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Project Based Learning: What You Need to Know

What is project-based learning? Well, it’s a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real world and meaningful projects that really affects them personally. Project-Based learning has components to making it unique and different than a STEM challenge.

What is the difference between project-based learning and stem?

Project-based learning is a way to take STEM concepts and challenges and apply them to real world situations and problems that students face. Students can explore different concepts and ideas and solutions to the challenges that are more long-term than just a 1 to 2 day challenge time. Project-based learning also incorporates standard base content as well as real world challenges so that students can actually learn to investigate concepts deeper and further and create that real world connection.

As they are learning in the classroom STEM concepts fit into this framework as well so if I choose a challenge that captures a students interests they can be independently working on their goals and design. Your first priority in project-based learning is to make sure that students have a variety of solutions that can be found as they work through their challenge the outcome has many different directions and results in project-based learning. Often times in STEM there are outcomes that are different and the challenge remains the same for all students unlike in most PBL projects.

One might ask how do you keep track of students and where they’re at in their process and project-based learning?

This can be difficult to make sure that students are getting the right depth of what they’re trying to investigate. What I like to do is give them a roadmap that helps them outline the steps they are taking. I make sure that they have the criteria that needs to be met as they go through the process. There are some great frameworks from the engineering design process that many educators utilize. Whether you provide your students with a document that helps them with the framework it’s really important to make sure that they capture what they’re thinking and their procedures are along the way this helps them meet a conclusion at the end a solution that they need to come to an a way for them to share out to others.

What skills are utilized when students work on steam and project-based learning activities?Collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, as well as authentic hands-on experience! PBL allows students to have their own voice and choice in what they are learning about and how they facilitate their outcomes.


Someone told me a few years ago that project-based learning is voice and choice! This is really important components when doing project-based learning. Students shape their learning and often times explore within one question that was posed by the teacher.

Time to try Project Based Learning! Here are some ideas to start you off:

1. School Garden

2. Cardboard Arcade for School Fund Raiser

3. Plan a party using grocery store ads

4. Plan a vacation for your family

5. Plan a class field trip

6. Learn about a community organization such as a Pet Rescue and create one at school

7. Create a school podcast or school newspaper

8. Plan a camping trip or the summer

9. Learn about recycling centers in your area and create products out of recycling

10. Learn about compost and worms and create a compost bin on site

Grab this freebie here to help guide your planning!

Let's make science and STEM child's play!


Inventors and Inventions in STEM

Everyday we are creating and learning. Our students are asked to adjust and challenge themselves and within each day we utilize an invention that helps make our life easier! Everything around us was once an idea in someone's brain. If we take that into consideration, we can look around us and see a room of endless possibilities that have changed our lives. They surround us...from the doors we walk in and out of each day, to the chairs we sit on. 

Some inventions are mistakes, while others have been carefully calculated out and tested until the inventor gets it just right.  Using the invention concept is a perfect way to introduce STEM into your classroom. 

Springboard Ideas:

-Have your students start with listing the top 5-10 most important inventions ever made
-Use a list of top inventions in the last 100 years to inspire their top 5 list and then have them discuss with a partner their reasoning
-head to the google patents site and have students research a new invention. Some are funny and some are useful, however allow students to assess an invention that is trying to get a patent. We use toy patents and allow students to rate the patent by usefulness, creativity, practicality, and whether they would want someone to buy it for them as a gift. 
-in our reading books, often we have a unit or story that centers around an inventor. Our book focuses on Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. Not all inventors are remembered as well as Edison. Use the American Experience site to show students some much appreciated inventions and their not so known inventors. 
-Kids love to learn about kids inventing things. This is a great way for your students to see that kids are truly inventors. With 10 inventions that changed our lives with childrens' creations inventionland is a great starting point for your invention lessons! 
-You can also share amazing inventions by kids using a youtube video as well.  They can say they saw it on the Ellen Show first! 
-Need an online site for your students to design and invent? Try PBS Kids Design Squad! 
-ThoughtCo has great articles for your students to read. Their are tons of great inventor and invention articles to add a bit of reading inspiration to springboard from!

Time to Invent! 

There are many ways to create an invention opportunity in your classroom. From invention conventions where students create a prototype of what they would invent to creating a robot that could do a job for  you to make your life easier...allowing students to be creative, think outside the box, and start to learn the engineering design model is important! Inventing and creating allows for students to be innovative. As a science teacher, it helps me find more ways to increase science literacy and expand student critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

Ideas for classroom inventions:

-The national inventors hall of fame has great free teacher resources...this is a great place to start
-The Young Inventor's Program has competitions, this can be a great after school class or GT challenge!
-I always start with my Rube Goldberg unit to get them thinking creatively! 
-This year, we started with my Robot pack. We used items around the classroom and objects that we collected to create a robot that could help make our life easier!
-To tie science and inventions together, don't forget about simple machines!

Thanks for stopping by! Thomas Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” To have our students show their creativity, give them items you find in your classroom and let them create! From Rube Goldberg to robots...to simple machines the sky is the limit!


Taking Inventory: Jumpstarting Your Science Lessons with Phenomenon

Adaptation Lesson Ideas For Primary Scientists

This year, out of any other year, we as educators have had to adapt each and every day.  In science, students from primary to intermediate can truly understand the meaning of adaptations just by brining up COVID. We have adapted with masks, lessons, not being able to work with partners,  bagging up supplies and even quarantining bags to make sure they are safe for use with other students, and the list goes on.

So let's add an adaptation lesson to your science lessons. Humans have adapted to living in almost any habitat. We are able to then recognize our own adaptations, as well as how animals survive as well. 

In a given adaptation unit, we want our little learners to focus on the following concepts: 
1.  Understand the relationship between living things and the habitat they live in
2. Learn how animals adapt and survive in that habitat
3. Learn the different types of adaptations that animals are equipped with such as behavioral adaptations (responses made), Body Adaptations (the physiological changes or body processes that help them survive, and Structural Adaptations (features of their body and what parts they have)
4. Animals have traits they pass down to their children, causing their children to look like, but not exactly like their parents
5. Animals adapt to obtain food as well as protect their food

These concepts can be taught with a ton of fun hands on ideas. These are some of the ideas for you to use:
  • The San Diego Zoo has a ton of Virtual Cameras for students to see what animals look like and how they survive and adapt found here. 

  • Students love this song (I have to say it's one of my favorites because by the time we are done with our mini unit they know the definition of adaptations=a change in the body to fit a location, as well as how a camel learns how to adapt in so many ways)

  • I love giving my students a baggie of paper, a cup, and a pipe cleaner. I don't give them the colors that they may need, but making sure that I have white for them to adapt. You can pick whatever colored paper you would like, but students can learn to adapt to whatever you give them that is another way to reiterate the understanding of what adapting means

  • We also extend this lesson to making a baby for our parent and we focus on how parents pass on traits to their children as well as teach them how to survive.  I give them just one notecard. With that notecard they must make a child that has similar characteristics to the parent. This gives us a chance to now look at animals that have fur/hair, scales, smooth, moist skin, feathers, and hard shell
         This allows you to now discuss the different types of animal groups such as mammals,                          amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, fish, and birds. I love to show pictures of animals for them to 
          put into categories that I have on an anchor chart 

  • Pick an animal and focus on one to start if that helps. I start off our lessons focusing on Penguins and Camels. We compare and contrast where they live and how they survive in extreme conditions. We practice protecting our baby eggs by waddling with small balls/ bean bags from PE that we borrow.  We also learn about animal coverings by testing repel and absorb.

  • One of  my favorite go to's has always been bird beaks. We have always utilized my Bird Beak Stations, however this year I needed to adjust for independent learning. I placed in each baggie: beans, different shaped noodles, beads, (you could use whatever you see that might work such as popcorn, blocks....) two dixie cups (one for cutting like a beak, one for placing food in), a straw, and a clothes pin.  The clothespin, straw, and cup once cut on each side are all beaks. 

  • Another great way to teach adaptations and survival is to do a fun camouflage lesson! Once again, I adjusted for our learners both virtual and in person. I printed off a picture of flowers in a field and we focused on what "organisms" such as insects could they find that are camouflaged in the picture after placing bead down on it. Here is the picture I used with my class. Grab a copy! 

Find ways to cover your standards. Grab a great picture book, show a science connection video. Have students connect with STEM and you can adapt to whatever this year has thrown our way! Way to adapt, pivot, and survive! 

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A Rainbow of St. Patrick's Day STEM Ideas That Are Golden

Seasonal STEM is a great way to introduce your students to the engineering process in a fun way. St. Patrick’s day leprechaun mischief and rainbow science activities are some of the absolute best to capture the interest of your kiddos and engage them in hands-on STEM experiences. Whether you’re doing STEM at home or school, check out a few of my favorites below that work for nearly every grade level, and with minimal expense and effort to implement! 

From that magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, to the Lucky Leprechauns who helped you implement engaging St. Patrick's Day Challenges, your co-workers might be a bit green with envy!

Here are over 12 different Science and Engineering ideas that are golden:

Leprechaun Hair is so fun to grow! All you need is: Soil • School milk cartons (one per child) • Grass seed • Pattern • Paper to cover carton (I use green)

Leprechaun Traps: Lucky Learners always love making traps. Grab supplies around the house, in your recycle bin or from your classroom. Here are some suggested supplies: Different sized boxes • Sticks • Tape • String • Store bags • Cups • Large cans • Construction paper • Baskets • Styrofoam plates/paper plates 

Indoor Rainbows are simply amazing to students and I must say I love to see a rainbow inside or outside. You need the following supplies: Cake pan • Water • Flashlight • White typing paper • A mirror...You can also use CD's and a flashlight! 

Rainbow Goo: All you need is Borax • Water • Glue (white for opaque, gel for translucent) • Plastic spoon • Green and yellow food coloring • 3 plastic cups • Ziploc baggie

Each of these ideas are part of my St. Patrick's Day Science Pack. With a few other treasures included. 

Setting up a Makerspace in your classroom or even making individual bags of supplies to hand out to your students along with task cards and a fun tic tac toe challenge will keep them chasing a few rainbows on St. Patty's Day as well. 

Makerspace Tasks might include: building something with only 3 supplies like a clover, build something to keep a coin or treasure inside, or even something that you wish was at the end of the rainbow. I take the task cards now and screenshot them to place in seesaw to make it easy for my kidds to see instead of handing them out or keeping them at a station that we can't utilize during COVID.

Want these Makerspace ideas in one place, grab the Makerspace St. Patrick's Day Pack that is versatile for any season!

STEM Stations or STEM Table Top creations are an easy way to let students engineer in a small group or individual way. Again I give my kiddos a bag of treasures that they can choose from and then challenge each to complete it by a given time. 

We include these STEM and Science Connections: 

-Shamrock Shakes during our Sound unit
-Somewhere over the rainbow for variables
-Pot o gold paths as we build out of tubes onto a wall space in our room to show food chains that start with grass and clovers 
-Up, Up, Panda Way with our air and weather connections in science 

Each of these ideas can be found in my St. Patrick's Day STEM-Velop Pack because I love developing engineers through my science lessons!

My little kindergarteners just love our St. Patrick's Day Math and Science Connection Activities as they count and learn!

From Conveyor Belts to Roman Arches and Wishing Wells...if your looking for challenges for your older students find STEM challenges that will be sure to please! Grab a free resource! I am so lucky you are here! Enjoy!

Let's make science and STEM child's play!

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!

Shop This Post with Makerspace Packs HERE!

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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