Making Over Third Grade!: STEMing it Up with the Help of OTC
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

STEMing it Up with the Help of OTC

My grade level team decided that this year we needed to make a commitment to our students to ensure that we are incorporating more hands-on STEM activities this year. We decided the best way to do this was to commit to one day each month as our STEM rotation day. The first Wednesday of each month has been set aside as our STEM day. The kids love it, and truth be told I think the teachers do too! At least I know I do!

To complete our rotations we split two classes so that we have three groups of students moving through the rotations. Two of the third-grade teachers float with the larger groups and three teachers remain in classrooms to lead the activities.

For December we chose activities with a winter theme. The first rotation was an engineering activity where students had to take a bag of materials (two napkins, a coffee filter, some string, and a Dixie cup) to create a parachute for Santa. We took our parachutes outside and let them go off the top of the playground. Since our Santas were a bit big for our cups we declared that any Santa that remained in the cup was a survivor and only those Santas that fell out of the cup were the result of an unsuccessful attempt. The kids had fun letting their Santas fall and determining if their parachutes were a success or not. The best part was when they were testing them during the first graders' recess. The first graders were enthralled!

Makingoverthirdgrade.blogspot.comNext year when we do this activity I think we need larger cups as our Santas were too large for the small cups we used this time. If you want to try this activity we used the directions and videos found here at the TpT store of All About STEM, and these bendable Santas from Oriental Trading Co.

Our second rotation required students to use 40 gumdrops and 20 toothpicks to create a barn that can hold Rudolph. We used dollar store toothpicks but they were too thin so I think it is worth getting the fatter round toothpicks for next year. Some students actually decided to break the toothpicks so that they would have enough for all of the gumdrops. There were a few groups though that figured out if they used triangles or pentagons they were able to use everything without running out of materials. We used these bendable reindeer from OTC for this activity. It was fun to watch the kids figure out that they could bend Rudolph to fit in their barns.
The last rotation required students to use 20 straws, a foot of tape, and two weighted gingerbread cutouts. The goal of this activity was to create a raft that would hold both weighted gingerbread cutouts, to be successful their gingerbread people had to stay dry for a minimum of 30 seconds. This year they had to take turns in the sink and some of the students began to get off task while waiting. Next year to decrease the downtime for this activity we will be bringing in buckets or small bowls so that all of the groups can test their rafts at the same time. Still, the kids had fun and they loved watching to see if their raft designs were successful or not. One group even created seatbelts for their cutouts and they worked! For this activity, we used two large boxes of straws, a roll of masking tape (we used the a roll of the colorful masking tape from Oriental Trading in part to give it color and also because our school tape never works), and two pennies per gingerbread cutout for weight. You can find this activity on TpT at Gretchen Hilley's store

While each of our third grade classes are incorporating STEM and other hands-on activities each month in our own classes we have found that devoting a day each month for the kids to work with other students and teachers has been beneficial for them and for us, as teachers, to watch some of the quietest students become the most vocal during these activities. I am glad that we committed to this idea last year and I am grateful that my grade level team has successfully implemented these rotations each month. I can't wait to see what next month brings! 

Do you do STEM activities in your class? Do you work with others to implement these activities? How do they work out for you? I hope that you share your ideas in the comments below! 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Oriental Trading Co., all opinions are my honest opinions. 

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