August 2015 - momgineer

STEM challenges

Low Prep STEM Challenges for Kids

I'm very excited about finally finishing up a second set of 10 STEM activities you can do today! These are wonderful for team-building and can be used with a wide grade range. Since they are cross curricular, I hope you can use them in your regular school day. Otherwise, they also work for after school enrichment, summer camp, or homeschool co-ops.

The challenges are all self contained so you do not have to do the previous STEM challenges to try these. In the resource there are photographs of finished challenge samples for each STEM challenge, as well as relevant vocabulary terms so you and your students can "talk like an engineer". If you haven't tried STEM challenges before, head on over to Minds in Bloom, where I guest blogged and shared 3 free challenges. You can also learn about the ins and outs of doing STEM challenges with your students.

Explore Engineering with Kids

The challenges cover a wide range of engineering disciplines: materials engineering (bubble challenge), industrial engineering (fidget fix), acoustical engineering (musical instrument), mechanical engineering (elevator, windshield wipers), code creator (software engineering), aeronautical engineering (windmill).

Probably my favorite is the windshield wipers, as it serves as a fun introduction to the 4-bar linkage. Mechanisms like this have a special place in my heart because I met my husband in our graduate school Kinematic Synthesis class, where we learned how to design linkages to move through specified points.

Here's a short stop motion animation video of what it looks like when it's finished (with "wiper" blades attached).

Bubble Maker STEM Challenge!

Another fun challenge is the bubble maker! 

Here is a list of all of the challenges in this pack:
→ Design a Zip Line
→ Design a Windmill
→ Fidget Fix
→ Code Creator (create simple code with conditional statement IF ELSE, no computer necessary!) → Design a Musical Instrument
→ Bubble Maker
→ Elevator Challenge
→ Design a Hammock
→ Printing Press
→ Windshield Wipers (synthesize a 4-bar linkage)

I hope you check out the resource! You can find it here:
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

How to take a break when you homeschool

Don't become a burnt out homeschooler! These tips also work for stay at home parents, especially when your kids are small and you feel like you are on the never-ending merry-go-round of diapers, too-little sleep, and managing basic needs. Here are five ways that you can try to take a break.

Wake up early. Okay, so I'm not saying this is for everyone. In fact, it's not even for me these days. If your kids are late risers, take advantage of that morning time. Give yourself 45 minutes of quiet before the day starts. Check out FitnessBlender on YouTube for some awesome workouts (they have kid workouts, too!), have your breakfast at your own pace, do some breathing exercises, or something else you like to do but enjoy less when your kid(s) are around (alone time with your partner? knitting? probably best not to mix those, but you get the idea =) ). You'll start your day off on the right foot. If your kids are like my kids and arise early and/or at the slightest sound in the morning, see if you can get some exercise in! I try to go for a run or to the gym most mornings. Even 30 minutes does me a world of good, and I'm a much better parent when I've taken care of myself first.

Try quiet time. We know many families that follow this daily. My kids are readers (yay!) so they often pick their own quiet time in the afternoon. All of a sudden I will realize it is quiet and stumble upon them reading in another room. They are 9 and 7, so it isn't like the worrisome quiet when you have a toddler and the panic sets in, wondering what they could have gotten into (a time comes to mine when my son unwound hundreds of feet of string all over the house, in every room, around every piece of furniture, like a giant spider web, all while I was on the phone with my mom). If your kids aren't reading yet, have them rest or listen to calm music or audio books.

Swap with another homeschooling family. I don't know about you, but I find it a lot easier to manage my own kids when I don't have to manage them at all. The most hands-off time I find is when they are occupied with friends. Even if I am hanging out with other people's kids, I can often sit down and read because the kids all entertain each other. If I leave them with someone else, I can run an errand or just have some me time. Bonus points if you leave out educational materials just in case spontaneous learning takes place (it usually does).

Sign up your kids for a drop-off homeschooling class. If there isn't one around, try organizing one! A few years back, I set up a 3 hour drop-off class at a local Audubon that runs classes for school groups. They get to learn about wildlife and farming skills while I get a much needed break. I also signed them up for a group music class just for homeschoolers - as a bonus it is across the street from Trader Joe's so I can get what I need for the week while they are at music class. It's so much easier to get a little shopping done sans kids! Farm school:


For this particular program, I scheduled it at a time when I could meet my husband for lunch on days he was available, so we managed some daytime dates. It's a bonus if all of your children can participate at once, or if you have little ones still maybe you can schedule a drop off class for older children while little ones are napping. It won't be a total break, but it's something!.

Go for a walk. Really, any way you can get outside will serve as a break. Walking is my favorite way to connect outside with my kids. You will be moving forward, pumping blood, catching some Vitamin D. You can even try walking meditation, Nature Bingo, or just noticing the things you see. My kids love to look for treasures on the ground. We all feel better after a nice walk, and I hope you will, too!

How to you find time for self-care? I am always amazed by homeschoolers with lots of children spanning many years in various developmental stages.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

Music Week FREE Resource Roundup

Are you trying camp with Google this summer? Week 4 is Music Week, and here are a few extra freebies for you!

Links to the resources shown above, starting from the top:
Bird Songs Listening Music Freebie by Cori Bloom
Musical Instruments of the Orchestra Playing Cards by Stephanie Morris
Composer of the Month: Dvorak by Music with Sara Bibee
Freeze Dance by Lindsay Jervis
Roll a Rhythm by Floating Down the River Linda Seamons

Other ways to support the Music Week theme:
Craft: Make some rubber band instruments, drums, or rain sticks!

Movie: Fantasia, The Muppets Movie, Mary Poppins
Field Trip: Does your town have free summer music concerts? If so, check one out!
Hands-on Music: Try Boomwhackers! We love them for medium-sized groups.

Online learning: 
Listen to a variety of music all week! Try classical, folk, pop, hip-hop, and so on. You never know what might resonate with your kids.

Try Sphinx Kids! There are some fun musical games on this site:

Try this site from the San Francisco Orchestra, too:

Please note, while the above resources are free at the time I'm posting this, sometimes they don't stay that way. Apologies in advance if any of the above links are either not working or are no longer free.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!