Homeschooling has so many advantages, however doing big group projects is not one of them. There are activities that my kids would love to do but they are either nearly impossible to do with just one student or are so much work to set up, it seems crazy to do for just one or two children. STEM challenges are one of those activities. I wanted to find a way to provide that experience for my sons, though. So, I established a STEM & Stuff meet up. We meet once per month and have activities for children from toddlers through high school. The kids can’t get enough and it’s always amazing to see what they create. After months of creating various challenges for each of the groups, I was thrilled when Tied 2 Teaching offered me STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading in exchange for an honest review.
Oh, All the Challenges You Will Find
To give you an idea of just how many challenges there are, this isn’t even all of them! There are challenges for every interest, holiday, season, and science discipline. I was blown away by the breadth of choices and let myself get lost reading all the challenges before I could decide which one to do first. This program could easily be an entire year’s science study, however we used it as a supplement. It works well either way.
Start Your Engines…I Mean Engineering!
I chose the Design a Wooden Airplane and Construct a Toilet Paper Dispenser. Half the fun of our STEM & Stuff meet-ups is that that no one knows what is going to happen until I announce it. The kids were waiting with baited breath. After getting the other groups on task, I came over to the STEM challenge group to explain what we would be doing. They were immediately excited by the idea of building airplanes that they could fly.
I handed out the close reading packets and paired younger boys with older one so that everyone had all the information before beginning. Quiet fell over the group as they carefully studied the pages and planned their projects. As they read, I filled a table with all the suggested materials. At the end of the building time, we test flew each of the planes. Some flew, some didn’t, however the ingenuity and creativity that was put into each of them was truly astounding.
Gather the Group
After the airplane building was finished, I broke the boys into small groups to work on the toilet paper dispenser project. Having group projects has been a challenge for these homeschooled kids, but provides some excellent opportunities. We followed the same procedure and then set them to work. Each group had a bucket of building bricks that various families had brought. This added to the challenge because no one knew what they would get!
All of the moms very amazed by what the STEM group created that day and loved the challenges. Since we only have 2 hours to complete everything, I sent home the extension activities with the children. I think that it would be ideal to complete it all together, though, and we may try just doing one challenge this month so we can do that.
The Good and the Struggle
Our crafting group has decided that they want to do a STEM challenge this coming meet-up, too. So, I have picked the Design a Carrot Carriage for them. We won’t meet again before Easter so this seems like a perfect springtime activity. For the STEM group, I am still torn between Design a Super Hero and Design a Groundhog Burrow. There are honestly so many challenges, it is hard to pick just one!
The STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading has really blessed our group and taken our meet up to the next level. The only drawback has been that the close reading and extension activity pages work better when read online, not printed. Since our meetup space does not have wifi access, we have had to print the pages out. It has worked but hasn’t been ideal. I have not discovered a solution to this and would love if PDF versions of each challenge became available.
All in all, this was a great experience for everyone. The parents were happy to have meaty actvities to continue the learning. The close reading gave all children a solid base of information before attempting the challenge. This was beneficial to our group because of the wide range of ages and abilities. We are very thankful for this opportunity and will continue to use the challenges for our last two meetings of the year–unless the kids can sucessfully convince me to do three!
PS I took photos of the children’s creations, however my new phone isn’t cooperating with my laptop! Once I get them to reconcile their difference, I will update this post.
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