STEM activities have been a top priority for many home educators. Introducing our children to the science and technology fields while encouraging their critical thinking skills is essential, so I was glad to hear about Tied 2 Teaching. I like how their STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading provides a welcome break from typical textbooks.
What is it?
Tied 2 Teaching has put together this digital set of STEM activities that span a full year. For every month, season and many holidays there are activities presented in the form of a challenge to encourage creativity, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering skills and more.
The parent/teacher a zip file. It is easy to download. Once ‘unzipped’ you’ll find a listing of all challenges. There is an introduction to the activity/challenge and a suggestion for close reading and further research at wonderopolis .org followed by a list of expectations and suggested supplies.
You’ll also find a page of thinking questions to help inspire your child. Checklists and data collection sheets are included for you to print and use in whatever way suits your situation best.
ASK IMAGINE PLAN CREATE IMPROVE – these are the steps students go through as the tackle the challenges. Build a Basketball Tower, Build a Sea-Worthy Foil Boat, Design a Lighthouse — these are just a sample of hands-on challenges in this bundle. Kids get to choose what materials they’ll use, think about how to build and create, consider why some things worked and some didn’t.
Dozens of lessons are included. At the rate of one per week, it will take more than a year to accomplish them all!
How did we use it?
Because the challenges are themed by the months of the year, it seemed logical to give the winter activities a try. After opening the files included in the download bundle, my daughter chose to build a marshmallow snowman. The challenge was to see how high the snow could be and stay standing for several seconds without outside support.
She chose to use 2 sizes of marshmallows and toothpicks. She then challenged her older brother to give it a try – they had a lot of fun on a snowy afternoon.
Along with the fun of it all, there was some discussion and thinking time about structure, stability, and materials. It was easy to go up up up but not successful when it came toppling down.
Our favorite challenge so far was the House of Cards. Before jumping in and building the house of cards, my 12 year old daughter and I sat down and worked through the worksheets.
We visited Wonderopolis to learn some about the history of playing cards. She answered the follow up questions and we had fun discussing what she learned.
We then worked together, brainstorm and planning what might works best. I asked her what she wanted it to look like. She thought about how to make 2 levels or more without everything falling down. Some things she thought would work great didn’t turn out so well, so she had to try plan B. And plan C.
After some trial and error Bekah found ways to improve her design and technique.
In the end, success! Her house of cards stood 2 levels tall. She has plans for a 3rd and 4th level now.
One challenge/activity per week seems to be about the right pace for our family. Assigning one at the beginning of the week gives the kids time to do some imagining and planning. They can collect supplies and make some preliminary drawings while doing their research. Later in the week we welcome a distraction from regular school assignments and take on the actual creating portion. It’s fun school!
Take the Rainbow Bridge Challenge, for instance. Could they create a bridge from straws that would support a cup of pennies? The kids worked together, bringing their own ideas and suggestions to the challenge. What sort of bridge? How many straws? What would hold it together? It’s fun to watch the wheels turn and discoveries made.
They learned from their mistakes, and they learned to not let their mistakes stop them. One thing doesn’t work? Try another! These are valuable lessons for life.
What did we think?
We have had a lot of fun with STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading. My opinion is the best age for these would be grades 3 to 6, but as group activities all ages can participate. As a family we have always seen the value of learning together and this bundle gives us some fantastic activities to use.
Visit my fellow crew mates to see what challenges they took on. Just click on the image below!