STEAM School visits Oak Spring Farm

Our April fieldtrip to the Biocultural Conservation Farm at Oak Spring in Upperville, VA was a little washed out. Instead of tromping through the muddy gardens in the pouring rain, the creative staff came up with a fun indoor activity. In the classroom students made their own model of a walled in garden!

They designed their garden using cardstock and tracing popsicle sticks for their beds. Soil or “brown paint” was applied to the beds. Next, they threw on some weeds to simulate having to “wake the gardens up”. Black plastic was placed on the beds to act as a silage tarp that would kill any weeds wanting to grow back and help decompose all of the plant material left from the previous growing season.

Using soil test kits, they learned how to test the soil for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and pH. After, they pulled the silage tarp and raked their gardens using a scuffle-hoe (pipe cleaner) and a rake (plastic fork).

Next came the amendments to help improve the soil for the plants. Sea kelp was green glitter, Azomite was black glitter, Humic Acid was pink glitter and Feather Meal was yellow glitter. They learned how these natural materials help the plants to grow and thrive.

At the farm they use a broad fork to aerate the soil and move the amendments deeper instead of a gas powered tiller. Students mimicked this with using a plastic fork. Next they used the tilther (paintbrush) to prepare the top 2 inches of soil to prepare for seeds or transplanting.

Students got to choose different seeds to plant (glue) into their beds. They learned about the many heirloom plants that they grow at the BCF. They labeled their beds with a sharpie and installed drip irrigation using yarn. This was such a fun simulation, and the kids were so happy with their models.

Afterwards, they planted some microgreen and pollinator seeds to take home. It was such a fun and educational trip, and we were all pretty happy we didn’t come home cold and dripping wet. We can’t wait to return in the late summer to see what is happening IN the gardens!


STEAM School was invited to see, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, presented by Warren Co High School and Skyline High School. It was a wonderful experience as many of our students love the Percy Jackson series as well as Greek mythology.

Afterward, they were invited on backstage tour. They were very intrigued by the set design area where there were lots of building supplies. The also got to see where the cast waits to go on stage, where the props are kept and all the lights!

Then they made their way up to the light and sound booth. There they learned about the relays for the mics and how the sound board works. They also saw how the lights are coded or programmed to the show.

It was such a great experience for them to see all that goes into a theater production, from the musicians in the pit, to the set design and costumes, to the acting and singing to the lights and sound. There are many roles to fill when making a production and the comradery was evident.

Following the tour our students got to sit in on a Q&A with the cast, crew and a drama club. It was really interesting to hear about the different techniques the actors use to improve their skills and how others that prefer not to act also play an important role in the production. There is something for everyone.

A special thanks to Stephen and Rose Havery for making this happen.

Open House and Trial Classes! March 23

Curious about homeschooling? Already homeschooling, but looking for a great community of learners for your child?

You are invited to our Spring Open House on March 23 from 10:30-12:30pm.

We will give you a tour at our co-op site, 9668 Maidstone Rd, Delaplane, VA.

Come out to meet our leaders and experience some of the fun STEM and art activities that we do at co-op. We’d love to meet you!

We are currently enrolling for Fall 2019.

Please RSVP on Facebook or by email to Tell us how many kids you are bringing and their ages so we can be prepared for them.

Thank you,

Elena McIntosh

What’s so great about a fence?

Why this playground fence is a big deal.

Though it might seem small, this fence project means a great deal. STEAM co-op represents a vision of schooling in which kids and adults collaborate to create learning opportunities and improve their community. This fence project was a real-world example of what we teach at co-op.

A problem was identified:

The playground sits very close to a major road with high speed traffic.

Solutions were identified:

We discussed temporary fencing options, we created artificial boundaries to keep kids on the playground, we discussed raising money to build a new fence.

Adults collaborated to develop solutions to the problem:

Several community members offered to purchase materials, bring equipment, help build the fence, help lay fabric, and provide mulch.

We worked hard to complete the solution:

Eight parents and two parishioners of Emmanuel worked for up to 9 hours one Saturday to complete the fence. Three other parents and one parishioner continued the work by providing fill dirt, spreading dirt, laying fabric and providing mulch. We have two final steps- spreading the mulch and painting the fence boards and posts.

Once that work is complete, STEAM co-op and Emmanuel can officially say, we built this fence together and made our playground a better place.

This fence is a big deal because the process of building it perfectly embodies the mission of our co-op
To teach our learners the skills of the future:
• Communication
• Collaboration
• Critical Thinking
• Creativity

In the end, we spent around $500 from our budget on fencing materials to complete the project. While this was a little more than we hoped to spend, it was less than a third of the total cost for the fence.

If you would like to make a donation to our co-op to help offset our fence costs, you can do so using the link below and your donation will be tax deductible since we are a 501c3 nonprofit.

Homeschoolers Meet-up rescheduled

Our field trip to Sky Meadows Children’s Discovery Area was rescheduled to this coming Monday, April 23 at 10am. Please bring a lunch and plenty of water as there is no running water near the discovery area. Restrooms are a short drive away to the visitor’s center. After the kids play, we can all take a nature walk together to see what’s growing. Park fees are $5 per car. This is an unstructured learning experience with no specific program planned. The kids will LOVE it.

You can rsvp on Facebook or email to let us know to look out for you.

STEAM School Open House

STEAM School Open House 2018

STEAM School is looking to the future!

We are excited to announce that we will be expanding our offerings from K-3rd to add 4th-6th grade classes! Our mission is to teach our learners the skills of the future- communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, through STEAM subjects. This year has been an amazing journey as we developed our leadership team, teachers, and students into 21st century thinkers and productive community members.

Due to the size of classrooms at our school site, space is very limited. We will only be able to take 8 children in each of our three age groups per day of class. The children of teachers are included in this number. If you are interested in joining the co-op for one, two, or all three days, please plan to attend our Open House on April 7th to pick up our application, schedule and registration forms. We are looking to add a few teachers as we expand our offerings.

Thank you for following us here and on Facebook! Let us know if you have any questions, want to offer to teach a class, or would like to donate supplies. Email




Two Months Flew By!

Friends of STEAM,

It has been a long time since I have updated this website. We share more frequently on our Facebook page.

The kids have been having an amazing time learning about engineering, math, science, music, social studies, art, German, and getting to know one another. My daughter is excited to go to school every day. She talks about her school day and revisits her learning once we are back at home. It’s great to see her taking charge of her own learning.

Schedule Change
We are moving forward with a slight adjustment to our schedule. We will be condensing co-op days to Tuesday and Wednesday so that we can open our school site up to the general homeschooling public for weekly classes in art and engineering. We meet at Emmanuel Episcopal Church at 9668 Maidstone Rd at 10am for Engineering and 11am for Art. This is a great chance to get to see our site and meet two of our teachers, so you can consider joining us for co-op days next semester. Subsequent classes are $10/child or $35 for four weeks. You must RSVP, space is limited:


Complete this form to find out more about our co-op and classes

Fellow homeschoolers, you are welcome to meet up with us at one of our public events. Here are some of our exciting events coming up:
MONDAY, November 13, 12pm-3pm, Children’s Museum of Richmond- Fredericksburg field trip. Though the cost is high @ $9/person ages 1+, this museum keeps the kids active for hours in imaginative play. Due to budget constraints, they no longer offer their 15 cent days. Let’s help keep this place open by visiting.
MONDAY, November 20, National Gallery of Art Visit with a tour given by an art expert and friend of the school! Meet at Vienna metro at 10am or meet inside the entrance of the East Building of the Gallery at 11. Tour begins at 11:30. Walk to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine at 1pm for a brief visit of their engaging science displays. ART and SCIENCE combined!
Finally- We are considering opening classes for OLDER kids. Grades 4-8?? If any of you are interested in such a thing, please let us know what you are looking for, when you can meet, what content you would like covered. I am a former middle school teacher, so I would love to open our doors to older kids, but we need to figure out logistics and ascertain the needs of the homeschooling community.
There maaaaay be summer camp options coming up from us, so if you are interested in hearing more about camps in June, let us know you are interested!

Strawberry Picking for Science and Math

Meet the Farmer and Strawberry Math

This year, the strawberries were out early due to the mild winter. The season is over, but raspberries, blackberries and blueberries as well as cherries are ripe now! 

We had so much fun meeting up to learn about strawberries and even more fun picking and tasting them. Before we met, I did a little research and discovered some shocking truths about strawberries. Namely, that the fruit is not actually a berry at all, but is considered an aggregate accessory fruit!! Check out the info sheet I created if you would like more interesting information about straw-“berries”.

Strawberry Profile and Worksheet

After we warmed up with counting by ones to ten, we then practiced counting by tens to one hundred, then two hundred. This was to prepare the older kids for counting ALL the berries they picked so they could solve the math challenge. The challenge was to figure out how much ONE BERRY cost them that day. See the worksheet above for the question.

After we talked for a bit, our special guest, Farmer Green of Green Truck Farms arrived. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy day to answer questions posed by our aspiring young farmers. Mr. Green told us about how each of the berry varieties on his farm grew from runners from the previous year and thus were all genetically identical. He did not grow them from seed. We also learned how he keeps the plants warm when there is a chance of frost by covering them with giant plastic sheets. The kids asked a lot of great questions and seemed genuinely excited to be talking to a real farmer.

At the end, everyone got a chance to pick their own “berries.” When we got home, my daughter and I talked through the math problem and used an estimate of the number of strawberries we picked. We divided the dollar amount we paid by the number of strawberries we picked to find out how much we paid for ONE strawberry. It came out to 17 cents. The worksheet provides a follow up question, which you can use to talk about how (fractions or) rates represent a relationship between the two factors. If the strawberries are larger, but still cost the same amount, then you will pay more for each strawberry. What happens if the price per pound changes? If you know the number of pounds you bought, you can recalculate the total you paid using the new price and see how that affects the price per berry.

Hands-On Science

Before the kids were let loose in the fields, we met and talked about strawberries. By preparing them with a few facts, I helped focus their attention on some aspects of the plant that they may not have noticed or experienced that day. I brought a piece of a rose bush to show them the leaves so they could see how the strawberry plant is related to the rose family. I also mentioned some of the bugs that like to eat the plant, in case we didn’t get to see them in person. Seeing for themselves how the strawberry grows and changes colors as it ripens is an excellent way for the kids to learn about the life cycle of one type of plant. Adding some additional information to the experience only serves to deepen their understanding of what they are seeing.

Modeling Mathematics

Rather than think of this math problem as a learning activity for my daughter through which she should learn how to solve similar problems, I thought of it as mathematics modeling. Just as we model reading and writing to our children, we should also model how we use math and science every day. Knowing that it is possible to find the answer to a question like “how much does one strawberry cost?” is an important piece of my daughter’s math understanding. The computation skills will come in time.

Clay Modeling for Extended Learning

After the field trip, we used modeling clay to attempt to create a strawberry, showing the various physical features that we had learned about. The tiny fruit (achene) were difficult to create, but an excellent practice for fine motor skills.


This time-lapse video shows the life-cycle of a strawberry plant very nicely: Growth of a Strawberry

And this silly song included some of the shocking facts about strawberries that I shared with the group: Strawberry Song

We hope you’ll join us for the Lavender Farm experience coming up this week: Lavender Farm Meet Up

Math Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunts Are Fun!

Last week we kicked off our Friday program by meeting for a math scavenger hunt outside. Scavenger hunts are a great way to review content, make math problems more fun, and integrate reading/literacy skills with other subjects. In this case, I made the scavenger hunt clues independent of the math solutions so that kids could get to the next problem even if they couldn’t answer the math problem they were given. The math problems given were aligned to Virginia SOL standards. A list of the standards and the math worksheets are given below. This hunt could be used as an end of year review, as it covers many different standards. You could create a hunt for just one unit of study, or even just one math standard. The best part is, the kids are moving around, which gives energy to their brain and makes the activity more exciting. Older students could create clues (rhyming or descriptive) and hide the math problems with the clues for their friends.

Before the scavenger hunt, we introduced ourselves to the group then exercised our brains and reviewed numbers by reading a great book called Numbers on the Move. It’s always good to review basic skills and get kids interacting with one another before starting an activity. I reviewed the alphabet code (a=1, b=2, c=3, etc.) and the concept of even and odd numbers. Then, we broke out into grade level groups to start the hunt.

Literacy was integrated because some answers required writing out a word, there was a code to solve using letters from the answers, and the clues were riddles. The clues are not attached here as they were site specific. Most of them relied on a rhyme to figure out where to go next.

I did make one mistake, which a parent caught for me. It has been fixed in the document below.

Math Scavenger Hunt April 24 2017

Virginia Math standards hit (not comprehensively covered):

  • K.1
  • K.4a
  • K.4c
  • K.6
  • K.9
  • K.10
  • K.11b
  • K.12
  • K.15
  • K.16
  • 2.1c
  • 2.21
  • 2.4a
  • 2.4c
  • 2.8
  • 2.12
  • 2.20
  • 2.21
  • 3.1a
  • 3.3a
  • 3.5

Conceptual learning for mathematics

Adding movement into math exercises makes the whole experience more fun and builds intuitive number sense. Jumping jacks or clapping or taking turns around a circle to say the next number are great exercises to do while reviewing counting, multiples, patterns, etc. Making math problem-solving more about learning how numbers (and shapes) work and less about finding the right answer can help take the pressure off. That’s why it is best to focus on teaching concepts and vocabulary not procedures or steps. Learning when to apply which procedure to what exact situation is much harder than learning how numbers work and how you can manipulate them across situations. A deep conceptual understanding is the foundation for sound problem-solving; it’s about knowing WHY you are doing what you are doing.