Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Run a Successful STEM Tale Challenge

Run a successful STEM challenge by following these steps! You can also use these to follow your own STEM challenges, but the photos reflect the Three Little Pigs STEM Tale - A New House for Wolf.

Run a successful STEM challenge

How to Run a Successful STEM Tale Activity

If you love STEM challenges (or are interested in trying them) and learn about fairy tales in your classroom or homeschool, why not combine the two together? I have developed several fairy tale STEM activities where the story has been changed slightly so that a STEM component is included. As your children read through the story, they will follow the engineering design process to solve the problem presented. These STEM challenges are a big hit with kids, as they can imagine the story unfolding in their minds. It's also a lot of fun to compare and contrast the traditional story with the STEM tale.

Gather Your Materials

Most of my STEM tale challenges only require materials you already have on hand. For this Three Little Pigs challenge, however, you will need a fan to act as the wolf's blow. The wolf won't be blowing the pigs' houses down in this story though! The STEM tale wolf is not nearly as bad as he is described in the traditional fairy tale. He doesn't want to eat the little pigs, but rather he just has some anger management issues. He is upset because the little pigs have their own houses, yet every time wolf builds a house he sneezes and it blows apart! The aim of the challenge is to have the pigs help wolf design a house strong enough to withstand his own sneeze/blow.

Other materials needed:
  • cardboard
  • craft sticks
  • tape
  • pipe cleaners
  • cups
  • other recyclables / building supplies you have on hand

A Note Before Starting the Challenge

If your students will not be able to keep their creations, please do let them know ahead of time. One thing I often do, especially if there are fragile prototypes, is to take photographs and then post them in a location everyone can access. That way they can share their creation and describe it to family and friends, but don't have possible upset when it inevitably falls apart or gets destroyed by someone by mistake.

Print the Booklet

This booklet not only contains the STEM tale with a twist, it also includes the steps of the engineering design process. Make sure you also print any data recording sheets, rubrics, etc. The children will 
  • discover what the question or problem is (ASK), 
  • brainstorm one or more solutions to that question (IMAGINE), 
  • sketch their idea and label it with details (PLAN)
  • build and test their prototype and answer questions about it (CREATE)
  • adjust or redesign their prototype, retesting if necessary (IMPROVE)
  • answer follow up questions about their design or the activity (REFLECT)
Students are welcome to color the artwork in the book to make it their own. They will sketch their designs and answer meaningful questions, either about their design or the story.

Build the Prototype

This will be the most favorite part for a good chunk of your students. You may choose to limit the materials that they use (especially tape, otherwise they will use it ALL). Some of their ideas will work, others won't. They will probably have to modify their design as they work on it. When they are satisfied, they can test their prototype:

Of course, it probably won't be perfect the first time. That is why you need to:

Once that has been accomplished and any data sheets are filled out, the students will share what they learned. This is also a great time to think back to the initial idea to see what worked and what didn't, and how you might approach a similar problem in the future. If you are using STEM tales, now is the time to fill out the certificate of completion and the rubric so that students know which tasks they did well and which they can work on next time.

How Much Time Will I Need?

I recommend setting aside an hour to work through the STEM tale from start to finish. Depending on how many kids you have and their reading abilities, it may take a little longer. The story books are written for second graders, but many first graders will be able to work through them as well. Another possibility is if you have reading buddies available to use them. Some of the challenges can be done faster than an hour, but I guarantee once your students start working on their designs, they will have more and more ideas about how to improve them or decorate them! Once you have worked through one or two STEM tales, your kids will be familiar with the process and won't need as much support. If you are doing these with third graders, you can even set them out as a STEM station that they can work through independently. When they have finished, they should present their design to at least one other person and listen to that person's feedback.

All of these skills go hand in hand with a growth mindset. If that is something you are trying to incorporate in your classroom, STEM tales are a great way to practically do it!

Here are all the steps in one easy graphic:

If you would like to purchase a copy of this STEM challenge, you can do so by clicking here:

Photos by Snapshots by Amy

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Back to School STEM - Team Builders and Activities

Back to school time can be filled with stress, for both you and the students. With the transitions and demands of a new school year, you might not think you have time to do something that seems like an end of the year treat with your new students. While going over procedures and expectations is on the top of your list, I hope you will consider using some unique team-building and ice-breaking activities with your students. They will help build trust and cooperation and set off the new year on the right foot!
Back to School STEM Icebreakers and Team-Building Activities - Meredith Anderson Momgineer

A Tower STEM Challenge 

One of the most fun back to school STEM challenges is the No Peeking challenge! If you have ever tried a STEM challenge with your students before, there is a good chance it involved tower building. Whether you used cups, blocks, marshmallows and spaghetti, or some other material, this is a very common starter STEM challenge.

Back to school STEM gives it a slightly different twist! You can see in the image above what that is. That's right, for this challenge, the builder will be blindfolded (or have their eyes shut!). That means the rest of the team needs to tell the builder how and where to build the tower using verbal commands. Tower building has never been so difficult, or more fun!

There are several modifications for this one but I know it's one your students will be talking about for weeks! Here's another action shot with a variation (behind the back tower building - this is not only a mental challenge but a physical challenge as well):

Brain Busting STEM Challenge - Memory Dash 

Another fun cooperative challenge that will also stretch your students' brains? Memory Dash!

Memory Dash requires the students to plan, in a team, how they can recreate a pre-made structure. The catch? They need to commit the structure to memory first, then instruct the rest of their team on how to build it (without helping in the actual building). It sounds simple but it can be extremely challenging. Each student can then have a chance being the "instructor."

The plan is actually quite important, which they will quickly realize the first time through the challenge. Subsequent attempts will go much more smoothly as they tweak their communication and assembly process! Tip: keep the structure simple and have each team recreate the same one. Use simple manipulatives like cubes, dice, etc. Time the challenge with a stopwatch or timer. Your students will hopefully improve their assembly times with each attempt, using what they learned from previous attempts.

This challenge can give students a great perspective into what your job is like as a teacher. Because one of the team members needs to instruct the rest of the team, they need to make sure they not only communicate clearly, but that the rest of the team is actually listening to what they are saying and then following through on it!

Back to School STEM Pencil Challenge

In addition to the team builders included in the Back to School STEM resource I put together, there are also individual challenges that can be done when you need to take a brain break, or if you need tasks for early finishers. One of these is even practical for your classroom: the Pencil Keeper Challenge!

Do your students lose track of where their pencils are? They may be more apt to keep them where they belong if they have a device they've made on their own. They can take pride in it every time they use it! You can also have them design pencil keepers to host pencils in various parts of the classroom if you'd like! I hope these give you some ideas of ways you can start off the new school year with STEM! If you are looking for more ideas or recording pages for these and more ideas, please consider visiting:

Back to School STEM Activities and Icebreakers - Meredith Anderson Momgineer

Have a great school year!

*Photos by Snapshots by Amy

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to Rock Your Math Block

When you hear the word FLUENCY what comes to mind? For most teachers, when we think about lessons related to fluency, we almost always think about reading fluency. We all know about the importance of reading fluency and its role in reading comprehension. But what about math fluency? What is it, why is it so important, and how do we help our students develop it?

How to Rock Your Math Block - What is math fluency and why is it important? Engage different types of learners through games and other techniques. Meredith Anderson Momgineer

Math Fluency Broken Down

    Simply put, math fluency usually manifests itself in two forms: math fact fluency and math procedures fluency. When a student is ‘’fluent’’ in these areas, they can recall math facts and perform math operations with ease and automaticity. Because math skills are cumulative, it’s easy to see why activities (that are engaging & fun) that focus on and help to develop math fluency are so vital!  
    All teachers know how important it is to have students learn and practice math skills in various settings, such as in groups or independently. But it’s not always easy to find versatile math activities that lend themselves to both independent and group work. This set of task cards works well for both and has many engaging elements that will grab (and hold!) your student’s attention as they learn. Imagine their enthusiasm as they get to play the ever-popular SCOOT game while learning math!

Math For Various Learning Styles

    As teachers, we are always looking for math resources that appeal to various learning styles, right? Chances are, your class list is comprised of a complex mixture of auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and visual learners. The challenge is to find something that works for all of those learners. These math bingo games were created with all of those learning styles in mind! Every student wants to become fluent in their math skills so they can do well in the Math Bingo games! These game sets can be played in a variety of ways, ensuring that everyone’s a winner! 
Math Bingo Games Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Stock Your Math Centers

    Speaking of variety, sometimes we get so busy with life, lesson planning, and all of our day-to-day teaching duties, that we forget to include lessons that include variety. Variety, in this case, relates to applying concepts and skills to many different math tasks. It’s worth remembering that when kids get to apply their knowledge and skills, especially math-related skills, to a wide array of activities and tasks, the retention level of those skills skyrockets dramatically! When we’re just too busy to create fabulous lesson plans, with tons of much-needed variety, here are some math resources that are perfect for filling that need! When you’re looking for activities to incorporate into your Math Centers, this large and lively bundle of math station activities will make your math center planning a breeze. There’s even a freebie with a demo to show you how the bundle of games work! 

More Math Games

Share Your Ideas

    What are your thoughts on math fluency, adding variety in lesson plans and activities, and planning activities for various learning styles? I’d love for you to take a moment and share your best practices in the comments area below (scroll way down)!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Using Minecraft to Learn about World Landmarks

Using Minecraft to Learn About World Landmarks - includes FREE printable | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

My kids have been into geography lately, and of course they are into Minecraft (whose kids isn't?). While I can appreciate Minecraft as a parent, I prefer when the kids are working on meaningful tasks as opposed to just roaming and killing mobs or animals. Last week, I had the idea to show them images of famous world landmarks and ask them to re-create their own version in Minecraft. They LOVED this task. Here are some images of their Arc de Triomphe interpretations.

Without prompting, they added so many little touches that I was a little blown away by the creativity! There were torches, and my eldest even included inside/upstairs, where he added statues and signs. My favorite was the one below, "Upstairs tour by permission of the French government only!" Haha!

There was even an "employees only" wing with beds to that the employees could rest as needed. Obviously, they did this in creative mode, but they couldn't wait for another assignment after they did the first one! You can take screenshots of your Minecraft creations by pressing F2, then create a digital scrapbook of all of the landmarks they create! If you'd like them to record the landmarks they create or get started with some landmarks that are fairly easy to create in Minecraft, here is a free printable for you! It includes both color and blakc and white versions of the 5 landmarks included (Acropolis, Arc de Triomphe, Brandenburg Gate, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Statue of Liberty).
If your kids are ready for even more of a challenge, you can try a Google Image search for inspiration or try some of the following landmarks:
  • Burj Khalifa
  • Christ the Redeemer
  • Colosseum 
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Pyramids of Giza
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Taj Mahal
  • The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)
  • Tower Bridge
I hope your kids enjoy this task as much as mine do. Not only will they be learning about geography and world landmarks, they will also be exposed to different types of architecture styles and history. I suggest taking books out of your local library to go along with this task to make it even more meaningful in your homeschool or classroom. If they create and landmarks, feel free to link to them in the comments below. We would love to see them!

Pin it:

Using Minecraft to Learn About World Landmarks - includes FREE printable | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

STEM Free Resource - Voice Muffler!

Are you thinking about trying a STEM challenge with your kids? I have a freebie I'd love to share with you. I hope you will try out; I know your students will love it! You can download it here:

What's inside? Well, initially I thought about having the kids design and construct a megaphone.
Thirty seconds later a voice in my head scolded me: 
I thought more about it and...
Forget about a megaphone. Instead of turning UP the sound, let's try to turn it DOWN.

The best part of this challenge is that you can keep the best voice mufflers handy in case you are having one of those days where you just need to belt out something really loudly but know you can't. Just use the voice muffler and then go about your business as usual. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pi Day Pop Art

Pi Day Pop Art

Pi Day is 3.14! How will you celebrate this year?

Pi Day Pop Art
 I love the simplicity of these coloring pages I created, and you can download one of them for free (the top left design in the image above) by going here:

Have you jumped on the bandwagon of adult coloring? These are fun for grown-ups, too. I have started coloring again and even purchased myself some really nice markers and colored pencils. It's amazing how much work it is to color and/or write when you are not used to it, and definitely gives me an appreciation of why my own kids are often resistant to writing. Long gone are the days of calloused fingers from all the writing I had to do in school. Now I just have to worry about carpal tunnel from too much typing - I'm sure you have the same issue!

In addition to the coloring page in the freebie, there is a math activity (graphing the first 100 digits of pi) and a game.

For more coloring pages, head here:

Hands on Pi Day Fun

Looking for more ways to celebrate Pi Day? You don't want to miss this post - it's one of my favorites and is full of ideas to celebrate Pi Day with your students and kids! From the top left: Pi Day circle stamping art, Pi Day punched circle art, Pi Day bracelet, skyline, and a circumference experiment that will really help reinforce the idea of Pi with your youngest mathematicians!

I hope you have a fun Pi Day, however you celebrate!