How to Take STEM One Step Further

Happy November to You

My bleary-eyed Monday Halloween survivor! I bet you’re wondering now how that candy can be good for anything besides migraine-inducing, sugar-infused, crazy children. Well, I’m here to tell you what it is good for…STEM projects.

Candy Corn STEM

Now, this project is probably no mystery to you in the age of Pinterest. It’s really nothing new. You challenge your students to design a structure using toothpicks and some sort of sticky substance for the joints. Depending on the time of year it might be marshmallows, jelly beans, gum drops, or in this case, candy corn! You can also use those sugary pumpkin guys that taste like candy corn.  You could even challenge your students to make one tower with candy corn and one with pumpkins and see which is sturdier.  The beauty of doing this post Halloween is that it’s still suitable for November harvest and the candy is dirt cheap. Speaking of cheap, you can try it with any leftover candy from Halloween. Use your leftovers or have students bring in their own(parents will thank you.)

The Twist

Yes, in good S.O.L. Train Learning fashion, there is a twist! Pam decided to partner her 1st grade students with a coworker’s 3rd grade students. She calls it STEM Buddies. Now, you may do a version of this called Book Buddies, where an older class reads to your younger class. Pam loved seeing the results of the younger/older collaboration and decided to branch out to STEM. One thing she has already been doing in her classroom week-to-week are our Innovation Stations, so her students were already very comfortable with the STEM process. To read more about Innovation Stations, right click the image below to open a new tab. You can read it now or come back to it when you’re finished.

The Design

The first step in this project was to create a structure design. This isn’t essential, but does provide a nice starting point. Students can draw and erase and redraw until they are satisfied with their designs. If you have them start immediately with the materials, it may be difficult to make alterations. Think of the design as a draft and the structure as the final draft. You can see one of the designs below:

You can be as hands-on or hands-off with this as you want. Give students basics on structural integrity, have them research it themselves, or have them experiment right away. It’s up to you. You can even have a class discussion about building basics and see what insight they can offer as a whole group.

Working as a Team

We always love to point out the cooperation Pam’s students display as a result of our Quality Students song. It’s free in our Teacherspayteachers store. You can see below how they are a “T- Team working together.” Her students love modeling this part of the song when they work in groups!

The Structure

Pam’s class decided to increase the challenge by limiting supplies and time. They were given 15 minutes to build the structure, 5 pumpkins, and 10 candy corns. Below are a couple works in progress:

The Conclusion

Once the structures were complete, the class gathered to talk about their experiences. They concluded that candy corn aren’t as effective as pumpkins and that all pumpkins may have created a stronger structure. One student suggested the use of marshmallows. The best part is when Pam asked her students if failed experiments mean we stop trying, their answer was a resounding “no!” STEM is the perfect way to show your students that failure isn’t necessarily bad. It is a great opportunity to see what doesn’t work and to try something else. For more on why failure is good, check out 3 Good Reasons to Celebrate Failure.

Well, that’s all for now. Let us know how STEM buddies is working in your classroom. Feel free to offer suggestions from your experience in the comments below. Enjoy and keep engaging!

Until next time,

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