March STEM Challenge 2017


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!


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!


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.


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.


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!

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.


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


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!


The Unsharpened Pencil Challenge

I am so, so, thrilled to share one of my new favorite resources.  I stumbled upon an amazing blog entitled “Growing a STEM Classroom”, and even though I don’t teach Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math, I just HAD to try one of the activities featured!

growing a stem classroom

I started out by planning an activity to correspond with our celebration of Read Across America Day.  I wanted to share the whimsical Dr. Seuss story of If I Ran the Zoo.  I purchased a packet of five STEM challenges from the Smart Chick Teachers Pay Teachers page that correspond to the book, one of which was entitled “Build a Zoo Cage”.  Students are to work in small groups and are given a plastic zoo animal, a 2×3 piece of cardboard, five straws, and some glue and tape.  They have 30 minutes to work through the design process to build a cage that willhold more weight than any other.

Well, that plan got scrapped.  We’ve had some awful weather here in PA and numerous delays and a cancellation put a major damper on our schedule.

But I couldn’t give up.  I wouldn’t give up.  I found another resource from this same blogger that contained home challenges with very simple materials.  I chose, “What can you do with an unsharpened pencil?”

I let the students pick their small groups, handed them a pencil, and let them go crazy in my mini-makerspace.


They were somewhat familiar with the design process from two years of technology class, but I gave them a handout anyhow.


Some found it very difficult to produce something with purpose in such a short amount of time!  But all of the ideas were certainly creative!  Here are my favorites:

A fork:


A homemade duster:


A rock star action figure:


It was an eye-opening experience for me!  In a time when the stakes have been risen to astronomical heights, when standards are beyond complex,  and testing takes longer than ever…

It is nice to know that our students have not lost their creativity.  It may be buried, but it is still there.  I hope you will join me in offering more STEM or STEAM challenges in your classrooms.  You will not be disappointed if you check out Growing a STEM Classroom and the corresponding Teachers Pay Teachers page.  There are so many great activities that you can incorporate into ANY subject area.