My STEM Units

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

STEM Summer Reading: Part 3

Summer Break has started and teachers are settling into their "real people" lives.  You know "real people".  They have time to go to the dentist, shop leisurely at the mall, and sleep in late (gasp!).  Yes, teachers are real people too.

By now, some teachers have already finished their first book.  They are looking for the next book to read to help them reach "that one student" and to "make school more meaningful".

Recently, I spoke with some STEM experts about what they are reading for summer.  Below is a list of what we are reading:

Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds

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.

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.  Later this week, I will have the opportunity to share STEM with teachers from around the state.  I will use this book to show how a book can launch a STEM unit; after all, we can't expect students to do something if we don't do it first.

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!

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

I just finished this book (ok, it was a quick read), and I can't wait to use it for teacher training!  "Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she's a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer.  When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal -to fly- Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt's dream come true.  In the process, Rosie learns the only real failure for an inventor is giving up."

The moral of the story is quite poignant; one that deserves attention all it's own.  Think of the life applications of this story!  If you order directly from the author's site, you gain access to lesson plans.  Click here to visit her site.  They have done a great job of including lesson ideas for everything from math, art, social studies, and science.

Literacy for Science: Exploring the Intersection of the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core for ELA Standards: A Workshop Summary by Holly Rhodes and Michael Feder

Well, the title just sort of sums it up, doesn't it?  I'll be honest, I'm not done with this one yet, but I am so excited.  The free pdf explains how Common Core ELA standards weave together with the Next Generation Science Standards.  There is one chapter devoted to exemplars at each grade level.  Coming from a National Board Advanced Candidate in Literacy/English Language Arts who is employed as a STEM Curriculum Developer, this "book" excites me to no end.

Gotta go.  The books are lovely, bright, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and pages to read before I sleep, and pages to read before I sleep.

What are you reading this summer?  Join the conversation at  
Read the whole series:

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