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Want to Jumpstart Your STEM Makerspace In You Classroom?

Our district is trying to pass a referendum that would include in each building a STEM/Makerspace room. Knowing that I was the local guru of all things STEM and Makerspace  (I have been integrating this into my curriculum and after school programs for over 11 years now)...I was recently in a discussion with a staff member that wanted to talk to me about my ideas. She asked me what a Makerspace actually was. Now, I am no expert in it all, and my explanation might not have even been perfect, but I thought I would share with you what I shared with her. 

What is a Makerspace?

I explained that to me a Makerspace was a place for people to gather to learn, explore and share. A place where you could use technology or no technology, but to me it doesn't have to include machines or even technology to be considered a makerspace. I showed her the area in my room with the big letters MAKERSPACE. I showed her the cardboard, tubes, art supplies, blocks, and egg cartons that were stacked and labeled, ready for kids to come back into my room after the pandemic. I walked her over to the box of craft sticks and masking tape and then shared with her that at its core, Makerspace was an open area for kids at school to gather to create and build. It could be independently or even in a group. We always have a ton of kids join me for after school STEM/Makerspace Clubs each session.


Some might think Makerspace is about tools and 3-D printers, but as I explained, in my research of setting up a small corner in the science room...expanding into our library as it grew...our makerspace is a place for our students to tinker, explore and discover using whatever tools and materials we can place in there to offer them. 

I led her to our library, where we have our more technical supplies we house, our beebots, ozobots, and makey makey devices to name a few. What we have at our school is different that other schools. No two schools have the same exact supplies. That is what makes a makerspace unique. We want our students to see themselves as seamsters/seamstresses(we have 8 sewing machines that were donated), designers, builders, engineers, artists, inventors...that is what makes our spaces special to our own schools. 

That is the beauty of it, I built a place at our school even before a referendum was even considered. What we have in our makerspaces do not have to be expensive. It can be high tech and low tech. 

What about challenges like STEM?

In STEM, there are several tiers to challenges we can give our students. We give them an engineering design model to go through, criteria when necessary, and a time constraint to adhere to. With Makerspaces, I like to use passive design challenges such as task cards if students are seeking a challenge in any way. Giving them a choice in supplies that are needing to be cleaned up after they are done using them, sharing supplies with others, and creating then deconstructing also help the organization of a makerspace so that the materials are more impermanent. Challenges are finished in a given time, often like a STEM challenge, but what I find is that they aren't as attached to their creations in a makerspace. We often snap a picture, share with a friend then take them apart until the next time we are together. You can do this with supplies such as Keva planks, blocks(Jenga is perfect for this as well), Legos, K'nex, and Playdough for example. I have different task cards with themes and tic tac toe boards if they want to continue for a few weeks in a row...these task cards are kept in a ring for them to get easily.


Who gets to go where and other organizational questions:

Organization is a teacher's middle name. If students want to work with robots, the sewing machines, or any popular area in a makerspace, it is best to determine what students want to work on before they arrive. This might mean each area in your makerspace is considered a station that they can sign up for. If they are done, or change their mind, then let them go to an area that is not occupied. We also have students bring their ipads and use qr codes and google slides where they can use coding apps or online challenges. Creating centers where students rotate allows for the structure that teachers often need. Remember, however when you put any control on a makerspace then you are losing some of the open exploration that makerspaces are best known for. You have to do what works for you. 

Organizing supplies is a whole other can of worms. I put all of my supplies in tubs that I label. I place our task cards on rings and hang them from the wall for easy access. We have built in shelves that house all of our labeled tubs. Because we don't have a designated space yet, we house supplies in my science room and in the library because our librarian can use them during her classes. Our makerspace area is expanding and with that how we will organize supplies will change. 

I hoped this helped her as well as helped you out as well. It is hard during a pandemic to continue to allow students to work in groups, share supplies and gather in small areas...as time passes I am positive that makerspace will be even more important to helping our students be creative, work together, and make!





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Don't forget to give it  a try with this free Makerspace Resource as well! Grab it today!


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Winter Science and STEM Ideas

Maybe your like me where there is snow and freezing temperatures...or maybe your in a much warmer spot than me. When the weather starts to stop your students from heading outside because it is way too cold then let's just try some winter science activities inside! Avoid that cabin fever...help your students learn about snow and winter to keep them learning and playing! I am sharing some of my winter K-5th grade activities and ideas that I use in my science classes!






Winter Science Ideas:

1. Science and the Changing seasons is a great science lesson on patterns and cycles in the sky. We make models, I demonstrate, and we make connections with our birthdays!

2. Repel and attract with magnets and ice fishing...yes this is one of my favorites! I give my kinders "fishing poles" (otherwise known as dowels with string and a magnet. They "catch" objects that stick to magnets in a bucket covered with white paper and a hole cut out. We catch and release washer fish, paperclip fish...and more!

3. Animal adaptations, hibernation, and migration is always a great one for animal survival and animal comparisons. From building a den for bear, to learning vocabulary through games, littles love to learn about animals!



4. Polar Bear Blubber and how animals stay warm, add that crisco into a plastic glove and grab that bucket of ice water and learn about animal survival and adaptations!  

5. Snow and Crystals...we learn about how to separate mixtures and solutions. We separate out salt and water and sugar and water through evaporation. You can easily connect how snow is made to connect snow crystals! This year, we poured off some of the salt water onto blue paper to make the perfect salt crystal snowflakes! 




6. Water lessons are perfect for teaching vocabulary such as expand and contract! We have a whole frozen day where we do several fun stations which include: water in a vial with a lid on to see what would happen when soda in a can freezes, we place water in syringes and freeze them to see that water expands, we learn that ice floats and how to test temperature as well as read a thermometer, and we follow it up with water sinking and floating (cold water/blue and hot water/red). Many of these lessons come from FOSS Water Unit, but I adapt and change to help students make connections. We then learn about how real maple syrup is made! Mr and I make our own syrup every spring!




7. Why snow is white...go find that Mystery Science lesson if you have it. It really helps students learn quickly followed by making a snowflake! We then follow up with how to. make a snowflake!




8. What's the Matter Mr. Snowman? is always a second grade favorite! We get snow from outside, you can also use shaved snow from a snow cone maker or even ice chips, we then decorate a cup to look like a snowman with eyes, nose, and mouth, then we add our snow. We measure during our time in science. When we have science next, we discuss what we see. It started off as a solid, turned to a liquid, and now has evaporated. Perfect lesson for the changing states of matter!



9. Chromatography Snowflakes were a hit this year during our mixtures and solutions unit! We learned about chromatography and then tested black markers to see if we could get the colors to separate. We used coffee filters and a cup of water. You can also give them a dropper. We then learned how to cut a snowflake out of our design once it dried!

Need more snow ideas? Check out these packs for additional help. Grab your free snow activity by clicking on the link!




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5 Valentine STEM Challenges You Will Love

I loved Valentine's Day as a kid. My favorite Valentine memory was when I won the Valentine Box Decorating competition in second grade. I was crowned the Queen of Hearts and my classmate, Danny, was crowned King of Hearts. I was so excited and felt so special. I see our students try to prepare for Valentine's Day this year and let's just say it isn't like it has been. We are bringing in Valentine's early in order to quarantine the cards, some are having kids bring in 50 cents in order to buy candy and treats that can be quarantined for the week in order for them to be safe. Wow! The times' we live in. 

In my Science classes, we are doing science and STEM connections to help our students have engaging and fun Valentine themed challenges that can teach a science concept as well! This year, more than ever, I want to stop and take a break to let students find the joy that often seems to be missing as we social distance and work independently. 

Here are my top 5 go to's this Valentine's Day that you are sure to love!!!


Kindergarten: Queen of Hearts Towers using pink paper tubes, cut out hearts, and Valentine Friends cut outs, as we learn how to be Valentine friends to each other and defining property words of science objects and how they connect  that words can also describe a good friend.  Traits vs. Property Words can help you make those valuable connections in language arts as well!



 1st Grade: Love Bugs and animal adaptations, we build insects after learning about how animals adapt and survive not only winter, but as they return to us in spring...where have them been? We concentrate on how animals adapt then build our own love bug with three parts, six legs, antennas, and eyes. The kids love this, but this year, I will place their supplies in a gallon baggie to create their bugs. They will each get the same supplies, but what they do with it will be up to them.  

Found in my Valentine STEM Pack! 

2nd Grade: Valentine Bouquet, planting micro-greens and learning about plant parts this week in second grade gets us learning about heart healthy living as well. I was able to get plastic containers with lids from a local gas station that always helps our community! 


3rd Grade : Valentine Measurements As we learn about our water unit, we are taking a break to discuss the three states of matter as I have to help the third grade teachers as we try to get our third graders up to grade level in math. I try to add what I can to help my kiddos along and to help my coworkers. 

4th Grade: Heart Healthy Science learning. We have already learned about the cardiovascular system so now we are reviewing heart healthy living along with breathing and our masks. I will read the Cardiovascular System by Kay Manolis from Epic Books, free for teachers! When finished we will be reviewing what we learned using a quick Boom Learning Deck! I love that it corrects it for me. I signed up for premium.


5th Grade: Physical or Chemical Change Valentine Candy, We are making candy heart dispensers as we learn about candy and how their properties can be described as they have a changing state of matter. We test our candy hearts in a controlled experiment as well. 


I love Valentine's Day and I love Science and STEM! What a great way to review and have hands-on engaging challenges! Each one of my activities are individually bagged with the supplies necessary for a challenge. It is a lot of prep for K-5th grade as a science teacher, but the reward is as sweet as candy. Next week, I start my third quarter after school STEAM classes and lets' just say I got this in the bag, too!

Because I love that you stopped by my blog...grab this Valentine Freebie that I am using to give to my students for Valentine's Day! Download here!



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Quick Chemical and Physical Change Ideas

Every time I ask students what they hope they get to do in science, I always get someone that will say that they want to blow up things and make potions. Although that might be fun...science in elementary school is not about blowing up anything, but more so, mixtures and solutions and  learning about chemical and physical changes. Some of this might even include a chemical reaction lesson or two.  When it comes to science instruction, allowing students a variety of different means to learn a concept goes a long way. As educators, we know that a variety of ideas isn't always feasible,  so making sure that we include vocabulary,  hands on learning, and review is going to go along way to retaining new information.



There are some fun and engaging activities that I have done that help students connect to science concepts and also be wowed by some engaging experiments! Here are some ideas for your next chemical and physical change unit/lessons that I worked on this week.

Anchor Charts:

Vocabulary and concepts are always where I start. My students do not have much background knowledge, so we share a lot of examples and connect our background knowledge to get them thinking and connecting. 


T Charts/ Fold ups/ flip book:
 

I often use some type of review that allows for students to use pictures and words to connect to their new vocabulary better. Once they are done, I have them take a picture and put it in their camera roll for review for a test. 

Experiments: 

Penny Cleaning and oxidation: With chemical and physical changes, we test pennies in different acids and bases to learn about oxidation. I first share with them facts about the Statue of Liberty using Wonderopolis  Why Is the Statue of Liberty Green? Once I share with them what is shared, which is a ton of great background and intro to pennies and oxidation...I then give them a baggie with a penny, paper towel, and a packet of ketchup from the school cafeteria. I also give them a vial of apple juice. I show them the two liquids and test them with BTB to show if it is an acid or a base. I then share with them my other liquids I will test for them which include cleaner, baking soda and water, salt and water, cola, hot sauce, and vinegar. We even have used an eraser to see if we can erase off the patina. 



What happens when the penny gets cleaned? The oxygen in the air and the copper in the pennies oxidize which means a coat or patina makes the pennies look dirty. The acids such as vinegar or ketchup break down the copper oxide on the penny. When you use a solution of salt and water the salt breaks down the chlorine ions that bonded with the copper. A copper chloride is created which will break down more copper oxide off of the penny making it a great way, just like ketchup to clean off the penny. 

Glow Sticks are also a great way to show chemical reactions in class. Who doesn't love glow sticks? Why glow sticks?  We can teach stored energy which is called potential energy. Glow sticks contain potential energy in the form of chemicals, fluorescent dyes and a chemical called hydrogen peroxide. No light can be released until the chemicals are mixed together. When you mix the chemicals together when you crack the glow stick, they react to make new chemicals and release excess energy in the form of light, transforming chemical energy into light energy. How bright the stick glows depends on the temperature on its environment. 

Now...this is where the perfect experiment for students to observe comes in! You can demonstrate this yourself or share a video such as the one below. Adding heat to a chemical reaction makes the glow stick glow brighter for a short period of time. Colder water/environment will allow the glow stick to glow longer, but not as bright. It will release the energy more slowly. 

I give each student a glow stick to break, read about, connect with the experiment, then take it home. We also make connections with mixtures and solutions because that is the unit we are working on when we learn about chemical changes. We then answer questions that I post on see saw. We record our observations and describe how glow sticks cause a chemical change.  Follow the link to check out a quick experiment that my students love...she is relatable for them and we love her accent. 




Candy Care Packages and Physical Changes: Each year, I like to find a way to show students how to pay it forward through STEM and Science Lessons. This year, we have a staff member who has a soldier family member over seas. We will be sending a care package out for Valentine's Day this year. We will be giving two types of candy in plastic bags to each student. Along with hot water, we are testing to see what kind of candy would be the best to send over seas to a desert. I have bagged up (this is my lesson starting next) chocolate Kisses, Starburts, Skittles, Milk Duds, Jolly Ranchers, and Gummy Bears. We will make predictions as to what we think will be the best candy to send and what would not do well in a hot climate. Each student will get hot water to place the baggies in. Along with a popsicle stick, they will poke and press the candy each three minutes for the next 12 minutes. 

Ticket Out the Door/Assessments/Review:

 I have to say that I just love using Boom and Google Slides to assess and review concepts for each of my units and lessons. I project the cards on the smartboard, airdropping the record sheet to the students or placing the record sheet on see saw. Then as I project, they record their answers and then share that with me. I also have them correct their own work at times when we are checking for our own understanding. I use Boom Decks as well because it is a great way to collect data immediately. 



Want your own ticket out the door Chemical or Physical Change in google slide format? Find it here!
Need your own Boom Card Chemical or Physical Change Pack on sale for $2? Find it here!

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8 Ways To Beat Cabin Fever In and Out of School

Next to my childhood home, we had a business that would plow their snow into a big pile and each winter I would have a huge hill to play on. I would make forts, snowmen, and my favorite sledding down what I thought was a huge mountain. Some of you may not have snow where you live, that is pretty lucky when it gets way below freezing here and all I want is to be warm again. 
Each winter, I see not only myself, but everyone around me, including my students suffer a little cabin fever. This year, I am going to be hosting an after school class called, Cabin Fever Club! 


Those of you that follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest know how much I love to share all of the fun after school classes that I facilitate and this club surely is a potpourri of everything I have done rolled up into one class. The key is to motivate my students and tie in learning tasks. 

Each one of the evenings will allow me to utilize reading whether non-fiction or a relatable topic followed up with a hands on activity that ties in science, social studies, math, and reading! It is sprinkled with STEM engineering design challenges that will have my students excited about February and March like never before...I also want to help you find ways to add some interactive activities to your day or after school or family night events. 

I offer three nights a week in six week increments of virtual STEM fun along with different hands on activities for students to do. Here are some of the ideas for my after school club:


1. Home Depot wood kits (we are doing tic tac toe), we reached out to them to see if they would donate to us. If your hosting a family night, reach out to local businesses to see if they can help!



2. We partnered with a garden center and are doing microgreens, flowers, and vegetable seeds. We received a donation by a gas station plastic containers for the plants to have their own little green house. I just asked them if they were interested in helping us, and they said yes! They will be doing virtual tours of a greenhouse, helping us learn about plants, and even taking a virtual tour of how they compost! Garden centers are often willing to help if you publicize where you received a donation!

3. Snowman making kits which include felt scarves and mittens and rocks for the eyes and mouth.  We had donated fabric so we found a way to use what we had! 



4. We included STEM goodies such as toilet paper tubes, tape, string, foil, white paper, cups, pink and red paper, and more. I used what I had around the classroom and in the recycle bin. We will focus on science and holiday STEM challenges to sprinkle into our week. STEM can be done independently, virtually, or for any family night. This year, STEM club events are held virtually. 

5. We will be creating a winter animal out of recycling to focus on adaptations, hibernation, and migration. We play science scavenger hunt, which allows students to run around to find items that they can use in their homes! Kids are very creative with what they find and can use.

6. We will also be focusing on making bird feeders out of a water bottle (full of water) for them to use, this can also be a great greenhouse. This is an inexpensive solution to making sure kids have items to use that is safe and clean.

7. We are doing an egg hunt in our school neighborhood after painting rocks that with paint we send home. We will have an egg hunt for prizes after they hand in the rocks in March! They can win baskets of goodies along with the students at our school. You turn in a painted egg that you turn in for a prize. One prize per family. 

8. We are also going to the zoo on vacation! The San Diego Zoo has a great variety of animals that have live cams and we will be taking a trip per week that will go along with what we are learning about. I am thinking we can go somewhere warm and plot it on a map for us to link technology and social studies! Each student is getting a map and a record sheet to be able to find out how many miles we are going on our trip and we will determine how long it would take us in a car. We will be utilizing places that our families can go for free and providing a list for them so that they can get out of the rut of being indoors.  Check out the San Diego Live Animal Cams!



Along with the supplies: think about themes such as Winter, Snow, and Valentines. We will focus on recycling projects, but also include Valentine's Day STEM from my Valentine's Day STEM pack found here!



No matter how you involve your students in the dull drums of winter or in our case two months without a break, I hope these ideas inspire you and motivate your students as well! 


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Five Fun Gingerbread Science and STEM Ideas

One of my favorite cookies when I was a kid was the gingerbread man that I would make with my grandma. It was always fun to read the story and then make the cookies hoping that the gingerbread man would actually jump right out of the oven so I could chase him!

Who doesn't love as gingerbread man or baby stories that we can share with our students! This week, we used the gingerbread man story to review several reading, math, and science concepts. 


Check it out! Five of my top favorite Science and STEM Gingerbread Connections: 


1. STEM gingerbread houses to tie in story mapping



2. STEM gingerbread bridges to teach problem solving and what if's

3. Solids vs. liquids and what happens to gingerbread when they get wet? (use water in a dropper or test different types of liquids such as water, oil, vinegar, and milk) 

4. living vs. non-living review (Is a cookie living or non-living? What makes something living?

Digital see saw activity!

This is a great science video connection, perfect to talk about the living characteristics that the gingerbread man had in the story and what living means scientifically:





5.  Building a boat for the gingerbread man (test weight in a boat to see capacity with pennies for your weights/cubes) 

Want more fun and engaging gingerbread man themed lessons? Find them here:






Gingerbread Digital SeeSaw and Google Slides Pack This is my newest pack that I used in kindergarten and first grade this week! It was perfect with my virtual and in person kids!



Want a great song and story retell? This is my favorite with just the best melody and graphics! 


I love that my students can review science using one of my favorite stories that connect to my favorite person...my grandma! Run...Run...as fast as you can to your lesson plan book to get started on your gingerbread themed activities today. Let's make learning Science and STEM child's play!



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12 Ways To Help Students Retain Science Vocabulary

I remember when I was in fourth grade, and I had Sister Elrita for a teacher. She tried so hard to help us remember our spelling words. We had a special notebook just for spelling tests, and we had weekly lists we needed to take home, but looking back, those lists were just pure memorization. I didn't always know what the words meant, and I wasn't ever even a good speller. I was one of those kids that could see that it looked wrong, but didn't always know how to fix it. I still am that way as an adult. Now, to add vocabulary to the mix, yikes. I would use strategies when I got older such as pneumonic devices, or acrostics to support my memorizing of what a particular word meant. Do you recall how you memorized all of those words and what they meant when you were younger?


Science vocabulary is hard for students to retain. Whether you use the Freyer model or Sitton spelling or a district spelling program, here are some helpful tips to bring your science vocabulary to a new level of retention. What is even harder is that teachers have such little time to teach science in our very busy days and now with social distancing how do you even try to have enough time and supplies for each student. As you find new ways to add science into your curriculum, we also have to remember to focus on hands on and creative ways for our students to know what they are doing and what vocabulary words go with each concept.

You can use vocabulary within the context of a lesson or through a creative activity, but having new ideas to help your students understand those tough tier three words will surely inspire both you and your students!

Here are my top 12 ways that I help my K-5th grade students to remember their science vocabulary words and retain their meaning week to week:

1. Songs/Chants: I love songs and chants to remember vocabulary words. From Water Cycle to states of matter, songs help students remember words through popular songs and chants. 

2. Write the room with qr codes: I have students go from poster to poster reading vocabulary or answering a vocabulary driven question. Now with social distancing I have a bell that allows students to know when to rotate. 




3. Cloze Reading: I might give students a short reading with vocabulary words to focus on that are bolded. When they are done I give them a few questions to answer that allows for them to reflect on the words they are learning.

4. Boom Cards: I absolutely love boom cards for testing for understanding after we focus on a science concept and experiment. I just used mixture or solution and states of matter this week!


5. Word drawings: I use this when we have words that are a bit harder such as the water cycle and identifying the differences or solubility/saturation/concentration/diluted. When the word becomes the concept it makes more sense!


6. Google Slide Vocabulary Review Games: Some of my classes are not set up for Boom Learning because...well I teach over 230 students. I shift those classes to my google slides activities! This allows for them to look at picture association and determine which word represents the vocabulary we are learning. 


7. Science Experiments and See Saw Activities: I love when I can demonstrate the words and what they mean through an experiment or let students do the experiments independently right now. Once they are done, they work on a record sheet to use what they learned. They have to use the words correctly in sentences or phrases that show what they know and utilize their words in context.

8.  Vocabulary Board Games: I LOVED using these last year as a way to review our FOSS science units. Now that we are virtual and independent we have not been able to use the games this year. Instead, we now I have...who has which can be done at their desk. Kiddos at home review by some of the ideas above.




9. Art projects: We utilize science based art projects at times to create a picture or diagram using our colored paper and a concept such as the water cycle or landforms. We then label the picture (or even diorama when we could work in groups) to show what each part of our picture represents.

10. Memory/Go Fish: Okay...another idea that is very hard independently, but Educandy offers a way to play memory, word search and more. Here is the video on how to do just that!

 11. Poetry: I use acrostic poems and haikus to have students remember important science words. We take a picture and add it to see saw for them to use as a study guide, then I gather the poems and create a bulletin board. Two for the price of one!

12. Placemats: I use digital placemats for students to use to fill in the definition, picture, antonyms, and synonyms of the vocabulary words that are the main focus of our lesson. I don't always use this one, because I am crunched for time and this one can take a bit longer for us to fill out. I am sharing my digital placemat for you to download here!   

I hope that these ideas will inspire you to add some science vocabulary activities into your science lessons! Let's make science child's play!




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