December 8, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenges: Sleigh/Sled & Slope

WINTER - CHRISTMAS STEM Challenge: In Sleigh/Sled & Slope, students create a ramp and sled designed to transport cargo safely and travel the maximum distance. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.




You are almost to Winter Break! Excitement is in the air, but you still want to be somewhat responsible. After all, there really isn't any instructional time you can afford to waste. And there's the dilemma: how can you have fun and enjoy the holidays without wasting instructional time? STEM Challenges ... the answer is always STEM Challenges! :) 

Premise

In Sleigh/Sled & Slope, students create a ramp and sled designed to transport cargo safely and travel the maximum distance. This one comes with 2 versions: winter and Christmas, so if your school says Christmas activities are a no-no, I've got you covered.


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is a great way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Sleigh/Sled & Slope:







Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the second of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!





December 2, 2016

November Recap




I know you are going to miss some of the things going on in my blog, YouTube channel and TpT store. Who has the time to keep up with their own lives, let alone someone else's whole deal?!  Hopefully, these monthly updates will make it easier to catch all the updates and teaching tidbits to make your teaching life that much better! (Click: October Recap to see last month's updates.)

VIDEO ON TPT

TpT launched video. While it's still in beta, I've been loading the same library I have available on YouTube to TpT. I'll continue to use both YouTube and TpT to host my libraries, so you can access them in whichever place you prefer!

Click here for the winter/Christmas STEM challenge walk-through playlist.

Click here to see my video library on TpT.


PRODUCT UPDATES

I completed the final winter/Christmas update: Sleigh & Slope or Sled & Slope, depending on the version you choose. You are definitely going to want to re-download this if you own it or the Winter/Christmas 5-in-1 bundle, because  I added a lot of new goodies! You'll find new primary response pages with expanded room for response, new cross-curricular extension ideas and handouts, and more!



BLOG POSTS AND GUEST POSTS










LIFE

I was able to travel for Thanksgiving and met my 7-month-old niece, Maddy, for the first time. She is crazy strong, full of energy, and amazingly content. She is adorable and sweet and I can't get enough of her ridiculous, halting giggle!

COMING IN DECEMBER

I'll be posting video walk-throughs for the remaining winter/Christmas challenges on YouTube and TpT. I'm also hoping/planning to final finish at least one resource for the Speak, Listen, Draw series. I'm also planning to take a little time off to enjoy the holidays.


WHAT ELSE?

If you want to receive notifications of these monthly recaps, you can follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers. I send a monthly note linking back to this post so all the links are easy to find (see the image below)! You can also follow this blog.





 

November 30, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenges: Reindeer Relay

Christmas STEM Challenge: Reindeer Relay, students design the reindeer antlers to transport and transfer Christmas decorations during a relay race. If you prefer a winter/non-Christmas version of the challenge, students can transport reindeer "food" instead. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.



As the holiday break inches ever closer, keeping students engaged in academic work can be an uphill battle! Seasonal STEM challenges are the perfect way to get kids excited to work collaboratively in deep critical thinking and problem solving! This week's challenges is one of my very favorites because it incorporates not only STEM, but P.E. and strategy making the "fun" factor outrageously high!

Premise

In Reindeer Relay, students design the reindeer antlers to transport and transfer Christmas decorations during a relay race. If you prefer a winter/non-Christmas version of the challenge, students can transport reindeer "food" instead.


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is a great way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Reindeer Relay:






Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the second of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!





November 23, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenges: Candy Cane Calamity

Christmas STEM Challenge: In Candy Cane Calamity, students design the lightest-weight shipping container that will protect candy canes from damage. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.


Congratulations, teachers! You are almost to a beautiful, well-deserved break, but getting to that finish line can be its own impossible challenge! The kids' brains are toast, and (likely) so is yours!  But because you are a responsible adult, you don't want to throw in the towel too early and risk wasting instructional time, am I right?! The good news is, you don't have to!  STEM challenges will get you to the finish line in style, and it's fun for your kids that you can feel really good about!

Premise

In Candy Cane Calamity, students design the lightest-weight container possible they can "ship" two candy canes in without damaging the candy canes.


Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is a great way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Candy Cane Calamity:





Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the first of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!





November 16, 2016

All Students Deserve to Fail

Use STEM challenges to teach growth mindset; they're natural allies!


We don't like to be the bearers of bad news. Some of us avoid conflict at all costs, but we do our students a gross disservice when we shield them from challenges in a bid to protect their self esteem. Perhaps they will avoid the temporary sting of defeat when we don't challenge them, but they will also miss out on the opportunity to develop skills like perseverance and resilience. Those character traits are earned no other way than through struggle. For some high-achievers, these lessons are delayed to when they go off to college for the first time. Spoiler-alert: Disastrous consequences ensue





I was inspired to write this and create the video above because I want teachers to understand that not all STEM challenges (or science experiments) will go according to plan, and that's not a bad thing. In fact, "failure" provides a powerful, teachable moment that has potential to be far more beneficial than a "successful" STEM challenge iteration. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm no sadist! It's a lot more fun when everything goes to plan. I certainly prefer it that way in my own life! But it's not realistic to expect smooth sailing all the time, and we have to teach students how to deal with this sometimes harsh reality -- so it won't feel so harsh!  

People with a crippling fear of failure are often too scared to take risks that could lead to great things in their lives and in the world. I know; I'm a recovering failure-averse worrier. I spent a lot of time hiding in my comfort zone! Nothing would please me more than to spare students the time and opportunities wasted in life when you are too scared to fail.  


If/when a STEM challenge doesn't turn out as you had hoped, model for students curiosity (rather than frustration, annoyance, or dismissiveness) about what went wrong. 
You know how when a toddler falls down, he looks to see if you look worried or scared as his cue to cry? And have you noticed when you shrug it off, he does too? This is just like that! Kids learn how to respond to failures from the adults in their lives. If you look upset for your students when a challenge goes badly, they'll be upset too. If you shrug it off, they will learn to do the same. Of all the things we could teach our kids, that might be the most life-altering.


But shrugging it off doesn't mean to forget about it and move on to the next thing! After a failed challenge, student teams should find, analyze, and fix failure points. You'll need to model scientific reasoning and logic as well as a growth mindset attitude. Help them generate ideas of topics to research and approaches to try next. Some of us have failure all tied up with shame in our minds, and that simply shouldn't be so. Failure is nothing more than data to be analyzed. Imagine if Edison's team gave up on the light bulb after 9,000 tries! 


So let's resolve not to bubble wrap our kids. We have to stop feeling like bad guys when we do an activity that induces frustration or challenge for our kids. Let's show them we believe in their ability to face adversity and develop resilience and problem-solving skills! 

And let's remind ourselves that all kids deserve to fail; for in doing so, they learn how to recover, learn not to be scared to take risks, learn growth mindset skills in practice rather than just theory, and they'll be better prepared for every other challenge they face in life.  Letting your kids fail might just be the most important thing you'll ever do!  

_______________________________________

Here are two fabulous videos to help students understand the value of failure and how they can find & fix failure points in their STEM challenge designs:






Title photo credit

November 11, 2016

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Turkey Transporter

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: In Turkey Transporter, students design a way to transport turkeys quickly and safely across a horizontal and/or vertical distance. Includes modifications grades 2 - 8.

Congratulations, teacher! You're almost there. You've almost made it to Thanksgiving break, but we all know those last few days can be difficult for you and your students. Everyone is more than ready for a rest, and focusing on school can be challenging for all. As tempting as it might be to phone it in with some videos and parties, you can't really afford to waste instructional time. What to do? STEM challenges, of course. They're fun, engaging and require students to problem-solve and think critically in collaboration with their peers.

In the last month, I've described five (5) Thanksgiving challenges that followed the journey of the Pilgrims as they set up their new settlement: 

- Mini Mayflower (Get to where you're going)

- Protect-a-Pilgrim (Build a shelter)

- Pumpkin Picker (Gather available food)

- Corn Cultivator (Set up sustainable food source)

- Turkey Transporter (Once all major needs are met, there's time for fun!)

As indicated above, the Pilgrims tended to their basic needs in challenges 1 - 4. In challenge 5, it's time for them let loose and have a little fun in Turkey Transporter!


Premise:

Students design a way to transport a turkey quickly and safely across a horizontal and/or vertical distance.


Where Can I Find Out More?


It's a lot easier to explain challenges visually! The video walk-through of Turkey Transporter is embedded below. In it, you'll find information about materials, modifying difficulty level, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you, so you can better guide your students through the challenge. Check it out:





Where are the Others?


There are a few ways to find out more about the Thanksgiving resources. 
1) You can click on the covers pictured here to go straight to the resources. 
2) Each of these five Thanksgiving challenges has a corresponding blog post and video walk through just like this one. 
3)You can also find all the videos in my Thanksgiving playlist on YouTube.

For a summary of the Thanksgiving bundle with links to each challenge post, see this post. 



All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.









I'm linking up with some fellow friends and bloggers this week. Check them out!




November 9, 2016

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Corn Cultivator

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: In Corn Cultivator, students build one or more farming tools. Includes modifications grades 2 - 8.You're so close to a well-earned Thanksgiving holiday break! But trying to keep kids engaged as they inch ever closer to the holidays can be a Herculean task! 


As you might already know, this is one more reason I love STEM challenges so much. They're naturally enjoyable and engaging activities for kids that are chock full of academic rigor (when done properly/with intent). 


With STEM challenges, you don't have to lose instructional minutes because your kids have holiday fever; you can channel their energy for good! Win/win!


For the past few weeks, I have been giving walk throughs of a set of five (5) Thanksgiving challenges that follow the needs encountered by our intrepid Pilgrims as they set up their new settlements: 

- Mini Mayflower (Get to where you're going)

- Protect-a-Pilgrim (Build a shelter)

- Pumpkin Picker (Gather available food)

- Corn Cultivator (Set up sustainable food source)

- Turkey Transporter (Once all major needs are met, there's time for fun!)

We're nearing the end of the Thanksgiving journey this week with Corn Cultivator.


Premise:

Students design one or more farming tools that will: till, dig holes, plant seeds, and lightly irrigate. Results can be measured in # of tools created and time it takes to fully prepare the farmland. Note of warning: this one can get a little messy, and you'll want to set aside more time than your average challenge.


Where Can I Find Out More?


The video walk-through of Corn Cultivator is embedded below. In it, you'll find all sorts of helpful information about materials, modifying difficulty level, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you, so you can better guide your students through the challenge. Check it out:




Where are the Others?


Between Oct. 20 and Nov. 13, I'll be posting one Thanksgiving STEM challenge video every Thursday to my YouTube channel and here on my blog. (The final post will come on a Sunday to give you time to implement before Thanksgiving break!)

Until then, you'll find the Thanksgiving bundle briefly described in this post






All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.