We had the opportunity to review a digital version of the STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching.
If you have children in elementary school, now is the time to introduce them to STEM. That is not to say, literature, history and social studies should be forgotten, but including STEM learning in your school when children are young may spark an interest you never knew existed in them. We have incorporated STEM activities in our school for several years, which has led to a lot of out of the box thinking.
We were introduced to STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading, which is geared towards children in third through fifth grades. The teaching bundle package is just one of the many teaching products Matthew Kelly, founder of Tied 2 Teaching, has created.
I use to try to include STEM activities in our school and it was hard. We did science. We did technology. We did engineering. We did math. My challenge had been creating opportunities to combine all four into one learning experience. I wish STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading had been around a long time ago. Why? Because it does just that, combines them all.
With twelve months in the year, Kelly has created four activities for each month (except for August) for you to easily include STEM learning in your school once a week. He even manages to include reading lessons and some history in the challenges. Some of the challenges are seasonal tying into events/celebrations or activities that typically occur during the months in which the challenges are scheduled.
Each challenge includes thoughtful questions that should be considered by anyone beginning a STEM challenge. After children are presented the design challenge, they are told the design criteria, material suggestions and are encouraged to think about the final product, how the design will look to meet the challenge.
All of that content is included on the worksheets for each challenge. Students are asked questions about what they already know about their challenge (Close reading at Wonderopolis), imagine what it can look like with the suggested materials and the best way to design, plan the design with a sketch and then create. Children are encouraged to not stop at the final design, but Kelly has questions for them to ask themselves of ways they can improve their design to make it better.
The child is presented with a page to gain interest.
I let Canyon look through the challenges and one of them he chose to take on was the Design a Jelly Bean Tower.
The Design Challenge: Build the highest tower
The Design Criteria: Only use a maximum of 100 jelly beans and 100 toothpicks
He was up for the challenge.
The challenges include a picture of a completed challenge, so children know their goal.
Some examples of other monthly challenges are:
I love the variety of samples included in the “Civil Rights Monument Design” challenge where children are challenged to design a monument to be placed in Washington DC that honors the contributions of a civil rights leader. This is one challenge that could be done monthly, because there are so many individuals who contributed (and still do) to the cause. This is one challenge where the criteria is not as strict (specific count or material to be used) and opens the door for creativity from the child.
“Design a Leprechaun Trap” has children do Close Reading where they learn if leprechauns are real, what they do for a living and how to trap one. I wonder what one would do with a leprechaun after catching one.
April is typically a month for going green. Children are challenged to “Design an Upcycled Birdhouse”. Another one is the “Design a Jellybean Tower”.
The “Design a Spider Web” challenge is another one that involves food, so you may have to be careful that some of the suggested materials don’t get eaten before the challenge is done. In the Close Reaging, we learned that spiders produce silk to make their webs, webs are made of silk and it is instinctive for spiders when it comes to creating webs. We also learned that webs are created, so that spiders can catch their food.
There are also challenges to mark significant days throughout the school year, like the 100th Day of School Glasses and Design 100th Day of School Crayon Tower
If you are still homeschooling younger elementary age children, you may already have many of the supplies on hand needed to complete the challenges. I was able to find some leftover supplies from previous years, but most of the supplies, I had to purchase for him to complete the challenges.
I really like how Kelly incorporates STEM as well as the reading and history content. Although many of the challenges were more elementary for Canyon (only because we do a lot of concentration in all of those areas), I think the challenges are wonderful for the target age of child. Canyon did enjoy working through the challenges.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
You may purchase the STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading bundle for $30.