full STEAM ahead

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics in K-8


A Plea to our President from My Monarch Lovers

Dear President Obama,

         Did you know that the monarch butterfly population is at an all-time low?  Did you also know that you can help save them from possible extinction?

         We are student scientists from Robinson Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio.  This fall, we raised monarchs from egg to adult.  Please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6ZRx6-5o44  to see a short video of our work.  We performed scientific investigations, studied the life cycle, learned about disease and habitat loss.  Once our butterflies eclosed from their chrysalis, we used tags from MonarchWatch.org and released them on their journey to Mexico.  Sadly, not a single one of the 55 butterflies we tagged was recovered in Mexico. 

         When you meet with President Nieto and Prime Minister  Harper tomorrow, please think about the monarchs released at Robinson Elementary School, along with millions of others in North America, who could not make their annual migration to Mexico.  Toluca, Mexico is not far from the Monarch winter colonies.  You should be able to see entire forests of hibernating monarchs, but this year the numbers are lower than they have ever been.   We realize that you are in Mexico on important business and are not there to talk about Monarchs, but you could!  If all the leaders of North America take action NOW to restore the Monarch butterfly habitats, we could save this important pollinating insect.

         We urge you to discuss an initiative across all of North America to plant milkweed, the monarch larva’s only food source, all along its migration route from Canada, through the United States, and into Mexico.  Farmers are using pesticides which kill monarch larva, and we understand that banning pesticide is not a viable option.   What we propose is that the leaders of North America take action to encourage the planting of milkweed on roadsides and in open fields.  City leaders would be able to save money since that land by road sides and open fields would not need to be mowed, and the monarchs would have plenty of milkweed along their migration route.  Saving this one butterfly species can change the world!  Think of the butterflies we raised and released, and know that you can save them!


Respectfully yours,

The Student Scientists at Robinson Elementary School

Grades 6-8


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STEM in the Park

Bloggers, please help me.  How do you find time to blog every day?  Or even every week?  I have so many things happening in my STEM lab and awesome ideas to share, but I just haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and write a post!  I am going to try my hardest to get caught up. Before I get to my lessons I am teaching, here is an out of school event I am proud of and want to share.

Last Saturday, my students along with their family members attended STEM in the Park at our local university. We had almost 100 members of our school family spend their Saturday doing STEM activities!   Make those connections and see what enrichment activities your extended community may offer!  We were able to get the STEM in the Park committee to provide 2 busses to leave from my school and take our students and families to the event.  It was a huge success!  Enjoy some photos of my awesome scientists having tons of fun :)

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5 Minute Timer ~ being green :)

My Take-a-Break spot was in need of a timer. It is a popular spot, and some students were beginning to overuse it and remain well past the time they were calm and ready to return to their lab group. Who can blame them, really ~ a comfy chair and some time alone to regroup is much needed in any classroom. But our routine for Take-a-Break is no longer than a 5 minute visit. So naturally, I went looking for a 5 minute timer.

Something that makes noise was absolutely not an option. Sand timers were impossible to find locally, and getting one online was going to be around $20. Not really an expense I wanted right now. So then I got to thinking about our third school-wide rule and how it applies to my STEM lab.

Hmmm… safe, clean, and GREEN.  I decided to go about making my own 5 minute timer using recycled materials.  Here is what I rounded up for the project.

IMG_3095I used two gatoraid bottles, and hot glued the lids together.  Then I drilled a hole in the lids.  Since I didn’t have any sand handy, but lots of salt, I went with salt.  I poured salt into one bottle (you will have to experiment with the time to get the right amount to last 5 minutes).  Next the lids were screwed on, the top bottle was attached, and I duck taped the lids so no salt would ever escape and students could not undo it.  Drum role please…



My students really seemed to appreciate the visual reminder of how much time they have in Take-a-Break.  It is personalized, fits our school wide rule of being green, and best of all FREE!

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School Wide Rules

Positive behavior can be taught.  Social Emotional Learning is as important as Academic Learning.  These statements are the focus of the Responsive Classroom philosophy that my school has adopted.  This summer my staff met and adopted three school wide rules.  Seems like a simple task, but a lot of thought and discussion went into it.  Our rules were broken down in to three categories:  respect yourself, respect others, and respect your surroundings.  The final rules are as follows:

1.  Always do your best to be safe, responsible, and open to learning.

2.  Earn and give respect through your words and actions.

3.  Help keep our school safe, clean, and green.

If you are interested in more Responsive Classroom tips on rules in school, the book “Rules in School” is very helpful.


Rules in School


During the first week of school, I had an advisory session with each group of students I saw.  We brainstormed what each rule would look like, sound like, and feel like in our STEM lab.  Here is what we came up with as a community.


 Each idea listed on our school wide rules posters was agreed upon by the entire community.  To show ownership of the rules, each student added his or her fingerprint to our community tree as acknowledgment of our agreement. When students enter the STEM lab, the first thing they see is their fingerprint in agreement to honoring the rules.



Finally (if all of these rules haven’t bored you to tears) here is my Pinterest Board I have started with Social Emotional Learning ideas.

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The STEM lab ~ almost ready for student scientists :)

T minus 4 days and counting until the first day of school with students!  I am so sad to see summer end (really really sad actually) but I am getting excited for a new school year.  I took some pictures today of my new room ~ here’s a preview!


Wow, I love using the panoramic view on my iPhone, it makes my room look HUGE!  It truly is a nice big room though, plenty of storage and space to move around.  I have been in really old buildings with no space, so I feel really lucky to have such a beautiful, updated classroom to work in!


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I still have some finishing up to do, and will be ready to go when Tuesday finally gets here!  Sending positive vibes out to all my teacher friends who have already started back to school, and a fun filled last weekend to those of us who return next week!



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Science Word Parts

School starts back for me on August 26th.  I got to get into my new STEM lab this week ~ empty and new and full of possibilities :)

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I want to share my Word Wall this year because I changed it up quite a bit.  First, I teach grades K-8, so my A-Z word wall wasn’t working for so many grade levels.  This year, I have a section for each grade level for their content vocabulary.IMG_2983


Now on to the part I am most excited about.  I found inspiration from http://mrsjacobsclassroom.blogspot.com/2013/08/science-word-parts.html.  I took the idea and adapted it to fit the needs of my students.  My Science Word Parts Wall looks like this:


I have the Science Word Parts above the regular word wall for content vocabulary.  When students come across new vocabulary, we will identify word parts first and try to figure out what we know about the word.  Any time a new word is encountered with a Science Word Part, we will add it to the wall.

This is one way that I am incorporating ELA Common Core into my STEM lab lessons.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics. IMG_2979IMG_2982IMG_2981IMG_2980



I am happy to share the resource below (completely FREE) with anyone who may be looking for something similar.

science word parts PDF (the full page to display for students)

science word parts notes (half page with sample words students will add)

If you find this helpful, please leave me a comment and follow my blog.  I am new to blogging and trying to find the best way to connect with other educators.  Share away!


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Back to School Goals {Linky Party}

Look at me, I’m trying a Linky Party!  Or Blog Hop, or Link Up…. Whatever the cool teachers are calling it!  Since I started this blog, I have been following many awesome teachers on Bloglovin’ and this Linky Party keeps coming up.  So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try!  I’m linking up with Jess from I {heart} Recess to share my goals.  Here goes…

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Personal:  This one is obvious, and I will MAKE myself meet this goal.  My eating habits have been slacking the last few weeks.  It’s so hard on vacation, especially taking my oldest son on a college visit trip to UC Boulder!  We ate out every day, and when you are with a 16 year old boy, it’s hard to order the salad when he is eating such deliciousness around you.  But I am back to trying to eat better.  I will have a Shakeology (Beachbody) chocolate shake every day for lunch.  When school starts back, I have about 5 minutes for lunch anyway, so a shake is the easiest and quickest thing anyway!

Organization:  My job is very unique and I LOVE it.  I am a Science Support Teacher, and basically I run the STEM lab.  I create Project-Based Science units for grades K-8, and model STEM teaching strategies for teachers.  I have the best of both worlds~I get to help out and mentor my colleagues, and I still work directly with students as each teacher brings his or her class to my STEM lab for an hour every day for a quarter.  I spend so much time developing these units, but last year (my first year in this position) I never got around to sharing with anyone outside of my own school.  My goal is to use my new blog to share these ideas this school year!

Planning:  I have received professional development in Understanding by Design, or UbD.  In a nutshell, it is backwards planning, starting with the desired outcome and planning backwards.  I hope to use this method more this year in designing my units.

Professional:  This summer I attended one of the best workshops of my career, the North American Monarch Institute.  I have so many ideas and resources; enough to last me throughout the whole year!   My challenge is going to be to select what I want to use with each grade level, K-8, and plan a Monarch Fair.  Another big picture professional goal will be to write my butterfly garden grant and get what I need for monarchs to naturally come to my school.

Students:  This will be my third year in my school, and we are a “turn around model” in our third year of existence.  My students are inner city kiddos and have such limited background knowledge.  One thing that I found most disheartening when I first opted to teach here is the lack of curiosity.  In the other schools I taught at prior to this placement, students had such a natural curiosity and always had me on my toes and digging into questions to find out answers.  Now, my students don’t have many questions for me, and they seem to just take the world as it is with no question or challenge.  So my biggest goal as I continue here is to get students to make observations!  Take a look at the world around you!  Always ask WHY!!!

Motto:  Science is about getting messy! Making mistakes! I tell students everyday that often you can learn more from a disproved hypothesis ~ mistakes are a good thing!

Well, there it is, my very first Linky Party!  Link up with Jess from I {heart} Recess to share your goals!  And please feel free to leave me comments and feedback, I really want to master this whole blogging thing :)

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Project Based Learning

project based learning

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Science and Engineering take a lot of materials to teach, and materials cost money! I have had some success with http://www.donorschoose.org/cynthiamadanski to obtain supplies for special projects or lessons. Do you have any suggestions for ways to get needed supplies to teach STEAM?

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Welcome to my blog


Thank you for stopping by my blog! This is a place where I will post resources for Project-Based Science units for Kindergarten through 8th grade. The STEM lab is a place of constant action and learning! I would love to share with other teachers some best practices (and which lessons tanked!) to help incorporate the STEM fields and integrate art in elementary school classrooms. Please feel free to leave comments, I love feedback!

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