Category : Science

Viewing a rocket launch

Space Shuttle AtlantisIf you live in Central Florida, or if you ever find yourself in the area, you might consider taking your kids or students to see a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. It’d say “It’s a blast!”, but then you’d probably send me hate mail and unfriend me on Facebook.

Last week I visited the Kennedy Space Center with some friends. My friends live and work in the United Kingdom, and as such had not checked out the Kennedy Space Center before. Our family got annual passes some years ago and been to the center several times, but it is always interesting to visit the complex, especially (for me at least) the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. On this particular day our kids did not accompany me to visit the center – they had school that day.

When we arrived we learned that there was to be a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket later that evening. We decided we would take the shuttle to watch the launch. None of us had seen a rocket launch before – they don’t get that sort of thing in the UK, and while I do live here in Florida I had never gotten around to doing it. Maybe it was one of those “it’s always there if I ever want to do it, so no hurry” sorts of things. So after exploring the center we took the shuttle to the special viewing area and sat in the bleachers to watch the launch.

The launch went according to plan (well, okay, it was one minute late) and it was amazing. At first the flames appear, then the clouds of smoke start to billow beneath the rocket. The rocket slowly lifts into the sky, gradually picking up speed as it climbs. Then the noise hits you – a thunderous bass that shakes the bleachers even from far away (which is a good thing – being too close to a rocket launch will result in incineration or death by, believe it or not, ridiculously loud noise). As the rocket pierces the atmosphere it leaves behind a little wisp of cloud before it continues upward into space.

I’m hoping to take our own kids to the Kennedy Space Center to see a rocket launch someday soon. I think it is fascinating to see science in action, and the immense power of a space rocket in flight is breathtaking to experience. It also demonstrates how amazing we as a species have become at manipulating the materials of our world into amazing technology like space rockets, space shuttles, satellites, and telescopes to explore our universe. It also makes me think about STEM teaching, and of finding ways to introduce kids to different technologies by actually experiencing them – like exploring the insides of a computer, riding a high speed train, or watching something being manufactured at a plant. If you can think of any good ideas of this nature, please let me know!

P.S. One interesting site that a tour guide told us about at the Kennedy Space Center is Spaceflight Now. On this site you can see the various rocket launches that are scheduled throughout the world.

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Easter STEM

What’s better than STEM? Easter-themed STEM! Easter is a bit later this year and I like it because it’s not too close to St. Patrick’s Day so there is a lot of time to fully celebrate both holidays! I’m super excited with my new Easter STEM packet because my own children had so much fun making these challenges.

The first challenge is a Rocket Egg challenge. It’s really neat to see how innovated students can be when given a list of materials they can use and provided with a task.

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Creating an Easter Egg Tower is so much more difficult than you can imagine. I tried building a few and although I did have some successful ones, I had a lot of disasters too which made us all laugh. Here’s one my son built.

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Sewing in itself isn’t STEM, but it is when you try to create geometric designs in the design. And to tell you the truth, my daughter knew how to sew before this activity, but my son didn’t know. Now he does! So it’s really a win because he can sew his own buttons on his clothes when they fall off now. Believe it or not, but he really enjoyed sewing too and creating the designs. It also makes STEM more STEAM! Which is what I prefer!

Easter Sewing

The last challenge in my April STEM packet is a windmill. It’s really cute and I’ve included some printables that your students can use with their designs to help them have a more realistic looking windmill if they want to use them.

To fine my April STEM/STEAM unit click here.

St. Patrick’s Day STEM

One of my favorite holidays is St. Patrick’s Day. I think it’s because I love Ireland and I love the color green. It’s also a great holiday in the middle of a span with not much going on, especially when Easter falls in April, like it will for the next few years.

I’d like to show you my new St. Patrick’s Day STEM unit. There are four activities: 2 activities for St. Patrick’s Day, 1 for National Quilting Day and 1 for Johnny Appleseed Day.

Here’s one activity that is sure to amuse your students. They must build a trap for a Leprechaun. You know how sneaky those Leprechauns can be, so they need to think about how to lure them and trick them.
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Have you ever heard of National Quilting Day? It falls in March (the third Saturday to be exact) and it’s a great time to use a little duct tape to create their own quilted item. I think it’s a great time to explain what patchwork and quilting is since a lot of students aren’t exposed to these types of crafts.
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I hope you all are having a great school year. If you’d like more information on my March STEM unit, click here.

Election STEM Activity!

No matter who you are voting for this election, it’s important to introduce your students to the election process. Why not add a little STEM to the activity? Maybe when they are old enough to vote, they will look back on your teaching and this activity and remember what they learned years back.

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Students can create their own election booths or you can create one for the class to use. Will they vote for Hillary Clinton?

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Or, will they vote for Donald Trump?

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Students can make their own election set and take it home to poll their family.

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It’s a fun activity for everyone and it’s a great idea to not only add STEM to an activity, but allow students to understand the election process.

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You can find this activity here: November STEM Challenges

You can find the growing bundle with three free activities here: STEM Bundle

Glow-in-the-Dark Binary Necklaces

Binary code is a coding system using the two digits 0 and 1 to represent a letter, number, or other character within an electronic device like a computer, ipad, etc. My niece and daughter didn’t have much experience with the binary code before they started my STEM activity. They had so much fun learning about it and making their glow-in-the-dark necklaces.

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They had so much fun making these special necklaces that they decided to make some extra ones for their best friends.

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You can have your students make these on string, or for ease, you can use pipe cleaners. It’s so much easier for little hands to put the beads on pipe cleaners. Here’s the finished product.

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Have a great Halloween and make sure you check out my Binary Glow-in-the-Dark Necklace in my October STEM packet.

Halloween Bat Plane – STEM

I love STEM projects, but I love Halloween STEM projects even more and so does my nephew. He had so much fun making his Halloween Bat Plane. He loved the design and building phase even more than the actual testing and implementation phases.

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He took a bit of extra time to get his Halloween bat plane just so. To make sure it would fly the highest height possible. He changed the ring sizes and shapes to see what would be best. It’s great to see children’s brains really work when they are given STEM challenges. They come up with solutions that I would never think of.
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Then, he started testing his Halloween bat plane. He did make some adjustments. He moved the rings closer together to achieve more speed in his plane. All and all it was a very successful STEM project
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If you’d like to see more of STEM activities, click here: Halloween STEM Challenges

Discovering America STEM

I didn’t want to title this post as Christopher Columbus Day because I know many people have issues with him (including myself). However, there are still states that require teachers to teach about Christopher Columbus. I decided to make a STEM activity for Christopher Columbus that focuses more on STEM and less on the historical past. It focuses on discovering America via a ship and creating a ship that will hold as much cargo as possible.

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If you don’t want to do any Christopher Columbus part to this activity that would be possible too. Your students can make the ships without any reference to Christopher Columbus. That is what is great about my STEM units is that they are able to be adapted to different circumstances.

Here’s a picture of my nephew building the boat. I love how he used straw as the base of the boat to keep it floating. It’s nice to see how their minds think.

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Here’s a picture of both of my nephew’s boats. The battle began!

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My younger nephew won by having his ship carry the most LEGO cargo.

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And then, he pushed his luck too far…

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To find out more about my October STEM activities click here: October STEM activities

Halloween Haunted House STEM Challenge

This weekend my daughter and I had some good quality time decorating our front yard with Halloween decorations. She said she wanted to do more Halloween stuff during the weekend. I broke out my Halloween STEM Challenges printables and she started working on building her own haunted house.

She started by creating a booklet to help her her design her haunted house. She had fun coloring the pages, but if you do this in a classroom, you can print it on colored paper to save on time or you can just leave it uncolored.

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She decided that she wanted to build her haunted house three stories high. She drew out her blueprints for her own haunted house. I think she enjoyed the part the best. She felt like she was her great grandfather who was an architect.

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Then, after a few attempts she came up with a haunted house that she was proud of! I think she did a great job! I love how she opted to use colored popsicle sticks instead of plain popsicle sticks.

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If you’d like to see more of my Halloween STEM Challenges click here: Halloween STEM Challenges

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STEM Bundle for the Whole Year!

STEM or STEAM, however you like to call it, I love it having my kids doing these activities and I absolutely love making these activities. I like to personally call it STEAM and then make steampunk graphics for the printables.

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I’ve decided to create a STEM bundle that is growing. It will have 9 packets filled with great STEAM activities. The great thing is that the bundle is discounted by $13.50. This means that is has 3 free months if you buy the bundle!

The first STEM packet in my bundle is the Back to School STEM Challenge packet. My favorite activity is where students sculpt a figure that looks like how they feel about going back to school. The sculpture sits on a ‘all about me cube.’

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My second STEM packet is October STEM Challenges. This packet celebrates not only Halloween, but Christopher Columbus day too!

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To grab your bundle, click here: STEM Bundle for the Whole Year

Five ways camping benefits kids

There’s something magical about camping. Being away from it all in a remote location, with no TV, no Internet, no modern conveniences. Of course, some of the reasons camping is appealing are also reasons that it can be difficult… sometimes the romance of camping is more fun than the reality of mosquitos, lumpy tent floors, and lack of a toilet!

Still, camping is not without its benefits, especially for kids! Here are some of them:

Paudash Lake sunset

1. Kids learn about nature by being surrounded by it

It’s one thing to learn about nature in a school classroom. But it’s quite another thing to be surrounded by nature in a beautiful setting. Lots of different types of lessons can be taught outdoors – biology, botany, geology, meteorology – the list goes on. And lessons taught in such a session are likely to be better retained.

2. Kids learn to care for themselves outdoors

When there’s no fridge, microwave, or even running water on hand, kids will have to learn other ways to eat, drink, and take care of themselves. They will likely have to be taught, of course – but adults can certainly show kids how to cook food over an open fire or treat or boil water to make it safe for consumption. Such lessons are fun to learn, and might come in handy in the future – especially if there is a zombie apocalypse.

3. Kids learn to respect life

There is lots of life outdoors – plants, animals, insects, birds. By being outdoors, kids are having a sleepover in the homes of more of nature’s creatures. Children will learn to respect the environment and the various ecosystems they are exploring. Parents and teachers should of course encourage this by showing how to make a minimal impact on the areas they are camping in.

4. Kids learn outdoor safety

Outdoor safety is a useful skill even when you are not camping in remote locations. It’s good to know that you shouldn’t eat those berries or those mushrooms, that you shouldn’t touch that spider, that you shouldn’t dive into a strange lake or pond. Kids can learn that while the outdoors is your friend, it is also a wild and potentially dangerous place. Respect should be given.

5. Kids learn cooperation

If you’ve ever tried to pitch a tent by yourself, you know how difficult that can be! It’s much easier to work together to get things accomplished outdoors. Cooperation while camping is very important when it comes to setting up, searching for food, cooking, playing, or cleaning up after an outdoor adventure. Children can learn how important cooperation is outdoors and take these lessons back home or to the school classroom.

And here’s a bonus reason… it is beautiful out there! And there are plenty of amazing places outdoors all over the world where you can take children to experience the beauty of nature.

If you’re going camping this summer, have fun and stay safe!