Solar System STEAM Project in 3rd Grade

[STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.  It’s an approach to learning we take seriously here at TLC!  Use the category selector drop down menu over in the right hand sidebar to select “STEAM” to learn more.  The pictures and words to today’s post come directly from third grade teacher Ms. Stephanie.]


The third grade class recently completed a two week STEAM project all about solar systems.  They had so much FUN!  It began in writing where for two weeks each student spent time researching a particular planet and making a large brochure on their planet.


In Guided Reading, the class read the chapter book   Magic School Bus, Space Explorers.  Each day, the children had a comprehension activity to do with each chapter.


They did an interactive study through the SMART board on each individual planet, asteroids, meteors, comets, etc.  The class also participated in a scavenger hunt where the children had to locate solar system cards and match up the correct answer from the cards on their scavenger hunt recording sheets.

To incorporate math, the class used solar system facts to learn about distance, diameter, length- miles, hours, months, years.

Individually, the children created their own posters/diagrams of the solar system.   In small groups, they had to sketch out and plan a detailed diagram of the solar system, including the asteroid belt, planets’ moons, exact colors, etc. Then, with clay, they had to create 3-D diagrams of what they sketched and planned out.  The 3-D diagrams had to be realistic in color, completely labeled, and detailed.




First Grade STEAM Project #10 – Chinese New Year

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEAM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #10.]

Our STEAM project this week revolved around Chinese New Year!  First, we talked about the Chinese zodiac and read what the different animals mean.  We talked about how the Chinese zodiac is similar to astrological horoscope signs.



Then, we decided to sort the animals according to color.  After sorting, we talked about the five major groups of animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds-we very briefly talked about invertebrate).  With a little guidance, the kids actually came up with these on their own!  Then, we sorted the creatures of the Chinese zodiac into the appropriate groups.  Someone started to put the dragon under reptiles.  We talked about how dragons are actually fictional, but we all agreed that if it were an animal, it would probably be a reptile because of its scaly skin.  After sorting them, we made a line plot of the animals represented in the Chinese zodiac and analyzed the results of that.  Next, we sorted a variety of other animals into the same five categories.  I threw in some insects to try to throw them off and then we discussed invertebrates in a little more detail.  We then compared two animals from the Chinese zodiac using a Venn diagram.  The students were then given the instructions for their project.



The students had to secretly pick their favorite creature from the Chinese zodiac and make a mask to represent that creature.  Each group was given a variety of items to use in creating their masks.  We wore these masks in our Chinese New Year parade.

When we returned to the classroom, we took turns guessing what creature each person made and recorded these on another line plot.  When the line plot was finished, we analyzed the data and concluded that the tiger was the most liked creature of the Chinese zodiac in our classroom.


Full STEAM Ahead in 3rd Grade

[If you’ve been a regular reader of this Grow Zone blog then you know that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Enegineering and Mathematics and is an integrated, cross cirricular approach to teaching that implements higher cognitive skills for students and enables them to inquire and use techniques used by professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields.  The administration and staff at The Learning Center have taken STEM one step further by including “A” for art.  STEM has now become STEAM!  Your first introduction to STEAM is with this post from third grade teacher Ms. Stephanie. ]


 First:  We read a non-fiction book (Caldecott Medal winner) titled Snowflake Bentley, which is about the life of Wilson A. Bentley and the work he did photographing ice crystals in Vermont back in the 1800s and early 1900s.  The book lead into a discussion about magnifiers and how the camera in the 1800s depended upon an attached microscope to be able to take such detailed photographs of ice crystals.

Second: We talked about the intricacies of snow and how no two have ever been observed as being identical and how the power of ‘observation’ is important in Science (related to Snowflake Bentley).

Third: I introduced an activity where we would be making “snow” in class.  I introduced an observation sheet where the children had to observe the “snow” in powder form, count the number of drops it took to hydrate the powder, how much snow ½ teaspoon of the powder would make, etc.

Fourth:  I did a lesson on how to measure accurately and why it is important when conducting experiments, etc.  We then transitioned into a measuring lesson on 1/8, ¼, 1/3, ½, ¾, and 1 cup- how many 1/8 it took to equal 1 cup, how many ¼ it took, etc.  Then we moved into a similar lesson with teaspoons and tablespoons (had to use 1/8 teaspoon and 1/8 cup for the experiment). 

Fifth:  The children were given cups, powder, eye droppers, magnifiers, and a recording sheet.  They had to observe the powder before hydrating it, make predictions, feed the powder water, track their water amounts and make further observations after the powder was given water and turned into “snow.”  The children had to record each step on their experiment/observation sheets. We closed by making a gaint batch of snow for the class, the students were encouraged to share their observations and each child was given 2 cups of “snow” to take home and enjoy.

It was a lot of fun and the students LOVED it.

First Grade STEM Project #9

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #9.]


We spent the week learning about snow because we began our Polar Animal unit, and balance in science. On Monday we made fake snow. Each group collected their materials, water and a cup of super absorbent polymers. They had to measure out 32 ounces of water. Some groups only had 8 oz and 16 oz measuring cups so we made arrays to figure out how many times they needed to fill their measuring cups.

The kids predicted what would happen when they combined the materials they collected. A lot of kids thought it would make a paste some thought it would just dissolve in the water and make cloudy water. They were very surprised when the stuff grew wildly as it absorbed the water!

On Tuesday we experimented with balance. We read a book called Equal Schmequal to introduce balance. The kids determined that weight had to be distributed equally in order for something to be balanced based on the story! Then each student had to balance a cup, a book, and a paper on their heads and determine which was hardest and which was easiest to balance. On Wednesday, the kids did balance activities in PE. On Thursday, we did more balance lessons, this time with a balance beam, two different kinds of pan balances, and a number balance. They had to write sentences to describe items which they found had equal weights in our classroom. On Friday we brought the two things, snow and balance, together. We did an introduction to symmetry on the Mimio board. We then learned about snowflake symmetry, viewed some snowflakes on the Internet, and learned how to make snowflakes.

First Grade STEM Project #8

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #8.]


Whoa!  My kids are awesome!  This week was Christmas STEM!  We started off with the decorating the Christmas tree on the Mimio board according to the word problems.  They were all SO into this!  It was great to see them doing this mental math with multiple steps including addition and subtraction all mixed together.  We even did some counting in Spanish!



Then, we read the book What Makes A Magnet?  I asked them to find the connection between magnets and Christmas while I read this book and they were quick to learn that earth is a giant magnet with the North Pole at one end!  I then introduced the STEM project.  The kids had to make a Christmas tree and 15 ornaments.  The tree and ornaments were to be made into magnets and then the kids had to find something that their magnets would stick to.  Then they would make up word problems for each other to solve using their trees.  They were given a stencil of a Christmas tree to trace on cardstock and were asked to find an item that they could trace onto colored cardstock to make 15 ornaments.  The ornaments had to fit so they had to test them to make sure they would all fit on the tree but also be big enough to fit on the small magnets that I cut.  Many kids used buttons to trace, some used erasers, one thought of using dice.  Once the magnets were made, they had to find something magnetic.  Some kids noticed that the doors to the outside were magnetic, many used filing cabinets, one pair used the top to the button tin!  We broke for snack, watched some videos of magnetic people, then got back to our trees. Now, the students had to make up math problems with their partner and solve them using their Christmas trees and ornaments! 

First Grade STEM Project #7

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #7]

STEM was so fun and successful this week!!!!!  This week’s focus was on seasons.  One science experiment we did earlier in the week was to predict how molecules would move in both hot water and cold water.  Several kids predicted that they would move faster in the hot water because they thought that the hot water would melt it quicker!  We dropped food coloring into a container of cold water and also a container of hot water and compared how it flowed throughout.  Obviously, the food coloring moved quicker in the hot water.  We compared how this might relate to our bodies.  Students said that the food coloring could represent our blood and the containers our bodies.  I asked how our bodies might function when warm compared to cold.  They totally made the connection that things might flow better in our bodies when warm.   We continued to talk about how to keep our bodies at the right temperature during the hottest and coldest seasons and a few days later we predicted if colors could affect temperatures.  

We did another experiment with two containers of water.  One container had black paper wrapped around it, the other did not.  We took a base temperature of both and set them outside in the sun.  We took the temperatures of both containers at the end of the day and took the differences between the morning and afternoon temperatures and learned that the temperature of the container covered in paper increased more than the other.

So, with these connections,  we did one final project on Friday.  Each group was secretly assigned a season.  They had to make collages that represented their seasons by cutting pictures out of magazines.  They had to include food, activities, words, and clothing.  Once these were completed, the collages were cut into fourths.  The groups were switched up.  The new groups had a piece of each group’s collages.  These pieces were glued down on a piece of cardboard and the groups had to decide which collage piece represented which season.  They labeled the seasons and wrote down their proofs on another piece of paper.  They then shared the final product with the rest of the class.  Totally awesome!



First Grade STEM Project #6


[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #6]

We’ve been learning about apples for a few weeks.  We’ve read fiction and nonfiction books about apples in guided reading and self-selected reading.  We learned about the life cycle of an apple, read diagrams of apple cross sections,  and made apple sauce in science.  On Friday, we continued our subtraction lessons with some apple subtraction on the Mimio board.  Then, we had an apple taste test between Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith Apples.  We then made a bar graph on the Mimio board.  Granny Smith apples won!  They’re my favorite too!  After spending some time discussing the data, we transferred the bar graph information to individual picto-graphs that the kids completed themselves.  Once these were finished we read a book called Eating Fractions.  We then did some fraction work on the Mimio board, focusing on ½ and ¼.  Then, we made apple prints and labeled them with the fraction they showed, either ½ or ¼. 










First Grade STEM Project #5

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #5]

For our STEM project this week we first filled in a graph of different bats’ wingspans.  We analyzed the graph and talked about how bats’ wingspans are measured.  In the graph, the wingspans were measured in inches so we talked about how this is a standard unit of measurement and how inches can be found on the rulers that we have in school.   We compared inches to centimeters and determined that inches were bigger. 


I used a bat from an activity that we did early in the week to demonstrate how to measure the wingspans from tip to tip in inches under the document camera.   Each child was secretly assigned a bat from the 6 listed on the graph.  They then had to make a bat with the correct wingspan to match what it said on the graph.  

I showed them how to measure out the number of inches by marking from the zero on the ruler to the number representing the length of the bat’s wingspan.  We also talked about where to start measuring with the ruler because many children thought they either had to start at 1 or at the end of the ruler.  I showed them how some rulers have their zero at the very end, but some have space between the end and the zero. 


So once this was discussed the children marked their bat’s wingspan and connected the marks like a rainbow and finished off drawing their bats.  They had to measure to make sure the wingspan was correct before they cut their bats out.   Once all the bats were cut out, we switched bats with another student.  The students then had to measure another student’s bat to figure out which bat they had made by comparing the measurement to the graph.  Pretty cool stuff.

Freaky Friday always follows STEM and this week was super fun.  We took the kids to The Outdoor Learning Center to make bat boxes!  Eighth grade science teacher Ms. Chris was our volunteer for the week.  She showed the kids a completed bat box, talked about bat boxes a bit, and then we divided the class into two groups.  Each child had several turns whacking the nails into the boxes. 



What an awesome wrap up to a batty week!

First Grade STEM Project #4

[This is the fourth STEM project happening in first grade this year.  Be sure to check out the others by selecting STEM from the category selector over on the right sidebar.  This was written and submitted by first grade teacher, Ms. Darea]

This week’s STEM project revolved around leaves! 

The kids headed to The Outdoor Learning Center on Tuesday with their science notebooks.


Each student was given a green leaf.  In the screen house, we wrote down our pre-investigation in our science journals.  The investigation was to first predict what color their leaf was going to change in the fall and then to find a colorful match to their leaf. 



The next day, we went to The Outdoor Learning Center to collect some pretty leaves.  The plan was to bring them back to the classroom and spend some time identifying them.  But, we were having too much fun collecting to get back to the classroom in time!




On Thursday, half of the class stayed with me to identify their leaves, while the rest went with Ms. Gale to collect yet another leaf for their art project on Friday.  The students had to find leaves that would fit on an index card, so first they measured the index card with paper clips to see how long their leaf could be.  Then they took their paper clip chain out with them to find the perfect leaf.  When they were done, we switched groups.   Ms. Gale had made a book of leaves she had identified for a class and we used this to help with our identification.  I put it under the document camera.  This was much easier for them to handle than a typical field guide.


I then ironed the leaves between two pieces of wax paper.  I stapled a border around the edges and the students wrote the names of their leaves around the edge.  These made beautiful window decorations!


On Friday, for art, the kids did leaf rubbings with the leaf they previously collected and measured.  These rubbings were put on cards which will be used in writing in a few weeks when we learn how to write friendly letters!


For our final leaf project, we went to The Outdoor Learning Center to collect one last leaf. 


We used these leaves for a variety of math activities.


We did many things with our leaves one collected like measure the leaves with cubes to see how long they were, figure out the area of the leaves by covering them with pennies, count how long it took our leaf to fall to the floor when dropped, and measure how many pennies it would take to sink our leaves.

All of this information was recorded in our leaf books!



Once we completed all of these activities, we gathered data from the class about how many pennies it took to fill our leaves and made a line plot on the mimeo board.


 When looking at the line plot many kids were able to tell that the leaves which held only three pennies must have been pretty small leaves and the ones that held 25 or more pennies must have been pretty big leaves.  I asked what we could tell about leaves that held the same number of pennies.  One child said that maybe the leaves were from the same kind of tree.  Another kid said that we could tell that the leaves were the same size.   

First Grade STEM Project #3

(This is the third STEM project Ms. Darea has led her first grade class on this year.  Be sure to use the category selector over on the right hand side of this blog to select STEM to read and see about the others.  Below you can read what Ms. Darea said about this weeks project.)

We began learning about forests in science, social stuides, and guided reading this week.  Throughout the week we talked about what we could find in forest habitats, what we can get from forests, and shelters that different animals use in forests.  Before we went to The Outdoor Learning Center on Thursday, we made predictions in our science notebooks about what kind of shelters we would find.  While we were out, the kids were eager to explore everything from holes in the trees to under rocks and inside logs.  We found some pretty cool things!  They drew their observations in their notebooks while they were out there and some kids couldn’t stop!  A few sat down on the deck to finish up drawing while waiting for Ms. Gale to get back with the key to the room.



On Friday we looked at our post-investigation in our science notebooks where we confirmed our predictions of animal shelters and added others we found.  The children then went back to their observations and counted the total number of individual animal shelters they found.  The students made picto-graphs of the data they collected and organized.  We then compiled the data as a whole class and used the Mimeo to make a tally chart of each shelter.  It was fun doing this.  We went from group to group adding aloud as each student said how many of a shelter they had recorded on their graphs.  The mental math was pretty amazing! 


When all the data was tallied up we discussed the results.  I asked why they thought rocks were used to frequently as shelters.  One child said, “because it’s easy to for small animals to get under there.”  Another students said, “it’s makes it hard for bigger animals to find them.”  I then asked why they thought logs had such a low number and a student said, “probably because there weren’t too many logs out there.”  When comparing the number of trees that were counted as shelters to the number of logs, one student said, “there are way more trees out there than logs!”  Wow!  What a great group of thinkers!