Projects

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. https://www.facebook.com/thesteamschool

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

FIELD TRIPS!
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.

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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.

Rainy day science

Watching “rain” fall

Yesterday was a wet, gloomy day. As we were reading our Highlights Magazine, we found the perfect indoor activity about rain! It took less than 2 minutes to set up and only 5 minutes of our time total, but it gave me a chance to show how evaporation, condensation, and precipitation are related. After we finished, we went for a walk in the drizzle and talked about the water cycle a bit more. The activity didn’t have a huge wow factor, but it was so relevant to the situation and was super simple to set up. 

Rain Demonstration

Step 1: heat water

Step 2: fill a clear cup 1/3 full with warm water

Step 3: cover the cup with plastic wrap and tie it or put a rubber band around it to keep water vapor from escaping

Step 4: put a few ice cubes on top of the plastic wrap

Step 5: watch the “rain” drops form under the plastic wrap and then fall like rain while you talk about evaporation, condensation and precipitation

At the end, when I took the plastic off, all the water that had been condensing on the side of the cup suddenly fell. It looked like rainfall!

What they learned

  • When water gets warm, it starts to evaporate.
  • When small particles of water vapor meet cooler air, they start to gather and form condensation.
  • When enough condensation collects in the “atmosphere” of the cup, it becomes heavy enough to fall as precipitation.
  • Temperature affects the water cycle. 
  • Water has three forms (states): solid ice, gas/vapor and liquid
Water droplets condensing on the side of the cup
Water droplets forming at the top of the cup (our sky or atmosphere)

How does your garden grow?

Our home garden is planted!

I’m no expert, but I am learning along the way. The kids helped me dig, till, weed, create rows and plant seeds. We ended up starting cherry tomatoes and bell peppers inside. The cats have gotten into them a few times, but I’m hopeful several seedlings will survive.
We planted mostly cold season vegetables, but I did take a risk and put some potatoes and corn in the ground early. Fingers crossed we don’t get a hard frost. If we lose the plants, I’ll try again later. 

Our garden

  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberry
  • Flowers
This is the only broccoli to grow so far. I think it’s broccoli!
Potatoes require hilling every two weeks to keep the new potatoes covered and prevent them from becoming green from too much sun. Thank you internet!
Our indoor peppers are growing well.
This oregano survived two winters and is continuing to produce well. I’ve been drying my own and it tastes great.

Mathematics of every day life

We’re already teaching our kids math at home!!

I found this helpful graphic on the everyday mathematics website of University of Chicago. What I learned from the graphic is that children develop their understanding of abstract ideas (such as a math sentence) through concrete, verbal and pictorial representations. What this means in practice is that teaching math through every day normal experiences with your children is a very good idea and may even be the best way to learn math! Let me give you an example.

3+3=6

My daughter is 5 years old. She doesn’t even realize we do math, but was very excited when I explained the graphic and talked her through our math experience of tonight.

Joelle wanted cookies after dinner. I told her to go ahead and bake three for herself and three for her brother. I asked her, how many total cookies are you going to bake? She counted it up and got to six.

She measured out the dough. We baked cookies. We distracted ourselves with something else while we waited. Beep beep! Cookies were ready. We let them cool. Then, Joelle ate her cookies… and her brother’s cookies too, because he didn’t want them.

At bedtime, I showed her this graphic and explained it to her, giving the cookies as an example.

You see, Joelle had a concrete connection to the cookies. She physically counted them out. She made two rows of three so she would remember whose cookies were whose. Good job grouping, Joelle! (3 for you, 3 for me)

She also had a verbal experience with the cookies, both when I asked her how many total she would make, and then later when I asked her how many she had made for each of them and how many total she ate. She thought she ate all of them, but I had one. I didn’t correct her.

In the morning, we will review the math sentence by creating a pictorial representation of the now famous six cookies.

Tonight, I already helped her write out the math sentence with number symbols, but we can do it again in the morning with our portrait of six delicious cookies.

If she were ready for it, I could have given her a multiplication problem by telling her to make three cookies two times, and then a division problem by asking her to divide her cookies by two people… or maybe a surprise third person who wanted cookies. (Daddy! We forgot him!)

Even if I hadn’t guided her to make the math sentence in symbols, she would have still been developing her understanding of how numbers are connected, how they work, what they represent, and how to manipulate them to figure out what you want to know. Mathematics of the real world, everyday* experience for the win!

 

*We do not eat cookies every day. I’m pretty sure.

Toothpick Engineering

Happy Spring Break!

The kids and I had a fun time with toothpick engineering today using modeling clay, toothpicks and this hilariously old school video as inspiration. I showed my 5 and 4 year old the video before we started, but you could pose the challenge to older kids without showing the video first. After we tried building tall, the kids just played around creatively with the toothpicks and clay and we talked about what their products looked like (a sea urchin and a spiky caterpillar). Interested in joining us on a regular basis next fall? Contact us at steamhomeschool@gmail.com.


What are they learning?

-Counting objects
-Creating or reproducing 3-D shapes
-Naming shapes
-Identifying which shapes make structures strong
-Using comparison/analogy to identify shared features of two objects

Challenge: build a tower that stands four toothpicks tall using only six toothpicks.

20170411_155401
Building four toothpicks tall with just six toothpicks wasn’t very sturdy.
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We used more toothpicks to create a more sturdy base.
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Caterpillar!
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Snack time and we kept on building.

Engineering for kids

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!

At the STEAM school, we will use the design process to solve real problems. Check out this great resource from PBS Kids on how to teach kids to use the design process (page 2). The most important aspect of design thinking is that there is no single “correct” solution, rather a series of attempts, redesigns and retests along the bumpy road toward an awesome product. This type of thinking encourages kids to continue trying new approaches until they have a great solution.

When kids use design thinking, it builds their resilience, persistence, diligence and confidence!

http://www-tc.pbskids.org/designsquad/pdf/parentseducators/DS_Act_Guide_complete.pdf