As a stay at home mom with a background in teaching, I enjoyed researching STEM resources for my girls that would keep them engaged while I was cooking, cleaning, or planning when they were toddlers. Science, technology, engineering, and math challenges naturally take time, focus, and develop critical thinking skills.
In the preschool years, this meant that I would transform their water table into a large sensory bin. They would pour, fill, and measure rice or lentils for hours a day. Each month I would switch up the sensory table to include trinkets from that season or create a new theme that would bring out more creative play.
Busy bags are activities that grab a child’s attention and fit into a gallon size bag. They are easy to take to appointments, church, car rides, or use at home. Preschool busy bags involve sorting, critical thinking, developing fine motor skills, matching, or recognizing basic numbers and letters. I would set aside time to research busy bag ideas on Pinterest and then put together three or four new bags when the girls needed them.
Thinking back to the early years reminds me how much fun the girls and I had making our own STEM resources. Some of the most memorable STEM activities included:
As my girls have grown up so have our STEM resources. Since my girls are currently in elementary and middle school levels, I will highlight some of our current favorite STEM resources.
The first class that I taught in our local homeschool cooperative was a STEM class for early elementary students. I found Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons, K-2 to be a useful guide in developing the structure of my STEM class.
Each STEM class began with an introductory activity to engage the students in the concept of the day. Then I would read aloud a picture book to pique their interest. There are so many great picture books that inspire creativity, explore engineering or challenge students to solve problems. Some of my favorite picture books for STEM are:
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
- Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
- Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
- If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen
- The Day the Crayons came Home by Drew Daywalt
After hearing a picture book read aloud, we would discuss what the book was about and what questions the students had. Then to explore the concept I would have a challenge that the students would complete. The challenge was usually a problem they needed to solve.
On the day that we read Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince, the students were challenged to build a bridge that could hold 21 plastic elephants. The students were given DUPLO bricks, Maga-Tiles, craft sticks, tape, and other building materials to complete the challenge. It was always interesting to see how each student solved the problem at their own ability level and with their own creativity.
STEM resources for transition times
On our daily school schedule, you will not find a STEM class period. However, I have a bin of STEM activities handy for those times when one of my girls completes a subject but I am still working one on one with someone else. STEM activities are usually able to be pulled out at anytime and worked on independently.
My STEM Resource Bin
Timberdoodle is my go-to STEM resource. Timberdoodle is a homeschool curriculum website that highlights hands-on STEM education activities, toys, and workbooks. My STEM resource bin needs new games and toys every so often to refresh the girls’ interest so I use this website for ideas. It is also a perfect site to look at when giving gifts to others.
LEGO Education has developed multiple programs to challenge students in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I taught LEGO education classes for elementary students at our homeschool cooperative. The youngest students were learning about simple machines while building with LEGOS. The older elementary students used the Simple And Motorized Mechanisms Base Set by LEGO to expand their knowledge of simple machines.
My local library has been a fantastic STEM resource as they offer Lego Education WeDo classes. This set is an investment, so it is beneficial to find out if it is available through your library. WeDo incorporates building LEGOS and programming using a computer. The girls learned a lot about computer programming and the importance of being detail oriented.
Mike, my husband, has the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Robot Kit. This robot is for more advanced computer programming and requires a higher level of expertise and patience. Mike has been working with Adelynn, our 7th grader, for the last two years building robots. This summer was the first time Adelynn was able to pick a robot design and program it to move the way she wanted unassisted.
LEGO Education offers many different sets to incorporate STEM into your day. The education packages are grab and go. They do not take much preparation and include all the instructions for students to build a machine. The teacher’s guide enables one to enhance the build by testing different aspects of the machine or challenging students to change the machine to optimize a specific feature.
STEM education fits naturally into our school day rhythm. When there is time in our day, we create, build, and solve problems. One of our core family values is to be a builder which is demonstrated in more ways than just STEM education.
This summer has opened plenty of opportunities for our kids to see that we value building. Whether we are building a garden, building up our family relationships, or building up our community by simple acts of kindness, it is vital to our family culture to be a builder. Builders are focused on the task before them and improving the world they live in.
When I am writing a new blog post, working on a larger home project, building on our side hustle, or intentionally creating a positive learning environment, I am demonstrating to our girls the value of being a builder. Builders have a can-do attitude, overcome obstacles, think on their feet, evaluate risk, solve problems, and leave a positive impact on those around them.
As a home educator, it is not only the curriculum that I hope my children learn but the values and character traits that form in our daily life.
How do you challenge your child to be a builder?
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