Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A is for Arts Integration!

Arts Integration!
Don't take it from me...take it from the US Department of Education!  This short video shares many examples of arts in action.  Our school is adding Arts Integration to our STEM model to create STEAM.  We are in the beginning stages of planning for next year but I thought I show you where we are starting.
Websites for Training and Lessons


Education Closet is a great website for professional development, lesson planning, and assessments.

Some of the projects that are in the works include:
  • Sunflowers from Van Gogh - in our Plants Unit
  • Breezy Energy - in our Wind Unit
  • Reading the Art
Another great resource that we are using to help us plan comes from the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  The website is called "ArtsEdge".
           There are 28 different themes based on social studies, math, science and literacy. 
            We have found lessons that use print art, photographs, dance, music and more!

I can't wait to share with you some of the student work this year...until then, I leave you with two of my favorite paintings.  It is impossible to use art work from the real Van Gogh on a blog, so I have found some children's art work that is based on Starry, Starry night and Sunflowers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What's the T in STEAM?

T is for Technology!  Now, hear me please...there is a reason my blog is called ScienceGal and not TechGal! This is not my area of expertise.  Still, I am jumping in with both feet as we add new techno gadgets into our school this year.

Let me set the stage....we are in a partnership program with University of Mary Washington in which they are helping us create a "Maker Space".  The professor in charge is looking to see how elementary kids will use this space to create, design and innovate.  If you are not familiar with the Maker's Space movement, check out . This website is really fun and introduces you to all the goodies that are in the market today!

What goodies do we have coming?
*3 D Printer
* Squishy Circuits
* Makey Makey
* Humingbird Kits
* Lego Robotics
*and more!

When school starts again, I will be glad to take a few pictures and post them with comments about what we are working on at the time!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Introducing the design process

First...I want to remind everyone that the FIRST letter in STEM/STEAM is S = for SCIENCE!  So, that being said, I always link my STEAM activities to the Science Content.  My first unit this year is on the Environment.  Many people don't really think of Environment as an opportunity for STEAM integration....but that is where you are wrong.  There are so many connections to find..if you just start to think that way.

Before I go on a ramble and forget the reason for this post, I'd like to share with you the design process that we use.  It's from Engineering is Elementary (my favorite website for STEM lessons).  You can download a poster on that site or create your own, like I did!  I created a poster with the five key words - Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.  Then we brainstormed other words that mean the same as the key words and added them on the outside of the diagram.

When you are working with the students you are going to want to ask a lot of questions.  These questions below came straight from EIE's Website.   These are NOT my words, but I like the way they are worded.

  • What is the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • What are the constraints?
  • What are some solutions?
  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Choose the best one.
  • Draw a diagram.
  • Make lists of materials you will need.
  • Follow your plan and create it.
  • Test it out!
  • Talk about what works, what doesn't, and what could work better.
  • Modify your designs to make it better.
  • Test it out!
What are some ideas for including engineering in the environmental strand? The Engineering is Elementary unit that goes with this strand is creating a new method for cleaning up an oil slick.  I'm sure it is an amazing lesson and one that we can all relate to since the accident in the Gulf in recent years.

What other STEM related tasks can you think of that would relate to environments and ecosystems?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Engineering 101

Where to start? Where to start?  

When moving into our new STEAM plan, we felt VERY comfortable with our Science and Math curriculum.  We have been using TERC's Investigations for math and Delta Education's FOSS for science.  The still a work in progress.  Still, we have found some great resources, websites, and curricula.

Resources: Children's books

Head over to and check out some books we have found:  Engineering the ABC's by Patty Novak.  This book talks about everyday materials that engineers have helped create and how they effect our everyday lives.

Engineering Elephants by Dr. Emily Hunt is really good for early childhood K-2.  The book is told in rhythm and rhyme.  You can look through it at Amazon and take a sneak peak!

Websites: This is a really great place for you to use with the whole class or for students to explore one-on-one.  Start with a bunch of pictures of items that engineers have helped to create in categories from food to fashion.  Next, choose a picture and it will take you to a new link with videos, narratives and other websites! Fun!   My favorite "go to" place to find ideas for activities in my classroom.  I have used this site to find plans for creating balloon powered cards, towers and robo wheels.  I love this because there is a video that you can show to your class with step by step directions as well as ways to redesign. They have video episodes, simulations, games, etc... Materials are easy to find, inexpensive and developmentally appropriate.  This website offers lesson plans and online games for ages 8-18.  The lessons are a little cumbersome, but if you look through them you may find something worth using.


Hands down, without a doubt...the best stuff out there for elementary kids is Engineering is Elementary from the Boston Science Museum. They have created 20 units that are actually correlated to FOSS and STC units as well as the Next Gen Science Standards.  We purchased several units last year for our school. I used Alarming Ideas: creating an alarm circuit.  What I liked about this curriculum, is that each unit starts with a story.  The story has a global connection; this one is set in Australia! Each story has a real world problem which the kids are able to create solutions for.  The materials are easy to find, relatively cheap, and easy to use.

Next to introduce the engineering design process.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

STEAM school update

My school is quickly diving into being a STEAM school - something I am really excited about!  We wanted to really BE a STEAM school and not just SAY we are a STEAM school and that has taken some planning, thinking, and reflection.  Luckily, my school already has some AMAZING curriculum resources available to help with this endeavor and we think we have the perfect combination to create a really good program.

S = Science - FOSS science kits and science notebooks (K-5)
T = Technology - Lego robotics, squishy circuits, hummingbird kit, 3-D printer
E = Engineering - Engineering is Elementary
A = Arts - CETA program (in conjunction with the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC)
M = Mathematics - Investigations program (by TERC)

Top this off with a really good reading curriculum (FINALLY) provided by Benchmark Literacy that allows us to integrate science and literacy easily and effectively.

So what is this approach going to look like? It will look different at each level.  Our primary teachers will continue to teach Science and Math using the curriculum tools available as well as adding in more time for science explorations and engineering.

We have purchased a few kits for the younger grades from EIE including:  Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills :Students explore how various materials catch the wind and then design their own small windmills.
This curriculum is perfectly aligned with Air and Weather (a FOSS kit) and can be used as a culminating lesson or stands on it's own as a week long unit.

Are you ready to learn some more about what is on the horizon in science education? I'm back and ready to roll!

See you soon....