Category Archives: explorations

Enriching Your Summer with STEAM Learning

summer steamLooking for some ways to keep your kids learning while having a fun time this summer? Check out these ideas to STEAM up your summer!

  1. Periodic Table Battleship. So this is number one on my list for a reason. I think this is SUCH a great idea to get kids learning about their elements! I used a different table in our battleship game that included pictures. So perfect!!
  2. Science Headband Game. This one from Oriental Trading is cheap, but you could easily make your own.
  3. Make Ice Cream (by hand!) This looks like fun for the kids. Surprisingly I am not a fan of ice cream, so this doesn’t appeal to me. But I know my daughter would love it!
  4. Glow in the Dark Party. While this site has a gazillion things you could for a glow in the dark party, I am perfectly content grabbing a container of glow sticks at the dollar store and having my daughter put on a show with them in our dark basement. Fun and super simple! Just make sure to squeeze some science into the activity. If you are feeling especially ambitious teach your kiddo about chemiluminescence.
  5. Make Bird Feeders. There are tons of different ways you could make one (including having your child design and build their own invention). Birds are fascinating- tie in some extra ornithology activities by watching live bird cameras or dissect an owl pellet (GROSS).
  6. Make S’mores using a homemade Solar Oven. Delicious and a good tie-in to emergency preparedness. Not only because of the importance of having a way to cook food during a power outage….but because, let’s face it, in an emergency we will want to eat chocolate.
  7. Make a Straw Rocket (free printable HERE)
  8. Design and Build a Pom Pom drop This looks super easy- you just need paper towel rolls, tape, and pom poms!
  9. Build a homopolar motor dancer. Can I just say this looks AWESOME! I wonder if I could change the dancer into a spinning dragon or dinosaur…
  10. Learn the science behind yeast with a little balloon experiment. And then make bread knowing in your science heart why it rises. 🙂
  11. Apply your knowledge of conductors and insulators with some circuit testing. (I would also check out Snap Circuit boards for kids– they are fun for our entire family!)
  12. Use programming apps such as Hopscotch or Lightbot (our current favorite) to expand your child’s technology learning. And so they can be super cool and learn how to code.
  13. Make a sundial. I think I will enrich this activity with some discussion on the earth’s orbit and how it affects the sun’s position in the sky. And maybe watch some Neil Degrasse Tyson Cosmos movies.
  14. Fizzy Explosion bags. We have done this in the past and had a lot of fun! Just be prepared for your child to want to do this over and over and over….
  15. Make an Inventor’s Box. I think it would be fascinating to open up an old piece of electronics and see what’s inside.
  16. Teach your child binary and have them code their name with beads. Geeky enough?
  17. Make a compass. Then learn about WHY we have North and South poles and the Earth’s magnetic field. And then make a clay model of the Earth’s layers using a metal bead inside the center to show the magnetic core.
  18. Demonstrate the chemical reaction of citric acid and baking soda by making a lemon volcano.
  19. Teach nutrition using sites such as ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  20. Grow a lima bean seed. I especially like the use of a clear CD case to label the different parts of a plant.
  21. Something dinosaurish– not sure yet… but I need to keep my little paleontologist busy!
  22. Download my STEAM summer ideas in my TpT store.

Some of you may be wondering if I am going to be doing all of these activities. The answer of course is NO! I hope to get to many of them (except the owl pellet dissecting). But we just got approved to be foster parents so I know our life is going to drastically change. I can’t wait. 🙂

Happy STEAMing!

Book Buddy App: Must Have for Teachers and Librarians

I have been so excited to share an AMAZING iPhone/iPod/iPad app with you! It is called Book Buddy, but it may as well be called the Best Book Cataloging App Ever :). And no they didn’t pay me to say it- I truly just love it! In the digital age that we live in- and the easy access most of us to have technology- it just makes sense to have a digital database of all our books. It will make lesson planning easier as well as assisting you in trying to locate that one copy of a book you know you have SOMEWHERE.


Here are some of Book Buddy‘s great features….

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home screen of the Book Buddy app

1. You can easily add books to your library 3 ways: scanning the barcode, searching in an online database, or manually adding the books. You may think- why would I want to manually add books? Well, sometimes a book might not be in the database. OR you may want to add some of your classroom’s created books. Cute, right? It makes those homemade books feel more professional. 🙂

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2. While lots of books have pictures of the titles already stored in the database, there are exceptions. No worries though- YOU can take a picture of the book! This is another feature that you could use when adding those books made by your kiddos.

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3. After a book is added to your library that is in the database, there is a link to an online summary as well as reviews. This is also a great tool in getting additional background on the authors. There are also some links if you need to purchase more copies of the book.

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4. One of my favorite features of this app is the tagging system. You are able to easily add tags to each book that is in your Book Buddy library. You are able to sort and search books by tags. For example, after scanning “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” into my library, I added the following tags: “animals”, “breakfast”, “comical”, “level k”, “pigs”, “problem solving”, and “sequencing”. Now, when I am teaching a unit on pigs, I just look up all my books with the “pig” tag and this book and others will show up. No more searching through all the book tubs for titles! I just love this- especially when you have books that can be placed in various places in your classroom/home. Which bring me to the next reason I love this app….

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a few of the tags I added

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a look at some of the books listed under the tag “Pigs”

5. This is a great app to keep track of those leveled libraries! While it doesn’t look up the guided or lexile reading levels for you, if you know the level already simply add it as a tag. (I used a free app called Literacy Leveler to look up levels on some of my books). So if you are wanting to know all the level N books in your classroom, simply look up the tag. It will let you know all the titles despite the location (super useful if you have books everywhere- in baskets, themed tubs, bookshelves, etc) Which also brings me to the next reason I love this app….

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6.  You can sort your books into categories. Now you may wonder, how could I utilize this feature? Books that are scanned into this app are automatically placed in the “unfiled” section of your library and will remain there until you place them in a category. I have created categories for all the different locations where I may have books. Some of my categories are “Animal Tub”, “Biography Tub”, “Craft Room Bookshelf”, “Leveled Library”, and “Professional” (plus a TON more).  To add a book to a category, I go to my list of unfiled books, click on a book title, click on “move book” and then select the category. While this app does have the option of adding a physical location of each of your books, I found the categories much faster to add and it will be faster to edit the location- because lets face it, we are constantly moving books around. It is also easier to view all the titles in each of my tubs quickly while in the home screen of this app.

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a list of the unfiled books in my library

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7. You can sort your library by title, author, genre, rating, and more! A great way if you know you want a last minute author study of Eric Carle or want to see what historical fiction literature you can share with your students.

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8. If you have every spent hours at an expensive bookstore drooling over books with the intent to go home and find them for cheaper on Amazon (not that I have ever done that or anything) this will help you out! You can scan in books while at the store and add them to your wish list. Then the next time someone offers to get you a book for your library you can let them know specific titles right away. You can also printout a list of your wish list items to hand out to parents at conferences! 🙂 I LOVE it!!!!

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9. Book Buddy has a simple yet effective check out system. Just click on the title of the book, click edit, and then change the “loaned out” status from none to either an existing contact or create a new contact. There is no way to import a class list, but to be honest I didn’t have students checking out books to take home too often. You can view your list of loaned out books from the home screen, and you can also export a list of those books that are borrowed, upload it to dropbox, and print. Imagine how nice that would be to show parents at conferences- they would not only see what books their child needs to bring back but they could see what the book actually looks like- which might prove to be useful in locating it :). Which brings me to the final reason I love this app….

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10. You can back up your library. In this digital age of technology crashes- having a backup of data is a MUST. Especially if you have spent hours adding this data! You can also export and print your entire library- or just parts of the library. Like if I wanted a printout of all my Level M books so I could laminate it and place it next to my level M book tub, I would just go to settings, utilities, export, and then update the “My Books” section to the tag “Level M”. Click on export and there you go! If you have access to an airprinter you can print your wishlist, borrowed items, or an entire list of all books in your library. I think exporting them to Dropbox works better because you can export specific lists. And one thing I love about the lists is that there is a cute little thumbnail of the picture with information such as who it’s currently loaned out to, what category it’s in, and the different tags.

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There are so many other features too- you can recommend books in your library via twitter, facebook, or email. You can also keep track of books that you have borrowed from someone else. There is the ability to import files (haven’t tried this yet), mark books that are your favorites, add books to a series, and give books a rating (up to 5 stars). There is a free version, which I played around with until I felt comfortable paying for the upgrade- in my opinion the pro version is well worth the money!

Before I started scanning in 1500 books, I did my research. This app does everything I need and more- hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do!

Happy Teaching

STEAM Summer Camps

Happy Summer everyone! I am so excited to have lots of time to hang out with my #1 kid before she heads off to first grade (and all day school! eeks!) I like to have a lot of summer plans to avoid lots of down time (aka TV time). steam I will be honest- as a teacher mom I have been frustrated with the lack of differentiated curriculum and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) learning in our schools. So I have taken it upon myself to provide my daughter with more extensive activities based on these areas and her interests and abilities. I was introduced to Core Knowledge by my sister and a colleague and knew it was a curriculum I wanted to integrate into our activities as well. Core Knowledge is a comprehensive curriculum that builds on the knowledge of previous years. I took some units from this program, tied them in with STEAM, and came up with this summer camp program. I am really excited about it!

The basis of this program is to provide my daughter with activities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Every week we will be experimenting with Science on Saturdays. There will also be a weekly Engineering Challenge. The majority of our STEAM learning however will be from learning camps we will have on Thursdays and Fridays. I have a lot of science camps planned (based on content from Core Knowledge and my daughter’s interests) as well as Art, Music, and Math camps. Each camp has different ways you can integrate STEAM. For example, the Rock Camp will not only teach kids the science behind the rock groups, but have ways to incorporate technology, engineering, art, and math into your lessons.

Here is our weekly plan:

Make Something STEAMy Monday: (art project/fun treat/iMovie/etc) centered around STEAM

Take a Trip Tuesday: a day we can take a STEAM centered field trip

Wednesday: Worksheet (I just had to sneak in one day of paper and pencil work) and work on an Engineering Challenge. I made a letter template so the challenges could be done with friends who live far away.

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Engineering Challenge idea

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STEAM Engineering Challenge Letter template

Thursday and Friday: STEAM camp

astronomy

Sample STEAM camp idea sheet

Science Saturday with Daddy

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Science Saturday ideas

I am uploading my plans on Teachers Pay Teachers. Feel free to download and let me know what you think! There are also lots of STEAM based activities that can be found in many communities. Check your local library… many libraries will have science activities that go along with their summer reading programs. I also know of communities that have “Arts in the Park” or “Science in the Park” activities. If you live in the Salt Lake area, The Leonardo Museum downtown will be opening up some children exhibits in a few weeks based on STEAM learning…. I am thrilled!!!! And if all else fails, host your own camps! Your neighbors will love you 🙂

Happy STEAMing!

Fall Bucket/Tree List

Just a quick post to show you our fall bucket list this year. I thought it would be fun to have our list on the wall so I could see all our activities. I like the idea of randomly pulling out a popsicle stick but I am too much of a planner to leave our day up to chance. 🙂

And when we complete an activity- my daughter can take the leaf off the tree and place it in a bucket! Just imagine all the teacher-ish questions I can ask her..”We just took three leaves down. How many leaves are left?” or “Are the number of leaves that are still on the tree greater or less than the number of leaves in the bucket?” and then there are all the science applications of why real leaves change color and fall… oh the educational opportunities excite my soul!

We can see our bucket list leaves falling just like the real leaves outside! And when fall is over-we can reuse the tree for our winter/spring//summer bucket lists. I just love this!!

Our tree is in our craft/school room

Happy Teaching!

Heart Rock Collections

Save those Valentine Heart boxes…. they make super cute rock collection boxes. Because we LOVE rocks!!!

Boo loved examining my rock collection, especially since I let her keep a few.  By the way that entire crate on the right is full of rocks.

Now she is looking over her own collection. These Valentine boxes are the perfect size for those small specimens!

So for all you that love rocks like we do, then this is the project for you! 🙂
Happy Teaching!

DIY Telephone Number Bracelets

I saw this idea on Pinterest and fell in love! While my daughter has her phone number memorized, I wanted her to correlate the memorized numbers with the written digits. We have a ton of pony beads- and while I would have much rather used beads with pre-stamped numbers, I grabbed what I had and Boo and I started creating!

Materials needed:
beads (we used plastic beads- if you have number beads then this project will turn out much cuter!)
string or pipe cleaner
sharpie (in case you don’t have number beads)

Super easy telephone number bracelets (blurred out the number- sorry, I don’t want prank phone calls 🙂

On each bead, write one digit of your phone number. Then let your kids put their phone number in order on the string (or pipe cleaner). And voila! You are done! Of course you could do several extension activities- such as add the area code, see how many 2 or 3 digit numbers they can create using the digits in their phone number, using a separate phone allow kids to practice dialing their number, and of course listen to this fun song: (This is actually how my daughter initially memorized her phone number!)

Here are some additional resources to help your little ones learn their phone numbers:
squidoo: free worksheets for kids to learn to write their telephone number
KidPhone: helpful app to teach your kids their phone number
bright hub education: fabulous list of ways to help preschoolers learn their phone number

Teaching your little ones their phone number is SO important for safety reasons- hopefully some of these resources will help you accomplish this task!! These bracelets would be great to take anywhere your kids might get lost- amusement park, fair, zoo, airport, beach, etc!

Happy Teaching!

Fall Bucket List

It’s time for fall! YAY! I love everything about this time of year and wanted to make sure we accomplished everything fun fall related- so we created a Spooky Pail List! I am excited to share our ideas!!

Yellow and Orange popsicle sticks in a festive Halloween pail

Just like our summer bucket list, I color coded our activities. I decided to keep it simple- completing our summer list got to be a bit of a chore- and while we didn’t complete it we still managed to do about 100 activities! It was WAY too intense. This is what I came up with- and yes, I only used fall colored popsicle sticks which I purchased at the Dollar Tree (that store is my one true weakness).

Yellow Popsicle Sticks (food and treat ideas)
fall cookies
pumpkin pie milkshakewe had this last year and it was SO good- even my husband who hates pumpkiny food liked it!
bake pies
caramel apples

other Yellow ideas that we MIGHT do:
homemade chili
homemade bread bowls
caramel apple cider
plus 50 more fall treat ideasthey look SO good!

Orange Popsicle sticks (activities)
nature walk/ hike
corn maze
pumpkin patch
hay ride
football game
apple orchard
city’s annual pumpkin walk
play in a leaf pile- and take pictures
“boo” our neighbors (so if you happen to be my neighbor and you are reading this- kindly disregard what I just wrote)
leaf art
decorate a pumpkin
scary movie
13 Days of Halloween countdown
Mummy on the Move

other Orange ideas that we might do:
spider ring hair
sprouting pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin

We are going to be adding Brown Popsicle sticks to our container in November- these will be our Thanksgiving related activities.
Here are some ideas:
thankful rolls
thanksgiving countdown activity for kids- looks super cute!
little turkey cookies
yarn ball thankful turkey

Hope you all have a wonderful fall! Happy Teaching!

Summer Apothecary Jars and Mantle

Here is our latest summer themed apothecary jars and mantle and can I just say I LOVE these colors!

The sea shells in the apothecary jars were found at Ross for around $5- I bought two bags of shells but could easily have used just one. And FYI- they are scented. I think they are intended for bathroom decor but I couldn’t resist using them on our mantle!

The “Sandy Toes & Salty Kisses” sign and pennant flag were created with the wonderful help of my mother in law who is super crafty.

And the big “T” was found at the Wood Connection in Salt Lake for just a couple bucks.

Gotta run….time to play with my daughter… Happy Teaching!

Summer Bucket List: Vinegar Fun

We are still going strong on our summer bucket list and have had a blast (literally!) playing with vinegar and baking soda! Here are some of the fun science projects we have done and links to the creative minds behind them.

Exploding Bags

Both my daughter and I loved this activity! It was fun to watch regular plastic bags expand and pop. We could of done this activity 20 more times but unfortunately we ran out of plastic baggies. I highly, highly recommend doing this with your kids!!! Visit All Things Beautiful for a great step by step tutorial for this amazing activity.

Fizzy Painting

If your child loves art and science- this is a must-do activity for you! It was fun to create and mix colors and watching the baking soda and vinegar reaction. Check out the tutorial on We Made That.

Expand a Balloon

I love it when I have just as much fun doing kid projects as my little girl! I was both amused and amazed watching balloons expand with the power of vinegar and baking soda. Visit Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas to see how to make this happen!

Summer Bucket List: Melting Crayons, Painting with Water, and Bathtub Paints

We have had fun completing some of our Summer Bucket List activities. I thought I would share a few of our favorites so far!

Melting Crayons:

Play Create Explore posted a fabulous art project using crayons and a candle warmer. You should check out her site- she has some great ideas!

Painting with Water:

This is a wonderful and EASY way to keep your little ones busy for a few minutes (maybe longer if your child loves painting!). Using water and a paintbrush, your child can paint away on the sidewalk and magically watch their artwork evaporate!

Bathtub Paints:

When I saw this idea on pinterest from Having Fun at Home, I was in love with the bright colors…. and the idea of making a mess in a small contained area that can easily be washed clean. It’s super easy to create (food coloring and shaving cream) and my daughter loved it!  I have read some comments online that the food dye can stain grout- we don’t have a tiled tub so that wasn’t an issue for us. It did make the bathwater black… so be prepared to give your child a second bath!

Hope you all are having a great summer! Happy teaching and playing! 🙂

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