It is Day 5 of the Children's STEAM Festival and today we are wrapping things up by examining how MATH fits
into STEAM. For those of you who have been enjoying my "Glimpse of the Garden" posts, this will serve as the post for Week 13. We'll investigate some math
principles that express themselves in some of the flowers blooming in
my yard this week! Once you have learned all about the Golden Ratio
in the garden, head over to Growing with Science where Roberta is
focusing on three books in the "You Do the Math" series: "Solve a Crime", "Fly a Jet Fighter" and "Launch a Rocket into Space".
The Golden Ratio
What is the golden ratio? It has many
names: golden ratio, golden section, golden mean, divine proportion,
etc. It has been called many things by different groups of people as
it has been discovered and rediscovered throughout our history. The
golden ratio, or phi, can be found in nature and in human
I think this concept is best understood
visually, so this video will help those like me who need to see it
to believe it! This is a clip from Donald in Mathmagic Land, an oldie
but a goodie from Disney. This cartoon does a nice job of giving
visuals for other math concepts as well as this one, so if you
haven't seen it in its entirety, you might want to pick up a copy. (click on the image to find it at Amazon, affiliate link)
So how do we find the golden ratio
mathematically? Two numbers are in the golden ratio if: their ratio
is the same as the ratio of the numbers added together to the larger
of the two numbers, or put more clearly: a/b = (a+b)/a. For example if our numbers are
a= 8, b= 5 then we have 8/5 = (8+5)/8, or 1.6 = 1.625. The larger the numbers, the more closely they equal 1.618.
By Ahecht (Original); Pbroks13
(Derivative work); Joo. (Editing) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia
Mathematicians generally use the number
1.618 to represent the golden ratio. Phi is similar to pi, 3.14, (the
ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter) in the
respect that the digits theoretically go on forever.
sequence is a series of numbers that relate to the golden ratio in
the respect that any two successive numbers' ratio is equal to the
golden ratio. We see numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, and the Fibonacci spiral, or golden spiral all over
"Fibonacci spiral 34" by
User:Dicklyon - self-drawn in Inkscape. Licensed under Public Domain
via Wikimedia Commons
Here is another video to help us visualize the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence and spiral in nature.
The pentagram and pentagon shapes also hold
the golden ratio.
"Ptolemy Pentagon" by
en:User:Dicklyon - Own work by en:User:Dicklyon. Licensed under
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Jamiemichelle at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to
Commons.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Let's go on a garden scavenger hunt to
find these shapes in the garden!
What other shapes can you find in nature? Triangles, hearts, circles? Next time you are out for a walk or hike play the shape scavenger hunt game. You'll be surprised at what you find!
Thanks for exploring math in the garden
with me today and for joining us for our Children's STEAM Festival! I'd love to hear how you use these ideas. Be sure to post a
comment below! To review our schedule and find links to all of the
festival posts, click the Children's STEAM Festival button below.
It has recently become more common to
add the "A", or art, to STEM education to make it STEAM
education. It is not only a popular trend in education, but it also
makes a lot of sense! The world is not sectioned off into subject
specific experiences! Learning all of these skills together engages
the whole brain and develops skills that are transferable to many
educational and career-related areas. For a stunning visual on
teaching STEAM vs. STEM, visit this site.
This post contains affiliate links, see disclosures for more details.
For the past few years we have hostedaFamily Science Night in February at Pine Cobble School. We focus our
family activities around a themeandthis year it was STEAM. Each
activity had some combination of science, technology, engineering,
art or math. It was a big hit and I am excited to share the
activities with you today.
Catapult painting was an idea I had read about and thought it sounded incredibly fun. Despite the fun factor, I admittedly was hesitant to do this activity,
particularly as we would be inside due to frigid temperatures.
I was convinced otherwise. Although I would highly recommend doing it outside instead, it was
a great project.
This was not only an interesting
engineering project, but it also resulted in a modern art mural! If I
were to do this with a smaller group of kids, or in a different
situation, I would leave the catapult building open-ended, but guide
the experimenting with some questions. What happens when you launch
from the ground vs the air? How can you modify your catapult to make the cotton
ball travel farther? What shape is the path of the cotton ball when
it flies? If you use just a spoon as a catapult, where is the
fulcrum? What else could we use to shoot paint besides cotton balls? For some links to great catapult building
designs for kids check out this post at Fun-a-day.com.
Building marble runs and marble roller
coasters is always a popular activity with kids and adults alike.
This is an excellent engineering project, as it involves design and lots of
trial and error, in addition to being a sculpture project!
We collected recyclables from the
school community in advance of our event. We had boxes, cardboard
tubes, plastic tubs and more. We did not accept glass items. We
provided dixie cups, tape (A LOT of TAPE!), scissors and marbles in addition
to the recyclables. I made a small sample marble run, but otherwise
designs were left to the participants.
We provided craft sticks, some
images and information about actual snowflakes, protractors, and floor space. The kids
went to town and created some beautiful designs. Snowflakes may not
be what you are thinking about this time of year, but this is a fun
math exercise with lovely results!
We had an additional snowflake building
room with hot glue guns that was not as successful. The intention was
that students would be able to take their creations home, but it
turns out the more simple solution of building giant ones on the
floor was more engaging, safer and had better results! I'd recommend
going that route! For excellent science information on snowflakes, check out: The Official Snowflake Bentley website and SnowCrystals.com.
I love bubble painting! There are so
many math and science concepts inherent in the study of bubbles.
Check out some of them here. From angles, to
surface tension there is a lot to learn.
We used plastic wash basins for our
bubble paint solution. Each kid or parent got a straw to blow bubbles
in the solution and then placed a piece of cardstock onto the bubbles.
They flipped it over, popped the bubbles and had a beautiful picture!
FYI: The neon colored tempera paint I had purchased was not dark
enough to make good images, so we added some darker colors. I also
recommend making a bubble solution with some corn syrup in it for
stronger, stickier bubbles. There are lots of links to bubble recipes
on my post "Bubble Fun!".
For a more detailed explanation of bubble painting visit this
just Google "Bubble painting" and you will find lots of options.
DNA Extraction and Double Helix Model
Our biology students helped one of my
science teaching colleagues demonstrate fruit DNA extraction for families. In addition to seeing fruit DNA families created a huge double helix model made from fuzzy craft
sticks (aka pipe cleaners...although I guess it's not ok to call them
that anymore...). Each nitrogenous base had a corresponding color so that students could accurately make up the base pairs. The model made it from the floor to the ceiling!
If you are a science educator who'd
like to host a Family Science Night at your school, I'd be happy to
field questions about our event. Feel free to e-mail me at
email@example.com We were fortunate to have the support of our
administration, lots of volunteer help from fellow teachers the night
of the event and an interested and engaged community to participate
in order to make this event a success.You could also simply have a family science night for your own family right at home!
Thanks for exploring STEM plus Art with
me today! I'm excited to wrap up our STEAM festival tomorrow with a
closer look at math and science. To review our schedule and find
links to all of the festival posts, click the Children's STEAM
Festival button below.
Engineering has to do with designing
and building using engines, machines and structures. Engineering
challenges are an engaging way to bring science concepts to life and
encourage critical thinking and problem solving.
Challenging children to build Rube Goldberg machines is a particularly exciting engineering task. Rube
Goldberg was an engineer and a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist in
the early 1900's. He is well known, amongst other things, for his
drawings of wacky, complicated machines that accomplish simple tasks.
image: Rube Goldberg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Machines like those depicted in Rube
Goldberg's cartoons have been built for annual Rube Goldberg Machine contests, have gone viral on
Youtube and make for some impressive tv ads. Here are a few of my
favorite videos depicting Rube Goldberg inspired machines:
Building a Rube Goldberg machine is a
great engineering challenge because you can leave it as open-ended or
as structured as you like. At school I've tasked kids with building
machines that include a certain number of simple machines and a minimum and
maximum number of steps. I've challenged them to pour water into a
cup, squirt toothpaste out of a tube and pop a balloon. As far as
materials go, the sky is the limit. I've had students choose to use
things from everyday recyclables to the science room's skeleton model
and a skateboard!
Rube Goldberg Competition by jclarson from New Mexico [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This is a great summertime activity.
Draw a blueprint and then amend it through trial and error. What
scientific principles will you put to use? Gravity? Equal and
opposite forces? Make a hypothesis on how certain aspects will work.
Test it out! This is the scientific method in practice!
Here are some ideas for your Rube
Goldberg Machine challenge:
include at least 3 inclined planes
include a pulley and an inclined plane
include a device that rolls on a wheel
turn off a light switch
close a door
feed the dog
water the garden
Possible supplies: dominoes, popsicle
sticks, k'nex or legos, blocks, marbles, small pulleys, string, toys,
cardboard tubes, boxes, empty cans (watch out for sharp edges!), etc.
The official Rube Goldberg Machine Contest challenge for 2016 is to open an umbrella. Are you up for
that challenge? There are a variety of age levels of the contest
(11-18+), live and online. Find out more here.
What task will your Rube Goldberg
Machine accomplish? What supplies did you use? Did you make a cool
video? Please share! You can add a comment in the comment section or
comment on the Children's STEAM Festival posts on Facebook or
Rube Goldberg Machine and other
Thanks for exploring engineering with me today! I'm looking forward to
sharing STEAM ideas with you all week! To review our schedule and find links to all of the festival posts, click the
Children's STEAM Festival button below.
It is Day 2 of the Children's STEAM Festival, and today we're focusing on TECHNOLOGY! Read on to find
excellent resources for coding, making and robotics in addition to
some technology activities kids can try at home. Then pop on over to
Growing with Science where Roberta will take you to a high-tech fashion show and give some ideas on how to make your own high-tech clothes.
What do think of when you hear the
world technology? Gadgets and gizmos? Words like digital and internet
may come to mind. Although we are surrounded by technology in the
digital gadget sense, if you look at the definition of technology,
you may find other meanings.
Technology: the use of science
in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve
problems. A machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is
created by technology.
Technology doesn't have to mean
digital- simple machines like the wheel and axle and inclined plane
are technology. Anything that helps us to solve problems can be a
type of technology. There are many opportunities available
for kids to put their problem-solving skills to the test while using
technology. The movements to teach kids to code, make and engineer
are propelling the need for skills that require an understanding of
digital technology to create.
Let's explore some resources for
coding, making and robotics and wrap it all up with some fun
Coding for Kids
There are many great resources for
getting students involved in computer coding. Coding can teach skills
that not only help and inspire students to create digital products,
but also to model science projects, interface with hardware and
create art. Although I am a huge advocate for getting children
outside and reducing screen time, coding is a great way to promote
sequencing and patterning skills and inspire creativity for those
moments when children are plugged in.
Code.org is a great resource for
introducing kids to coding. Free courses are for all ages, including
early elementary. At Code Studio you can
find all sorts of coding lessons. In addition to the digital learning
aspects there are also "unplugged" activities that get kids
moving and completing tasks away from the computer.
Code.org is behind The Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is an international event
meant to introduce all ages to computer science and to help spread
the word that learning to code is possible for anyone. To learn how
you or your school can participate, visit their website.
Tynker.com is fee-based online coding
course. Students learn to create and can share their creations. You
can check the STEM projects out here. They have
a free starter lesson plans for teachers.
This article at Edutopia reviews some
wonderful, FREE, coding apps for a variety of ages. Code for Kids is a Canadian program with many resources available as well.
Maker Movement for Kids
Technology like the availability of 3D
printers has brought the maker movement to new, exciting levels.
Making and inventing are really where technology and engineering
(tomorrow's STEAM festival topic) come together. Techopedia defines the
maker movement as "a trend in which individuals or groups of
individuals create and market products that are recreated and
assembled using unused, discarded or broken electronic, plastic,
silicon, or virtually any raw material and/or computer related
device." Makerspaces are popping up in libraries and community
centers. These are spaces where kids and adults have access to
technology and tools that they can use to make an innovate.
You can use the Maker Ed directory
to find makerspaces and
making events and opportunities in your area. This directory is
powered by The Connectory which is a
directory for finding STEM opportunities. Both are worth
investigating further! Maker Ed's website also has a bank of resources and project ideas.
Maker Kids is a Canadian based
organization that teaches kids and educators 3D printing,
electronics, woodworking, robotics, etc. You will find lots of great ideas and resources here as well. Make magazine and their blog and website are chock
full of projects and inspiration from other makers. If you are
looking for a project idea for this summer, this should be one of
your first stops!
Although setting up a dream makerspace
can run into a lot of money, there are more and more affordable
options and initiatives to get tools and technology into the hands of schools and
groups who are inspiring innovators. Makerbot Education is a great place to start. Right
now Inventables is running a contest to get a 3D carver into every
state, with hopes to have them in every school by the end of the
decade. You can apply to win one for your school here.
A great at-home bit of technology available for making and creating are littleBits. (affiliate link) littleBits are electronic components
that can be used to essentially invent anything. These would be a
great gift for the inventor in your life. Take a peek at their
project gallery to see some of the possibilities! (affiliate link)
The use of robotic
technology increases student's understanding of science and allows
them to engineer machines that can accomplish specific tasks. Robotic
competitions have been building kids skills in teamwork and critical
thinking for years.
If you are
interested in becoming involved in robotics or competition, you'll
want to check out the U.S. FIRST Robotics competition for 9th-12th graders.
Inventor Dean Kamen began FIRST in 1989. His mission was to
help young people discover the rewards and excitement of science and
technology. This program has grown to add Lego Leagues for younger
age groups. Lego Mindstorms robotic
kits are used in these competitions and can be purchased for building
and programming robots at home as well.
Try the activity
"Passion for Pixels" from the PBS's SciGirls.
Click "Download" under the picture on the left. After
learning about digital images and pixels, kids can "transmit"
images to each other on graph paper. No computer needed! This
activity models how remote-sensing satellites take images from space,
turn the images into digital information, which is then transmitted
back to Earth where computer programs reconstruct the numbers and
codes back into a visual image.
"Electric Messages: Then and Now" is an activity from Try Engineering where kids can investigate how new technology has
changed the way we communicate. Kids build a simple telegraph machine
(using a battery, wire and a light bulb) where they can learn about
communicating with Morse code.
How is this different than how we communicate today? What were some
of the challenges or benefits?
Thanks for exploring technology with me today! I'm looking forward to
sharing STEAM ideas with you all week! To review our schedule and find links to all of the festival posts, click the
Children's STEAM Festival button below.
Welcome to Day 1 of the Children's
STEAM Festival! STEAM stands forScience, Technology, Engineering,
Art and Math. I'm so excited to be teaming up with
Growing with Science each day this week to bring you activities exploring STEAM. Today
we are focusing on SCIENCE! Read on for a guided science
investigation to try at home, then hop on over to Growing with Scienceto explore the scientific method with some fun plant science activities.
Are you a scientist? What is a
According to the dictionary, a
scientist is "a person skilled in science; a science
investigator". Ok, so what is science then?
"The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the
systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and
natural world through observation and experiment." Whew! So what
does that mean exactly? Translation: observing and experimenting to
think and learn about the world around you. Ok, that makes more sense!
So, are you a scientist? Do you wonder
things? Do you observe your world? Do you experiment or research to find out the answer to
things you are curious about? Then, yes! You are a scientist!
In the picture book, "What Is A Scientist ?" by Barbara Lehn, (affiliate link) we find out that
children are scientists just like grown-ups. They notice details,
make predictions, design experiments and keep on trying even if
something does not work the first time. Using this book as a guide, let's be scientists today!
I was drinking a glass of seltzer water
the other day and observed that the bubbles travel from the
bottom of the glass to the top of the glass and then pop, making a fizzy sound. I wondered if other things travel upwards in
fizzy, carbonated beverages, or if they just sink. I want to create an
experiment to find out. I have raisins in the cupboard. I will
I predict that the raisins will sink. So, my
hypothesis is that the raisins will sink to the bottom and I
won't notice a difference in the seltzer. I am going to write
down the steps of my experiment so I don't forget what I did. I also
will draw some pictures so I can show others what I observed.
Try the experiment with me!
You will need:
A clear carbonated beverage (seltzer,
club soda, lemon-lime soda, etc.)
A clear container or glass
Here is some music to listen to while
you collect your supplies:
I know from reading "What Is A Scientist ?" that "A scientist writes about what
happens." and "A scientist draws what she
sees." So I set up my scientific notebook.
I fill a glass with seltzer and observe
the bubbles floating to the top. I drop in 5 raisins. I notice that
the raisins sink. Noticing details is an important part of
being a scientist. I wait. I also notice that bubbles are sticking to
Sometimes when you are being a
scientist you have to be patient. All of a sudden something
surprising happens! The raisin with the most bubbles floats to the
top. Some of the bubbles pop and the raisin sinks. This begins to
happen over and over.
How come the bubbles stick to the
raisins? How long will the raisins "dance" and bounce for? Will other
small items do the same thing? How come some of the raisins bounce
more often than others? Does it matter that the seltzer I am using is
flavored? Will this work if I used more than 5 raisins? Would the
same thing happen if the seltzer was colder or warmer? What if I
opened the seltzer and waited a while before I put the raisins in?
What questions do you have?
There is so much more to find out! Each
of my questions could lead to a new experiment. It says in "What Is A Scientist ?" that "A scientist is a person who asks
questions and tries different ways to answer them." It also
says that "A scientist makes comparisons by measuring."
I think I will test another item in the same amount of seltzer and
see what happens. I have some popcorn in my cupboard too, so let's
try that. I predict that the popcorn will drop and then float
up to the top, just like the bubbles and the raisins.
I add 5 popcorn kernels to a new glass
of seltzer. I make my observations and take careful notes.
Bubbles stick to the popcorn, but it stays close to the top! The
popcorn does not sink.
I observe that...the popcorn
sinks! Hmmm, that was unexpected! I could be doing science
experiments all day to figure this out!
Two of the most important lessons I
learned in "What Is A Scientist ?" are: "A scientist
experiments by trial and error." and "A scientist
keeps trying over and over." I will continue my
What did you find out? What new
questions do you have? I can think of all sorts of other things to
test in carbonated water- pasta, corn, lentils, dried beans, paper,
paperclips... what else would you like to test?
Once you have experimented, you can
always research to find out the scientific principle behind what is
happening. I like to look at books and use the internet. I'll give
you a hint for your research- this experiment has to do with buoyancy
You can find out why raisins "dance" in
carbonated liquids at this website: