More Amazing STEM Challenges Your Students Will LOVE

Click on any of the images below to read about more STEM challenges from other STEM educators.
Brittany Washburn
Digital STEM Challenges
Boat STEM Meredith Anderson
Cargo Ship STEM
Get Caught Engineering
Animal Adaptations STEM
Brooke Brown - Teach Outside the Box
Roller Coaster STEM
Vivify STEM
STEM Space Lander
More Than a Worksheet
Paper Chain STEM
STEM to STEAM Trio
Sammie STEAM Challenge
Teachers are Terrific
Toothpick Tower STEM
Science School Yard
Simple Machines Challenges

Graphics and Font Credits: KG Fonts and PhotoClipz

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sustainability and The Three R's

This isn't new to us at our school...teaching about sustainability, energy, or even reducing, reusing, and recycling. We are a Green and Healthy School and with that comes some responsibilities when it comes to these concepts, but how can a classroom teacher integrate these ideas in a quick and effective way?

Reduce:
Reduce time in teaching these concepts by integrating a fun picture book that gets at the heart of helping the earth, conserving energy, or living a healthy life style.

Reduce time by using an activity easily found on the internet or use this freebie from my Earth Day Pack to help start you out!
                                         Grab you freebie here!

Reuse:
Sometimes it is nice to reuse an old lesson, but you just need a little refreshing! If you have a lesson on helping the Earth...how about save milk cartons, cut up cardboard boxes, and toilet paper rolls and now you have reusable supplies that build great towers! This is great for so many grade levels!

Recycle:
Teaching kids how to recycle and what to recycle is a great way to encourage a life long way to help the Earth. A fun game you can play is Separate the Trash. Bring in recyclables. Make cards labeled: glass, plastics, paper, garbage. Have teams take turns separating the trash and learning what is recyclable! You can even have them share ways to reduce or reuse items that are brought in. A great art project can stem from this activity, too!

Teaching sustainability is a great way to help kids become green and healthy.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Let's Get Growing...Five Ways To Grow With Your Students

It is that time of year at our school...garden time! We were the proud recipients of a Farm to School Grant five years ago and we are still growing strong!

This week we started planting seeds in two grade levels. So I thought I would give you some tips on how to plant seeds with your students...



 1. Have a planting station ready with soil, seeds, water, trays, and towels
2. Preteach how to plant seeds and practice this mantra:
-scoop
-pat
-poke
-drop
-cover
-water

3. While some students are planting have an activity for the others to do...I usually have them do an activity such as how to read a seed packet, how to plant a seed, or what do seeds need.

4. What they will be planted in? We do peet pots now, we have tried cups with holes in the bottom (too expensive), milk cartons (need lots of water and hard to cover with plastic to keep the water cycle doing the job), we have tried egg cartons, too (too little for my taste)

5. Where will you put the containers or we like to call them seed babies? We have grow lights...I mean huge ones, but if you don't...use the window sill or you can rig up a light source using pvc pipes and florescent grow lights found at hardware stores.

The big think is not over water, under water, have them get too leggy...okay gardening isn't an easy task, but when I see that a seed is magic and they can put their plants in the ground when it is warm enough it is worth the work to keep the babies alive!


Need some help with your plant unit? Check out this plant pack that I just finished up on!
FIND THE PLANT PACK HERE!
Let's get growing together! Plant a seed...plant ideas for your students...learning to garden is a life long skill that they can take with them. Whether it be in a small cup, a container, or a garden...growing seeds can really be a great way to bring the outdoors in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Outdoors Meets Indoors: Camping Fun and Prizes

It has been such funny weather here in Wisconsin! It has rained for two days so indoor recess is always fun and then yesterday it snowed. So, lucky me, I have some leeway as to what I can teach our kindergartners.

What do you do if you need a quick, easy, fun and interactive STEM project? Grab a few simple supplies, a fun picture book, and maybe even some toys and you are all set!

 I decided to bring the outdoors...indoors  with camping activities and of course a quick and easy STEM activity with 4 simple supplies:

1. playdough or non-hardening clay
2. straws
3. paper or paper towel from school
4. A camper

If you haven't tried EPIC books, it was free when I signed up for it...if you are a teacher. So, we popped up this fun story that is on EPIC books!
Image result


Give this fun STEM activity a try with the camper freebie here!
 Get these cute campers HERE!
If you would like to add some fun Camping themed Science packs check these out...
Find the CAMPING THEMED PACKS HERE!
Now for the fun part...we are a Green and Healthy School and with that I became Energy certified which means sometimes I get some great opportunities that come my way to test out some toys that go along with our focus on saving energy. Not only does this amazing toy allow my students to learn about ways to create light through other means than electricity, but this toy is also a STEM activity!

So here is the fun part... because I am testing this toy out for this amazing company Tenergy...they are donating 6 of these lanterns on my blog! If you sign up and win, they will send you a free lantern for a quick review of the product! Pretty simple! Click on the link HERE to sign up!
                     https://goo.gl/forms/doHmjnE2lwWPavYN2





Whether your indoors or outdoors camping can be fun! Add a little STEM, a fun Tenergy Powered Toy and it's even better!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Earth Day: Planting a Seed with Three Easy Steps

Wanting to teach about Earth Day, but don't know where to get started? First, don't just jump on the bandwagon without knowing a little bit about how Earth Day came to be...

Earth Day...How did this "holiday" even get started? The book that inspired Earth Day was the Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson which dealt with the state of the environment and what was happening to our air, water, forests, and animals.  Earth Day is the  largest secular holiday which beats Valentines Day and Halloween! 

1969...the year I was born...yes I am getting up there... people were getting really upset with what we were doing to our environment from the use of  DDT which significantly impacted the Eagle population to the pollution of our water ways caused by the dumping of chemicals into our rivers, lakes, streams  from factories around the country. 

The worst oil spill of the time occurred in 1969 as well. Senator Gaylord Nelson from my state of Wisconsin started taking a look at ways we could teach others about what we were doing to our environment. Our significant impact on the Earth from population growth to climate change continues to be a problem both politically and environmentally, but how can we continue to help our future generations learn about the importance of saving our Earth, going green, recycling, growing gardens, appreciating nature...without causing other issues? 


On April 22nd, 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated.  Teach in's were used to help educate others on what impact we have on the Earth is and what the devastating impact Earth faces if we continue down this path. Grass roots levels organized to help the cause in 1970 with  over 20 million Americans celebrated Earth Day that first year!   The Environmental Protection Agency was created which  laid  the groundwork for the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act to name a few. 

How can we take what they did back in 1970 and teach our students that they can make a difference just by the choices they make? We want to help our students learn about the environment and we care about our world so that we all  can make good choices for our future! 

Here are three simple ideas:

1. Show a song or video. Then have them write about what they heard. This simple song is about 8 principles for a better world! Respecting and caring for ALL living things from trees to seeds, animals big and small...a great message!




2. Have students go outside and just take in their environment! Draw what they see. Write down what living things they can observe. Give them time to really look at their surroundings for plants and animals,  and nature!  Let them breath in the clean air. Then have them share ways to go green with each other! 

This one one of my favorite Earth Day memories! Sitting and taking it all in until you just need to share with the teacher what you saw!!!! I love her excitement as she is ready to tell me her observations!

3. Have them connect with an activity about sustainability or going green!
From STEM lessons, to sustainability concepts, or even an energy activity a hands-on science connection is a great way to get your students connecting with their environment and also become problem solvers as they tackle some of our environments biggest issues.

Displaying image.jpeg
Building a wind turbine can be complex or simple. Differentiating to meet your level of comfort is key. As an energy certified teacher, I made a wind turbine that can be tested after the students create their fans. You can produce wind powered cars...solar ovens, sun dials...All it takes though is planting that seed!

Taking the time to teach about Earth Day can come from a book, a video, a quick writing prompt or even a STEM project, but the important thing is that we are teaching our students to be stewards of the Earth and that EACH day can be EARTH day!  

Interested in any of the Earth Day challenges? Check out my Earth Day Resources HERE!

Let's celebrate the Earth! Stop by the Science School Yard TPT store for  an EARTH DAY FREEIBE, TOO!