We love hands-on learning in our homeschool. This is something that I have mentioned time and time again here on my blog. So, I love when we find new and exciting ways to include more hands-on learning in our days. A big thing I see all over the place these days, from schools, to libraries, and other blogs, is the mention of STEM learning. A couple of years ago our library had a weekly children's program where each session they did some projects based on one letter of the acronym: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And yes, science and math are subjects we focus on regularly at home, though I admit technology and engineering are not included near as much. When I learned about the STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching I realized this could be a wonderful opportunity to include STEM in a more deliberate way, along with extra Language Arts through the Close Reading articles.
What did we receive?
We received a bundle of over 60 challenges that came in PDF format. These were sent via email, and when I clicked on the link they were automatically added to my Google Drive. From there I found I had to actually download each of the files I wanted to use to my computer in order to print them out. I mean, I was able to view them on Google Drive, I was even able to click on links to the readings; however, it wouldn't print without actually being downloaded.
Speaking of printing, you do need to have a printer to print out the different worksheets included in the challenges. Additionally, the challenge projects themselves require easy-to-find materials in order to complete them. So far, most of these materials have already been in our home, or have been found in our local grocery store or Walmart.
The STEM Activities Bundle includes four seasonal challenges per month, plus bonus Building Block Challenges and other Additional STEM Challenges, which include "100 Day of School" projects. I will mention that when the files downloaded they were organized alphabetically, so the only way to know for sure which challenge was meant to go in each month is to check the Bundle Description on the website page. Most of them are obvious, like Leprechaun Traps in March and Love Bugs in February; however, some are a bit harder to place, especially the summer months which have such challenges as the Giant Pyramid and the Alien Spacecraft.
Here is a little peek at the different challenges that are included. You can see the full list under the Bundle Description in the Tied 2 Teaching store.
Each 21-page challenge is laid out in the same way. After the title page, there is a page with images and links to other resources from Tied 2 Teaching. Then there is the Close Reading section before moving into the Design Challenge. The Close Reading assignment is meant to raise the children's interest in the topic. In order to get to the reading passage there is a link in the lesson, plus the child can access it via the QR code on the question worksheet if a QR code reader is available to them. Once they read the article they answer the questions, some of which are multiple choice, others require a bit more thought and need to be written out.
The children then get to move into the Design Challenge.
First they are introduced to the specific challenge:
Then they are shown examples of completed projects:
And next they are given instructions, including criteria, material suggestions, and questions to think about for the final product.
Finally, there are seven different worksheets to aid in the completion of and reflection on the challenge. No, you do not have to use all the sheets. At least, that is my understanding. I decided to choose the sheets that I felt would work best for us.
There are three different planning sheets to choose from. Each of them, though formatted differently, have the child asking, imagining, planning, creating, and improving. One does add "testing." There is a sheet where the child can share the steps they took. Another one asks the child what they noticed while working on the challenge and what steps may have been taken to improve the project. Another asks the child what went well and what could be improved upon the next time. The final worksheet has the child look at the S.T.E.M. words in relation to their design.
These are the worksheets we used with each project.
Here are some filled out:
The files all conclude with a letter to parents (for use in schools), more offerings from Tied 2 Teaching, and information on how to connect with them via social media.
So, how did we use this product?
As we received the STEM challenges in February, we decided to start with a Valentine's themed project. Next we made the Lincoln Cabin in honor of President's Day. We then moved on to a Human Heart Model because we were learning about the cardiovascular system with our core curriculum. Then we thought it would be fun to make some Marshmallow Snowmen. Finally, we did something we have never done before. We made Leprechaun Traps. I have to admit it was quite fun, even though the children know that leprechauns aren't real.
Prior to working on the design, I had the children read the Close Reading passage and answer the questions to the best of their ability during their computer time. The girls all completed the reading, as they are all in the recommended grade range. Later on, I read the articles to all the children, including Harold, and we went over the questions.
Here are some of their completed question sheets:
I actually found the information quite interesting.
Next I had them sit down and think about their design. I have to admit, they would have preferred being able to gather their materials and get started. I think it was good for them to have to take some time to plan. Then they started working on their projects. While they were working on the design, sometimes they found they had to change their plans (especially when making the Marshmallow Snowmen). Once they were finished they took some time to evaluate their work. Again, not a favorite step.
Let's take a quick look at each of the projects they worked on.
Human Heart Models
Unfortunately Amelia learned that her design needed some help.
She got a bit upset, but I reminded her that that was the idea of the challenge. Figure out what is working and what isn't, and see where you have to change it.
She ended up putting the marshmallows closer together and ended up with a more sturdy snowman.
Tabitha was having trouble too. So, she decided to twist her snowman a bit.
He stood for a while, but then he fell too.
Hannah and Harold decided to make theirs a bit shorter. In fact, Hannah decided hers was a snow monster.
Hannah ended up working on her trap, and then painting her heart model. She was still working on the heart because, like Tabitha, she used paper mache and it was taking a while to get it finished.
Completed traps waiting for the leprechauns.
I have to say, I had a lot of fun helping Harold with the Leprechaun Trap.
The children loved all the design challenges we have tried so far. They are looking forward to the chance to make a Jelly Bean Tower soon. Though, the still aren't very fond of having to evaluate their designs. They don't seem to mind planning them as much as they do trying to figure out what went right and where they could improve the design.
The articles for the Close Reading have been quite informative. I love that the children aren't just working on reading comprehension, but on increasing their vocabulary as well. The articles have words highlighted, and if you hover over the highlighted word it will show the definition.
I really appreciate that their are worksheets to choose from, so we can pick the one that works best for us. While the children aren't fond of them, I can see their worth.
We are so thankful we have had the opportunity to add these STEM Challenges with the Close Reading into our homeschool days. It's awesome that we can do a project a week for more than a year. Plus, I'm sure the children would love the chance to redo some of these. I can see new Love Bugs next Valentine's Day, and more Marshmallow Snowmen when winter rolls around again, and let's not forget our new tradition of making Leprechaun Traps for St. Patrick's Day!
Tabitha and Hannah said their favorite project was the Love Bug. However, both Amelia and Harold said their favorite was the "yummy one," a.k.a. the Marshmallow Snowmen.
If you are looking for a way to add more hands-on fun to your day, you can't go wrong with this bundle of STEM Challenges.
Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates thought of these STEM Challenges from Tied 2 Teaching.