There is nothing I love more than a good project. You can’t ask for better learning than when kids are solving a problem using their own ideas and resources. This is exactly what you get with STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading from Tied 2 Teaching. When we were picked to do this review, I was really excited that my kids were going to have an extra excuse to get their minds working and their hands dirty. Here is what we found…
A Little Bit About Tied 2 Teaching
Matthew Kelly founded Tied 2 Teaching out of his love for making learning fun. He is a teacher, and has taught grades 4-8. Because of this, he has lots of experience with creating fun learning activities for kids in this age group. The STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges With Close Reading seem perfect for these ages as well.
A Little Bit About STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges With Close Reading
These are seasonally themed STEM challenges that allow students to follow a simplified version of the scientific method. They work to stretch and challenge your child and get them thinking. The goal is not a perfect end product as much as the learning that happens along the way.
Students are encouraged to think, plan and then do their project. Then once the project is complete, they are encouraged to check the project and make changes based upon what they have learned. Trial and error is actually built into the activity sheets.
This is great if you have easily frustrated kiddos like I do. The failures that happen with thinking projects such as this are reworded as improvements. Students are challenged to look at what they have created and find ways to improve things until they meet the challenge.
This is a digital product, and you really don’t need to print anything unless you want to. However, there are writing activities that you may want to print out. You could also print out the entire file as a packet for your child to work their way through. For each challenge, students are provided with everything they need to work the problem, including:
- The Design Challenge
- Build a boat made from apples that holds pennies
- Construct a bridge that holds a cup of pennies
- Create a pair of glasses out of specific craft supplies
- Build a Leprechaun trap out of household materials
- The Design Criteria and Suggested Materials
- Think of this like the rules that must be followed as your child completes the challenge.
- For example, you may find yourself limited to the types or quantities of materials as you move through the project. This is what adds to the challenge and need for creative thinking.
- The Activity Packet
- This includes the link to the reading in site called Wonderopolis.
- You will also find worksheets to help organize plans as your child works on the challenge.
How We Used This Product
We have turned every Friday into STEM Fun Friday. This means that our kids work very hard on their studies on the other days of the week with the anticipation of a fun activity on Friday afternoon. I love it when learning can be used as a reward!
I don’t run our homeschool by the seasons or what is happening in a particular part of the year, so we did not stick to the suggested activity time frames. Each week I let my kids pick what they would like to learn about. We gather the materials, and then come Friday afternoon, the kids tackle the challenge.
Things We Learned Along The Way
We Don’t follow A Plan…
Our homeschool does not follow any real plan. Because of this we did not follow the suggested timeline, and it was fine. Don’t feel that you need to complete these STEM activities in order simply because they are seasonally themed. The apple boat challenge is suggested for September, but we couldn’t find anything that would tie it specifically to the fall, and it worked just fine in March. However, if you do organize your homeschool by the time of year, these would fit perfectly.
We Have Similar Ages But Not Similar Abilities…
We have a bit of a disconnect with everyone’s abilities, so we were very happy to find that there are varying difficulty levels between the challenges. My daughter has some delays as well as some physical challenges that would make some of the activities too difficult for her.
These were of course no problem for my son. He could do the more challenging activities (make a boat out of apples and the penny holding bridge) and she could do the less challenging ones (the Leprechaun trap and the pipe cleaner glasses).
There is something for everyone, and on the weeks that activities were easier, my daughter was the group leader and made the decisions. Then her helpers would do what she asked. On the weeks that things were more challenging, she was the helper, and got to hold things for gluing or other helper sort of tasks. It worked pretty slick.
We Are Not Mobile And Cannot Easily Get Materials…
So far, all of the projects have used things most of us have around the house already. There were a few things that we did not have on hand, so we began looking at the challenge before shopping day, so that we could be more prepared. I would get the list of challenges out as I made my list, and once my kids decided on that week’s project, I would add any needed materials to my list.
The costs of the materials are typically pretty reasonable, so we never felt like we were breaking the bank. Quite a few of the challenges use Legos, so if you aren’t a Lego family, this may present a bit of a problem. We happen to be a Lego family, so this was great for us. Some inexpensive places to get Legos would be Goodwill, garage sales, and thrift stores. You could also ask to borrow Legos from another homeschool family.
Seth (age 13)
“What I liked about the STEM projects is that they were fun and I did get to learn a lot about science. I got to practice those principles with each project. Also, I got to do more research with my projects, so that I could learn even more. What I thought was really cool was the straw bridge where I had to use principles from research. It worked out really well, because my bridge could hold even more than the required pennies. It even held a coffee mug.”
Ruth (age 16)
“I liked making the sunglasses. It was fun learning about why people wear glasses. I can’t wear mom’s glasses and she can’t wear my glasses.”
“These are really well thought out and can work for most of the family. What I find to be awesome, is that you can add more to the challenges to stretch older kids, and you can make younger kids helpers. Then everyone can benefit.”
Review Crew Thoughts…
You don’t have to take our word for it though. Other Review Crew families have also been working hard to bring you a great review. If you would like to check them out, simply click the link below.