Activities to do with The Dot for International Dot Day

International Dot Day Activities

The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, has turned into more than just a read aloud about overcoming frustrations and encouraging others. It's an entire movement now! For any child who feels as if they are "not enough," this story will hit home.

Two quotes that came to mind when reading this book:

"The best way to get things done is to simply begin."  - Unknown

"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt

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Warm up the Brain for Creativity on International Dot Day

Not only does drawing wake up fine motor skills, it allows an emotional connection and creativity to blossom. Start drawing or painting with a dot!

Move on to STEM Activities with The Dot
All budding artists need proper tools to draw and paint with. They also need an appropriate place to do it! Vashti would appreciate a desk just for art! Why not make it a "Dot Desk"?

Design and Create an Easel

Sometimes a desk won't cut it. Why not create a tabletop mini-easel?

Easels gained popularity as canvas paintings became more common. You can view your artwork more easily from a distance when it's on an easel, and it gives you a different perspective than a desk view. Easels are also great for displaying finished works of art!

Design and Create a Painting Tool

If you haven't tried these painting methods with kids, you're missing out:
  • sponges
  • painting with bubble wrap
  • painting by rolling marbles
  • finger painting
  • spin art
There are SO MANY fun ways to paint! Have your students design their own unique painting device using pom poms, sponges, rollers, cardboard, etc.

Read The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds

Download this FREE Resource

I created this resource to use with The Dot book on International Dot Day. I hope you enjoy the activities!
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Coming up with a Name for your Makerspace or STEM Lab

Makerspace Name Ideas

You have the space, you have the gear, now for the name! There are a lot of great name ideas out there, so I have compiled a list of some you may like, as well as a makerspace name generator of sorts!

Unique Makerspace Names

These names may combine words, utilize a play on words, or just sound fun:

  • Collaboratory
  • Imaginarium
  • Mindcave
  • Da Vinci's Workshop

Simple Makerspace Names

Or why not try something simple?
  • Eureka!
  • The Brainstorm
  • STEM Lab
  • Makerplace
  • Fablab
I also created this simple chart for coming up with a makerspace name. Just pick one word from each column and you're done! It couldn't be easier.

Makerspace Names That Suit YOUR Makerspace

Still not sure? Here are some tips for coming up with a unique name:
  • Think about what your makerspace's focus is. Is it on building? Arts? Robotics? Environmentally friendly design? Try using a word that supports your makerspace's mission and feel.
  • Get input from your students. How do they feel in the makerspace? What are their favorite tools and projects?
  • Describe your space. Is it on an upper floor? A basement? In a nook? In a library? What's the history of the space? Try incorporating an aspect of the physical space into your name and it's sure to fit.

What do you call your makerspace or STEM lab? Comment below or head to the STEM educator support group on Facebook to share your name with us!

Looking for more ideas while setting up your makerspace? You may find the following articles useful:

Setting up Your Makerspace

Setting up an Elementary STEM Lab
by Sarah Lalonde
So You Want to Start A Makerspace?
by Teach Outside the Box

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Pair Stare for Blends!

Practicing Blends with a Fun Game

Who doesn't love a fun game? My favorite way to engage learners of all ages is through play, and this game is fun for kids and adults alike! Over the years I have developed a number of these games, and now there is a set of pair stare games for blends!

If you aren't familiar with pair stare, you may want to visit this pair stare post. However, you can get an idea of how it's played by watching the video below:

You can try it out in the image below. Look at the top two cards. Do you see the one and only image or word that is on BOTH cards? Once you find it, do the same with the bottom two cards! 

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:

  • If it's a word or blend, it will always be the same color and font
  • the match will NOT always be the same size
Did you find the answer to the image above?

This game is always different, because when you shuffle the cards, there is a new match! ANY two cards in the deck have one unique match. With over 55 possibilities, it's harder than it initially sounds!

The game also has both words and images, as well as the blends! The words have been carefully selected as easier to read, as you can see above with words like brag, from, and free, while more complicated words that students would not yet be able to read are displayed in image form, such as trampoline, broccoli, and dragon.

L Blends, R Blends, and S Blends

You can find all three blends games in my TpT shop:

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The Yellow Brick Road Gets Upcycled - Wonderful Wizard of Oz STEM Activities

Fairy Tale STEM Activity for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Can you help Dorothy and the Munchkins use the bricks to rebuild a home for the Munchkins, since their homes are in disrepair?

Materials Needed for this STEM Fairy Tale Activity

  • bricks, blocks, dominoes, etc. that represent the yellow brick road. You can change the color to suit the color bricks you have!
  • printable characters or small figurines

Before Getting Started with the STEM Tale

First you will need to tell the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or read the book. You should prepare a brick road the a suitable number of "bricks" for students to then disassemble. If you are using interlocking bricks such as legos, you should use a medium to large baseplate. STEM tales work best if you read the original fairy tale first (or do your own storytelling!). This also leads to great discussions during the engineering process, as kids love to compare the original story with the new version.

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. First, they need to identify the problem (how to repurpose the bricks to create a stable structure). Good news! If you follow the Next Generation Science Standards, you can use this STEM fairy tale challenge to fulfill the following NGSS* requirement:  2-PS1-3. (Make observations to construct an evidence-based account of how an object made of a small set of pieces can be disassembled and made into a new object.)

Design a Home for the Munchkins

After thinking of some ways to reuse the bricks, your students will then choose one they can build. They will plan out the design, and then construct their home.

After the prototype is built, the kids then test it out! Is it big enough to fit the Munchkins? If something didn't work right, it's time to go back and improve the design.

STEM tales are a great way to foster teamwork and problem-solving. This STEM tale usually inspires amazing creativity and excitement from the littlest engineers.

Use the Ideas Above or Get the STEM Tale Resource on TpT

Use the ideas above to create your own challenge or try out this resource I created that guides you through the process:
It includes an 8-page booklet, printable characters, check list for self-evaluation, and a bonus activity. You can find it on Teachers pay Teachers by visiting this link:
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

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*  NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

Demystifying STEM with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids

Demystifying STEM with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids

Let’s face it: sometimes, getting kids into STEM is hard. You can preach the gospel of science, technology, engineering, and math all day long, but if a kid feels like their creativity and imagination are being stifled by rules and numbers, “STEM” can quickly turn into “STOP.” SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids was created with this in mind.
SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids is an ecosystem of apps meant to nurture new designers from age 4 and up. With Capture It, Shape It, Mech It, Style It, and Print It apps, kids are introduced to real-world workflow practices like ideation, creation, enhancement, and production in a fun and accessible way. The apps empower kids to learn while allowing their creativity to flow, giving them multiple methods to design and turn their craziest ideas into reality.

Meet the Apps

Capture It is a personal inspiration app, where kids can add photos, draw their own images and turn them into stickers, and create an idea board for all the designs that will come next.

Anyone who is familiar with 3D modeling will recognize Shape It, a kid-friendly, easy to use CAD app that allows kids to shape, prod, and pull material into their very own creations.
Two kids might create similar models, but with the Style It app they can really make their own designs pop. Kids can transfer models from Shape It to Style It and use colors, stickers, backgrounds, and more to decorate and make their model truly unique. Create a cute and happy spider or your own Mars rover.

With the Print It app, kids can watch their designs come to life. Print It gives kids the ability to 2D print or 3D print their designs, and also allows them to learn about isometric views in a cool way with the Cube Print function. Keep reading to see an example of the Cube Print function.

Is your child more interested in motors and linkages? With the Mech It app, moving machinery is in within arm’s reach, with cool and colorful spiral designs that kids can tweak in any which way they like.

Mech It was definitely my favorite app to try out! Join a few bars together, add a motor, and then hit play to watch it go! You can even slow it down and speed it up with the slider bar. Here is a simple crank-rocker mechanism I created:

Pro Tips to Get Started Successfully with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids

1) Start with the Videos

When you try out the apps, make sure you start with the videos! They are short but all very helpful so that you can get started right away and learn what all the different options are for drawing, styling, and modifying designs. Especially for kids new to CAD, this is SO helpful! Just click the ? in the upper right corner of the screen at SOLIDWORKS Appsfor Kids to find all the videos to get started on the right track.

2) Utilize the Public Projects

Navigate to the public projects, find one you like, then click on the copy icon to "Riff."

3) Start tinkering!

Dive right in and start tinkering with whichever app appeals to you most!

4) Remember to Print it

One way for kids to show what they created is to print it. You can create 2D prints on paper, with or without a background, on a 6-sided cube, and in color by number style (what?!!! This is so awesome!). You can even 3D print your kids' creations. I constantly get asked for project ideas for 3D printing. These apps have got you covered; design, go to print it, and grab your STL file. Explore the Print It app and never run out of ideas for your 3D printer.

Internet Safety and Privacy

Projects in SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids are always private until you decide to share to the Apps for Kids Public Gallery. Users can “riff” on public projects—your kid might see a cutesy bunny design, like it, then riff on that project and transform that bunny into an out of this world alien. Creativity, imagination, and community are all part of the Apps for Kids ecosystem.

STEM Block, Tech Lab, or Makerspace

Educators across the country have embraced SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids as a means to teach their students about design and engineering. Now, the Apps for Kids Classroom interface allows teachers to create and organize self-contained workshops.

Use at Home Together

Parents, do not deprive yourself of the opportunity to create something magical and fun with your child. Work together to create a robot army, an enchanted land, or a space adventure!

While there are dozens of apps out there that may enhance STEM learning, these apps are truly a complete suite of apps. There is something for everyone, whether your students lean more toward revising and enhancing designs or creating something brand new from scratch.
If you give kids the means to express and create, to engineer and tinker to their heart’s content, they can learn that STEM exists beyond numbers and rules. With SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids, they are already there. Learn more about all the fun things you can do with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids right here.

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Professional Development Options for STEM Educators

Professional Development for STEM and STEAM Teachers 

There are increasingly more PD opportunities for STEM and STEAM educators, ranging from online courses and webinars to conferences or hands-on workshops. This is a list to get you started, which I will be updating as more opportunities are added. Please feel free to comment with any of your own recommendations so I can add them to the list as well!

Online PD Opportunities and Webinars Webinars and PD, such as Developing a Fundable and Sustainable STEM Program
- hosts individual PD, free webinars, or PD for schools and districts. STEM options such as "Spark Imagination and Innovative Thinking with STEAM in your Classroom"

Learner's Edge:  Choose from online or print. STEM options such as "Consumer to Creator: Coding and Kids"

NICERC: Cyber, STEM, and Computer Science curriculum for K-12. Cyber education certificate available

ITEAA STEM Webinars (STEMinars) - members get access to previous webinars, such as "Top 10 Ways to Incorporate STEM in Your Elementary School" or one about safer Makerspaces

ISTE: Check out ISTE U for topics such as digital citizenship or follow their blog for more ideas.

STEM Conferences and Onsite Training Opportunities

Early Childhood STEM Conference:
Hosted by the Children's Center at Caltech

STEMpostium Ventura County:
From the website, this is a "FREE week-long (4.5 day) summer institute for K-12 teachers followed by two optional Saturday workshops during the subsequent school year."

NSTA Conferences:
From their site, "Each year, NSTA hosts a national conference on science education (in the spring), three area conferences (in the fall), and a STEM Forum & Expo."

NASA Space Port Conference:
Presentations are given by astronauts and NASA science and engineering experts in all fields. Awesome!

STEAM Days of Summer:


Texas STEM Coalition:

Your go-to edtech conference!

CA STEAM symposium:

Content Teaching Academy @ James Madison University:

American Society for Engineering Education, ASEE conferences:

Arts Integration and STEAM Summit

Other Ideas

Shadow a professional! Find an experienced STEM teacher and shadow them for a day. Can't find one, or don't have the ability to take a day to do this? Join the STEM Teacher support group on Facebook:

STEM Teacher Group on Facebook

Ask burning questions, find photos of STEM labs and makerspaces, get recommendations for resources on different STEM topics. Another way to connect with other educators is through Twitter chats.

Twitter Chats: ISTE list of twitter chats or visit this awesome list!

Resource-Specific Training for Robotics and STEM Tools

If you have or are trying to acquire specific tools, robots, etc. for your classroom, visit the websites of the manufacturers of these devices. Many of them have extensive training opportunities and learning resources. Here are some of my favorites:

MakeyMakey training
MakeWonder professional development (makes of Dash, Dot, and Cue)
littleBits webinars
Sphero professional learning
Let's Start Coding online training

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Winter STEM Challenge with Frosty the Snowman

STEM Activities for Frosty the Snowman 

STEM That is Easy to Implement

This story is one of my favorites of the "Pick Your Path STEMventure" series. This story is about beloved Frosty, and helping to make his day the BEST.DAY.EVER. Students decide how they want the story to progress; in completing the story students will complete 3-4 challenges. The story not only guides students through the engineering design process, it includes design constraints and areas for them to fill in their thoughts, plans, and testing data. However, you don't need the resource in order to do just the building parts. Read on to find some fun and creative STEM activities you can do to make Frosty the snowman have a great day!

If you do use the resource I created, students will read through a story about Frosty, and then choose where they would like him to go. Depending on their choice, they will encounter different STEM challenges along the way.

Sled STEM Challenge 

Sleds are an excellent tool to teach students about force and motion, potential and kinetic energy, and friction. Can your students design and create a sled that Frosty can fit in and use? You could use a mini figure or paper Frosty as shown:

Race sleds down a cardboard box on a slope, or use a large sheet of plastic cardboard (find at your local hardware store). It makes a great snow hill! Try different materials to see which ones travel best downhill. Shown are legos, and a section of plastic egg carton covered with vinyl tablecloth.

An Unlikely Winter STEM Challenge - Hammock

Why would Frosty need a hammock? Well, you'd have to read the story to find out. This is a simple challenge that kids always love. Who doesn't love relaxing in a hammock?

Do you want to build a snow-less snowman?

There are several other challenges you can do with a snowman, including building one (use baking soda to make inexpensive fake snow). Students can challenge themselves to build a regular snowman and one that is upside down, as well! For older students, have them hypothesize the correct ratio of baking soda to water to make "snow" that sticks together and holds a shape. They can then test it out and create a recipe, then build their snowmen.

Find this STEM Resource on Teachers pay Teachers

If you would like to use the story and printables I've created, you can find them on Teachers pay Teachers at this link, Snowman STEMventure:

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