Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mother Bruce Uses STEM to Solve His Problem

To get students excited about the NC Children's Book Award Nominees, we will be doing as many STEM activities as possible.  The first book that we read was Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins.  I love this book. The illustrations and the story made me laugh every time I read it. The students gave me the idea for the STEM activity, but we could have made airplanes too.

I prepared five kits with materials to build a catapult. One kit had clothespins, a popsicle stick, a spoon, and rubber bands.  One kit had seven pencils, a spoon, and several rubber bands. Another kit had certain LEGO bricks.  One kit had seven popsicle sticks and several rubber bands. There was a kit that had certain K'Nex pieces.  The K'Nex kit is the only one that was allowed to be modified.
Inspiration for the STEM activity

The students were put into five groups. They were told that they could only use the items in their kit. One person in the group used their Chromebook to research how to make a catapult using the items in their kit. We talked about what the letters in STEM represent. We also discussed the STEM process. I told them that once they were in their group, I would no longer be available to answer questions. They would have to rely on each other to solve any problems they might have. That was harder for me than it was for them. Any questions for me had to be addressed before they got in their groups.

As I walked around, taking pictures and recording different groups, I couldn't resist offering suggestions. Overall, the students had the best attitudes. Most of the groups worked really great together.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I Think I Can! I Think I Can!...

At a recent conference, Steve Spangler brought it to our attention that everyone is getting on the STEM bandwagon.  By adding art and reading to STEM, it just becomes school with a cool acronym. If STREAM makes school fun and cool, I'm all for it.

During the last few weeks of school, we had fun integrating science, technology, and engineering with some classic books.  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper was given a 21st Century spin by attaching "boxcars" to my Dash robot, and having the students program the "train" to get school supplies across the library. Preschoolers and kindergartners were excited to know they could program a robot. 

Introducing students to classic children's books addressed the "Next Generation Science Standards" of the AASL Standards for kindergarten.
K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool. 
It's wonderful when lessons align with the standards.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Engineering With Wild Things

The kindergarten students not only enjoyed listening to the story, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, they collaborated to make a boat for Max.

After listening to the story, I told the students that in another version of the story, Max’s boat sailed away before he could return home.  I asked for suggestions about how Max would get home. Some said he could swim home. Others said the Wild Things would get him.  I had to suggest that Max could build a boat.

Then I explained that they would work with a partner to build Max a boat. The tools they needed were in a bag. They didn’t have to use all of the materials, but they would only make one boat with their partner.  I explained that after they built their boat, we would test it. I told them that we would put the boats in the ocean to test them. :o  They were excited even after they realized the “ocean” was a plastic container with water in it.

The items in each bag varied slightly.
aluminum foil
modeling clay or Play dough
old cd
drinking straw
foam board (cut into about 4x6 pieces)
foam filler (that came from packaging for Nooks or iPads)
lids from Pringles cans

Students also had access to scissors and a hole punch.

Next time I will include craft sticks, different size lids, and masking or duct tape. I might also include fabric, string, and/or yarn for a sail.

A few students had to make changes in order for their boat to float, but they were not discouraged. They were determined to help Max get home. 

Thanks to Mrs. DeWeese’s Kindergarten class at Oak Grove Elementary for inspiring this activity.

Oak Grove Elementary, Roanoke, VA

Thursday, May 19, 2016


The month of April has so many observances that it was hard to pick just one to focus on in the library.  This year, I decided to combine Arbor Day with poetry.  Most grade levels focused on a style of poetry.  Kindergarten made Acrostic poems about trees. First grade did Haiku, third grade did Cinquain, and fourth grade did Diamante poems about trees.  It helped that they were familiar with the different styles of poetry.  Fifth grade had fun creating Book Spine Poetry.

ReadWriteThink is a lifesaver
Since third and fourth graders shared their Cinquain and Diamante poems with me on Google Drive, I was able to make comments. This gave helpful feedback to the students, which they liked.  It nudged them to ask questions about how to improve their poems.

Pre-K and Kindergarten helped list ways that trees are helpful after reading Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I really must do better with posting to my blog.  Hopefully when I am finished with grad school, I will be more consistent.

So much has happened since October.  After our school participated in Hour of Code for the first time, I attended a training. The workshop was so good that I encouraged our district media and technology director to get the trainer to come to our district. The workshop equipped us with the confidence to teach computer science skills to our elementary students. It also helped us understand why computer science should be taught in every school. Over 600,000 job openings are available in computer science, but only 43,000 computer science students graduated to fill the positions, last year. The average pay for computer science jobs is triple what teachers make.

Each participant was given an instructor handbook with lesson plans. I am now integrating some of the Code Studio lessons into my library lessons. The most recent unplugged activity was Building a Foundation. I used it to help third graders make a connection with finding the theme in a story. After doing the activity, students shared what they learned from the activity. Some said that teamwork made the task easier. Others said they had to keep trying (persistence and perseverance). Perseverance happened to be our Character Ed word for the month. While some students said problem solving or trial and error was the theme. The next time I do this lesson, I will get the students to add their theme to AnswerGarden to make a word cloud.
Will it work?

Determination is also a theme for this activity.
I hope to share what I learned at the two conferences I attended recently.  The theme for the day is Accomplishment.  See ya!