Monday, November 21, 2016

Full STEAM Ahead: Building Baby Bears Chair

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears: Building “just right” chairs for baby bear
Lesson Plan for Preschool
Prepared by Mrs. Davis

Preschoolers recently read “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and continue to talk about the book. Building off their excitement for the story, we are going to have the preschoolers create “just right” sized chairs for baby bear. Students will learn how to interpret size needed based on size of the bear.

  1. Introduction to engineering
  2. Introduction to building
  3. Introduction to problem solving
  4. Critical thinking and transfer
  1. Students will compare and contrast size of chairs to size of “bear”
  2. Students will learn through trial and error the basics of creating sound structures
  3. Students will work to create a structure that best fits the baby bear’s body
Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 10.50.35 AM.png

  1. Baby bears
  2. Playdough

  • Did you compare your structure to the size of baby bear?
  • Does baby bear fit into the chair easily?
  • How did you make sure your structure would stand up?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you learn?
  • What questions do you have?


Students will watch a baby bear be placed in two different size chairs (Daddy Bear and Momma Bear) to compare and decide which chair best fits the bear and talk about how they still don't fit well. Each student will then be given a bear and playdough to create their own chairs for their bear. Teachers will work the room to help students create good chair structures by asking questions to help them process what needs to be done.

(adapted from

Recap written by Julie Davis
Students received more than enough clay to create their chairs and each child received one bear. We talked about how big the seat should be and that there is a back to chairs. Then we talked about creating legs and how tall the legs needed to be. Students then started creating their chairs. Some students quickly understood the concepts and others needed a little extra help to understand the size needed. As some students finished early, we then had those students create beds that would fit baby bear. Students seemed to enjoy learning the concepts of sizing and engineering through this activity.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Learning about Fall and STEAM: Nature Structures

Learning About Fall and STEAM: Nature Structures
Lesson Plan for Preschool
Prepared by Mrs. Davis

Preschoolers are currently studying Fall and what happens during this season. The purpose of this lesson is to look for nature associated with the fall season and engineer artistic structures of their collected treasures from their nature walk.


  1. Introduction to engineering
  2. Introduction to building
  3. Introduction to problem solving
  4. Critical thinking and transfer
  1. Students will collect items on a nature walk that show signs of fall
  2. Students will learn through trial and error the basics of creating sound structures 
  3. Students will work to create a structure equal to the height of a Solo cup that represents their fall collections.
  1. Solo cups
  2. Pipe cleaners
  3. Collected things from nature that represent fall (i.e.- sticks, acorns, changing leaves, pinecones)
  • Did you compare your structure to the height of the cup?
  • Why did you pick the items you did on the nature walk?
  • How did you make sure your structure would stand up tall?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you learn?
  • What questions do you have?


Students will be shown an example of a nature structure and shown how to twist pipe cleaners to secure "nature items" and create a solid base. Students will then be given their collection of "nature items" that they collected on the nature walk the previous day as well as a Solo cup. Students will then start creating their structures and comparing them to the height of the cup to see if they have engineered a structure as required.

Adapted from (

Recap by Julie Davis:
What a fun project with preschoolers! The hardest part was when I realized they didn't all know how to twist a pipe cleaner. We did a lot of on the spot teaching and talking about how feet and legs support us. We talked about how heavy objects cause the structure to not want to stand up well so it meant supporting them more. It was exciting to see the students learning how to measure and gauge their structures to see if they were as tall as the cup. It was also interesting to see them learn how to twist the pipe cleaner around objects. What a great way to introduce structure and engineering to their unit on Fall!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Full STEAM Ahead: The Value of Family STEAM Nights

As a new school year begins educators are faced with the age-old dilemma of “how do we get families to be involved?” It’s not a new phenomenon- parents work, siblings have after school sports events, children live in multiple households due to divorce- all of these things leads to a lack of connection between the school culture and the home culture. Every year educators scratch their heads wondering “How can we get them to read our email? Watch our video? Respond to notes we send home?”

We seek new and inventive ways to connect with families- through mediums like the use of social media, Remind texting, or mass phone calls. But the question remains...what would make these families want to be a part of the school community? Research shows ““When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” That’s the conclusion of A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002)” (

IMG_5996.JPGThis year due to a generous grant from a benefactor, we have been able to increase the magnitude of our STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) curriculum at our school. So what we are trying at our school this year is to have one STEAM Family Night per semester. Getting families engaged early in the year and showing them the benefits of STEAM education is the goal. So why not create a family STEAM night that coincides with homecoming week?

We are sent out an invitation for a Family STEAM Night happening in October. Our focus was to prepare a float for homecoming that represents all the great things going on in the elementary school in regards to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math as well as have some “take home options” for attending families. There were multiple rooms set up where students and their families had hands-on night of learning and creating. A parent was required to be present and participating with students throughout the evening.

Things to consider when having a STEAM night:
  • Require parents to participate with their child. This may sound manipulating to get parent involvement but many STEAM activities are dirty, maybe even dangerous, if not done correctly. Having parents participate does two things: Gives extra sets of helping hands and creates a culture of belonging. When a student knows there is a STEAM night, they are going to want to come. As parents know, pressure from your child to do something is a powerful thing.
  • Have a signup form for families. We have 400+ students in our elementary. That could mean 20 families or 300 families might show up for STEAM night. Creating a signup form allows you to spend time preparing adequately- without over preparing as well.
  • Pick a theme. This first STEAM night will be based on the homecoming theme for our school “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Themes help to build unity for your evening, especially if you plan to have more than one STEAM night throughout the school year.
  • Look for resources. There are plenty of great resources for STEAM Nights on Pinterest,, and there are many schools blog about STEAM night experiences as well. I personally use my Twitter account and search the hashtags #STEM and #STEAM to find resources.

Our plan was as follows:

Bolt Up room-
 Make lightning (didn't work well):
Light Up Lifesavers:
Learning more about Dash and Dot:

Engineering A Float room -
Prior to the actual STEAM night all the pieces for the float will be cut and ready to put together waiting for student/parent help. The actual building of the float out of wood will take place in this “room” on STEAM night.
Chromatography art for decorating float:

Chargers room-
Dress up Dash and Dot robots as cheerleaders, fans, and football players (idea adapted from:
Learn about Circuitry: Different Little Bits circuitry challenges were available
Create Steampunk robots out of old computer parts:

Greatest Show on Turf room-
(creation of tree and science experiments on grass)

Green Screen Productions-
Using the app Green Screen by DoInk have students use photo booth props to create videos of themselves as Charger fans.

I think it is fair to say this was a successful STEAM activity. STEAM night allowed families to bond, created communication/connections and a sense of belonging and ownership in homecoming week. It also gave parents a taste of the great opportunities their students are participating in weekly in the classroom settings.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Full STEAM Ahead: Steam Night and Critical Thinking

Several weeks ago we had our first ever "Family STEAM Night" at CCS Lower School. It was a delightful night but not without some troubleshooting needs. During the day I decided to create examples for all of the different stations and had some issues in making the lesson below work. I loved the concept so I handed it off to one of our teachers and he problem solved to make the idea work.

What really caught my attention was the critical thinking and problem solving that went on at the rotation itself. It was true scientific method/ problem solving at it's finest! Read what Mr. Lubben said afterwards (directions for the station follow):

  "The 'Color Bot' table in Mrs. Tallent's room last Monday's STEAM Night was a work in progress.  The kids who chose this activity used printed instructions to create electric-powered vibrating plastic party cups with uncapped art markers as legs.  They improvised, however, by cutting away parts of the cups, gluing the pens instead of the cups, and most importantly, as we observed, hand-holding the 9 volt batteries instead of having them go for the ride the tiny electric motors provided.  It made the cups lighter and allowed them to dance and twirl across the glossy paper creating spirals and zigzags of color.  The magic of it all was that the kids made changes on their own and observed the difference between various test models.  It was true science and art in action!"

Motorized Coloring Machine
Parent help required!

coloring bot.png

Supplies You Will Need:                                

  1. Use a red plastic cup, and have one of the parents drill a hole into the bottom of the cup using a screw. (Be careful not to apply to much pressure, as the cup might crack if you do that. Slow and steady.)
  2. Insert the motor and it’s attached wires into the hole you created in the bottom of the cup.
  3. Use a hot glue gun to secure it into place.
  4. Hot glue the 9 volt battery to the cup. We just glued it down right next to the motor.
  5. Add an alligator clip to the wires. This alligator clip will be used as a connector for the motor to the battery.
  6. You can also glue down the wires to the side of the cup if there is a lot of wire hanging and you want to keep it out of the way. This is what we did.
  7. Hot glue the markers onto the side of the cup.
  8. When you’re ready to color, go to the big sheet of white paper.
  9. Then remove the lids from the markers and connect the battery and motor and watch it go, go, go!
  10. It will vibrate, jump around a bit and go in circles, coloring all the  while.
  11. We will use these papers on the float as part of the decorations!

Full STEAM Ahead: Introducing Dash and Dot to Kindergarten Students

Kind Words for Friends: Introducing Dash and Dot to Kindergarten
Lesson Plan for Kindergarten
Prepared by Mrs. Davis
We will explore how to use our words to encourage and be a friend to others by programming Dash and Dot to say kind words to each other. This is an introductory lesson to basic coding and understanding of robotic care.


  1. 21st Century communication skills
  2. 21st Century collaboration skills
  3. K.L.1.2. Science concept of “life”
  4. ISTE Student Standard: Creative Communicator Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

  5. ISTE Student Standard: Computational Thinker Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

  6. Recognition of the need to encourage the soft skills of empathy and problem resolution

  1. Learning to use kind words with others
  2. Discovering God’s desire for us to affirm each other
  3. Learning to be respectful of our words
  4. Problem solving real world things that hurt our feelings and how to respond
  1. 8 Ipads
  2. 4 Dash and  4 Dot robots for student pairs to use.

  • How did the problem make you feel?
  • Did you always feel like being nice to the person?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you learn?
  • What questions do you have?


Students will be broken into pairs and taught how to program both Dash and Dot to speak. Students will then be given various scenarios that might cause conflict and they will program their robot to say something that would be an appropriate thing to say and then the other person would create an appropriate response to what is said.

  1. Pretend like Dash and Dot have never met. What would be the polite way for the two robots to meet each other? Have them introduce themselves and say “hello.”
  2. You can tell Dot has had a hard day and has been crying, what can Dash say that would let Dot know that he cares? What would be a good thing for Dot to say back to Dash?
  3. Dash is often rude in class and mean on the playground. Most people do not like to play with Dash because of this. What could Dot say to Dash to be a friend? What would be a good thing for Dash to say back to Dot’s kind words?
  4. Dot is embarrassed because he didn’t use his manners and burped in class. What is something nice Dot could say when this happens? What could Dash say to make Dot feel better?
  5. Dash just seems mad today. What Could Dot say to help Dash get in a better mood? What would be the correct thing for Dash to say back to Dot?
  6. Dash will not listen in class and is making it hard for Dot to hear instructions. What is a nice way Dot can ask Dash to make better choices? What would be the correct way for Dash to respond to Dot’s request?
  7. Dot can tell that Dash feels left out. How can Dot make Dash feel more a part of what is going on? What should Dash say for being included?

As we continue to discuss the importance of friendships in the kindergarten classes, we were able to introduced our new Dash & Dot smart robots during their STEAM period. This was an introductory lesson to basic coding and understanding proper robotic care.  We used the GO app which is a very friendly age appropriate app, for our kindergartners and learned how to program the robots say kind words to friends. .  
To start the lesson, we reviewed critical steps the students must follow when using their robots. It is important to show them how to properly pick up the robots, such as by the legs and not the head; as well as, how to choose the correct app and sync their robot.  
In groups, the students were to take turns programming the robots to say kind things to friends given different situations.  For instance, what would you say to a friend who is sad, or what would you say to a new friend you have never met before.  The students loved it!  I have received a lot of positive feedback from the parents about how much their students loved this activity!