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Children of all ages love stories, everything from fairy tales and fantasies to mysteries and action-packed adventures! By diving into the pages in a good book, children are able to transport themselves to far away lands and imaginary worlds where they can explore a wide variety of new people, places, and things. Have you ever noticed how children often want to read or listen to their favorite stories over and over again? That’s because books spark their imagination, heighten their curiosity, and stimulate their minds.
But did you know that books can also be used to boost their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills? By providing children with hands-on STEAM activities related to their favorite books, not only will you help to bring those stories to life, but you will strengthen their comprehension of the story and foster their scientific and engineering skills. And the best part is that these literature-based, hands-on, STEAM activities can easily be done at ANY time with ANY book in ANY place -- whether it’s in the classroom, during afterschool programs, or even at home.
Choose an engaging book for children to engineer. This could be a literature book related to a subject you are teaching, a story within a grade-leveled reader, or even a favorite childhood classic.
Think of a new problem in the story that needs solving. For example, you could pretend that one of the characters needs help doing something. You could pretend that an important event didn’t happen. You could pretend that the story takes place in a different setting. The possibilities are endless.
Introduce the STEAM challenge and provide a variety of materials to choose from, such as cardboard tubes, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, empty boxes, plastic bottles, recycled food containers, construction paper, or any other readily available materials.
Encourage children to work through the steps of the Engineering Design Process (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve). Be sure to review the criteria and constraints of the challenge. For example, what are the required features or functions that the design must have in order to be successful? Alternatively, what are the limitations on the design, such as materials, cost, or time?
As children are working through the challenge, remind them that it is okay to go through several iterations before achieving a successful design. We learn from our mistakes!
Have children share their completed designs, reflect on the process (what went well and what did not), and discuss any final thoughts related to the story or the characters.
Imagine that, once upon a time, there were some fairy tale characters who needed help. Children could design and engineer solutions to help their favorite fairy tale characters.
For example, what if Little Red Riding Hood wanted a safer way to go to Grandma’s house? Children could build a zipline to carry her over the forest. They could test their ziplines to see how much weight it could carry. What if the Third Little Pig didn’t have any bricks? Children could build a sturdy house to withstand the Big Bad Wolf’s huffing and puffing. They could test their designs using a hair dryer and measure how far their houses move.
With a little creativity and a lot of STEAM, children could help their favorite characters live happily ever after!
What if you jumped into the pages of a make-believe world filled with enchanted kingdoms, magical creatures, witches and wizards? Children could use their engineering skills to design and build their own castle with tall towers, a drawbridge and a moat.
What if you were given a fire-breathing dragon or a flying unicorn as a pet? Children could build a special shelter for their magical creature to live in. Using their STEAM skills, children could turn fantasy into a reality!
Have you ever wanted to launch into outer space and explore our galaxy and beyond? Science fiction books are a great way to imagine what it would be like to travel through space and time.
Children could pretend that they are aerospace engineers who need to build a spacecraft. They could measure how high their spacecraft launches or how far it travels. Children could also pretend that they are astronauts who want to collect space rocks to study. They could build a long robotic arm to collect rock samples from safely inside the spaceship. Fasten your seatbelts for a STEAM-filled ride!
Imagine that you’re a detective at the scene of a fictional crime. You need to use your keen observation skills to follow the hidden clues.
What if a dangerous suspect was heading your way? Children could invent a protective device to keep them safe from harm. What if you wanted to catch the culprit red-handed? Children could build a trap to capture the villain and bring him to justice. With a little STEAM, you'll be able to solve the mystery and figure out whodunnit.
Do you like to travel to far away places and distant lands? If so, action-packed adventure books are perfect for you! What if you were a pioneer traveling from one side of the country to the other? Children could build a covered wagon to cross different types of terrain.
What if you were a swashbuckling pirate sailing the seven seas? Children could build a ship to sail quickly across the water. They could test how much cargo it could carry before sinking. More STEAM adventures and excitement await for those who dare!
Capture imaginations with this STEAM enrichment program! From Jack and the Beanstalk to the golden touch of King Midas, BrickLAB Magic Beans brings fairy tales to life through thrilling engineering, language arts and collaborative communication activities. Designed with a focus on arts integration, each of the 12, one-hour lessons challenges students to boost fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and hands-on creativity as they work together to build the characters and stage props needed to act out the different folktales highlighted in every unit.
From land-lubber to swash-buckler, it’s the pirate’s life for me! Cast-off into the seven seas as students work together to navigate its treacherous depths, engaging in STEM-focused experiments, hands-on design trials and engaging group discussions. Set the scene each day with exciting stories that engage their senses, curiosity and critical thinking skills. Then, the merry bunch of misfits works together with the rest of their crew to accomplish challenging tasks like forging catapults, tying knots and fashioning maps to hidden treasure! In Pirate Camp, action, adventure and discovery await you at every turn!
Laura has over 20 years of experience in education as an elementary teacher, science specialist, and STEM curriculum developer. She is driven to engage, inspire and empower students with meaningful, hands-on STEM activities.
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