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Back with more STEM story time activities.  This week we covered math skills.

Math isn't just numbers and counting. The Erikson Institute Early Math Collaborative has a ton of ideas about sets and sorting, matching, patterns and sequencing, graphing, etc. Many have great book suggestions to get you started and be sure to look for the home activity cards to download.

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Our main book this week was the rollicking fun classic Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo. LeSieg and illustrated by Roy McKie.

It was well received. I made a story board with contact paper (see instructions below) and cut out foam apples to count.

The red foam circles started out on the tree and we moved them over as we read the book. The yellow ones are because the kids added extra "apples" later.

Although I put a hold on it at the library awhile ago, I didn't get my other choice, The Water Hole by Graeme Base, until after the class.

After I opened it up, I realized why the patron who had it previously didn't want to to give it up. It is gorgeous!

Given that it was initially published in Australia, I thought this reading of the story was appropriate. It is sad when the water hole disappears.

I'm considering buying a copy so I have it on hand next time.

STEM Activity Station 1. Window Shape Sorting

Original idea seen at Happy Tot Shelf.

Gather for adult to make ahead of time:

  • Clear Con-tact paper (found at hardware store)
  • Foam sheets (art/craft supply)
  • Foam shapes - best if don't have sticky back - for kids to sort
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Round shape to trace around such as layer cake pan (optional)

Make square, rectangle, triangle and circle frames out of foam sheets (I used a layer cake pan as a template for the circle.) Lay the frames on the contact paper (with backing still in place) and trace around them. Cut out the contact paper, peel the waxy backing off, and press the contact paper to the frame. Retain the waxy backing and press onto the sticky side again if you are going to transport the frames (keeps them from sticking together).

Notice the bowl of foam shapes to sort in the chair.

Comments:

The window sorting activity may have been better for younger kids. No one in my group was interested in sorting the shapes. It wasn't a complete bust, however, because after learning the technique I made the story board for the book (see above) and that was a huge hit.

Also, the clear contact paper is an awesome craft ingredient because it can cling to something and then be removed again. Will be using it again.

STEM Activity Station 2. Measuring Volume

Gather:

  • Bin
  • Filling material such as rice or beans. (I used different colored lentils) - check about allergies first.
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Geosolid shapes  (optional, but very popular)

These are geosolids (Amazon Affiliate Link).

 

No need for instructions here. Scoop up the materials, fill a shape and then transfer the filling to another shape.

Comments:

This was the most popular station by far. Saw a lot of exploring and creativity.

Next time:  Have pictures of the shapes labelled with the correct name and have the children match them. For example, have a picture of a cone and have them look for the matching cone geosolid shape. They seemed ready to learn the names.

STEM Activity Station 3:  Busy Bugs

The Environmental Education Center supplied this Busy Bug sorting and counting kit. Also comes with pattern cards.

Kids probably could have spent hours with these if they hadn't spent so much time at the measuring bin.

STEM Activity Station 4:  Feed the Squirrels- Counting

 

Gather:

  • Acorns - at least 10
  • Container for acorns (optional)
  • Squirrel counting printable
  • 4 Plastic cups
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Instructions (optional)

Adults:  print out the counting printable. Cut out the squrrels and tape each one to a cup.

Have the children count the number of acorns  indicated on the squirrel's tail into the cup.

STEM Activity Station 5:  Sorting Natural Objects

First read the comments below. Second, ask about food allergies if you decide to use nuts.

Gather:

  • Natural objects such as rocks, different kinds of pine cones, or seeds/nuts
  • Bowls or egg cartons to sort into

Because of the squirrel counting activity, I offered different kinds of nuts in shells.

Comments:

Using nuts in shells was not a good idea because the children wanted to crack them open and see what was inside. When we cracked one open, they wanted to eat the contents. It would probably have been just fine at home, but under preschool conditions it was not ideal.

Conclusion:  I'm bringing rocks to sort next time.

We also sorted colored pom poms by color.


Next time I will offer less sorting activities.

STEM Activity Station 6:  Measuring with Inchworms

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Cut fuzzy stems (chenille) to different lengths and measure with "inchworms." (Somehow I didn't get a photograph of this station.) The children seemed to like both measuring activities.

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I also offered two types of number/counting puzzles and a sequencing activity.

This is really a quick overview. please let me know if you have any specific questions or suggestions.

 

Visit our Pinterest Board for more preschool math ideas.

I'm doing a series of STEM story times for a local city program and thought I'd share the activities. Most require items that are easy to find around the house.

Because this is story time, we read children's books at the beginning and end of the half hour session. This time I offered a choice of a few books and the children first picked Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry.

Little Blue Truck is a work of fiction, but it is quite easy to tie in STEM activities about physics, including an activity to explore friction. HMH Books also has some great Little Blue truck party and activity ideas to download

 

STEM Activity Station 1. Exploring Friction

Gather:

  • Toy cars and trucks
  • Sandpaper
  • Wax paper
  • Inside of a padded envelope or bubble wrap
  • Play dough (home made or commercial)

Encourage the participants to roll the toys over different surfaces. Explain that the play dough is like the mud in the story that the trucks get stuck in. Discuss why the play dough traps the wheels.

Note:  If the play dough dries on the toys, scrub them with a bottle brush. It made clean up easier.

Making home made play dough is so much fun. All that you need is flour, water, oil, salt, and cream of tartar, which is a white powder often found in the spice/baking section of most grocery stores. Kneading the warm dough is an experience not to be missed. Here's one example of how to do it:

 

STEM Activity Station 2. Painting with Cars (also exploring friction)

Gather:

  • Toy cars and trucks
  • Paper plates
  • Paper
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Butcher paper or newspapers to cover work surface (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)

This activity would work well outside.

Encourage the children to roll the cars and trucks on the paper to see how much "push" is required to move them. Then roll the wheels in paint and try again. Does it feel different?

Note:  Some children preferred to dab the paint on the wheels with paintbrushes rather than roll the toys through the paint.

STEM Activity Station 3. What Objects Roll Down a Ramp?

Gather:

  • Wood blocks or foam core to form a ramp
  • Objects such as pine cones, blocks, balls, cylinders, etc.

Encourage the participants to test the ability of various objects to roll dow a ramp. Adjust the steepness or length of the ramp and try again.

Thank you to Prekinders for the original idea.

STEM Activity Station 4. Car Race (testing gravity)

Gather:

  • Cardboard or foam core for a ramp
  • Toy cars of different sizes and shapes
  • Low table or chair to prop the ramp on
  • Painters tape

Use the tape to create a "race track" and to fix the ramp to the table. Older children might want to quantify their results using a stopwatch.

Cardboard tube, such as those used for wrapping paper, also  make great ramps.

STEM Activity Station 5. Pull-back Cars (energy)

Gather:

  • Cars that pull back then go when released (inexpensive versions may be found at party stores).

If children are used to pushing a toy car to make it go, then a pull back car seems to break the rules. Explain the spring mechanism inside stores energy when the car is pulled back (potential energy). When released, the stored energy is converted to kinetic energy and the car rolls forward.

The cars could also be used to test acceleration, what happens if you increase the mass (add weights to the car), and also explore friction by testing them on different surfaces (bare floor versus carpet, for example).

(Amazon affiliate link)

Conclusion/wrap up

We ended by reading Freight Train by Donald Crews. It introduces color concepts and also some terminology about trains, for example words like "caboose" and "cattle car." Simple, but with gorgeous artwork.

You can find more children's books about cars and trucks in our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

And check our Pinterest board for many more activity ideas.

I'm going to be doing a series of STEM story times for a local city program.  You might be interested in the activity stations, most of which use easy to obtain materials.

Because this is story time, I began and ended with books. For a recent STEM story time about senses, first I read Aliki's My Five Senses and Loud Lion, Quiet Mouse.

You can find more children's books about senses on our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

STEM Activity Station 1. Taste Test

Much of what we taste is based on what we see and what we smell, as well as what our taste buds tell us. Discover what happens when our sight gives us limited clues.

Caution:  Make sure no one has food allergies before carrying out this test.

Gather:

  • Small dishes or bathroom-sized cups
  • An apple, a pear, and a potato - or any white-fleshed fruits or vegetables that resemble each other visually
  • Knife (for adult use)
  • Bowl or pail for trash (optional)
  • Hand sanitizer (optional if sink present)
  • Paper and pen

Prepare three sheets of paper labelled 1, 2, and 3. Peel the fruit and potatoes. Cut enough dime-sized samples in roughly the same shape, enough for each participant plus a few extras for second tries, etc.  Place in the dishes or cups. Put all the apple samples on one sheet, the pear samples on a second sheet, and potato samples on the third.

Prepare a sign or explain:

Taste test:  Take one sample from number 1. Use your tongue to taste. Can you guess what food item it is? Now try samples from number 2 and number 3. Taste. Can you tell what food items they are?

If it is too easy, try to taste with your eyes closed and/or holding your nose.

For more ideas, check out our previous post on tongues and tasting.

STEM Activity Station 2. Smelling

Gather:

  • Opaque containers, such as bathroom-sized paper cups
  • Items with strong odors. Examples :
      • lemon juice and zest (soak juice into a cotton ball)
      • rosemary branches
      • nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and other spices (used whole nutmeg)
      • dill
      • mint leaves (fresh)
      • garlic chives or onions (fresh)

In each container, place a small amount of a different item to smell. To keep younger participants engaged, prepare large examples or photographs of some of the plants and ask them to match the large examples to one of the unknown containers. If the stations are self-directed or parent/caregiver led, prepare signs.

STEM Activity Station 3:  Sight

Gather:

  • Glasses or viewers that distort sight, such as insect eye glasses, diffraction glasses, or kaleidoscopes.
  • Paper
  • Art supplies

Ask the children to look inside or through. What they see? Have them draw or paint what they see.

Extension 1:  Add other senses. Have them draw or paint to music.

Extension 2:  Discuss colors.

STEM Activity Station 4:  Touch

Make touch mystery boxes, plus supply objects for children to use their sense of touch.

You can find instructions for easy DIY touch and feel mystery boxes online, like this video.

Some objects to offer:

  • Pinecones
  • Silk scarf
  • Wax paper
  • Sand paper
  • Luffa sponge
  • Craft foam

STEM Activity Station 5:  Sound

1. Simply fill a tray full of objects and ask which make sounds. (Thanks to prekinders.com)

Suggestions:

  • Bells
  • Cat or dog toys, such as squeaky mice and jingle balls
  • Crinkly paper
  • Musical instruments, such as scrapers, castanets, etc.
  • Blow up a balloon with a metal nut inside.

Note:  Be careful with the balloon because popped balloons can be choking hazards. However, the way one little boy's eyes lit up when he shook the balloon and it began to sing was priceless.

2. Make some shakers using opaque containers, such as plastic eggs (Note:  Plastic eggs can be difficult to find at certain times of year, so I ended up using bottles that were originally bubble solution party favors.)

Fill the shakers with objects that make sounds like:

  • rice
  • beans
  • small washers
  • bells
  • balls

Fill one set with tea or cotton balls, to give a faint, muffled sound.

Troubleshooting: 

A. The original instructions suggesting sealing the egg shakers with electrical tape. The bottle lids fit tightly, so I wasn't concerned that they would fly off under vigorous shaking. What happened, however, was that the children wanted to see what was inside the shakers. Perhaps having the fillings on hand to show them would prevent you from having to disassemble the shakers like I did.

B. I filled pairs of shakers with the same item, then mixed them up and asked the children to find the two with the same sound.

This did not go as planned.

First of all, you must fill each with the exact same ingredients and amounts, or the sound will be a bit different (this fact could be used for experimentation with an older group).

Second, the children didn't seem to be able to discern any but the most different sounds (tea and screws). Perhaps the ability to discern subtle differences in sound isn't fully developed yet in preschoolers? What do you think?

3. Castanet party favors

One young man stacked the castanets to be a rainbow. Fun!

We ended our session with a rousing reading of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, who just happened to taste apples and pears (activity 1).

Visit our Pinterest Board for more science of senses activity ideas.