Holiday STEM in the Science Classroom

Holiday STEM in the grade 4, 5, 6, 7 science classroom to boost social emotional learning and NGSS standards

The holidays can be a time that tests classroom management. Throughout my years, I have found that student engagement is the best way to keep students on task. An engaged student cannot get into trouble. But there are so many more reasons to try a STEM resource in your classroom. Aside from the NGSS connection, STEM can improve social-emotional learning skills (SEL). Read on to learn more about STEM projects and why I like to use them in my upper elementary and middle school science classes.  

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM resources have been created because these are areas that have been recognized as important skills that students need for the future. Many professionals feel that by immersing our students in these areas will allow them to develop a passion and eventually want to pursue a job in this field.

Many STEM projects also align with NGSS Engineering standards. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specific criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • MS-ETS-1-2: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. 
  • MS-ETS-1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
  • MS-ETS-1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.   
  • MS-ETS-1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.  

 This allows you to be guilt-free in including it in your curriculum. In addition to meeting your curriculum requirements, STEM provides your students with other benefits.

STEM helps students: 

  • Reinforce collaborative learning
  • Encourage and enhance tech use
  • Improve independence
  • Spark ingenuity
  • Build on inquiry thinking skills
  • Allow students to learn from failure points
  • Expand problem solving skills
  • Think of solutions to real-life problems

Why do I think it is important to incorporate STEM skills around the holidays?

When we were in college going through our standard history of education classes, how many times have we heard that young children learn through play? In pre-school, counseling, and with friends, our students learned so many valuable lessons while they were playing. Why would this suddenly stop? Yes, the “play objects” change, but students will STILL learn best through hands-on learning.

In addition to the preferred learning style, the holidays are not always a jolly time for our students. Just like in our own complex family dynamics, our students often come from heart-breaking family stories.  

I feel strongly that STEM ties into social-emotional learning. Students need to work and refine their cooperative learning skills as they work on the task. STEM learning helps them to set and achieve goals, establish and maintain positive relationships with their peers, and make responsible decisions. Students will also find this type of activity more therapeutic and stimulating than normal seatwork. Getting their mind off of other things and focusing on the project can greatly help some students mindsets. Remember what I said about the engaged student? 

Looking for premade lessons and activities to use with your students? Check them out here

incorporating STEM into your science classroom to help with social emotional learning

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    Incorporating Halloween and CER into the Science Classroom

    Engage students on Halloween with an experiment and CER writing strategy

    Halloween is the first holiday of the school year. Teachers are left with the decision to acknowledge and celebrate the holiday even though they are nervous about maintaining classroom control or act as if it isn’t happening at all.

    As a science teacher, I feel Halloween is the perfect day to perform a hands on demonstration or lab station activity. Keeping the students engaged in a fun activity will keep negative behaviors at bay. Of course, it is necessary to review your rules and procedures with your students prior to starting the activity, but students will be motivated to complete the assignment so this normally isn’t an issue.

    This time of year, my students are studying chemical and physical changes. One of my favorite units because of all the hands-on experiences that can be had while working on this activity, I decided this was an easy unit to incorporate Halloween into.

    Incorporating fun activities into Halloween will excite the students, but as a teacher, I still need to make sure the activity is applicable to the standard and fits into my curriculum. While I had the student engagement aspect of my activity, I needed to integrate it into my curriculum. Using the CER strategy, allowed me to do so seamlessly.

    There are three parts to this activity. Before starting the activity, we review the signs of a chemical change. This will help them later determine which type of change in matter is occurring. The first part was a class demonstration given by me and the following two activities, students worked in small groups. During the demonstration, I modeled what the students needed to do for the following parts of the activity.

    elephants toothpaste is the perfect halloween activity for chemical and physical changes

    Students of any age are always amazed at the simple demonstration of creating “elephant’s toothpaste”. (If you are unsure how to make it, instructions are in the freebie below). Using the CER strategy, I had my students make a claim as to whether the reaction was a chemical or physical change. If you need more information on how to implement the CER method, this post will help you. We discussed the evidence from the demonstrations that could be used to support their claim and backed it with scientific reasoning.

    From there, students complete two other activities on their own. One is using pumpkin candies in water and the other one is activating a glowstick.
    Glow sticks add fun and engagement to motivate students in understanding chemical and physical changes.

    Each of these activities works seamlessly into the Halloween theme. Students loved it and honestly, I was OBSERVED on Halloween using this lesson. Students were excited but they were on task and manageable and I think it was impressive to administration to see how students can still be engaged in learning while completing a Halloween inspired activity in the science classroom.

    Scroll down to try this Halloween experiment in your classroom for F-R-E-E!

    Practice NGSS skills by having your students create their own science experiments with this fun holiday activity!

    Students will follow NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-3 using this fun Halloween experiment

    holidays in the grade 4, 5, 6 science classrooms

    Looking for Halloween activities you can feel good about using your instructional minutes for? Check out these other free ideas for your upper elementary students and let us do the planning for you!

    Grade 4, 5, 6 Halloween activities | Looking for Halloween activities you can feel good about using your instructional minutes for? Check out these other free ideas for your upper elementary students and let us do the planning for you!

    Want to try the CER Halloween activity in your classroom? Join my science tribe to access it!

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