Snowflakes Across the Curriculum

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.  STEAM lessons cross the curriculum and integrate these different components into one lesson.  Fifth graders recently completed a STEAM lesson all about snowflakes and this post will better illustrate STEAM in action.


Right before the Christmas break,  fifth grade students were put into groups.  The students were handed supplies like coffee filters, small cups, food coloring, scissors, cone shaped cups, plastic gloves, and markers.  Ms. Jay led the class in a discussion about the supplies and what they would be used for.  The class was to cut snowflake shapes from the coffee filters and hypothesize and test different dying techniques to test what methods worked best.

The real fun began as students mixed the food coloring with water and started creating colors.


Some groups decided to cut snowflake shapes first while others decided to dye the coffee filters first.   Some groups even did it both ways.


By the end of the lesson students determined better dying results and prettier snowflakes resulted from cutting the shape before dying.  Students took the lesson further by testing to see if marker colored snowflakes would reflect light through a window better than the food colored ones.


Math was integrated into the lesson by discussions of symmetry.



Who Knew Math Could Be This Fun?

The 8th grade is studying symmetry in math class.  They recently learned about three kinds of symmetry, including reflection (or mirror) symmetry  and had some fun taking photos with mirror symmetry!  They also learned that kaleidoscopes have both mirror AND rotational symmetry, and turned one of our calculators into a kaleidoscope.





The Science House at TLC

Recently several Learning Center teachers participated in a training with The Science House, an outreach program operated by NC State.  “The Science House exists to: 1) Cultivate and diversify the pool of students pursuing degrees and careers in STEM fields, 2) Improve the quality of teaching and learning in STEM education and 3) Communicate innovative scientific and educational research to the public.”

What does that mean for our students?  Our trained teachers are able to borrow equipment from The Science House that we would not normally be able to use, including laptop computers, data loggers and many probes to make different measurement science and math experiments.  This is the type of technology  that scientists use for “real” science experiments, so the use of these items gives our students the opportunity to handle the equipment and see how it works.

In these pictures, students in Chris Crayton’s math class are studying linear relationships using motion detectors.  The data collected by the motion detectors is shown on a graph on the computer immediately, so the students can tell instantly how their movement changes their graph.  For example, they discovered through experimentation that steady movement toward to away from the motion detector created a straight line on their graph.  The students were asked to create graphs of different shapes by changing their movement, and to make calculations from their data and compare that to the calculations that the computer made for their graphs.

Please see for more information about The Science House program.

Second Grade Makes National Aviation Day a Science Lesson

In honor of National Aviation Day, second grade did a study on the Wright Brothers and air as matter.  Ms. Stephanie made this lesson cross the curriculum to include math, science, technology, art and engineering.  [Thus becoming a STEAM lesson! Use the category selector over in the right hand sidebar on this blog to select STEAM to see other lessons and the amazing things our teachers are introducing your students to!]

The STEAM lesson included:  reading books on the Wright Brothers, a special lesson on the Wright Brothers and how they relate to our state, read the poem Who Has Seen the Wind?,  studying air in science with two stations — one with balloons with air and another with balloons with air and water,  learned that air is matter as is has mass, volume, and occupies space, and made their own dart planes.

Students also did two separate flight tests of  with their dart planes  – one with just a paper airplane and the other with a paperclip attached – and then recorded distance and duration of flight.

Second Grade Studies Sound

Second grade has been studying sound in science class and Ms. Stephanie included the study across the curiculum.

Their sound study included:

  1. Smart Board interactive activity on sound, pitch, vibrations, and volume
  2. Science Stations: two stations related to pitch and two stations related to vibration
  3. They used their science notebooks to record pre-investigations, investigations, and post-investigations.

STEAM Lesson Including Alice in Wonderland

[STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. STEAM lessons cross the curriculum and integrate science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.  Today fifth grade teacher, Ms. Jay, shares her recent STEAM project that included a trip to Wonderland!]

After reading the first two chapters of Alice in Wonderland, in Guided Reading, these fifth grade students had to build a freestanding structure in Science. The students were completing a STEAM activity by building a freestanding tower to help Alice reach the key on the table; after she drunk the potion that made her too small to reach it. Using only 1 piece of card stock, 10 paperclips, and 1 pair of scissors (along with their chair to act like the table) the students, in partners, had to build a freestanding structure to reach the key (made out of construction paper by the students). Then the students had to measure their towers and record all of their design and how they did it in their science notebooks.   Next week students will determine which tower was the tallest by making a graph to compare the data.

Middle School STEAM

[STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.  On this day, Ms. Jamie had a group of mixed grade math students from 5th-8th grades.  Here is what Ms. Jamie had to say.]

Today in our math groups we were exploring area, perimeter, and circumference.  I had the students create their dream house.  We reviewed floor plans and why they are necessary and discussed how they were not drawn to scale.  Throughout those conversations we discussed what jobs would complete such tasks.  The dream house that they created had to have:

*9 rooms

*1 pool

*1 pond

*1 fence

*side walk

*1 garden

Plus students needed to figure:

How much land will be needed?

How much carpet/tiling will be needed?

How many walls will it have?

How much area will be needed to cover with grass seed?

How much wallpaper will be needed?

What will be planted in the garden?

What fraction of the total area does the house represent?


They used different objects around the room to trace to stand for various items in their yards, along with using rulers and others means of measuring.


Getting Their Hands Dirty in Math

[Recently Ms. Jamie took her math students outside to get their hands dirty.  Math in the garden?  All part of TLC’s garden based learning approach.  Here is what Ms. Jamie had to say.]

We’ve been working on statistics in math and reviewed the following definitions: mean, median, mode, and range.  I decided to take this project to the garden and use plant growth to apply statistics to the real world.  We used the mimio board to create a chart for each student where they will keep information about their plant growth.  After that, we discussed which steps we need to take to grow a plant.

Once we got outside we had to clear out a little plot.  Many of them were hesitant at first but student participation slowly increased.  Then after we put down some mulch each of the students planted their own seeds to (hopefully) grow Zinnias.

Once these plants start to pop up from the ground, we are going to chart out the plant growth and eventually use the data to create a  graph of the growth along with the mean, median, mode, and range of the data set.  If all goes well we will be able to talk about what variables play a part in the plant growth.

Making Math Fun

Upper grade students have been studying statistics and probability in math class and Ms. Chris knew it was time for students to generate some of their own data.  Using Barbie dolls and rubber bands for bungee cords,  they “jumped” the Barbies using different lengths of rubber band chains.  Students then measured the distance each Barbie fell.  Using the data they collected, students were then able to find statistics about the jumping Barbies as well as study the probability of certain outcomes.




4th Grade STEAM Project #2

Fourth graders have embraced the STEAM concept fully and look to turn any project into a STEAM project.  Recently they worked on making three and four sided figures using pattern blocks.  They had to use at least two shapes for each of their polygons.  Several students were working on their three sided figures and realized that they could keep adding shapes to make the figure bigger.  The kids got so excited when one student made a nineteen piece triangle, and the competition was on!

Next thing we knew, we had 26, 30, 32, 46….up to a 71-piece triangle! Two students started making the longest quadrilaterals out of triangles and rhombuses, then others moved on to making a quadrilateral out of rhombus shapes and had to stop at 107 pieces!