Sunday, October 8, 2017

Novels with STEM and STEAM

Novel Studies that Incorporate STEM and STEAM

I know it's not always easy to make time for STEM. That is why it's so beneficial to integrate STEM and STEAM into other subject areas you already have time allocated to. If you do read alouds with your students, why not really dive into the book and make the story come alive with STEM challenges?

Why Reading and STEM?

Maybe you aren't sold on STEM and STEAM education or you want to just stick with the novel studies you have done in the past. Maybe you want to try STEM but don't know where to start. So, where should you start? Start with a novel you love that integrates with STEM. In addition to needing strong literacy skills to succeed in STEM fields, you will also be able to reach kids who may not be all that interested in reading or books.

Stories Come Alive with STEM

Some of the lucky ones have a fabulous imagination and can picture anything in their heads. Others are a completely blank slate up in the old noggin' until they can touch it, feel it, experience it first hand. If you have any tactile learners, they will benefit enormously from hands-on STEM challenges where they can observe a physical manifestation of part of the story.

Teamwork and Growth Mindset with a Story

If you are reading a story where the character experiences a trying situation or there is room for improvement in some way, why not "choose your own adventure" by altering the story with a STEM challenge. Have the students brainstorm a way the character could have approached the problem differently in order to come out with a better solution, or how they might approach the problem differently in the future. How might the character benefit from a new perspective your students offer?

Some Novel STEM Ideas to Get You Started for 2nd - 5th Grade

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - create a wardrobe with a working latch

Charlotte's Web - create a spider web out of string

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle - design and create an upside-down house

The One and Only Ivan - design and create a domain for Ivan

Flora & Ulysses - design and create a comic strip or a stop motion animation film about Incandesto!

The BFG - design and create a suitcase

I have also created more in depth Novel STEM studies which I would love for you to explore. Blog posts about them can be found by clicking on the images below (The Wild Robot, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Hatchet, and Holes):

Do you have a favorite read aloud you keep coming back to? Let me know at and I will see what STEM challenges I can come up with for it!

Pin these ideas for later:
Novels and STEM - How you can try implementing a STEM challenge with your next read aloud or book club book. Ideas for popular read alouds for grades 2-5. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Sunday, October 1, 2017

STEM Challenge for Fall - Create a Sports Dome

Sports STEM Challenge for Fall: Design and Create a Sports Dome

A math-centric STEM challenge that is fun to create on both a small and large scale: the geodesic dome!

Why try this challenge? I think this Venn diagram says it all:
On a slightly more serious note, this challenge requires patience to figure out but the reward is great. If you have a lot of space you can even have students create one large dome together and turn it into a reading nook or meeting space.

First, gather up the materials:

This project can be done in two ways - freestyle, or with the measurements provided to create the dome as shown.

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will need to make measurements as well as work together with patience and perseverance.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of fall STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

STEM Challenge for Fall - Acorn Chute

Fun STEM Challenge for Fall: Design and Create an Acorn Chute

What a fun STEM challenge for kids! This challenge takes the idea of a roller coaster or slide to a new level because kids are working with non-uniform shapes.

First, gather up the materials:

You can have students gather fallen acorns or use craft acorns. In a pinch, you can substitute small balls or marbles, but one thing that makes this challenge unique is that the acorns don't roll as well as a perfect sphere. This is a great activity to discuss force and motion as well as friction and 3D shapes.

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will need to explore structural stability, repeatability, and will spend a good deal of time making modifications to get their chutes to work predictably.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of fall STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

Monday, September 25, 2017

9 STEM Picture Books that Spark Imagination

STEM Books to Read to Young Kids to Spark Imagination

There are so many amazing and inspiring STEM books for kids; I am a little envious that these weren't around when I was a kid! Some of these you have probably heard of but I hopefully there are a few that are new to you that you can check out from your local library or add to your classroom bookshelves. These books were chosen in particular for their ability to stir the imagination in kids aged 3-6 through their vivid illustrations and touching stories.

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Building STEM Picture Books  - Just Right for Pre-K and Little Ones

1. Construction by Sally Sutton
There are several books in this series from Sally Sutton, so be sure to check them all out. This is a great book to introduce building concepts to little ones with bright and colorful illustrations and enticing vocabulary.

2. dreaming UP by Christy Hale
Build with blocks and see what they could become as full scale buildings and structures! This is an absolutely wonderful find for your students' first STEM class.

3. Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
This one is all about play, imagination, and of course, FUN! Kids will relate to Molly Lou and may be inspired to create some of their own toys to play with.

Inspiring and Story STEM Picture Books Featuring Girls and Women

4. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
This is a great book if you are exploring Growth Mindset concepts or if you have kids that struggle with perfection. It's okay to make mistakes, and that is so important to understand when trying out STEM activities.

5. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
This wonderful story has sure gained in popularity since it debuted! One of my favorite stories on this list and sure to be yours, too. It will touch your heart and remind kids that sometimes the best improvement is to scrap what you had and start over.

6. Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan
Though Queen Victoria is not the one designing the machine, kids will love this book for it's quirky rhymes and illustrations, and for its wonderful ideas!

Tinkering STEM Picture Books

7. Coppernickel, the Invention by Wouter van Reek
This story is all about the KISS principle. KISS, or Keep it simple, sweetheart (I prefer sweetheart over stupid), is a very important thing to learn when dealing with STEM activities though often it takes a lot of elaborate failed designs to end up back at something simple. Tungsten the dog, has got this principle down and it is a learning opportunity for Coppernickel.


8. Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
Talk about perseverance! Based on inventor Lodner Phillips, this book shares how even with an idea it may take several iterations to get a design just right. If you have any aspiring inventors, this is a book they will want to read again and again.

9. Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall
This is a fun book, akin to Molly Lou Melon, and one boys may better identify with as the title character is also a boy. This is a fantastic read to tie in to the idea of reusing and repurposing and is ideal for little ones.

Pin these book ideas for later:

Clip art in above image from Photo Clipz

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Research Project for Kids - Study a Famous Scientist or Inventor

A Biography Research Project with a STEM Focus

Biographical research projects might feel overwhelming to kids, especially if it's the first time they have tried this type of activity. I created this activity as a first exposure to studying a famous person. It is all contained on one sheet of paper, so that is something that does not overwhelm kids. There are also a couple of different formats to choose from: a folding brochure format or a poster format.

Why scientists and inventors? Obviously I am passionate about STEM fields, but in finding out more about these important contributors, kids may become inspired to pursue a similar career or at least take more of an interest in it. Sports figures, performer s such as singers and actors, and other professions inspire kids from an early age. Why not scientists and inventors? Without them, we wouldn't have high-tech sports gear, a way to watch sports events, or the technology to record and play back music and movies!

Here's how it works!

First, choose the scientist or inventor to study. I have provided a list in the resource I created, or you can find a great list for kids on

Now it's time to do the research. I love utilizing the library to find general information books about various scientists and inventors, but you should also be able to find individual books about many of these inspirational figures. Find the basics, such as when they lived, where they lived, and some other background information about them. Then go a little deeper and find out what important invention they dreamed up or scientific contribution they made. Maybe their discoveries or ideas weren't considered viable or important in their time. Maybe they died penniless and unknown. Some had fame and fortune, as well as respect. Others may have been dismissed for being too revolutionary or for being a woman or a person of color.
The next part of the project is so much fun, because it is time to present the findings with others and do a fun scavenger hunt! Display the research projects around your room, so that students can read about the scientists and inventors and fill out the scavenger hunt page. If you don't have the resource below (you can find it here) you can create a simple scavenger hunt to hang up, with questions such as:

Can you find a scientist who lived before you were born?
Can you find an inventor who invented something you have used?
Can you find a scientist who is from a country other than the one you live in?

Find the resource on Teachers pay Teachers:
Or pin this idea for later:
Famous scientists and inventors biographical research project! Kids use an easy-to-follow format to learn about a scientist or inventor and then share their findings with classmates. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Simple Fall STEM Activity with Paper - A Leaf Glider!

Simple STEM Challenge with Paper: Design and Create a Leaf Glider

This is a very simple STEM project that can be done using only a few simple materials. It offers high engagement and kids always have fun launching their gliders to see how far they fly and what kind of path they take.
First, gather up the materials:

You can have students gather fallen leaves to trace or just cut leaves out of paper. Then create a glider! Which leaf will work best? How can you fold or transform it? Here are some design examples:
What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, students will get a hands-on feel for concepts like aerodynamics and drag, hone fine motor skills with cutting and folding, and utilize measurement skills by tracking the distance their gliders travel. You can add in a math component by having them launch their gliders ten times and finding the average distance traveled.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of fall STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Top 3 Fun Halloween STEM Activities for Kids

Halloween STEM Builds!

Do you love doing holiday-themed building challenges? Use building bricks in 2D designs for younger kids, or 3D for kids who are expert builders. Here are some fun ideas to get started for Halloween:

What do you think of first with Halloween? I know one of my kids' favorite traditions is carving their jack-o-lanterns.

It is trickier than it seems to get the expression right, so it's a great one to work on with persistence. The above jack-o-lanterns are what I mean by 2D. They aren't really 2D but they are flat. Creating a spherical shape with bricks is far more challenging and should only be attempted if you have expert builders. Also, orange bricks aren't always easy to come by, but remind your kids of white pumpkins! I have grown these in my garden before and they are quite striking.

If you are thinking you need an easier challenge, try a spider:

Maybe the spider has 8 legs of different length, or is red. It might not even look that much like a spider when it's done, which is okay! It's all about exploring with space and building, finding the pieces to make it "just right."

Some kids do well with a defined challenge, such as the two above, but others really soar when the challenge is open-ended. Design and create a creature! Some kids will stick with a traditional Halloween creature, like a bat or a cat. Others might be into zombies or skeletons or vampires. Why not? Let them see what they can come up with:

If you are looking to make this a more educational activity, I have developed a set of STEM mats with design criteria. Students will measure their creations, count bricks, and build according to the mats.

Or, pin the image to save it for later:

What are STEM Mats? Watch the video to find out, and get a sample STEM mat to try it out.