STEM Friday: Solar-Powered Ovens

After learning about heat energy, students practiced following step-by-step directions to build an solar-powered oven to investigate how we can use heat energy to cook food.

Students built ovens out of pizza boxes and set them outside to attract light and heat from the sun to “bake” s’mores and pizza.




100th Day of School

Yesterday was the 100th day of school. Students celebrated by working in groups to complete several STEM activities.  Groups worked together to create something using 100 items, including pattern blocks, unifix cubes, and Base-10 blocks.  One group had to create a bridge using only 1 note card strong enough to hold 100 pennies.

We enjoyed our morning dressed as 100 year olds.



In 100 years…

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STEM Friday (On a Tuesday): Real World Math Activity

Today, students participated in a real world activity to practice counting money and making change.  The activity involved applying for a job, earning a salary, cashing a check from the bank, and spending money using exact change or making change at the market.  It was a great capstone project to not only practice our money skills, but also experience how math is applied in the real world.

To begin the activity, students had to apply for jobs. Jobs included teacher assistants, store associates, store clerks, store managers, bank tellers, bank managers, and a police officer to monitor the halls. Teacher assistants assisted various teachers at RCSAI to complete a specific task. Once the task was complete, students received an envelope with their checks inside. They could then cash their checks at the bank. The bank teller and bank manager were to collect the checks and distribute the correct amount of money. Finally, students were able to use their money at the store. At the store, students had two options: use exact change to pay for an item or pay with more to get change. The store clerks and store manager were responsible for making sure all sale transactions were accurate and issuing correct change to customers.

Students had such a great time doing this activity.  It was much more meaningful than completing mundane workbook pages.

STEM Friday: Stacking Cups

This Week’s Challenge

Create a tool, using only the materials provided, that will allow your team to stack six cups in the shape of a pyramid.

Materials (per team)

  1. Six (6) plastics cup
  2. Five (5) pieces of string
  3. One (1) rubber band


  1. Design your tool using only the materials provided.
  2. Only the tool can touch the cups.
  3. Hands can only touch the string.
  4. Cups will be in a pile.  Stack the cups in a pyramid as fast as possible.

The main purpose of this activity was to learn how to cooperate within a group and use ALL members to complete the task.  Many students struggled working together and sharing their ideas with members of their group.  This challenge was difficult, indeed!  That being said, I would like to give a special shoutout to Aiden for being the first student to get close to solving the challenge by tying a string to the rubber band.  However, his team’s efforts were to no avail because his string was the only string attached and not everyone was involved.

Congratulations to Table 3 for being the first table to complete the challenge.  They worked diligently and kept making improvements on their failures until they finally got it!

Way to go friends!

STEM Friday: Paper Chain

This week’s challenge was not just to test the students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but to see how well they could work together in a group sharing different ideas.  Each student had a different idea of what a chain was or could be.  Their job was to express those ideas, listen to one another, and find the best possible way to complete the task.

This Week’s Challenge

Use the materials provided to created the longest chain you can.

Materials (per group)

  1. (1) piece of paper
  2. scissors
  3. tape


  1. Students will be in groups of three.
  2. They may cut the paper however they like and use tape.

It was amazing watching the different ideas everyone had.  Purple group cut strips to make interlocking circles.  Pink group cut triangle pieces and taped them together (how creative!).  Green group started out by cutting actual circles from their paper and taping the circles together.  It was so cute watching their effort before they realized what everyone else was doing.  The rest of the groups cut and taped strips together.

Blue group had the longest chain, measuring a whopping 21 ft and 4 in.  Everyone was amazed and thought they were given two pieces of paper.  This led to a great discussion about perception and teamwork.


Great teamwork, friends!

STEM Friday: Saving Sam

Our traditional beginning-of-year STEM Friday activity: Saving Sam!  This activity not only promotes teamwork, but requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

This Week’s Challenge

Use the materials provided to put life jacket on Sam, the gummy worm, without him falling into the water.

Materials (per partner)

  1. One gummy worm
  2. One gummy lifesaver
  3. One clear, plastic cup
  4. Large paper clips (2-3)


  1. Students will be in pairs.
  2. Students may NOT touch “Sam,” the “life jacket,” or the “boat.”
  3. Students may only touch the paper clips.  They are allowed to bend them.
  4. Students are NOT to poke “Sam” with the paper clips.
  5. Set up: Place gummy lifesaver under cup (the cup is flipped over) and place gummy worm on top.
  6. The goal: Students want to get the “life jacket” from under the “boat” and onto him using only the paperclips.

For our very first cooperative learning activity, teams worked really well together sharing ideas and not giving up.  After many trials and errors and lots of “This is impossible!”s, this was the end result:

Congratulations to Team Elise, Ray, and Chris for solving the challenge the quickest!

Way to go, friends!