I have been trying to limit my kids’ screen time lately, and our most recent review from Tied 2 Teaching has been a perfect hands-on solution for our homeschool. We were given access to the complete STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading package, which is zip file with a series of PDF files. This product combines their 12 individual monthly products and includes over 70 different activities total.
One of our favorite STEM activities that we completed during the review period was how to Design a Foil Boat.
First, we read the passage and answered the closed reading questions. Next, my boys brainstormed design ideas and thought about what their boat would need to be able to do. They sketched their designs.
All of my kids ended up wanting to participate, so all 5 kids (ages 4 – almost 14) received a sheet of foil and were supposed to create a boat that would hold the most pennies possible without sinking.
They did such a great job! I have a large pickle jar of loose change and we actually started running out of pennies and had to start adding dimes to the mix. As each boat sank, we reused their money. I promised the winner a $1 bill PLUS any and all change that was in their boat at the end when they won.
The last boat standing had $3 of pennies and $2 of dimes when his oldest brother’s boat sank to the bottom of our bathtub. Out of NOWHERE, the grand prize winner was……
My 6 year old son! He wanted me to mention that he’ll be 7 in less than a month. As he liked to brag to his MUCH more calculating and planning-focused brothers, “I put in the least effort and STILL WON!” What a toot!
Another STEM design challenge they completed was to design a funky ornament. They liked this one a lot because it was more laid back and not competitive! Don’t get me wrong, they love to compete, but it’s nice to have a totally open-ended assignment every once and a while.
They liked learning about some of the first Christmas trees, and really enjoyed it when I started dragging out a bunch of random supplies.
Everyone came up with something totally different and unique!
What is Included in Each Activity Packet?
For each design challenge activity, there is a passage to read, which is linked in the PDF. There’s also a QR code you could scan, or the source website is listed and you can just search for the article yourself. I did this ahead of time and just printed out the article for me kids so it was truly screen-free for them.
Next, the student is to read the article and then answer a page of questions related to it. This close reading is something that really adds a great language arts element to the assigned design challenges and always corresponds with the activity that follows.
Then, students are given a challenge to complete. They’re told what they are supposed to do, how it should work, and what materials they are allowed to use in their design. There are great printable worksheets to fill out to help with the design and improvement, and they encourage students to ASK, IMAGINE, PLAN, CREATE, and IMPROVE. There are places for students to then reflect on their experience.
One sheet has them draw or write, step by step, how they designed their creation and implemented the design. They are challenged to come up with ways to improve their design next time and to decide if their end result was successful or not.
On the STEM worksheet for each design challenge, students are asked to talk about the science principles or concepts that were used in the lesson, to do internet research, to share how they came up with their design, and to explain what data they could collect from the challenge and how it could be used.
We were able to try several of the different projects. The apple boat was fun!
The close reading is labelled as a 3rd-6th grade thing, but I am thinking it could very easily be used with older and younger kids, or with a mixed age group.
A few more examples of the types of things your kids could be designing on are:
- an alien spaceship
- fidget toy
- house of cards
- jelly bean tower
- log cabin
- marshmallow snowman
- paper airplane
- spider web
- upcycled bird feeder
- treasure chest
- pencil tower
and so many more!
I am going to beg my homeschool co-op to let me teach this next year! What I love is that I’ll be able to teach this to ANY of the age ranges from about 5 or 6 years old and up. I would plan on doing the close reading as a group, and then dividing the students into teams to do the different challenges. I think it would be just perfect for our hour-long classes (although I know the kids could spend WAY more time on each project – mine did!). It’s a really fun concept that wouldn’t require a ton of independent writing or homework for them.
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