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December 17, 2015

Frosty, Frozen STEM Fun

By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    You’ve weathered the countdown to winter break, and now you really have to prepare for coming back in January. It’s time to engage your kiddos, and help them forget how fun it was to lounge around watching TV or play on the beach during winter vacation.

    You need to help them survive days upon days of indoor recess (if you live in a cold/snowy area), and all the while, teach them something they’ll actually remember. I love to take this opportunity to weave some seasonal STEM into the mix! Kids love it, they engage in hands-on science, and when tied to a favorite children’s story combined with frosty conditions outside, it’s STEM put into a context that sticks with the kiddos.


    Inspired by the winter wonderland outside our windows here in Chicago in January, we love engaging in STEM challenges centered on the concept of insulation and experiments with changing states of matter. See the insulation creations students worked together to design in order to keep their ice cubes frozen for the longest period of time! This STEM challenge is super simple:

     

    INSULATION CREATIONS

    Materials:

    • Ice cubes (2-3) per student

    • Recycled materials

      • egg cartons

      • plastic eggs (such as hinged plastic Easter eggs)

      • paper towel rods

      • fabric scraps

      • bubble wraps

      • newspaper

      • tape

      • pipe cleaners

    Directions:

    1. Introduce students to the concepts of insulation and changing states of matter. You might use science textbooks, online videos, or other science experiments to illustrate these concepts.

    2. Set up the challenge: keep your ice cube(s) in a solid state/retard the melting process for the longest period.

    3. Allow students to brainstorm, sketch ideas, plan with partners, and begin to draft model.

    4. After brainstorming and drafting, students may collect materials to begin building their insulation creations.

    5. Step back, circulate, and ask questions helping students think more deeply about keeping their ice cubes solid the longest, but without giving any answers or over-directing and micro-managing.

    6. Have students test, improve, and retest their designs. Once they have determined the best design for their team, they place the ice cube(s) inside their insulation device, and put in the finished product in your testing location. This could be a shelf, window sill, outside, etc.

    7. NOTE: Make sure students build into their insulation designs the ability to open them periodically to check the status of the ice inside.

    8. Check the progression of melting in each insulation creation every one to two hours.

    9. Record findings. This will look differently depending on age of students and technology available. Students could draw and label pictures, you could have them create an Educreations recording, or be more precise and measure the liquid melted for each contraption and compare.

    10. Compare final results, graphing, if possible. This could be very simple, like a pictograph, or more complex using a line graph or graphing paper.

    11. WINNER: The team with the ice cube that lasts the longest is the design challenge winner!


    Need MORE Ideas to Survive the Winter Blues after Break?

    Snowflakes are quite extraordinary and lend themselves to loads of winter wonder and engaging learning opportunities. Read my previous post, "Winter Math and Science Can Be 'SNOW' Much Fun!," for math and science grab-and-go activities that have been teacher-tested and kid-approved for years in my classroom with students PreK through fourth grade. Couple these with the STEM challenge above, and you’ve got a ready-to-go, winter-wonder-full, cross-curricular setup for returning after winter break!

     

    I hope you have an amazing winter break! Take some time to relax, rest up, and rejuvenate before returning in January. When you do, try some of these engaging activities to survive the kick-off of the beginning of the long, tough winter months. Please share anything you do in your classroom to make coming back after break better!

    Thanks for reading and see you again, soon!

     

    You’ve weathered the countdown to winter break, and now you really have to prepare for coming back in January. It’s time to engage your kiddos, and help them forget how fun it was to lounge around watching TV or play on the beach during winter vacation.

    You need to help them survive days upon days of indoor recess (if you live in a cold/snowy area), and all the while, teach them something they’ll actually remember. I love to take this opportunity to weave some seasonal STEM into the mix! Kids love it, they engage in hands-on science, and when tied to a favorite children’s story combined with frosty conditions outside, it’s STEM put into a context that sticks with the kiddos.


    Inspired by the winter wonderland outside our windows here in Chicago in January, we love engaging in STEM challenges centered on the concept of insulation and experiments with changing states of matter. See the insulation creations students worked together to design in order to keep their ice cubes frozen for the longest period of time! This STEM challenge is super simple:

     

    INSULATION CREATIONS

    Materials:

    • Ice cubes (2-3) per student

    • Recycled materials

      • egg cartons

      • plastic eggs (such as hinged plastic Easter eggs)

      • paper towel rods

      • fabric scraps

      • bubble wraps

      • newspaper

      • tape

      • pipe cleaners

    Directions:

    1. Introduce students to the concepts of insulation and changing states of matter. You might use science textbooks, online videos, or other science experiments to illustrate these concepts.

    2. Set up the challenge: keep your ice cube(s) in a solid state/retard the melting process for the longest period.

    3. Allow students to brainstorm, sketch ideas, plan with partners, and begin to draft model.

    4. After brainstorming and drafting, students may collect materials to begin building their insulation creations.

    5. Step back, circulate, and ask questions helping students think more deeply about keeping their ice cubes solid the longest, but without giving any answers or over-directing and micro-managing.

    6. Have students test, improve, and retest their designs. Once they have determined the best design for their team, they place the ice cube(s) inside their insulation device, and put in the finished product in your testing location. This could be a shelf, window sill, outside, etc.

    7. NOTE: Make sure students build into their insulation designs the ability to open them periodically to check the status of the ice inside.

    8. Check the progression of melting in each insulation creation every one to two hours.

    9. Record findings. This will look differently depending on age of students and technology available. Students could draw and label pictures, you could have them create an Educreations recording, or be more precise and measure the liquid melted for each contraption and compare.

    10. Compare final results, graphing, if possible. This could be very simple, like a pictograph, or more complex using a line graph or graphing paper.

    11. WINNER: The team with the ice cube that lasts the longest is the design challenge winner!


    Need MORE Ideas to Survive the Winter Blues after Break?

    Snowflakes are quite extraordinary and lend themselves to loads of winter wonder and engaging learning opportunities. Read my previous post, "Winter Math and Science Can Be 'SNOW' Much Fun!," for math and science grab-and-go activities that have been teacher-tested and kid-approved for years in my classroom with students PreK through fourth grade. Couple these with the STEM challenge above, and you’ve got a ready-to-go, winter-wonder-full, cross-curricular setup for returning after winter break!

     

    I hope you have an amazing winter break! Take some time to relax, rest up, and rejuvenate before returning in January. When you do, try some of these engaging activities to survive the kick-off of the beginning of the long, tough winter months. Please share anything you do in your classroom to make coming back after break better!

    Thanks for reading and see you again, soon!

     

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