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STEM

Try These Fun Christmas Stations!

I wanted my students to enjoy their last class with me before the Christmas break, so I planned several stations for them to work on.  The students really enjoyed the engagement of every station.

Station 1:  Students picked out a pine cone and were instructed to find seeds inside the pinecone.  I showed them a picture of what pine cone seeds looked like.  I gave them magnifying glasses so they could look closely and deeply into the pine cones.  I instructed them to draw a picture of their pine cone and to draw a picture of the seed.  In preparation for the next station, I instructed them to find two more pine cones that were really “pretty” and “tree shaped”.  I really wanted them to find two that were opened up really well so they could see the difference in station 2.

 

Station 2:  I had students place two nice flared out pinecones in water.  Students made predictions before they placed one pinecone in cold water and one pinecone in warm water.  I have no sink in my room, so I had a gallon jug set up for the cold water and a crock pot set up with warm water for them to dip from with a measuring cup.  Make sure to have paper towels on hand for any water that is spilled.  Now, students can watch the pinecones for a while, but it will take about 30-45 minutes before students will see any changes.  I make students look and notice what happened.  I don’t tell them.  Now the last group that does this station probably won’t notice what happens.  They won’t have enough time in an hour long class period to notice the pinecones change.

(So what does happen?  Pinecones close up when wet.  Why does this happen?  Pinecones don’t want to release their seeds when weather is wet because they want to allow their seeds to fly as far away as possible during drier weather so that they won’t compete with the parent tree.)

After students have noticed the pinecones closing up, make sure you leave time at the end of the stations to ask the students why they think the pine cones are closing up in the water.

In case you are wondering, yes the pinecones will open back up when dried out.

 

Station 3:  What happens when you place a peppermint under water?  After students have watched, then what happens when you place M & M’s under water?  This experiment wasn’t that impressive in my opinion, but the kids loved it!  The experiment works best in a white bowl.  The plates were way too messy when kids tried to throw out the water.  Water, of course, spilled everywhere.

Students predicted first what happened with the peppermint.  Most guessed it would turn white, but few guessed it would streak the way it did.  You must keep the dish still and not shake the desk to get the full effect of this.  

 

After students watch the peppermint for about five minutes, have them predict what would happen when they place out M & M’s around the bowl.  I bought the small ones so there would be more color.  If students place them around the edge of the bowl, it makes a dramatic rainbow like this.  Again keep the bowl as still as possible.

 

Station 4:  Light up a Christmas light with alligator wires and batteries.  This station by far had the biggest WOW factor for the kids.  I didn’t give kids many instructions with this station.  I wanted them to do experimentation to figure this out.  I made the kids predict which type of batteries would work to light up the battery.  They lit up a small LED bulb.  (this wasn’t actually a Christmas light bulb).  To get these bulbs  I bought a $1 LED flashlight at War-Mart and banged the flashlight with a hammer until I broke it enough to get the lightbulbs out.  It’s cheaper to buy bulbs that way :0.  To light up the bulb students need at least three batteries placed end to end with at least two alligator clip wires–one each touched to the positive and negative ends of the battery.  I used D batteries because I had a bunch in a science kit, but this will work with smaller batteries.  I hovered around this station because I knew students might struggle here.  I made it a point to talk about how scientists struggle until they figure things out.  We talk about how Edison didn’t give up the first time his improvements of the light bulb didn’t work and they shouldn’t either.  Now in reality, it would have been a lot cooler if I actually did have Christmas light bulbs, but I already had LED bulbs on hand so we used them.

I got alligator clips like these here.

ChristmasScience Here is an editable document I used when students visited science stations.  This is nothing fancy, but you are welcome to use it for your classroom and make it your own.

Cheap and Quick STEM Lesson Your Kids will Love #2

This STEM lesson was more fun than I had anticipated.  We picked up ice cubes with a piece of string.  There are few materials needed.  The materials are cheap and it doesn’t take long to carry out the lesson in the classroom.

stemlesson2icecube

You will need:

  • an ice chest or freezer
  • ice cubes (the kind you freeze in ice trays) make about 5 per student to make sure you have enough
  • string (like the kind you fly kites with)
  • styrofoam bowls
  • table salt (one container should be enough for a class of about 20)
  • small cups or containers to distribute the salt
  • paper towels
  • water

First, we watched a video about how salting roads helps salt trucks melt ice and snow on roadways here:

Then I explained to the students that we were going to make a string stick to an ice cube and that they would be able to pick it up.  I had the students predict how long they thought that it would take to attach the string to the ice.  I realized mid lesson that the kids thought I wanted them to literally tie a string around the ice cube.  I had to clarify that we were not lassoing the ice cube, but that the salt would make it stick if they were patient (insert lesson about perseverance and patience here, wink wink).

These are the student directions in order.

  • In your bowl of water put 1 ice cube (I passed these out when I was ready for them to begin).
  • Put a pinch of salt on top of the ice cube
  • Lay the string on top of the ice cube
  • One team mate needs to watch time (I had this on smart board). The other team mate needs to watch the ice cube and pull on the string when the predicted time is up.
  • If your string doesn’t stick, make a new prediction and try again. Switch partners.

stemice-4final

I had a sheet in which the students predicted, and I also took some of their predictions and wrote them on the board.  Some students predicted up to 30 minutes.  Eventually, I reeled this in and said it wouldn’t take 30 minutes.  In honesty it takes somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute.  Also, I reminded students that they would only need a pinch or so of salt on the ice cube.  Some students think that the more salt they use the better the string will stick and end up using WAY TOO MUCH!  The important part of this experiment is the waiting.  I told students that if they added salt that they would need to add it a pinch at a time.

stemice-1final

For those students who are successful, I challenge them to make more than one ice cube stick and predict how long it will take for more than once ice cube.  I walk around with a ziplock full of ice cubes during this time.  When students get more than one ice cube to stick it becomes a contest about who can get the most ice cubes to stick at one time.  The most I had students able to stick was 5 ice cubes.  Not many kids were able to do this.

stemice-5final

 

stemice-3final

After this experiment, it is fun to discuss more of the science behind why this activity works.  Because I did this during a 30 minute slot at a summer camp, we didn’t really have time to talk much.

I hope you can enjoy this experiment with your students, too!

 

Quick, Cheap, and Easy STEM Lesson Kids Love

I did this with a group of kids during my summer camp, but this could just as easily be done during a classroom engineering lesson.  We built soda straw rockets to land on Mars.

Mars Stem Rocket Lesson

What was Mars you ask?  Mars was a simple circle taped to the floor with masking tape.

You need is the printable which consists of rocket fins and body, and then you need straws, tape, and a sharpened pencil…and of course Mars!

Mars Stem Rocket Lesson

Here is a synopsis of the building directions.  Students take the rectangle and wrap it around their pencil lengthwise to make a tube. Then they tape the fins at the bottom.  Next they scrunch the top of the tube around the point of the sharp end of the pencil to make a cone.  STEMRocket-5
Next, they pull out the pencil and insert the straw.  Now they are ready to blow through the straw to make the rocket land somewhere.

 

STEMRocket-4I wanted to give them a target which is why I made Mars.   Students had to measure and record how far away from Mars they landed.

STEM Engineering Lesson RocketI could have made it more difficult by using rulers so there would be some conversation involved, but I just made it simple and let them use yardsticks.  Surprisingly, some students had the yardstick turned around and measurement still proved to be an issue.

If they didn’t reach Mars, they had to go back and redesign their rocket to make it fly closer.  Now, what if they did land on Mars the first time?  Well, I just made them see if they could make their rocket fly differently, for example, could they make the rocket spin while it flew.

STEMRocket-6

The best part is this whole lesson and rocket parts printable are here free on the NASA website.

 

Rocket STEM Lesson

 

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