2017 - momgineer

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.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Hatchet Novel Study with STEM Activities

Project-Based Learning for a Unique Hatchet Novel Study

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, is a classic survival story that resonates with tweens and teens alike. It lends itself well as a middle school read aloud or book club choice, and offers ample project-based learning activities so that your students can experience Brian's adventures right alongside him.

I have read and reread this book multiple times, each time exploring ways to make this book really come alive for kids. While there are many possibilities for STEM challenges, I have narrowed it down to three building challenges that can be done either full scale or small scale. If you can get out in nature to do this it will make even more of an impact and give the kids a real feel for what it might be like to solve problems with items found in nature. Watch the video or read on!

Disclaimer: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.

I also wanted to make sure to add in some math and science activities that could have helped Brian in his isolation. **Spoiler Alert** If you have not yet read this book, you may want to stop here. I will be referring to several happenings in the book, so be forewarned. 

When we aren't yet too far into the book, and Brian has successfully survived the first leg of his adventure (crash landing), he at first thinks a search and rescue team will find him before long. At one point, though, he realizes that he could be quite far off course of his original flight path. How far off course? This is the first exercise in the Hatchet STEM resource I created to accompany this book. 

The page shown above is one of three options so that kids can work at the level that is appropriate for them. 

Brian quickly realizes he needs a shelter, so the first STEM challenge is to create a lean-to shelter. This one is amazing to do outside if possible! It can be quite challenging to create one that will hold up to weather and animals.
In addition to shelter, the other main important survival issue is food. Can you design and create a bow?

The bow ties in nicely to two science experiments, springs and refraction (when Brian tries to catch the fish but they are at a different location than they appear). For these, I created a simple Hooke's Law experiment that you can do with springs or rubber bands to measure the deflection of a spring and calculate the spring constant, and then a refraction experiment to explore how light bends through water.
For the Hooke's Law experiment, measure the deflection of a spring depending on the weight applied. You can do this as I've shown above, hanging a spring off a craft stick supported be two cardboard tubes. For the refraction, use a laser pointer to shine a light on graph paper or a coordinate plane, record the results, then place a glass of water in the line of the laser light and see where the light lands.

The final STEM challenge ties in to the end of the book when the plane's tail becomes visible and Brian seeks out the survival pack in the plane. Design and create a raft:
In addition to the challenges, there are engineering vocabulary cards and background information to go with the challenges. Another great challenge to do after this one is to create an FM receiver/radio. It could be fun to create a transmitter too, but likely not a good idea based on local laws in your area. You can find a few simple FM radio kits, such as this Snap Circuits one (which I favor, because you can build and rebuild it over and over):

or this one from WeMake if you are doing this as a homeschool project or group science fair project:

I hope you can use some of these activity ideas while studying Hatchet. If you would like the supporting resources that I have created, please click on the image below to head to my Teachers pay Teachers shop, where you can purchase them:
Not interested in the paid version? No problem! Pin this post so you can come back later to remember all the challenges I've shared above:
Hatchet Novel Study with STEM Project Based Learning. 3 STEM challenges, 2 science experiment, and math extension activities to really dive into this survival tale. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Pair Stare Games for Sight Words, Mathematics, and Visual Discrimination

Pair Stare Games: Fun with Sight Words  (and more!)

A game where kids and adults are on a level playing field: meet Pair Stare! Pair stare is not only a game where kids can practice their sight words (and other skills), but they can use visual discrimination skills to find where the pair is on two cards. Choose any two cards and find the one and only match on both of those cards. Watch a quick video to see a few ways to play:

Why is this game so much fun? No matter how often you play, the game is always slightly different. You can try playing with the cards below. Pick two cards and then look at them until you find the match. It's harder than it seems! Sometimes you think there must not be a match...but I promise you there is. A few things that can help you out:
  • the word will always be the same color and font
  • the word will NOT always be the same size
  • if you can't find the word, try searching by color or by number of letters in the word. Try it out below! Pick ANY two cards below and then find the match.

After you have found the match, record it and move on to a new set of cards.
There are decks for varying degrees of sight word difficulty, each with a slightly different color scheme or font, and all coded lightly at the bottom corner of each card. That means that you can use the same game but alternate decks as your students become more confident in their site words.

Pair Stare Isn't Just for New Readers

In addition to the fraction and math games (addition and subtraction), I have created a slightly different pair stare vocabulary game for upper elementary and even middle school students. The word isn't the same on both cards, but rather you need to find a synonym. Luckily all the matching synonyms are still color-coded. Can you find any below? Find sizzling/sweltering, walk/meander, or miniscule/small!

Good news. You can try out a basic set for free here:

or you can find all my pair stare games at Teachers pay Teachers.

Pin this idea for later:

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stop Motion Animation STEAM Project

Stop Motion Animation for Kids

Is the creativity and imagination of kids the 8th wonder of the world? Sometimes I think it might be. One of my favorite things to do in the makerspace is to observe the kids when they are creating their own stop motion animation projects. It's always a hub of joy and excitement. You can also make this a true STEAM project by exploring science topics, calculating frame rates, and working with numerous tech tools such as photo editing software, microphones, and various animation programs.

There are many apps and programs you can use to create stop motion animation films that are kid-friendly, such as iMovie, Hue Animation Studio, or the Minecraft Animation kit. If you have another one you enjoy, please feel free to comment below!

Create a Stop Motion Animation with these Steps

1. Brainstorm ideas for the film.


I'm not going to lie. This is probably the most challenging part of the process when working with groups of kids. One will want superheroes, another will want Star Wars, a third will hate both those ideas and only settle for something really gory. Start with a simple list and set ground rules if there are certain themes you want to avoid. Try to separate the groups by interest. The most important part?


Let me say that again slowly.




It takes such a long time to film a stop motion animation films that you will likely only get 1-2 scenes done. Have the kids focus on one character, what that character is doing in the scene, and what they are interacting with. Try not to have too many props in the scene that need to be adjusted with each frame.

I prefer to have kids work with LEGOs for stop motion animation because it is easy to keep track of where all the pieces are on base plates. If you need to pause filming for a day or the set is disturbed, it's not impossible to set it back up again.

2. Possibly more important than the plot is the lighting.

This might sound crazy at first, but there is nothing worse than capturing hundreds of frames for your stop motion animation only to watch it and see constant light flicker. If you do not set up your lighting, you will have light flicker, either from sun peeking in and out from clouds, or from shadows of the animators. Use two desk lamps to avoid light flicker and cancel out shadows, or invest in some quality lighting. Be sure it isn't so bright that you have glare!

3. Make a plan, Stan.

Have your kids come up with a plan for the scene. They will start to get ideas for the set and solidify the actions their character is taking in the animation. The storyboard doesn't have to be elaborate but it can really help kids define the scene.

4. Design the set.

This will be the highlight of the experience for some of the students. It's where they get to create their world and imagination comes to life. The simplest set can just be a backdrop. A more complicated set can have some props, but try to keep them to a minimum as they can be complicated to work around when filming.

5. The fun part! Filming the stop motion animation.

Okay, well *some* kids will have fun with this part. Many will have the patience to move their characters just a little each frame, but some will get frustrated with this part. If that is the case, you can have the kids switch off being the director or the photographer. They can make sure that all characters in the scene are moving at roughly the same rate as each other, and check to make sure the captured frames look good. If a set gets moved, they can also line it back up again.

6. Editing your stop motion animation film.

Did the set shift in a frame? Maybe you captured a hand in a frame? One frame just doesn't line up quite right? It's time to remove those frames. If you have kids who are skilled at photo editing, they may be able to manually edit frames that didn't capture correctly. This is also a great time to loop any frames that make sense to loop. If the characters are having a dance party, for instance, there is no reason you can't duplicate frames and loop them several times. It will add significantly to the length of the film. You can even drop them in in reverse, like Boomerang for Instagram.

Don't have fancy photo editing software? Try Gimp. It's free!

7. Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.

This is the most exciting part, next to watching the film. It's time to add sound effects or green screen effects, and record any voice overs. You can have students plan out what they are going to say and write it down, then practice as they watch the animation. Do a practice run, and then record sounds. It might take a few tries to get it right but it will take far less time than all the other steps. You can also add any beginning and ending credits at this time.

8. Movie time! 

I promise that the kids will want to watch their film over and over the first time they see it. Thankfully it is also probably only about 30-60 seconds long.

Here are a few images from past projects:
beach scene set

Minecraft kit animation
simple brick film set
Looking for more stop motion animation project ideas and tips? I have created a guide that supports this activity in a meaningful way. You can check it out here:


or pin this idea for later:

Stop Motion Animation STEAM Project for Makerspaces - Meredith Anderson Momgineer

* Thanks to EduClips for many of the clip art images used in the post.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

STEM Activities to Support the Study of Edward Tulane

4 STEM Activities to Try When Reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

A respected part of the family. Junk at the bottom of the ocean. A confidante. A traveling companion. A journey of the heart and soul, and so much more. This story, told through the eyes of Edward the china rabbit, touches on different walks of life and various tragedies so many of us encounter in our own. It is through these journeys that Edward truly learns about love, loss, and life.

Disclaimer: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.

Because this story has some deeply emotional and melancholy scenes, it may be difficult to process. Having a hands-on project can help young readers process those emotions as well as connect to the story in their own way. I have created a series of STEM activities to be used while studying this book (or to be used after the book is finished). While students are creating their designs, they may feel it is easier to open up about their thoughts on the book and what is going on. Using a stuffed animal, they will follow Edward on his journey.

Design and Create Apparel for "Edward"

A stuffed animal is much easier to deal with than a china doll or animal!

Gather your materials:
  • paper, card stock, vinyl tablecloth, felt, or fabric scraps
  • tape, Velcro or hook and loop sticky dots, or fabric tape
  • stuffed animal
  • buttons (optional, for decoration)
Design and create the clothing or accessory. Take measurements, focusing on important obstacles such as ears or a tail. Even if you are using fabric as the final design, make the pattern first with paper, and then improve it as needed. After the piece is finished, try it on another animal. Does it work? Why or why not? What would Edward think of it? Would he think it was up to snuff?

Design and Create a High Chair for Edward Tulane

Edward spends part of his journey as Susanna, sitting in the kitchen, listening to Nellie. Design and create a chair for your stuffed animal.

Materials needed:
  • card stock, index cards, craft sticks
  • tape
What will the high chair look like? Will your stuffed animal sit in it without falling out?

A Harmonica for Bryce

While most of the challenges focus on Edward, Bryce definitely deserves his own challenge. As Bryce is another young owner of Edward (as Jangles), many of the kids will naturally identify with him. What kind of music did Bryce play to his ill sister? Compose your own harmonica song after making a harmonica!

Materials needed
  • craft sticks
  • straws or toothpicks
  • rubber bands
  • decorative tape (optional)
One rubber band is sandwiched between two craft sticks (and around the outside of one). Two spacers (straws) are placed near the ends. Two rubber bands join the craft sticks together. The portion of the rubber band that is between the craft sticks vibrates as you blow through. How can you change the sounds of the harmonica?

Design and Create a Marionette

Make Jangles dance!

All you need are stuffed animals (with floppy limbs) and string or wires. Add craft sticks to attach the string to if desired. Try to control two limbs independently!

More STEM with Edward Tulane

In addition to the challenges above, I have created a full resource to support the 3 challenges mentioned (with engineering terminology, recording sheets, etc.), and additional challenges. I'd love for you to check it out!


Pin it for later!

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

STEM Tale - The Three Billy Goats Gruff Fairy Tale Activity

Fairy Tale STEM Activity for The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The goats may have gotten past the troll once, but what about crossing the river when the troll comes back?

Materials Needed for this STEM Fairy Tale Activity

  • card stock for the characters and bridge, or use small figurines
  • foam pipe insulation, cardboard boxes and other recyclables, building bricks, etc.

Before Getting Started with the STEM Tale

STEM tales work best if you read the original fairy tale first or do your own storytelling. Discuss the similarities and differences as you read through the story. If you use the resource I've created (linked below) you can make your own characters easily. Otherwise, use small figurines from a barn set or math manipulatives as the goats and troll.

There is also an initial simple bridge you can construct from card stock.

Fairy Tale STEM with the Engineering Design Process 

I have designed STEM tales so that as students read the story, they will follow the engineering design process. What is the problem that needs to be solved in the Three Billy Goats STEM Tale? The goats need to get to the other side of the river, and they are tired of dealing with the troll. To do this, they will outsmart the troll by building a new bridge the troll will be too afraid to go on!

Design a Bridge

After brainstorming bridge design ideas, the students will then choose one to create. They will need to take measurements as well as pick a troll phobia. What are some common phobias people have? The troll below has arachnophobia! He will never want to go near the bridge as long as it looks like spiders have taken over. The goats can cross the river easily now.

Use what you have and let the students run away with their imaginations on this one. You can get creative with the troll character. This troll is apparently afraid of fish!

STEM tales are a great way to foster teamwork and problem-solving. To find the full resource, which includes an 8-page booklet, check list for self-evaluation, and tips, visit this link:


Pin the idea for later:

To read more about how to conduct a STEM challenge, visit this post:


To see all posts in this series, click here:

STEM Tales Blog Series

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!