Can I be honest with you for a minute? We love science in this house, but our formal science program had fallen to the wayside this year due to other life events. I really wanted to get some science going again but knew that right now I just couldn’t tackle our regular program. I knew that my personality would not do well with just doing part of a textbook and I didn’t have time to complete an entire textbook between March and May. I didn’t want to be doing school all summer, but I didn’t want to ignore science completely. The STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching offered just the solution I had been looking for.
While this is a full year of challenges, each challenge stands on it’s on which means I do not feel like I have to complete all of the challenges or do them in any particular order. Many of them are designed around monthly themes. For example, there is a Leprechaun trap as one of the March activities and a spider web activity for October. They do download with each activity as a separate PDF, so if you want to use them thematically, you need to look at the list on the website. If I was going to be using them thematically I would probably separate them into monthly folders on my computer to make them easier to find.
I love that aside from finding a few fairly readily available supplies, these were very open and go activities. The supplies consisted of things like marshmallows, toothpicks, recycled materials, building blocks (we used Legos), a card deck, and dried cranberries. Aside from the fact that we ran out of toothpicks after a couple of challenges I did not have to buy any materials to complete the challenges that we have tried.
I could print off the sheets, make sure we had the supplies, and hand the papers over to my children to work through the challenge. We utilized the challenges in a several ways. Some of them I had my 12 and 11 year olds work through together, some I had both of them do the challenge individually, and then I was also able to do some of them individually based on interests.
Each challenge starts with a reading passage. I chose to copy and paste those into a word document and print them out, but they can be accessed through a QR code on the paper or linking on the computer. Once the students have read the passage, they answer some comprehension questions about the passage. Then they are issued a related STEM challenge. There are several different forms included in the package that can be used for planning and commenting their work. There are also follow up questions to help them reflect on what they learned and explore the topic more in depth.The challenges tend to be fairly open ended and allow for a lot of creativity and not necessarily a right/wrong answer.
I found that most of them could be completed from start to finish in about an hour. This varied somewhat depending on how focused my children were and how much time they wanted to spend working on different ideas and variations. For example, they had multiple ideas for the spider web and so it took them a little longer as they tested out several theories. The Lego flags that they made did not take as long because they knew exactly what they wanted to do and just built them.
The first project that we did was the spider’s web design challenge. For this project they read an article about spiders and their webs. Then the challenge was, “using toothpicks and yummy marshmallows, design and build a super cool and slightly creepy spider web.” They ended up building one that they called a bat mobile after trying out a couple of different ideas.
Their favorite project so far was a flag building block challenge. Both of my older children love building with their Legos and being allowed to use them during school is a sure way to get their attention. My oldest son is also a flag enthusiast, so I knew this challenge would be a hit. They had to research the flags of five different countries and recreate them using only building blocks. I loved that they were dealing with history/geography while also working on the building/engineering skills. They decided they wanted to do the American flag but thought that it would be hard to get one with 50 stars, so they went with the historic Hopkinson flag which only needed 13 stars.
In addition to those two projects they were able to make bugs from Lego’s, towers from dried cranberries, and more. We have also picked out our next two projects which are a house made from cards and a model of a lighthouse. We are hoping to go on a field trip to see a lighthouse next week and then complete the lighthouse challenge when we return home. While I would not want these challenges to replace my children’s entire science education we felt like there were a great fit for this semester. I think that they are perfect for those times in life when you need open and go science/ STEM activities or as a fun addition to your regular curriculum. It is also a fun way to get in a little bit of reading comprehension practice with the reading passages that go along with each project.
Visit the website to see a full list of the challenges that are included in STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading. You can also click below to see all of the different reviews from the Review Crew to see which challenges each person chose and how they utilized them in their home.
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