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January 26, 2018

STEM Station Starters

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Science

    Technology

    Engineering

    Mathematics

    I first heard about the push for STEM education several years ago, but unlike so many other teaching conceits falling by the wayside, STEM education has only picked up more steam and the ideas for projects are more abundant than ever. Last year, one of my teammates at Wittenburg Elementary, Sonya Teague, started a STEM station with her multi-colored drawer storage. She put different supplies in each drawer and then labeled the drawers with what is in them.

    I loved this idea so much that at the end last school year I used some of my Scholastic Book Club points to purchase a 12 Drawer Mobile Organizer. Points well spent!

    My new STEM station was the cause of a lot of pre-school-year excitement as I counted down the days until my new students would christen it with magnificent projects. In those first days, I proudly showed my students how they could use the supplies in the drawers to build whatever they could imagine.

    By way of explanation, I walked and talked through the process of creating a game based on the old cup and ball game of long ago. Using materials in the STEM station, I attached a pom-pom to the bottom of the cup with a piece of yarn and added a popsicle stick for the handle.

    Right after the demonstration, I set lose my class to light the world on fire with their awesome ideas. After some time had passed and I was sure that the fires of creativity had been ignited and were burning bright, I checked back on the station and found that every single child — and I mean 100 percent — had built a game where they attached a pom-pom to a cup and the cup to a popsicle stick.

    Clearly, a new approach was needed. I decided using a book to inspire my budding inventors. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay is a wonderful, true story of an impoverished village school creating musical instruments out of trash. This story did the trick. My students saw possibilities beyond pom-poms and went back to the STEM station with renewed interest.

    And so, I’ve compiled a list of books that are perfect to help you inspire individually-minded, problem-solving, imagination-driven, students.

    Each of the following books are great STEM starters and I’ve listed the “real world problem” that I gave my class for each of the titles:

    Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
    Create something that makes noise (preferably a pleasant noise). Guided Reading Level (GRL): approximately S

    Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaker String of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
    Create a toy that no one has seen before. GRL: Q

    Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal and Laura Freeman
    Create an article of clothing.

    The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford
    Create something that can bounce. GRL: approximately S

    Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Gerard Dubois
    Create something that looks like a camera. GRL - approximately N

    Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
    Create a maze of some sort for others to solve. GRL - approximately Q

    Rosie Revere: Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Create something that can fly. GRL - M

    Iggy Peck: Architect by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Build a building that would belong in a city. GRL - M

    Ada Twist: Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Build something that solves a problem in your life. GRL - M

    What books could I add to my list of great STEM starters? Leave any titles in the comments below.

    Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

     

    Science

    Technology

    Engineering

    Mathematics

    I first heard about the push for STEM education several years ago, but unlike so many other teaching conceits falling by the wayside, STEM education has only picked up more steam and the ideas for projects are more abundant than ever. Last year, one of my teammates at Wittenburg Elementary, Sonya Teague, started a STEM station with her multi-colored drawer storage. She put different supplies in each drawer and then labeled the drawers with what is in them.

    I loved this idea so much that at the end last school year I used some of my Scholastic Book Club points to purchase a 12 Drawer Mobile Organizer. Points well spent!

    My new STEM station was the cause of a lot of pre-school-year excitement as I counted down the days until my new students would christen it with magnificent projects. In those first days, I proudly showed my students how they could use the supplies in the drawers to build whatever they could imagine.

    By way of explanation, I walked and talked through the process of creating a game based on the old cup and ball game of long ago. Using materials in the STEM station, I attached a pom-pom to the bottom of the cup with a piece of yarn and added a popsicle stick for the handle.

    Right after the demonstration, I set lose my class to light the world on fire with their awesome ideas. After some time had passed and I was sure that the fires of creativity had been ignited and were burning bright, I checked back on the station and found that every single child — and I mean 100 percent — had built a game where they attached a pom-pom to a cup and the cup to a popsicle stick.

    Clearly, a new approach was needed. I decided using a book to inspire my budding inventors. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay is a wonderful, true story of an impoverished village school creating musical instruments out of trash. This story did the trick. My students saw possibilities beyond pom-poms and went back to the STEM station with renewed interest.

    And so, I’ve compiled a list of books that are perfect to help you inspire individually-minded, problem-solving, imagination-driven, students.

    Each of the following books are great STEM starters and I’ve listed the “real world problem” that I gave my class for each of the titles:

    Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
    Create something that makes noise (preferably a pleasant noise). Guided Reading Level (GRL): approximately S

    Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaker String of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
    Create a toy that no one has seen before. GRL: Q

    Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal and Laura Freeman
    Create an article of clothing.

    The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford
    Create something that can bounce. GRL: approximately S

    Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Gerard Dubois
    Create something that looks like a camera. GRL - approximately N

    Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
    Create a maze of some sort for others to solve. GRL - approximately Q

    Rosie Revere: Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Create something that can fly. GRL - M

    Iggy Peck: Architect by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Build a building that would belong in a city. GRL - M

    Ada Twist: Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
    Build something that solves a problem in your life. GRL - M

    What books could I add to my list of great STEM starters? Leave any titles in the comments below.

    Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

     

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