Elementary STEM Con & Beyond

I often get asked about STEM PD opportunities, and while there are a number of awesome conferences to attend, this virtual one is a teacher favorite.

Elementary STEM Con & Beyond is the STEM PD event of the year! Some professional development just really hits the mark. ❤️ 

Conference Content:

  • 45+ sessions, panels, and interviews from 25+ passionate educators
  • 30+ hours of video & live sessions
  • Daily freebies, raffles, & giveaways
  • Private conference Facebook group to interact with presenters and win prizes
  • Bonus Bundle of 13 STEM resources for all attendees

Session Topics include: 

  • Integrating STEM with literature and content standards in multiple content areas
  • Authentic STEAM 
  • Culturally responsive STEM/STEAM
  • Social-emotional learning & STEM/STEAM
  • Makerspaces & Builder Clubs
  • Special education & STEM/STEAM
  • Augmented Reality apps
  • Robotics
  • Distance learning approaches & modifications
  • Green screen
  • The EDP, helping kids deal with failure, questioning methods, and many more!

Continuing Ed. Credit:

See FAQ on the registration page for the most up-to-date information, fees, and deadlines.

We have the following options:

  • Conference certificate (all teachers)
  • 2 CEUs through UC Santa Barbara Extension (all teachers)
  • Up to 25 CTLEs through University of Rochester (NY teachers)
  • Up to 25 STEM Clock Hours through CSTP (WA teachers)
  • Up to 25 CPDUs through (IL teachers)

Live Panels

One of my favorite parts of STEM Con? Live panels! This year's panels are going to be ah-mazing! Diverse and inclusive read alouds? So important and there are so many amazing books, especially picture books, that I can't wait to hear about!

Speaking of books, the authors above? Some of the BEST! Not only are their books right up there for me with permanent library spots, but they are just lovely, inspiring, and interesting people.

I can't wait!

My sessions are about Impostor STEM and coaching a robotics team. These are both near and dear to my heart!

I hope to "see" you there!

Create Digital Stop Motion Animation

 Digital Stop Motion Animation

Hands-on stop motion animation is one of my favorite STEM activities to do with kids, because it can be tied into almost any subject area, offers high engagement, and develops patience, perseverance, and persistence. It's not always an option, though, such as when:

  • Technology or materials are limited
  • You don't have space to set up and keep sets available for multiple sessions (such as if you are teaching froma cart)
  • Or in the case of no-sharing materials, hybrid or remote learning, you may not be able to do hands-on projects.
  • Your kids are working on stop motion activities as a bonus or choice activity when they may only have 10-15 minutes at a time to devote to it.

This is the perfect time to use digital stop motion animation instead!

Simple Digital Stop Motion Animation

A simple way to get started animating quickly is to use ABCYa Animate - backgrounds, characters (called stickers), and drawing tools are all built in. You can simply just jump right in and start animating!

Some of the kids on my robotics team made a stop motion animation video with ABCYa (and then did some extra edits in OpenShot). You can see the video here:

Animating with Google Slides

Almost as easy as ABCYa is to just use Google Slides. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel with a tutorial video because there are dozens of them on YouTube already (I linked some below), but here are the basics:

  1. Start with a background
  2. Add in your animated component(s) as needed
  3. Duplicate the slide
  4. Move your animated component(s) ONE ARROW keystroke in any direction (if animating text add one letter per slide)
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your animation is complete.
  6. Watch your stop motion animation video as directed in the tutorial videos and/or screen capture the video and add some cool post-edits, like music, sound, credits, etc. I like to use OpenShot for this.

Stop Motion with Google Slides Tutorials

Balloons Over Broadway or Thanksgiving Day Parade Stop Motion Animation

This idea came to me as a way to tie in a digital STEM activity to the read aloud Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. Students can create their very own Thanksgiving Day Parade with floats they find on Google image search, or they can draw their own with the drawing tool. Here is a video sample of a completed project:

Why I love this project:
  • Students can work in pairs, but they could also work alone to create a single animation or a complete parade of floats!
  • Kids who struggle with drawing can use a float already found and instead apply their creativity to the animation aspect (changing size, aspect ratio, rotation) or having something exciting or unusual happen during the parade. Perhaps a bird flies by or a person photobombs the video!
  • It can easily be shared to the whole class when complete, as well as family members, and then saved as part of a digital STEM portfolio.
  • It seriously pushes the limits of persistence and patience. Stop motion animation is something that takes time and persistence to complete! Students are always so proud of their creations because they know just how much time they put into them.

Get the Resource

While you don't need this Digital Stop Motion Animation resource to complete the activity, I have included a background, various parade floats and vehicles, and step by step instructions so that students can do this project independently. Just download and get started right away!


Christmas Stop Motion Animation

If you celebrate Christmas in the classroom, this stop motion animation movie (or others) is so cute to create! I found just the perfect clip art elements to animate Santa Claus flying across the winter night sky. Here is a video sample:

If you want to create a winter-themed stop motion animation without Christmas theme, building a snowman is the perfect idea. I just love how this one came out:

Get the Resources

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STEM Activities to Try While Reading Those Darn Squirrels!

STEM Activities to Accompany Those Darn Squirrels!


One of the BEST picture books for learning about STEM and the engineering design process is Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin. Not only is the story delightful and quirky, but the illustrations really bring it to life!

The squirrels are on a mission to get as much bird seed as possible, but Mr. Fookwire tries to thwart them every which way. The squirrels have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, though, and are in possession of numerous talents! One such talent being good at math!

STEM Activity: Design and Create an Abacus

An abacus makes an appearance in two pages of this story, and they can be really fun to use for basic math learning. Do you know how to use an abacus?


To keep it simple, just focus on ones and tens! Use beads, pasta, or other items that can easily slide back and forth. The abacus below uses straw pieces that were cut to make the counters.

I love this challenge because you will end up with so many different kinds of abacuses (abaci?!) and then your students can actually use them to work on math skills!


STEAM Activity: Design and Create an Easel

Mr. Fookwire loves painting pictures of his favorite birds. Why do artists use easels? How is it different to paint or draw on a mostly vertical surface than on a table or desk? This is a great activity to tie in to art. 

Students can create a mini easel just right for a squirrel to use. Once Mr. Fookwire and the squirrels become friendly, maybe they will paint birds together!

Once again, after students have created their mini easel, they can use it to paint or draw something they enjoyed from this fun read aloud.

STEM Challenge: Design and Create an Obstacle Course!

In the story, Mr. Fookwire creates an elaborate squirrel obstacle course.

Students can either create their own obstacle course or create a scale model obstacle course that you provide them, or find printables and more ideas in this Bookshelf STEM Junior resource.

All of the above challenges really make this read aloud come alive. If you would like printables, more activities, and teacher support materials, please visit this listing:

What are your favorite picture books to read with your students? Let me know by commenting below!

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Letters From Space: Book Review

Letters from Space: Picture Book Review

If you have a kid who is fascinated by space, they will adore this fun, fact-filled picture book! Written by Clayton Anderson, an astronaut who spent 152 days aboard the International Space Station, this quirky book is fun and funny! Susan Batori's illustrations bring Clayton's letters alive as he lets the readers know about day-to-day goings on as well as interesting tidbits along the way.

This is probably my favorite illustration below, as Clayton flies around:

The book is a series of letters written by Clayton, and ends with a special author's note with even more interesting facts about astronauts, living in space, and NASA. Here are a few of the quotes from the book that really stood out for me:

I thought this book was really cute! The illustrations are quirky and the information is often presented in a humorous or silly way, which always makes it more fun for kids to engage with.

Find the book on Amazon (affiliate link, read our disclosure) at:

NASA Kids Club

If you haven't already, you'll also want to check out the NASA Kids' Club, which has missions, photo galleries, tons of facts, and downloads for kids!

About the Author

Clayton Anderson is the author of A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet, The Ordinary Spaceman, and It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions. He spent 30 years working for NASA, 15 as an engineer and 15 as an astronaut. You can watch a short video about him on YouTube.

To learn more about the author visit You can follow him on Facebook @AstroClay, Twitter @Astro_Clay, or Instagram @astro_clay.

Zoom Tips for Teachers

Tips for Using Zoom with Your Students

A member of the STEM Teachers Group asked for everyone's best tips for using Zoom with their students. The tips were so awesome and useful that I compiled them in this post (and downloadable graphic) so that everyone could benefit!

If you have additional tips please be sure to let me know via email so I can add them in!

1. Set Expectations

Set out expectations clearly at the beginning of your meeting on a slide, or keep a poster propped up behind you with expectations and procedures. Build community by having your students help come up with expectations and procedures!

2. Use the Waiting Room Feature

Use the virtual waiting room feature and enable the doorbell sound/chime when
someone enters. Not only will it alert you if someone enters late, it will help keep your meeting more secure. Once all students arrive, lock the meeting.

3. Make Sure to Mute

Make sure your meeting is set to "mute upon entry" and encourage your
students to mute themselves after speaking.

As a backup option, learn where the "mute all" button is in the event they
forget to mute themselves!

4. Set a Meeting ID

Set up a meeting ID and password so it's always the same for a particular group.

Beware, though that if the link gets shared with others you may need to change it.

5. Use Breakout Rooms

For small group collaboration, utilize the breakout room feature. Rotate through to pop in and check on each group. *Breakout rooms may need adult supervision, so ask for volunteer helpers if possible.

6. No Annotation, Chat, OR Screen Share

Turn OFF annotation and screen share, or students will be able to draw on the screen or share their own screen with everyone.

Turn OFF chat for everyone but the host.

7. Basic Requirements

Consider having basic requirements for your meetings for your meetings, such as:
  • Students must use their real name when logging in.
  • Cameras must remain on.
  • Students must virtually raise their hand to speak.

8. Headset Quality

Built-in microphones are often not clear. Your voice should be clear for the
students and you want your ears to be comfortable, too! Invest in a good headset or mic.

9. Try New Things

Not only can you keep your meetings more interesting, you can make them run more efficiently if you keep tabs on what your students see as a student participant, using keyboard shortcuts to not have to constantly search in menus for what you need, and having a variety of ways to interact to keep students engaged.
  • Backgrounds
  • Split screens
  • A document camera
  • Using two computers/devices (one as yourself and one as a student)
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts

10. Pre-record

Pre-record video lessons for your students to watch prior to your meeting, or find a suitable YouTube video on the topic you are teaching. Give students tasks before the meeting, so that when you do meet, you are following up with them and addressing issues or questions.

11. Take Breaks

Have a fun activity like scavenger hunt while students are waiting to join. Try quick brain breaks, stretching exercises, or mindfulness activities to help your students stay focused.

12. Be Willing to Learn

If you have a meeting that didn't go well, take a deep breath and try again next
time. There will be kinks to work out, but enlist your students to help brainstorm
ways to make your meetings work for everyone!

Download the tips! You can download this graphic to keep a copy of the tips:

Do you like STEM? Try Elementary STEM Club!

You may have noticed that little logo at the bottom left corner of the image for Elementary STEM Club. If you are a K-5 teacher and incorporate STEM, or a dedicated STEM teacher, I would love for you to check out Elementary STEM Club!

What is it?
Elementary STEM Club is a 3-month experience to kickstart your back to school months with support, activities, and tips for navigating the year, whether you are in person, distance teaching, hybrid teaching, or mobile.

Each month, you will gain access to:
    • A tried and true STEM resource with a video walk-through of what you need to get started, how to use it, and tips for success.
    • A LIVE panel discussion, featuring educators chatting about a timely topic in STEM.
    • A book chat: a focus on K-5 picture books to enhance your STEM lessons and learning.
    • Some surprise bonuses along the way (from our hosts, presenters, and guests)!
    • Interaction with other STEM educators in the private Facebook group and club site - you may even find your new STEM teacher bestie!

      Most of all, you will receive a solid foundation and the support you need this fall to start your school year off right.

Find out more about Elementary STEM Club:

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STEM Challenge for Summer with Buoyancy - Design a Submersible

STEM Challenge for Summer: Design a Submersible!

This is one of the more challenge STEM activities I have done with kids over the years! It's also perfect for summer because you will get wet!

Warning: You WILL Get Wet with this STEM Challenge

Why try this challenge? I can't even tell you how many boat challenges I have done with kids, asking for a simple craft that floats, something that can be propelled with wind (sailboat), and so on.

You have probably also done "Does it sink or float?" activities with your students over the years.

This challenge is a combination of all those!

What if we want an object to not sink,

but to float,

but not at the surface and rather about halfway between the bottom of a body of water and the top?

Gather Materials for Submersible STEM

First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

For the water:
You will need a tub, storage bin, kiddie pool, etc. for this challenge. You will also need to fill the bin with water.

Students can create their submersibles with aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, plastic egg carton pieces, balloons, rubber bands, recyclables, pennies or small weights, etc.

Your students can start in one of two ways:
  • With an object that floats, that they will need to make LESS buoyant.
  • With an object that sinks, that they will need to make MORE buoyant.

Go Deeper with Science in this STEM Challenge

Have your students research density and buoyancy. Ask:

How does the density of an object affect its buoyancy?

When might you want a water vessel to NOT be completely buoyant?

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, students will need to work together and may need to make several modifications to improve their sail designs.

Add more rigor into this activity and download printables for students to use with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Summer STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers (also includes sand castle STEM and a squirrel proof bird feeder):

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Virtual PD for Elementary Teachers

WHOLE Teacher Training and Nurturing

Fill in the Blank

I am a ___________ teacher.

Whatever blank you filled in, you probably also have a missing piece.

Do you want to be prepared whether you are teaching in the classroom or in a distance learning environment?

Do you want to be a culturally responsive teacher who meets the needs of ALL your students?

Do you want to be a ROCK STAR in every subject area, not just the ones you already LOVE to teach?

Whole-Teacher EclecticCon to the Rescue!

We often talk about educating the whole child, but what about whole teacher PD?

Most PD focuses solely on academic content, but we KNOW great teaching is about



than that.

There’s a LOT to explore and learn about the art of teaching, and now there’s one easy place to start: Whole-Teacher EclecticCon!

This online conference is chock-full of trainings, free resources, and more!

While the academic sessions are geared for upper elementary (grade 3-5), there are a LOT of sessions that apply to any grade level. Even if you aren’t teaching those grade levels, you’re welcome to join us if the sessions resonate with you.

All The Awesome Virtual Teacher Conference Details

60+ session
s presented by a group of master educators, authors, and subject matter experts

Topics include: best practices and tips & tricks for all academic content areas (grades 3-5), culturally responsive teaching, arts integration, social-emotional learning, special education, educational technology, avoiding burnout, tools to help you in the regular classroom and with distance learning, and more!

Private pop-up Facebook group where you can interact with presenters, get your questions answered and win daily raffles during the conference

Live panel discussions, special presentations, and interviews

Revisit all the conference content as often as you’d like for a full year

Bonus Bundle with teaching resources (yes, STEM activities are also included -- this conference pays for itself!)

Opportunities to earn PD credits (see site FAQ for details)
Check out all the details here: Whole Teacher Conference