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Does your school system have summer school or summer camp? I hope so! Summer camp is the perfect setting for STEM activities- many of which can be completed outdoors.

Kids love STEM and summertime is the perfect time to continue to work on those collaboration skills. I have some super engaging challenges to share with you!



Look for tips scattered throughout this post to help you organize and enjoy these terrific summer challenges (which, of course, can be completed at any time of the year)!

WATER SLIDES
We have always completed the water slide challenge indoors, but this one, in particular, would be great outside. When spills happen outside, and they will, you don't have to worry about wiping up water.


TIP: If you do decide to try this one inside your classroom have some real cloth towels to clean up the water spills. School paper towels don't really wipe up the water. Those brown paper things just move the water around!

FERRIS WHEELS
I actually tried this one during a summer STEM Club we had. We met once a week for four sessions. The great thing about our meetings was the mixture of ability levels. For this Ferris Wheel challenge, I paired third graders with fifth graders. This challenge uses a glue gun to hold the parts together and I normally only complete the challenge with 5th graders.


TIP: Do you use glue guns with students? I have low-temperature glue guns that do not get as hot and teach students how to use a craft stick to hold items in place when the glue is still warm.


BOTTLE FLIPPING
This one is perfect for those hot summer days and the noise level of all those bottles flipping will be very different on a sidewalk or picnic table.


TIP: You might notice candy corn in one of the bottles in the photo. Don't try candy like those pieces! When the pieces got wet (because the inside of the bottle still had water droplets in it) the pieces stuck together in one solid mass! 

BUCKET TOWERS
This is such a fun project! It would work great outdoors if you add a rule that requires the bucket to hold water! 


TIP: Use a lightweight 3-ounce cup for your bucket! Just use a hole puncher to make holes on two sides. I tried this one year with these cute little metal buckets I found, but they were too heavy!

HAMMOCKS
Is this just the perfect summer challenge? Of course, it is!


TIP: You need fabric scraps for this challenge or you can use craft foam sheets. (Dollar Tree has foam sheets.) I found fabric scraps in the sewing department of Wal Mart. The pieces I purchased were cut specifically for quilting so the pieces were already small.

TIP: You also need cardboard tubes for your trees. Get parents to save these for you!

SAILBOATSAnother perfect outdoor summer project! I am not sure if there will be enough wind to sail these outside, but kids would love to try it anyway.


TIP: We try these indoors with a long under-the-bed-storage box filled with water. I use a small fan to create the wind to make our boats sail!

HERE ARE SOME LINKS FOR YOU TO BLOG POSTS OR RESOURCES:



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Oh, how we love lying in a hammock on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, and listening to the sounds of the waves rolling in slowly. Now, I am not promising you that this challenge will recreate that scene for you- but it is still fun!

Let's build some hammock models!



Easy steps are the best! I go over the rules of this task with students and make sure they know they have four areas to make decisions about.

  1. The supports at each end of the hammock are important.
  2. The hammock bed must have a shape that works with the supports.
  3. The hammock must be held aloft.
  4. Decorate it!

It is so fun to watch students make these decisions and then take on the various jobs that apply to each. (It's my favorite part of STEM!)

The Support System
The first time we tried building hammock models I used a support that was a sure thing. We used the legs of our lab stools. Students made the hammock beds and tied them to the metal stool legs. The challenge with that version of this activity was that their hammock bed had to hold weight.

This version is different. The students have to create the end supports that will hold up the hammock.


The first thing they encounter is how on earth to get those cardboard tubes to stand up. I have a cardboard connecting poster in my room and send students to take a look at it to choose a connection method that will work. The flange is the one that they thought would work best for this challenge. Notice those little tabs that are taped to the table in the photo above. That's a flange!

TIP: You can make a cardboard poster like the one I have. It's super easy to put together and we use it all the time. I am including a link at the end of this post for a blog post about Cardboard!

The Hammock Bed
This is where the task gets really interesting. Cutting fabric is a challenge for some students. Cutting a particular size or shape is even more challenging. It is also something that can easily be shown to them- great learning experience. The  hammock bed must also fit in the space between the supports.


So, where do I get the fabric for the hammock beds? I shop the fabric department at Wal-Mart and get small packages that have about a 2-foot long piece of fabric. I cut those in fourths. The packages are created to be used for quilting, I think. There are many great colors and I grab about 5 packages. You can also save scraps of fabric from other projects.

TIP: What can you use instead of fabric? We have tried felt pieces. These can be purchased at a craft store. We have also tried brown paper. Felt and paper work fine. I have not tried foam sheets, but I think they would also work great!

TIP: What do I do with students that are having trouble cutting fabric? First of all, I give them my good scissors- the ones that are on my desk and no one touches! Secondly, I show them how to lay the fabric flat on the table and hold it taunt. It will cut much easier if the fabric is not limp and bunched. Sometimes, one student will hold the edges while a second student cuts.

Time to Hang the Hammock
When the hammock bed is ready and the end supports are in place it is time to hang the bed up. This proved to be challenging. With my first group I made holes in the tube for them to thread the string through. This was SO HARD. (Bonus Tip: Don't do this!) String unravels and it is really hard to push through tiny holes. We discovered that just taping the string in place on the support columns was much more effective.


In the top photo above the team cut the fabric and used those loops to hang their hammock! In the other photos either a pipe cleaner or a rubber band was used.


In the photo above the hammock has also been attached to the trees with a pipe cleaner that is wound tightly in place. (Winding pipe cleaners tightly might be tricky for younger students.)

DECORATE!
Since we used cardboard tubes, every group wanted to decorate the tubes as a tree. We used brown construction paper and covered some of the tubes. Students made leaves and branches and a few other items to make their hammock area look relaxing.


This was a quick challenge. We easily finished in one class session and we left our hammocks hanging on display for others to see. 

Start saving fabric scraps so you can try this fabulous challenge. It is available in My Resource Shop on at Teachers Pay Teachers. (Links are at the end)


LINKS FOR YOU!





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This STEM project is one of my personal favorites! It's a 2-3 session challenge packed full of Math!

There are several ways you can add to the creativity of this project- with advertising, commercials, and performing- if you wish to expand the experience.

What is it all about? Keep reading and enjoy this project soon!



This project is all about boxes! To be more specific it's about:
  • Exploring volume and determining the greatest volume of a box.
  • Exploring the surface area of a box.
  • Designing and creating a box with the greatest volume.
  • Calculating the final volume of the box created.
  • Decorating the box to be a brand new kind of cereal.
  • Advertising the new product.

I know! That is a lot packed into one project and it is so much fun!

Exploring Volume and Surface Area
This activity begins with an exploration of volume. Students take a look at many different empty cereal boxes and try to place them in order based on the volume.


To check their accuracy we fill each box with packing peanuts and then weigh the amounts each box held. Take a look at the photo above! It is clear that Crisp Rice has a greater volume than the other cereals.

TIP: We also talk about why some boxes have a greater volume. What you want students to notice is that a deeper box will have a greater volume.

TIP: We also talk about why the volumes of similar sized boxes might be slightly different. Packing peanuts will fill the spaces differently every time due to their funny shape. So, is this a true test of volume? Nope, and that is when we break out the calculators!

Students learn how to calculate volume by measuring the same cereal boxes that were just tested with packing peanuts. This determines exactly which boxes have the greatest volume. Most of the time this correlates with the packing peanut experiment pretty well.

Designing a Box
Now, It's time for the design challenge!


Each group is given some poster board- all the same size. Using that static piece of board the task is to design a cereal box that will have the greatest possible volume. Students will have also learned about all the items that are shown on a cereal box and they also add decorations to their boxes.

TIP: We complete this challenge in large groups! We have the box decorators, the math calculators, the box designers, and the marketing crew. The marketing crew designs advertising posters and writes a script for a television commercial for the cereal.

You can see why this is a multi-day event!
Calculating the Final Volume
When the boxes are ready students measure and calculate the final volume and surface area of each.
 It is so interesting to see the sizes of the boxes and how different many of them turn out to be.


We take everyone's final numbers and create a class chart (above) to compare the numbers with what the actual boxes look like.

TIP: The student data sheet has tables they complete that walk them through the steps of calculating volume and surface area!


Decorating the New Cereal Box
Now, it's time for the really fun part! Decorate those boxes with the name of the cereal and anything else that needs to be added to create the best cereal possible.


Above you have the Grand Slammers.  This team made tiny cereal pieces in the shape of baseballs and bats! The Weirdoes cereal was shown with a bowl and spoon the students made of scrap paper. The Traffic-O's cereal had such a clever cover design. And, of course, we had Neon Explosions that came with a limited edition toy!


Every year we always have a cereal named STEM FLAKES!


And, every year we have plenty of sugary sweet cereal names like Cotton Candy Crunch!


ADVERTISING
Our presentations of these boxes is a really fun day. Each team shares its box and poster ads and then performs a television commercial. I award the best marketed and well-presented new cereal with a contract to begin manufacturing the brand! (not really) #sofun




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A few years ago I had a great idea about having students create mazes from boxes and paper. I thought they would like making these, but I was wrong. They LOVED it!

It never occurred to me they would enjoy mazes so much, but they really do. They try so hard to make all the paths work and have dead ends. Their mazes are also decorated so creatively. 

Since this is such a fabulous project we have tried this challenge many times and in different ways.



The three styles of mazes we complete every year are:

  • Paper Mazes
  • Straw Mazes
  • Plate Mazes
The materials we use make the mazes turn out differently and we have tried some variations of these. I will add some links at the end of this post to share other things we have tried!


Paper Mazes
The paper marble maze is the one we tried first many years ago. I used gift boxes as the maze bottom. Some kind of box is a good idea- a gift box, a soft drink flat, or the lid to the boxes of copy paper. The size of these boxes is a good one for a maze and it's also a way to keep up with the marble or able as it travels through the maze.


After trying this maze a few times we have discovered that card stock works great and we have also learned how to fold the edges to make the maze walls. We usually fold the paper in a 'L' shape and this makes a wall and a surface that can be taped to the floor of your box.


By joining many of these 'L' shapes together you can create longer paths and paths that turn.


I did have some students one day that didn't like working inside the box and they asked if they could cut the corners of the box to open it out flat. They made all the walls of their maze and when it was finished they lifted the edges of the box and taped them back together. 

TIP: Pre-cut the strips of card stock with your paper cutter. You can have students do this, but I have found that they cut the paper too narrow and it does get wasted.

Straw MazesThis variation of the maze turned out to be really fun for my younger students. We call it a straw maze!

We use a piece of foam board as the base of the maze and the walls are entirely made of straws.


We use clear tape to hold the straws in place. Above you can see the bendy part of the pink straw. I found straws at Dollar Tree one day that had a very long flexible part and they worked great to make curves in our mazes.


I also really liked the black foam board as the maze base.

TIP: Buy foam board at Dollar Tree if you can. It's obviously only a dollar and they have white and black. Foam board at Wal Mart or Target costs a lot more!

Plate Mazes
This version of a maze is one we tried most recently.

I gave each team a large heavy duty paper plate and half sheets of many colors of copy paper. They had to make the obstructions in the paths of the maze and also a clear path that a marble could follow.

They loved these and really worked hard to be creative!


We added straws to the materials fort his version of the maze. Students mentioned that the marble kept getting away and they needed a 'bumper'. I When I heard this I thought it was a great idea and I grabbed a bag of straw pieces I had saved. These made perfect bumpers for the marble to hit in order to stay on its path.


Which type of maze will you try? LINKS to Maze Variations and Resources:








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I know this has happened to you!

The end of the book comes too soon. And later in the day, you think about reading that book and then remember you finished it.

It's awful, isn't? Sometimes I just don't want to get to the end.

This month I am sharing 5 of those books. Enjoy!





In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon passes tiny amounts on to me- if you purchase something through that link - at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
The Tranquillum health resort offers life-changing events. Clients may want to lose weight, kick a habit, just get a fresh start, or overcome grief. The promise of the 10-day program is that clients will leave as a transformed person. Sounds good, right?

Hmmm, maybe not so much. Frances arrives at Tranquillum to reset herself after a romance scam has caused her some extreme self-doubt. She's a writer that is also alarmed at her latest negative book review. She quickly meets the other nine strangers.

There is Lars, an older gay man that travels a lot- just to visit health resorts. He and his partner cannot agree about having a child. Carmel was my favorite- a middle-aged woman that is dealing with her husband's betrayal while trying to raise four daughters. A family of three, Heather, Napolean, and Zoe are at the resort to battle the depression and guilt of losing a loved one. Jessica and Ben are trying to kickstart their marriage that has undergone a dramatic change after winning a large lottery contest. Tony, a former athlete, is just struggling with aging and not being close to his children. How will this group fare together?

How can this go wrong? Well, you will also quickly meet Masha, the resort's director. I pictured Cruella De Ville when I read about this woman!

This was definitely a page-turner and typical writing of this author. There will some twists and turns and maybe some unbelievable parts. I enjoyed it! 4.5 stars

Elevation by Stephen King
This is a classic Stephen King novel- but a very short one. This was not a problem for me since I do sometimes think his books are too wordy.

In this one, Scott Carey is a divorced man living alone with his cat, Bill. He discovers he is losing weight. Yet something is odd. It's about the clothes. It seems that he can step on the scale naked and weigh 240 then step back on the scale fully clothed with weights in his pockets and still weigh 240.

Scott visits a local doctor that is just as perplexed as Scott. The doctor decides to monitor Scott and research the dilemma. In the meantime, Scott is still noticing the pounds drop away- but only on the scale. His actual physical size remains the same. He has calculated an estimated date when the scale will reach zero. What will happen then?

The back story is also quite a revelation and it's all about how our prejudices allow us to treat people. Neighbors of Scott's are Missy and DeeDee, a married lesbian couple. They own a  local restaurant that is not doing well because the townspeople do not approve of their lifestyle. Scott's efforts to befriend the two women and somehow make a difference in their lives is a vital part of this little book.

I love Stephen King and always have. If you have not read his early books (Cujo, Firestarter, Carrie, The Stand) you really should! His later books (11-22-63, Mr. Mercedes) are also excellent. Elevation is a quick read and you will not be able to put it down! Five stars for this one!


The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This true story will keep you mesmerized with the atrocities of concentration camps during World War II and the tale of Lale and his life as a prisoner.

Lale, a young man from Slovakia, is imprisoned at Auschwitz, where he "luckily" becomes the tattooist. Since he also speaks several languages he is able to maintain relationships with the guards and commanders. This is how he survives when many around him are taken almost daily to be shot or gassed.

One day he sees a young girl and becomes quickly enamored with her. Her name is Gita and Lale manages to meet her and they become lovers. Lale is able to contract with local workers and those inside the prison camp to trade jewels for extra food or chocolate. It seems improbable, but his charm and resourcefulness keep him alive.

Everything about Lale's life inside is not all good and you will discover this as you read. There are horror stories involving men and women he befriends and there is always the chance that Lale or Gita will become the next statistic.

You should read this book simply for its historic value and the eye-opening scenes of the conditions prisoners suffered during WWII. It is not exceptionally well written, but it was a page-turner for me nonetheless. 5 stars!

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I read this in about a day and a half - in large chunks with my breath held. I was alternately angry and wanting to get to the end. I will also say that after about 50 pages I didn't like the book. Weird, right?

This is the story of Grace who marries Jack after a very quick dating period. They met at a park where Grace has taken her sister, Millie. Millie has Down's Syndrome and spends her time in a care facility. at the park, Jack does something incredibly kind for Millie and then, of course, meets Grace.

They are married and everything is perfect. Or is it?

I cannot tell you more than this because it would ruin the story for you. But I can tell you why I liked the book and didn't like the book.

Pros: It was definitely a page-turner and I did like most of the characters. Grace does have a weird relationship with her parents, but they are not involved in the book very much. I did love the sister and Grace's interactions, especially their hidden understandings between one another.

Cons: There are scenes that are just a little unbelievable. I do suppose there are occasions like these scenes that do happen in real life, but I did reread parts that just struck me as, well.... fiction. I am all about being mesmerized by a story- as long as it is somewhat believable. (Think Harry Potter.)

Should you read it? I say, Yes! I give it  4.5 stars. I didn't want it to end because I was hoping for there to be a good resolution- and maybe there was! It's a quick read, but has some dark spots. Try it for sure!


Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
This young adult novel focuses on three teenagers as the main characters. I loved it! It's a story about relationships between parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings. It's also a story about adoption.

Grace, age 16, was adopted at birth and now finds herself pregnant. On the evening she gives birth to Millie, the baby's father is being crowned Homecoming Queen at school. Grace has chosen a couple to adopt the baby and she gives her away.

Maya, age 15, was also adopted at birth and has a sister named Lauren. Maya struggles with having a sister that is the biological child of her adoptive parents. Maya is also in a relationship with Claire.

Joaquin was also given up at birth but has spent his 17 years in foster care. At the start of the book, Joaquin is living under foster care with Mark and Linda and they want to adopt him.

Turns out these three are biological siblings. All had the same mother but different fathers.

All three of these teenagers are struggling with being adopted and the relationships they have with parents and eventually with each other. Add to the picture that Joaquin has a girlfriend, Birdie, and Grace meets a young man named Rafe. Grace is stricken with guilt in giving up her own baby. Maya is conflicted about her adopted sister and her girlfriend, Claire.  Joaquin has never had a real home.

Each of these young people is trying to find an identity that does not include being abandoned. Would finding answers from their birth mother help?

The book is beautifully written and I enjoyed it- even the parts that made me cry. I highly recommend that you read it or listen to it. I purchased the book through Audible and it is magically read by Julia Whelan. Definitely 5 stars for this one!

Some fabulous choices for you this month and in case you have never tried Audible I am including a link below to get you started with two free books!


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Let's face it! The last two months of school are just jam-packed and busy and chaotic. We have so many things to do and so many last minute things happening. How do you keep your students engaged in their work?

Well, I have some ideas for you! These are fun and will save you some time in planning and creating! Take a look!




There are many ways you can keep kids engaged. Room transformations with accompanying lessons, field trips, read-aloud books, competitions... you get it! But it can be a lot of work for you. Let me give you some solutions (and the work is already done!)
  • Escape Rooms
  • Memory Books
  • STEM Challenges
  • Favorites
ESCAPE ROOMS
Let's talk about engagement! Escape Rooms are a definite winner in that regard. Here are some things my students have told me about our escape rooms:

"This is the most fun I have ever had in STEM!' "I loved every part of this. It made me use some thinking." "We loved that it made us really work as a team."


This Escape Room begins with a scavenger hunt. I placed signs around the school and each sign also has a clue word. Students fill in their clue sheet as they find the signs. The clue words lead to another word to unscramble and this leads students to the lock code for the first box.

NOTE: This resource has an editable scavenger hunt so you can create your own sign locations and clues.

There are three boxes and each is unlocked in a similar way with students solving a puzzle or doing math problems and searching for the lock code by using the clues.

Here's the best part! A STEM Challenge is included!


After completing the Escape Room students grab the materials to make their own bubble wand- following a few rules. These are great to explore with outdoors in the spring weather!


MEMORY BOOK
Here is another amazing way to keep kids engaged. This little Memory Booklet is perfect!


Students complete pages about all their favorites and gather autographs from friends. After completing the pages, they cut them out and assemble them into the best little flipper booklet. What a way to keep those memories forever!

STEM CHALLENGES
What better way is there to have some fabulous afternoons in the month of May with your students completing a STEM Challenge! The ones we save for this last month of school are just the most favorite ones we ever do. 

First up is Water Slides!

Students use the materials to create a water slide with a ladder and we pour water to see if Lego Man can slip down that slide. The learning about water-proofing the slide is priceless!


The water is caught in a pool at the end and we all cheer when Lego Man makes it to the bottom!

TIP: Have some real cloth towels to help with spills. They work better than paper towels!

Another favorite in the spring is all about bubbles!
Students experiment with bubble solution and then design their own bubble wand. You can read more about this one on a recent blog post: A Simple Guide to Bubbles.


That little plastic disc in the photos makes the best bubble wand ever!

TIP: Be prepared for your tables to get covered with bubbles! But it is so much fun! Again, real cloth towels work best in cleaning this up!

Flood BarriersThis is an absolute favorite with my 4th graders! They are trying to build a barrier that will keep their little doghouses from flooding. They experiment with absorbent materials first and then build the barrier.


Then we pour in the water and the barrier has to work because the doghouses are made of paper!

TIP: You need dishpans in your STEM class! We use them all the time.

FAVORITES
My very good STEM Friends at STEM Activities for Kids and I have compiled a list of our favorite end-of-the-year STEM Challenges. Click on the image below to take a look at the blog post. I know you will find something your students can try.





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This is the question I posed to my third graders one day. Just imagine what they told me!

Of course they needed a robot, but the imaginings about what the robot could do for them were... maybe not very realistic.

So, we had to back up and really think about what it would mean to own a robot!







So get ready to learn some great tips and build robots!
  • Be Realistic!
  • Decide what the robot can do for you.
  • What will you need to build this robot model? (because it is just a model)
  • Can we add some reading to this project?

Be Realistic!
The first time I talked with third graders about this challenge they gave me some of these reasons to have a robot:
  1. To play video games
  2. To do your homework
  3. To save the galaxy (my all-time favorite answer)
  4. To help my mom
So, we stopped right there and I posed like this:
What if you could walk into Target or Wal Mart and go to the robot aisle? You know, like the cereal has its own aisle. If you could stroll down the robot aisle, what kind of robot would you choose?
The robot would have to do something specific that you would need. Even though saving the galaxy is a noble thought, would someone really buy this? Probably not.

So they started thinking more. I also had to make sure they knew what the word specific means. The idea of helping their mom is fabulous, but what would the robot help her do? (Moms do a lot of things!)

This helped them narrow down the robot choices.

What Can the Robot Do for You?
  • Clean up your room
  • Mow the lawn
  • Vacuum or clean up garbage
  • Cook for your mom
Those sound better, don't they? Seriously, I would buy all of those!

Take a look at the two photos below. The robot on the left is sweeping up a mess. That is definitely a robot that a mom would buy!



The robot on the right is a yard mowing robot. The flap on his head lifts so it can empty the yard clippings into his garbage can body. Pretty clever!

TIP: Have groups tell you what their robot idea is and help them narrow the focus down if necessary. For example, if they want a dad helper robot, talk to them about what their dad does that he always seem to not like. A robot doing that chore would be great!
What will you need to build this robot model? 
Normally when my students have a STEM Challenge I give them a  bin of materials to use. With these robots, I did give them all some of the same items- like cardboard tubes and tape. 

For the main parts of the robots, I had a supply table of items from which they could choose. They chose the things they felt they needed based on their designs.


TIP: We did talk about choosing what they needed! Sometime kids will just grab some of everything and then it is wasted. So have a talk first and then let them gather their materials.

In the photo above the robot is a cleanup robot that sucks up dirt and places it in his garbage can head. (We had a lot of garbage can heads in this class!)

Take a look at Baking Betsy below!


Betsy bakes desserts for mom! I would buy this robot because we love sweets at my house, but I hate the chore of gathering ingredients and then washing all the mixing bowls!

Can We Add Some Reading to the Project?
Absolutely, and I have two perfect books to suggest!
The Wild Robot

Have you read this one? It is just a fabulous little book that tells the story of a robot named Roz that finds herself alone on an island after a shipwreck during a hurricane. This turns into a story of friendship between Roz and the animals of the island, including an orphaned goose that she adopts. This is a great read-aloud chapter book for your kids. After the book is finished they can build a model of a robot!

Speaking of robots built after reading a book this is exactly what we did in first grade one day.

Take a look at the photo below to see the first grader's robots.


We read a picture book and then designed our robots. I gave the groups a cup, some craft sticks, and interlocking cubes, and scrap construction paper. They loved this challenge! And here is the book that inspired it!
The Bot That Scott Built

The children in the book are enjoying a science museum and the page reads,
"This is the bot, the bippity bot, the rabbit-eared robot, that Scott built."
Each page continues the story adding another line about the robot, the curious class, the class that gawked, and so on. Each page ends with the same words about the bot that Scott built.  It only took about two pages before the first graders were totally part of the book as they repeated that line. The book has some hilarious moments when the ant farm gets turned over and the carnivorous plants are eating flies. There's also a frog, a boa, and a volcano! The kids loved it!

Your groups will also love building robots!






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Have you ever tried bubbles in your classroom? I mean, inside your classroom?

Sounds pretty daunting, I know, but I am about to let you in on some little secrets!




Let's divide the secrets into a few simple categories (always nice to organize, don't you think?):

  • You need a procedure.
  • You do not need fancy materials.
  • Keep it simple, but make it an experiment. 
  • Do allow some "playing".
  • This can be a design challenge, too.
  • Clean up!
Alright! Keep reading and you will be ready to tackle some bubbles in the room! Bubbles, bubbles everywhere (not really)!

You Need a Procedure
Just like everything we tackle in our classrooms, things always go better when we plan-plan-plan. We have procedures for lining up, getting our lunches, and the hallway. Your science or STEM lab has procedures, too, I am betting!

So, what about Bubble procedures?



Our main rules are simple- try to keep all of the bubble blowing and dripping on the table and clean up spills immediately.

I am lucky to have very large lab tables so the first rule is easy. The tables get messy, but we try to keep the drips off the floor.

The rule about cleaning up is for stickiness and also safety. You don't want anyone slipping in spilled bubble solution!

You Do Not Need Fancy Materials

The bubble solution is easy to mix and makes a large quantity. We also use lids from jars or small bowls. The bowls I use are from the Dollar Tree- they are a 2-inch diameter and shallow. We have also used small metal pans. For blowing bubbles we use straws!

For the design challenge, I do add a few more materials. More about those later!
Keep it Simple, But Make It an ExperimentThe first time I tried this challenge in the STEM Lab I knew I wanted to add some science to the event. So, we researched the science of bubbles and learned so much. Do you know what makes the rainbow colors in the bubbles as they are blown up?


This design resource has the students experimenting with blowing bubbles in different ways and recording the results. It's a great discovery lesson with a lot of oohs and ahhhs!

Do Allow Some PlayingOf course, kids want to just blow bubbles, so be sure you add enough time to let the explore freely. The only rule I have during this exploration is that they cannot just blow straight into the solution in the cups to make the bubbles. I tell them this: "We already know what will happen if you do that! What else can you learn by trying something different?"


Here's how we make tabletop bubbles. Dip one end of the straw into the bubble solution and then place your finger over the other end. The straw will hold the bubble solution. Now release that onto the table. Gently blow into that solution as it spreads across the table and bubbles will appear. 

I know this sounds messy, but the straw only holds a tiny amount. And the results are pretty spectacular.

This Can Be a Design Challenge, too!So, how did we make this into a STEM Challenge?


We made bubble wands! Students were shown an array of materials and they could choose 2-3 things to put together a wand. Then they tried the wand to see if it would work.

What were the materials? It is different every time I try this challenge, to be honest. I just start grabbing things from my supply cabinets that might make a wand. We always use pipe cleaners and straws. I usually add binder rings, hair ties, and those little plastic grids you see in the photos above. Kids love those and they make endless bubbles pour out. Look at the photo below.




Kids make so many versions of bubble wands and they almost always work. We did learn a few things the first time we tried this:
  • Don't use tape if you can avoid it. These wands get soggy and soapy and tape won't stick.
  • Make sure your bubble wand will fit in the bubble solution container. Sometimes ours are too big and we can't load them with bubbles.

Clean Up
Clean up is easy but will take some time. The good news is that your tabletops will be so clean when you are finished!

  1. Wipe the tapes with a dry paper towel.
  2. Then spray the table with a cleaning spray- I have 409 type spray or a Windex type spray. 
  3. Use a wet wash cloth to wipe down the tables with the cleaning spray on them.
  4.  Repeat with fresh wash cloths are no more spray and then dry with dry towels.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to try bubbles in the classroom? 




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Many years ago I taught third grade and every year we completed a hands-on study of seeds. We planted a fast growing seed called the Brassica and watched our little plants go through their entire life cycle- from seed to seed. It was a spectacular study.

While we waited for the growth spurts (and it really only took about 45 days to see bubs, blooms, pollen, and then seed pods) we learned the parts of the flower and also learned about pollination.

Seriously, this was one of my favorite science units.

So, how can we take that study one step further and have a STEM Challenge? Here is everything you need to know!



Let's divide this into a few categories!

  • Seed Dispersal
  • Flower Parts
  • Other Ways to Use Seeds


Seed Dispersal
One of the things our third-grade study touched on was how seeds get from place to place. That study only mentioned a few ways that seeds can be moved. There are so many ways!


The most fun way to talk about involves the invention of velcro. Do you know the story? Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer named George De Mestral. He was removing burrs from his dog's fur and wondered why the burrs would stick so securely. Looking at the burrs closely he discovered a hook on the burr that was wrapping around the fur. Well, that is exactly how velcro works.

So, one of the ways that seeds are dispersed is by attaching to animals. In the STEM Challenge, students must design a way to show this method. In the photo above the team used a glove and decorated it to be a turkey (notice the wattle) and seeds are attached to it.


Another really fun method of seed dispersal is called "explosion". In this method, the seed pod literally explodes. Just do a search on YouTube for "Exploding Cucumbers" and you will find a fabulous video. Kids love this one so much.

In the photo above a group has made a decorated balloon seed pod. They are making it explode by sticking it with a push pin. So fun!


Another form of seed dispersal is about the use of wind. Some seeds just blow away from the parent plant as the wind blows. (Think dandelion.)

In the above photo, students made a parachute and attached the seed pod to it. The seeds fall off as the parachute floats to the ground.

Seed Dispersal Flip Book
If you need a way to get students to write and illustrate seed dispersal methods a little flipper book will do the trick!

This one includes posters of the different dispersal methods and templates for student booklets- 8 pages!


Students write about and draw some of the seed dispersal methods. My third graders always loved creating little booklets like these!

Flower Parts
Have you ever dissected flowers? This is one of the activities we always did while we were learning the flower parts. I bought carnations and gave each student one flower. They used forceps to pull off the petals one at a time. This leaves only the center of the flower and you can see the pistil and stamens.

Then we pulled those off and used our fingers to pull open the ovary. You can see the tiny seeds inside it! Students taped these tiny parts in their science notebooks and labeled them. It was magical to see the parts we had only talked about previously.

Next up- design a 3-D model of the flower parts!


Students were given craft items and the task is to design the flower and its parts and label everything. This is actually a great assessment of the study. Do they have all the parts? Are the parts labeled correctly and in the right places?


If you need one more project about flower parts, how about another flip book? In this flip book, students label the parts of a seed and then the flower parts.

Seeds and Flower Parts Flipper Book

The flip book has some cutting and gluing to match parts and also some writing! Super way to cement that learning!

Other Ways to Use Seeds
We loved studying about the flower and its parts and discovering the seed dispersal ways. But, can we go even further and design a spectacular bird feeder?

Of course, we can!


Students used boxes to design the bird feeder. First, they made the style feeder they wanted. Then they painted and decorated. The feeder had to have a perch for the bird and a place to pour in the seeds. Isn't the one above just amazing?



Some groups chose to use an empty water bottle for the feeder. These worked great, but we did discover painting them was hard. It took multiple coats of paint!

There are so many ways to learn about seeds in the classroom- including STEM Challenges and hands-on studies. Have fun!




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This month's selections don't have a common thread at all. They were all so good, however, so I guess that might be the theme. Just good books!

These five books have friends attacking their bucket list, children being sold, people spending millions of dollars in one shopping trip, a supernatural thriller, and a story about a boy that wants to be a girl.

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon passes tiny amounts on to me- if you purchase something through that link - at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!


Good Luck with That by Kristin Higgins



Three really good friends encounter real life. The girls, Emerson, Georgia, and Marley met at summer camp as teens who were all trying to lose weight.

Now, many years later Georgia and Marley attend the funeral of Emerson. Emerson never lost the extra weight as she grew into adulthood. In fact, she gained an enormous amount and this led to her death. At the funeral, the two friends are given the "Thin Girl" bucket list they had all written at the summer camp. In honor of Emerson, they decide to complete the list.

This is a different kind of bucket list! They want to hold hands with a boyfriend, eat dessert in public, ride piggy-back on someone. Why are these things so difficult? The book will let you know just how biased the public is about overweight women. Georgia and Marley still struggle with weight gain and weight loss and their body images.

The book is quite readable and very funny at times. (There is one improbable scene with a rabbit, but the rest of the book is great!) You will love the friendship of these two women and cheer when they are able to conquer the fears they are tackling with their bucket lists! 5 stars

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan



This is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians and I enjoyed it just as much as that first book. In the first book, Rachel Chu discovers that the father she never knew is alive. In this book, Rachel and her new husband Nick travel to meet him.

It also seems that Rachel has a half-brother, Carlton. The book begins with shenanigans with Carlton and his mother's cover-up of the tragedy (it involves a car crash and a dead passenger). As Rachel soon discovers, this scheming mother does not want Rachel in the way of her son's lavish lifestyle or his inheritance.

Of course, many of the people from Book 1 appear as they continue their extravagant lives. Astrid, Nick's cousin, and her husband are featured, as are many others. It's all very well written and completely readable- even though the spending of millions of dollars during one shopping trip is definitely something that cannot be comprehended.

These books are also quite funny - especially the footnotes the author includes. Be sure to read those. Read Book 1 first and then dive into this one! You will love it, too! 5 stars


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I had no idea what to expect from this little book, but, oh, my goodness, it was really good!

The story opens with a middle-aged man returning to his original home to attend a funeral. While there he decides to visit the site of his home and also take a walk down the lane. As a seven-year-old, he walked down that lane one day and met Lettie Hempstock. It turns out that Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother have some mystical, mysterious, and supernatural powers. (Think Stephen King, here.)

As the man sits beside a pond (that Lettie always called an ocean) he begins to remember things that happened with himself and Lettie many years before. The friendship deepened quickly as the boy found himself with Lettie as she created a fantasy world to solve a problem. As this is happening the boy is told to hold Lettie's hand and not let go, but he does. He is stabbed or bitten and a day or so later discovers a "worm" embedded in his foot.

Do I need to tell you that this might not have been a worm, but a parasite with human qualities? And, how on earth, can Lettie and her family help him?

That is all I am telling you about this one! Put it on your list, for sure! It's a really quick read with a little less than 200 pages. You will think of Stephen King throughout the book and it also reminded me of Tuck Everlasting. I loved it! 5 stars!


Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
It is 1931 and America is at a low point. Jobs are scarce, money is scarcer, and people are just trying to make it all work. A young reporter, Ellis Reed, is traveling through Pennsylvania and happens upon a sight that startles him.

On the front porch of a weathered farmhouse, he finds two children sitting and just observing their world. Next to them is a small wooden sign that reads,
"2 Children for sale"

Ellis snaps a photo and later submits the photo to his editor. His editor approves the photo and article for the newspaper and Ellis scrambles to publish his story. Unfortunately, something happens to the photo and he does not have the negative to reprint it.

The choice Ellis makes next will have a profound effect on his life and the lives of a family. He returns to the farmhouse to try to recreate the children and the sign. The family no longer lives there, but a next-door neighbor with two children catch his attention. Could he possibly get those kids to pose with the old sign and let him take the picture? Could this turn into an impossible situation?

With the help of a co-worker, Lily, Ellis embarks on trying to fix the mess he created with the second photo. Lily lives in the city and works at the newspaper and has a secret of her own. She and Ellis become good friends.

This is a well-written book with some twists and turns and a predictable ending, but I enjoyed it! I think you will, too. 5 stars!

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Claude is five years old. He has four older brothers and two fairly amazing parents that are just spending their days enjoying these five sons and all that parenting entails.

Until one day Claude announces that he would like to be a girl. He loves to wear dresses and wants to be a princess. Rosie and Penn (the parents) have allowed Claude the freedom to do what makes him happy, but there is a catch to this.

What do they tell everyone else? The older brothers are alright with Claude, but what happens when he goes to school? The decision to keep Claude's gender a secret explodes one day when an overnight stay with a friend creates quite a scene since they think Claude is a girl. This is when the family decides to move.

Claude will have a fresh start as his new persona, Poppy. The secret continues in this new home.

This book is well written and addresses the issue of gender identification. There are many other side stories to this book- with all of the boys in the family and the parents. The children are all precocious and quite intelligent- sometimes more than is necessary to tell the story. The parents are easy-going and allow the kids their freedoms- but sometimes it's a little much. I really wonder how many parents are like this. It is quite eye-opening, however. I think it is worth reading to get a perspective on this topic.  4.5 stars!

Some amazing books from which to choose this month! You will enjoy them all!




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