My STEM Units

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Read Across America, STEM style

Will you be celebrating Read Across America in your classroom?  Every year, thousands of classrooms (across the WORLD) celebrate reading on or around March 2nd.

In my ten years as an educator, I have seen a multitude of ways to celebrate Dr. Seuss and his contribution to reading.  Schools hold assemblies.  Some show Dr. Seuss videos.  Others have guest speakers come and read their favorite book to students.  Many have parties.  Quite a few of them include "Cat in the Hat" hats.  Cafeterias serve green eggs and ham.  I have seen DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) days with jammies and hot chocolate.  I have even seen STEM.  STEM?  Yes, STEM.

Are you familiar with Dr. Suess's book Bartholomew and the Oobleck?  In the story, oobleck falls from the sky.  "What is oobleck?", your students are bound to ask.  Why not use that book as an opener for a science lesson on states of matter?  Give your students the recipe and have them decide which it is; solid or liquid?  Note: you can have the students make the oobleck in a zippered baggie to keep things clean.  However, they won't get the full effect.

Oobleck is actually a non-Newtonian substance that behaves like a liquid and a solid, but your students will gain great experience in making observations, listing qualities, and debating back and forth while they try to answer that question.

To bring in an element of Math, you can alter the recipe and/or tools.  For instance, I kept the recipe at 1 1/2 cups, but only gave them a 1/4 measuring cup.  They had to figure out how many 1/4 cups go into 1 1/2 cups.  Or you could write the recipe as an improper fraction, 6/4 cups.

  1. Mix 1 part water with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch. You may wish to start with one cup of water and one and a half cups of cornstarch, then work in more cornstarch if you want a more 'solid' oobleck. It will take about 10 minutes of mixing to get nice homogeneous oobleck.
  2. Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.

Literature is the link between Read Across America and STEM.  In all my years with students, when I have asked, "what was your favorite book this year?", never have I heard someone list the basal.  Mostly, I hear the class novels with which we did Literature Studies and sometimes they listed fiction books they read on their own.

If you aren't quite sure how to link a STEM lesson to literature, there are many books on the market that come with lessons already scripted.  The popular Picture-Perfect Science Lessons series offers just that.  They have books for K-5 and books more narrowed down to grade level bands K-2 and 3-5.  Click here for a link.  The National Science Teachers Association has produced their own book on the subject as well.  Teaching Science Through Trade Books offers lessons for grade bands K-3 and 4-6 with lessons and student engagement strategies.

Perhaps you already know which book you want to use for Read Across America Day and are just looking for a STEM lesson plan.  You can use 's website.  They have compiled lesson plans, searchable by book title.  Click here to go to the page.  When you select a title, you will be directed to a page with details.  After reading the synopsis, if you want to use that book, click "Go to Activity".  You can print the PDF file for use on Read Across America Day.

This year, I have decided to focus on Engineering for Read Across America. Read here to see the books and curriculum that accompany our celebrations this year.
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