Dec 02

Paper Engineering – Creating Pop Up Cards

The last day of Girls STEM club was inspired by my recent experience at the Fingerlakes STEM Hub conference. It was a wonderful conference that I attended early this fall, where I had the chance to connect with colleges and other teachers, and also take home some pretty fantastic ideas for STEM. We had to design our own place cards at our table, and I thought it would be perfect to create holiday pop out cards.

Thanksgiving was this past week, so I was hoping the challenge would spark gratitude to all the people we love in our lives.

Addison, my daughter, joined in on the fun.

Here is what the girls created:







The trick for the girls was to cut equal size slits. They also had to pay close attention to the length of their designs and the weight of the paper. There sure is a lot to think about when designing the perfect card. Luckily, these girls are always up for a challenge. I am sad this first STEM club is over, but I look forward to the next!

Nov 20

Exploring testable questions with Orbeez

It’s been a while since my little STEM club had a good science expiriment, so I decided I wanted to do one this week. I though about what to do,and with the idea of Science Fair looming in the back of my mind, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce the girls to what a testable question is.
My hardest task was to find something with enough “cool-factor” and appeal to get these girls motivated after school. Orbeez popped in my head because my four year old daughter can’t seem to get enough of them. They are very cool and the possibility of questions are endless!

I set a huge bowl of them in front of the girls and they definitely knew what they were and what toys they go with. I think one girl told me they are for putting your feet in. I have to say, I think I saw that toy at Target!
The girls took a few minutes to feel them, squeeze them a little, and observe. We talked about how these beads abosorb water through the process of osmosis. They were instructed to share any questions they might have about the beads. I wrote down all the questions they had.

“What are they made of, how big can they get, will they grow in hot or cold water?” Were all questions they had, and I eagerly wrote them all down. After they came up with 10-15 questions, we went back through the list to determine what questions were “testable questions” and also what were testable for my limited time after school. (one girl wanted to know if you eat them, will you die? Even though that was certainly a testable question, I was NOT going to allow them to eat them!)

They got a chance to select which ones they would test, and we dove right into the scientific process. We submerged them in hot water, cold water, orange juice, milk, and we even had a control. We also took some ones that were full-size already, down to the freezer to see what would happen if we freeze them.

While we waited for our experiments, the kids were able to play! They could not keep thier hands off of them. What I loved is how excited they were to go back and peek at thier experiments.

We noticed right away that hot water worked very quickly making the beads grow. Much like our light experiment, the hot water made the individual molecules move quicker.

We also felt that cold water worked too, but the orange juice and milk were much more difficult to see the results.
When we took the beads out of the freezer, we observed that many were cracked. Elizabeth dropped one and it shattered right away!

Orbeez were a perfect STEM experiment and perfect for girls! We can’t wait for next week’s adventure!

Nov 14

One last Pigeon Adventure: Balloon Lego Cars. STEM for Girls activity

As I thought about what to do this past week for STEM club, I couldn’t help but want to give the pigeon one last adventure. (The pigeon is carried over from our last week’s book Don’t let the Pigeon Ride the Bus ). The girls settled in to hear about the story and new STEM task that awaited them – the pigeon wanted to drive a race car! The task was to build a car out of legos for the pigeon, but how would it get its power to go fast? Thats when I gave them the idea of a Lego ballon race car. All girls LOVE balloons (more than they love pigeons).



We discussed how to build it and what we had to consider for our design. Once we had an idea, we went downstairs to the Lego table. The girls wanted to get their hands on the balloon, but I wouldn’t allow them until their car was built.

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They started to select wheels, and to my surprise, they all started testing what to use in oder to have a hole for the ballon end.

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Elizabeth and Olivia went for windows – pretty clever.

The girls today were all about simplicity. Once their lego car was complete (with pigeon attached) they started to do some test runs.


During the test runs they realized – Lego cars are difficult! The balloons did not cooperate and they kept going back to fix their designs.

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Out of the 4 Pigeon Balloon cars that raced, only two were successful at even moving. Madison’s went 49 inches and Elizabeths went 8.

Perhaps the pigeon should just stick to driving buses after all!

Oct 31

Pigeons and parachutes continue

This week in STEM club the girls, in true engineer form, continued thier pigeon parachutes by adding some modifications. They spent the first few minutes perfecting their parachutes and testing them out.

This was the perfect opportunity to talk about the word drag. The girls learned that drag is air resistance. They know the more drag you have against your parachute, the safer your pigeon will land.
Margo explained the concept with this picture.

We sent our new parachutes down the 3 story bell tower once again and,to our surprise, all the girl ‘s pigeon flights improved! They all floated to safety at a slower pace.

The flights took on average 6 seconds to our record high of 8.3 seconds (Elizabeth’s parachute) the girls went back to the classroom and calculated the difference in thier times. They knew to subtract to find the difference and that would tell them how many seconds thier parachute improved by. For many of them the concept of subtracting with decimals was new to them. Math is fun when you are doing pigeon math!
We ended our time with an open Lego time. Way to go girls!

Oct 23

Day 4 Pigeons and Parachutes. Building your own parachute STEM activity

Today was a great day in STEM club.  We started with pigeons and ended with parachutes and had a whole lot of laughter along the way!


The inspiration for the parachutes I cannot take credit for. Our head of Lower School came up with the book and our starting point.  It is pretty safe to say she shares my same appreciation for unconventional humor.  She suggested “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”  and I knew it was perfect!  I LOVE that pigeon and if there is a way to bring him to 3rd and 4th graders, then I am happy to share it!  Why should preschoolers only have the pigeon books?  Everyone needs a good pigeon story in their life.

Mo WIlliems created the most lovable character of the pigeon.  His humor is like none other and that is what makes his series of books so popular.  The pigeon (which is hysterical, no matter your age) wants to drive a bus in the worst way.  It is a book that kids finally can say no to.  (AND they do!)


At the end of the story, I changed it to have the pigeon dream of flying a parachute.   The girls task was to finally let the pigeon get his way and design a parachute for him.  They had to build it in the safest way possible and try and make their parachute the slowest to drop from a 3 story flight.


They were very invested in this task and immediately dove into work.  I was amazed  how the girls took different materials and immediately started testing them in the air.



Maddy had her own plan (she told me she loves to make parachutes and send them off her balcony at home). She used her past success and went right for the plastic grocery bag.


Margo used a tissue, Olivia used a coffee filter, and Elizabeth used a plate.

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I even decided to join in on the fun an created one out of paper.  Mine looked like a paper jellyfish and it did not do well in my initial test run.  I knew my poor pigeon was in for one wild ride!


Once they were finished, we took them to the top of our 3 story bell tower and timed each pigeon’s adventure  to the ground.  The flights ranged from 6.5 seconds, with Maddy’s amazingly safe design, to 3.5 seconds (which was mine of course – yes the teachers was the WORST.  Boy did the girls LOVE that).


This lesson will continue next week.  After we let our parachutes drop a few times, we went back to add changes to make it better.  The girls will discuss what made the parachutes work the best and why.  We will also record and calculate the difference in our flights with the changes.  Our pigeons are safe for now, but the girls cannot wait to get their pigeons flying again!

Oct 17

Day 3 – Light Exploration. Testing glow sticks and building with Laser pegs light testable questions

Today I decided to do something a bit different for our STEM club. Instead of starting with a story, I decided to open the club with a science experiment. We were exploring the chemical reaction of light! It sounds complicated, yes, but if it is using glow sticks- that has girls STEM written all over it. Glow sticks are not complicated. Glow sticks are just plain fun!

I laid the glow sticks on the table and I got four “ooooooooohs” in unison. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on them. (Literally!)


After settling on their favorite color, we got down to the discussion part. What happens to a glow stick when you break it? Can you make it glow brighter? After some discussion they agree they thought it was possible to make it glow brighter…. but how? Baking soda, regular soda and a few other items I did not have in my classroom were suggested. Finally, one suggested water. We have water!!! But what type of water would make it work? Hot water? Cold water? or just room temperature water? The girls discussed and made their predictions. They all thought hot water would work.


We tested them and the results were clear almost immediately. The sticks placed in warm water were remarkably brighter. So how does this happen?




In general, the speed of a chemical reaction increases as the temperature increases. At a higher temperature, a larger fraction of the reacting molecules have sufficient energy to react upon collision; thus, at a higher temperature, the glow is brighter. The opposite happens at lower temperatures.

We talked about this a bit and then connected it to regular light bulbs. The hot water acts just like a battery would for a lightbulb. An outside source of energy excites atoms, causing them to release particles of light called photons. No… I did not use those exact words, but yes… they could see how the battery helped the lightbulb light up, just like heat caused the chemical reaction to interact more.

They were proud that their predictions were correct and they were then ready for the next task – building!
They each were given light-up legos called Laser Pegs to build with. They had to build a structure that would use the glow stick in some way.

They drove right in the task and the lights were exciting. This surprisingly caused them to bust into some impromptu christmas music. Since I was in no way, shape, or form in the mood to have “jingle bells” stuck in my head, I decided they should sing Halloween music. Not surprisingly, the 2nd grade overnight song began to fill the room.

Here is what the girls built:

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The Eiffel Tower, a torch, and more!  It was a fantastic afternoon.

Oct 09

2nd Day of STEM Club – building with Bionic Blox

Being a teacher, I am always on the lookout for the next great  educational toy.  When I wanted to add more STEM toys to my classroom, I went on the internet to find one or two really cool toys to buy.  (It was during the summer and I had plenty of time to research.)  That is when I stumbled upon Bionic Blox.

Bionic Blox are connector pieces to wooden blocks (like Keva Blocks). Children quickly and easily connect BionicStars with wooden blocks to build structures as big as they are! Masterpieces can be moved, saved, admired and added anytime, without risk of a collapse. The innocent pet cat or the curious younger sibling will not cause them to fall.  In a classroom with moving children, these seemed like the answer to many squabbles.

I ordered some and I admit I spent a few hours myself, with my 4 year old daughter, constructing and enjoying the possibilities.  Since I liked them so much, I wanted to make sure my STEM girls club had the chance to play with them.  (After all, they did get awarded the #1 STEM toy of the year.)


We started our club by reading the book Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin.  The girls giggled as they listened to the story of Farmer Brown and how his cows and hens found a typewriter and sent him a note demanding electric blankets.  The cows and hens went on strike until their requests were met.  In the end, they got what they wanted.


I added a separate note that said that the horses request a new barn to be built.  The girls task was to design a very cool barn for them.  Bionic bloxs are perfect for constructing barns.

Here is what the girls built:


Maddy’s barn had stables, jumps, and gates. I love how she turned some of the blocks into horses. Such an imagination!


Olivia and Elizabeth’s Barn was inspired by some girl power music. They went big! This barn was huge with many stables, places for food, flatscreen TVs and a place with a roof. Great teamwork!


Olivia and Elizabeth’s Barn


Margo decided not to use many bionic blox because she liked just the plain blocks. She created a barn with stabled and rooms for food.

Here is the building process!

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Overall, this was a great experience.  Next time I need to remember to bring play horses.  We LOVE these bionic blox!

Oct 09

Our first STEM task. Finishing a Story with Legos!

Legos are great.  They are classic and never go out of style.  I remember as a child digging through a giant bin of mismatched lego pieces at my grandmother’s house and being entertained for hours.  The challenge for girls is to make them more appealing.  I have a bin of legos in my classroom, and when the kids have choice time, the boys gravitate right towards them.  I really want the girls in my class to be just as excited about legos.


Girls do enjoy building, but they like to story-tell along the way.  My challenge for this club was to build upon strengths girls already have.   In general, girls at the age of 8 and 9 tend to surpass the boys in their class in reading , writing, and language.  I have a girl at home myself, and she is never at a loss for what to say.  I wanted to take what I already know about girls and then use it as a foundation for  my STEM club.


We started with the most inspiring, girl-power story I know.  It is called The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.   I read the story to the girls first.  It is a great story about how Princess Elizabeth’s castle was destroyed by a fire-breathing dragon.  The dragon stole her one true love, Prince Ronald.  Well, Princess Elizabeth was much too smart for the dragon and tricked him into falling asleep.  She managed to save the prince, but he was so ungrateful that she called him a bum and decided not to marry him after all.



The girls were given the task of finishing the story and creating a new kingdom for princess Elizabeth.  They selected their own princess and began to finish the story.  It was so exciting to see just how serious they took this task.  They came up with their own plan and design and got to work.

Here is what they came up with!


Elizabeth built a wonderful castle with an elevator and made sure her princess had plenty of guards


Maddy’s castle had many windows and the princess had her own car


Olivia’s castle had it’s own loft with staircase and a bedroom. She also worked to make sure her princess had a flatscreen tv!


Margot’s castle was simple but secure. She made sure her castle had a bedroom for the princess and a storage place for her treasure.

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The girls worked well together and had a lot of fun.  The last few minutes of STEM club, we took the time to share what we did.  Each girl had a chance to speak and finish the story.  I think Princess Elizabeth will go on to live a very happy life in her new home!

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