March STEM Challenge 2017

bunnypeeps

What says spring better than those colorful, marshmallows you see in every grocery store?  I’m talking about Peeps, of course!  And this month, our students are going to give them some air by creating Peep Launchers.

This idea comes from a packet of wonderful ideas that you see here.  Our building completed the Peep Puff Mobile last year.  So fun!


peepschallenge

Each pair of students will need 2 toilet-paper tubes (or 1 paper-towel tube, cut in half), tape, a single-hole punch,  a pencil, a pen or marker, 2 thin rubber bands, scissors, and a marshmallow Peep (bunnies work best).

For this challenge, I wanted the students to focus on perfecting their design to achieve the highest average distance in three trials.

I gave them this link with directions on how to assemble their slingshots.  Have your students watch the fun little video (2:12).  It explains how the slingshot stores potential energy when the plunger is drawn back and releases kinetic energy when you let go!

You can download and print the instructions OR you could simply put them on this site and let them follow the directions.  The reading teacher in me selected the latter and had great results with fifth grade.

Design Squad Slingshot

The students and I set up ten feet of measurement tape in the middle of our Makerspace for our trials.  Each pair came to the center, and gave it their best shot(s).  We rounded each to the nearest foot.

In this challenge, everyone wins – a Peep to taste, that is!

Looking for more?  The Design Squad Nation has some great extensions listed in Step 13.  Check it out!

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Want to know how Peeps are made?  Check out this video from the Just Born factory located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania!

Feeling really ambitious and want to make homemade Peeps at home?  Try this video!

If you try this STEM challenge, let me know by leaving a comment!

February 2017 STEM Challenge

Happy New Year!

To kick off a new year for all of us, and a new semester of graduate school for me, it’s time to try a new way of communicating.  I’m certainly going outside of my comfort zone here…

Can you feel the love?  View the video below to learn more about what our classrooms plan to use to integrate STEM in the month of February.  While certainly rough around the edges, I will explain a Cupid’s Arrow Challenge including tips, tricks, reminders, and extensions.  Students will need minimal materials:  craft sticks, string or rubber bands, scissors, and cotton swabs for arrows.  Click below to learn more!

Want to try it yourself?  Click below to link up to Teachers Pay Teachers where I bought this challenge and corresponding close reading activity.

cupids-arrow

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Cupids-Arrow-Valentines-Day-STEM-challenge-2289986

Do STEM Challenges leave you stumped?  Take a look at a few pictures of completed Cupid’s Bow and Arrow challenges from around the web.  As is the nature with such design challenges, there are many, many ways to solve these challenges.

cupids-arrow

Still skeptical?  Watch the following short video where a young man shows a very simple way to build a great bow!  Your kiddos are going to love it!

Top Five FREE Refreshers for Teachers

lemonade_lime_versionDedicated to the wonderful group known as the #sunchatbloggers…

Sometimes, teaching can bog you down.  You love what you do, but sometimes your schedule, the behaviors, the standards… they just wear on you.  You keep moving forward, but you feel sluggish.  Uninspired.  Unmotivated, maybe.  If only you could just sit in a lounge chair, put your feet in a pool of cold water, and sip an iced cold glass of lemonade…  Starbucks aptly named their pick-me-up, thirst-quenching drinks Refreshers.  I can get behind that.  Sometimes, you just need a Refresher.  Here are my Top Five Teacher Refreshers:

  1. Twitter:  Twitter is the number one FREE professional development resource for educators.  Period.  If you are not using Twitter to stay current, you should.  All it takes is 20 minutes.  20 minutes to scroll through your feed each day and read everything newly awesome and trending.  People share the most amazing resources, including links to free worksheets and lesson plans on Twitter too!  Scared to try?  Start by searching #edchat or #satchat.  These are my two favorite chats, and people use these hashtags all day, every day.  Take a look at what you see.  Like it?  Retweet it.  Click on a profile.  Like what you see?  Follow them.  I guarantee you this:  After a week of scrolling through Twitter, retweeting, and following, you will have built a nice little home feed for yourself.  You will learn from others, and better yet?  Others will learn from you!  Think of how amazing our profession would be if only the really great stuff was shared!
  2. EdWeb.net:  I’m not sure why it took me so long to hear about edWeb, but when I did, it was an a-ha moment.  Where have you been all my life?  Since then, I have viewed a number of their FREE hour-long webinars on topics such as designing learning spaces and integrating computer science in grades K-5.  Some may shy away from signing up for these free professional development opportunities due to the inconvenient times.  Not to worry!  I have only participated in one live webinar.  The rest have been recordings, and I assure, you can get just as much information from the recording as you do from the live feed.  In fact, the ability to pause is pretty awesome.
  3. Pinterest:  My friends know that I have a Pinterest Problem.  When I was first introduced to Pinterest, I was a maniac.  I pinned everything.  From first grade worksheets (that I didn’t need) to Christmas crafts (that I would never complete), if it was cute, I pinned it.  You never know, right?  Well, now I am much more discerning.  I usually create a board for each school year, but I also have a collaborative board for our Makerspace and a Leadership board since I am currently in graduate school.  It is a terrific visual representation of my goals.  And if I don’t have time to investigate deeply right then and there?  No problem.  It will be there later!
  4. Teachers Pay Teachers:  I know there are some who believe that everything that teachers create should be shared without a fee.  And philosophically, I agree.  But I also know how hard some teachers work creating amazingly adorable, structurally sound, deep, and meaningful resources.  And I don’t mind paying for them!  They are usually FREE or pretty inexpensive.  Plus, I absolutely love the convenience of searching for a particular topic, clicking “buy with PayPal”, and downloading directly to my computer immediately.  A few years ago, TpT added the Follow feature which I also enjoy.  I love when my favorite sellers post something new.  It gives me a little spark and inspires me to try something new!
  5. The Library Voice Blog:  If I could only follow one, just one, blog, I would follow The Library Voice blog authored by Shannon McClintock Miller.  “Shannon is a mom and Eric’s wife. She served as the K-12 district teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School District in Iowa for 8 years. Shannon is now an international speaker and consultant who speaks about education, librarianship, technology, social media, and making a difference in education and the lives of others, especially children.” Her blog posts feature tons of pictures and links, and her advice is both inspiring and practical.  She spearheads a number of wonderful, collaborative, international projects that I have participated in.  What a way to engage our local students and make the world a little smaller and a little nicer!

I know there are so many other resources out there.  Where do you turn when you need a little inspiration?  

What are your Top Five Refreshers?  I’m looking to take a sip of something new and sweet!

Open House in the Makerspace

Wednesday was a big day.

It was a big day for our students.  It was a big day for our classroom communities.

It was a big day for our Makerspace.

You see, besides a small group that attended our Family Maker Night in May, not many outside of our district staff had seen our Makerspace.

Until Wednesday.  Wednesday was our Cecil Intermediate School Open House.  Our amazing teachers encouraged the parents to trek to the basement to see our newly renovated space.  And they came in droves.  It was so exciting!

There were four stations set up.

Take Home Ball Puzzles

Puzzle Balls

Magformers

Magformers

Collaborative Zentangle Coloring and Home Challenge Information

Zentangle and Challenge

Volunteer Sign Ups via Google Forms

Volunteers

You can see more special photographs in my video below.  I love the lyrics that accompany this Animoto song.

Keep Being Different.  Keep Having Fun.

Storybird: Visual Storytelling for Everyone

My friend recently mentioned that her son is having a hard time generating ideas for journal writing.  It is taking him much longer than it needs to, and the result is a frustrated mom and child.  I explained that I view writing skills as I do muscles sets in the human body.  You have to use those muscles in order to strengthen them.  The same is true for writing skills.  We often overlook writing in the summer months, opting to keep our children reading or practicing math facts.  So, in the spirit of Back to School, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite digital resources to help students become more creative writers.

storybird-logo

As the scrolling image states on the landing page, Storybird is a place to

Write books you’ll always remember.  Read books you’ll always remember.  Discover books you’ll always remember. Share books you’ll always remember.

In a nutshell, users of all ages are inspired by beautiful art collections to write their own stories and books.  Collections range from silly to serious, but all are high quality.  Check out “Another Day, Another Doller” by my former student, Andrew:

From a teacher’s perspective, it could not be easier to get started.  If your school has Google accounts, even better.  Here are the basics:

  1. Go to Storybird.com.  Click Sign Up for Free (right corner).  Click Educator/Student.  Then click Google Sign In.
  2. Once there, Click Studio, Classes tab, and Add a Class.   Give it a name.
  3. Now, under Studio and Classes, you should see Review, Students, and other tabs.  Click Students, and Add or Invite students.  Click My Students Will Create Their Own Accounts.  See that class code?  Write it down.
  4. The students will complete the same steps as you did in Step One.  Only this time, they will enter the class code.

One of the things I love most about Storybird are its challenges.  I received an email regarding the September challenge:

For this month’s challenge, we’re going to take that famous writing advice, “Write what you know,” and put it to work. Think back to a time when you tried something new for the first time. How did it make you feel? Use your experience, and your memories of those emotions, to help you create your characters and tell your story.

Love it!  Note:  “You must have a Regular account for your story to appear in the public library and to be featured on our blog and to earn the badge. Stories published from Student accounts are only visible to members of your class.”  Doesn’t matter to me!  I am just looking for creative ideas to keep my kiddos writing!

Parents, you can sign up for free basic accounts.  Don’t be discouraged by all of the extras, like printable hardcover books, that Storybird has to offer.  The basic program is more than enough to produce beautiful stories and build writing confidence.

Storybird has so much more to offer in terms of reading and sharing stories.  Check back, and I will highlight some of its other awesome features, including its companion poetry writing app for iOs, Lark.

 

Team Building with STEM Challenges

smart chick
I absolutely love the blog “Growing a STEM Classroom” by Smart Chick!  She is the STEM coordinator for her K-5 building, and with 20+ years of teaching, she knows her stuff!  Our school purchased her STEM challenge packs from Teachers Pay Teachers last year, and a number of teachers have enjoyed the easy implementation.

tylersgroup

There is one particular challenge that I think works especially well with Back to School Team-Building goals.  It is the “Cup Pyramid:  Engineering Challenge”.

Here is the description from TpT.

TEAM cup challenge

girls2

I used this with my sixth grade students at the end of the year during one of our Olweus classroom meeting times.  The students were beginning to get restless and short-tempered with each other, and I thought they could use an activity that would require them to work as a team.  I was right.   They absolutely loved it, and they learned to value all members of a team, regardless of academic skills or social stature.

Check out Tyler and “The Ladies”.  They had the process down pat!

You can find the directions for the challenge here, and visit the Growing a STEM Classroom blog here.

You will love her advice on how to integrate STEM, STEAM, and Maker projects into your classrooms and homes!