My STEM Units

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Going Places with STEM

Chances are high school students have heard about STEM.  Surely our university students have been exposed to the acronym which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  But what about Kindergartners?  Is there such a thing as STEM in the primary grades?

As you scroll through my previous blog posts, you will no doubt see that STEM is alive and well in elementary schools!  In fact, they do it very well.  They run into obstacles in their designs daily but never give up nor pout.  They simply return to the engineering process and modify their design.  I am amazed at their creativity and ability to "think outside the box". 

So, how to introduce STEM to elementary students?  In 4th and 5th grades, I like to start with a novel they have read or are going to read.  For instance, our current 4th grade STEM unit branches off The City of Ember book by Jeanne DuPrau to teach renewable forms of energy.  In 2nd and 3rd grades, I like to use their classroom reading book.  For instance, the informational text about students raising butterflies launched our Cycles of Life STEM unit in 3rd grade.  But for Kindergarten and 1st grade, I like to use picture books. 

One of my (new) favorite books to incorporate STEM is Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds.  These brother writers/illustrators tell a story of
"creative spirit, collaboration, and thinking-both figuratively and literally-outside the box."
Watch this short video:

The book is just as riveting.  Imagine yourself reading this book aloud to a room full of eager 1st graders.  Now, imagine their faces as you hand them a box.  A box full of what? you ask. Anything!  Legos, K'Nex, blocks, paperclips, tape, you name it!  If you order directly from the author, you also get access to teacher activities. 

STEM is not only for high schoolers and beyond.  STEM can be very successful in the early grades.  Start with picture books, give them some supplies, and get out of their way.  They are going places!

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 STEM 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 in the classroom.

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