STEM Challenge # 1

Who has been using STEM in their classroom or school? We have been looking into using more STEM activities in the classroom, but honestly third graders are not quiet ready for a STEM challenge everyday. My first STEM Challenge ties social studies (Paul Revere), literature (The Scarlet Stocking Spy), CCRPI (ship designers and engineers), math (measuring mass), and patterns into a five day unit. To get the FREE lesson plans click here. The unit looks something like this in the classroom:

Day 1

We read The Scarlet Stocking Spy by Trinka Hakes Noble.


We talked about the vocabulary in the book and how it ties to Paul Revere (because we have already learned about him this year. If you want some FREE resources to use with this book click here.

Day 2

We talked about Archimedes Principle today. To introduce the principle to the class play this short cartoon:

Then you can share the following video with the class to show the principle in action:

But better than the second video would be letting the students use graduated cylinders, water, and small rocks to watch the water level change.

photo 1

Talking about how boats float and the young girl from the book being able to tell if the boat was heavy by how it sat in the water. Try to tie today’s class to the book from yesterday and introduce the next day’s idea (making boats out of aluminum foil).

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Day 3

This is my favorite lesson in the week and it is the actual STEM challenge. You are going to give students 12 inch x 12 inch pieces of aluminum foil to build boats. Their goal is to build a boat which will float and hold as many marbles (or pennies) as possible. Use tubs of water to have students test their boats. Here are some images of our boats and floating challenges.

 photo 1

This is how I set up the floating stations. I had two stations like this in my classroom. When students had their boats ready they would raise their hands. I would write their name on a post-it note and call them one at a time to go to a station. photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo

Have students weigh the marbles (or pennies) that their boat did hold after they have sunk their ship. Keep track of each students weight because you will need it the next day. We wrote their weight on their post-it notes and then put them in order on the board.

Day 4

Today students are going to determine which garment on the clothesline (from the book on Day 1) their ship would have been.

photo 1

We made a chart with the weight ranges for each garment (I have two different keys because my classes had such differing weights).

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Then students were given a sheet which had a stocking on one side and a petticoat on the other side (sorry I don’t have this to share…I had to hand draw a petticoat). If the student needed a red stocking they had to color it read. Students had to cut their item out neatly, label it with their weight (on the front) and name and type of vessel (on the back),

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and hang it on the class clothesline in the hallway.

photo 3

Day 5

Today we talked about the jobs people have to design ships. We watched the first minute of the following video:

We talked about the type of schooling they would need, jobs they could get, and types of things we need to learn about now in order to become a successful ship designer/builder.

I hope all of these ideas and resources have made you want to dive into STEM activities in your classroom! Just remember you only have to do as much or as little as you feel comfortable with!



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