Header Image - Innovation 2020

Blog

242 Articles

LEGO Challenge Cards

by Stem_ED

This giant collection of LEGO challenge cards is a simple prep, fun way to sneak some STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning into the day.

With cards that range from easy to difficult, little engineers will love tackling the designs.

Grab your set below and add them to a classroom center, engineering activity, homeschool lesson, or free play. There are so many ways to use these cards!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links for LEGOS.
Awesome LEGO challenge cards. My kids will love this fun STEM activity!

Getting Ready

To prep for the activity, I printed the cards (below) on cardstock to give them extra durability. Then I cut along the faint gray lines to separate them.

Love these FREE LEGO challenge cards! So many fun STEM ideas in the set.

Note: If you’ll be using the cards in a classroom, you may want to laminate the cards to make them even sturdier.

I grabbed our box of small LEGOS for this first round of play but DUPLOS would work just as well.

Playing with the Cards

Middle Brother is LEGO obsessed, so he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the first challenge card. To add a little excitement, we mixed up the stack and he drew the top card: Fill the rectangle below without going over its edges.

Awesome LEGO Challenge Cards! My little LEGO builders will love this STEM project.

It was pretty tricky to find the solution but, after lots of trial and error, Middle Brother found it.

He pushed the card off to the side and grabbed card #2: Build your favorite fruit and see if a friend can guess it.

Free LEGO challenge cards for kids! Awesome STEM activity!!

I have to admit that I had a big advantage figuring out what his little hands were making since I make nearly every meal he eats. But after a few minutes he proudly showed me his red and green creation and was thrilled when I easily guessed it was an apple. “YES!” he exclaimed.

One card after the next, he tackled the challenge head on. He made patterns…

LEGO challenge cards for kids! Awesome STEM activity.

Built geometric shapes…

My kids love these LEGO challenge cards! Awesome STEM activity for LEGO fans.

And so much more. He loved every second of it.

Grab Your Set

Ready to play along too?! Click the blue download button to download your free set.

Click here to subscribe

The post LEGO Challenge Cards appeared first on The Stem Laboratory.

Adding Rigor to a STEM Challenge – with the Elevator Express

by Stem_ED

There is always a back story to the STEM Challenges I invent. This one is a novel-length story.
Just kidding. But, it is an on-going story. I tend to change the rules to tasks and even the materials sometimes.
And that changes everything. But, guess what! It makes me re-think the challenge, add rigor to it, create a new problem-solving opportunity for students, and it is never boring!
So, hold onto your hats, friends, and leap onto the Elevator Express with me!
STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific

THE STORY

This challenge was invented in the middle of September one year and we tested it during that month. Now, if you read this space very often you know that I always have a test class. That class is the first to try anything and they help refine the rules of the task and they help me decide if the materials are the right ones.

Folks, kids love to be the test class. Even if I change the rules right in the middle of the class, they love it. So, can I just tell you how much they loved doing a Halloween project in the middle of September! Well, they did! #really

The test class helped make a few revisions to my invention of the elevator challenge, including these:

  • We used two different types of buckets.
  • One bucket meant you also had to build a platform.
  • I insisted we add a cranking device to it.
  • Then we totally changed the building materials.
I will explain! (Remember, I did tell you that this would be a novel).

THE BUCKETS

My original idea for the bucket that would be used for the elevator ride was a black kettle or cauldron.

Truth: I only thought of that because I found the cute little kettles at the dollar store.

STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific
Well, the test class was lucky and they used those black kettles. This turned out to be too easy! All they had to do was tie a string to the handle and lift the kettle.’
So, I pulled out a second ‘passenger’ for the elevator. A plastic pumpkin! This changed everything. Wow!

THE PLATFORM

Adding that plastic pumpkin (that did not have a handle) meant the students had to design and build a platform that the pumpkin could sit on to ride to the top of the elevator.

STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific
This also meant we had to add to the materials. We added straws and craft sticks and students started building the pumpkin passenger device. This turned out to be interesting. A flat platform worked only if the strings holding it in the elevator were spaced correctly. Otherwise, the platform would tilt and dump the pumpkin.
Take a look at the photos above. The photo of the pumpkin has a great platform, but the green strings that will be used to pull up the platform are centered. This means the platform will tilt.
So, they built side rails out of straws (bottom right).
The photo on the left is showing a very clever use of straws. The box we were using as the elevator shaft kept tipping over, so this team made a ‘stick’ that would help support it!
Now, how did we lift the passenger for this elevator?

THE CRANK

My original thinking about the elevator was that students would have a piece of string and invent their own way to use it lift the passenger. And, they did. Most of them cut a hole in the top of the elevator shaft box and threaded the string through it. To lift they just pulled the string.

Well, you know what I thought! That was too easy.

STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific
So, I changed the rule. The string had to function as part of a cranking device. Again, this changed the challenge a lot. But, look at those photos. The students made the best cranking devices for this and they worked.
They cranked. The string wound around their device and the elevator lifted!

DIFFERENT MATERIALS

Okay, flash forward to a new school year and we attempted this challenge again. But, I changed the materials drastically! We no longer used a box as the elevator shaft. We just used the tabletop.
Students had cardboard tubes and they had to create a cranking device that would wind up their platform or box from the floor to the top of the table.
STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific
We tried a little metal bucket, but those buckets were a little bit heavy. So, we tried building boxes next. That did work better- as long as the box did not tilt and dump out our passengers.
What were our passengers this time?
Well, this was in April- so we tried plastic eggs.
STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific
The most fun part of this new version was watching all of the different ways students used the same supplies to create an elevator that would lift their eggs. 

So, try this fabulous challenge and don’t be afraid to alter the rules to suit your students. When I see the task is too easy- I change the rules. When they are struggling, I add materials or tape.

STEM Challenge- build an elevator that will lift an object by using a cranking device. Perfect for upper elementary students. Students must build a platform and a crank that will work to lift a load. #teachersareterrific

Rushing for Gold

by Stem_ED

I have a funny story for you! First, what style was your first computer? What was the first game you played on the computer?
Here’s the funny part- our first family computer was a Gateway. We went to the Gateway store and picked out the components we wanted. They also talked us into buying the newest model of an HP printer. We still laugh about that printer being the HP 1. And, of course, we brought that computer home and hooked it up to dial-up internet.
And, we played Oregon Trail.
Do you remember that game? Oh, we loved it. Even with its really poor graphics, we loved buying supplies and heading out west and hoping we would survive those river crossings.
Which brings me to our latest adventures in the STEM Lab- crossing the country to grab some gold!
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes an Escape Room., a STEM Challenge, and a reading resource. #teachersareterrific #goldrush

Our Gold Rush adventure has three parts:

  • The Escape Room
  • Build a Raft STEM Challenge
  • Reading about the Gold Rush

The Gold Rush Escape Room

I knew this one had to have some maps. Of course, we also needed to find gold. And finally, I added some reading to the tasks to make sure we covered those skills. 
Take a look!

Task 1

This is the reading task. Students have a reading passage and a set of clue cards.
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This Escape Room includes 3 tasks featuring the gold rush trail map, mining for gold, and reading skills. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
They read the passage and then determine if facts are true or false. If this is completed correctly they find a clue which leads to the clue cards. This gives them the lock code to open the first box!

Task 2

Here we go finding gold!
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This Escape Room includes 3 tasks featuring the gold rush trail map, mining for gold, and reading skills. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
Students look at a graph that shows the amounts of gold that were found and they respond to questions about the graph. #mathskills This sends them to their clue cards and the lock code for Box 2.

Task 3

The ending features the map showing the path gold seekers followed to get to California.
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This Escape Room includes 3 tasks featuring the gold rush trail map, mining for gold, and reading skills. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
Students must identify places on the map by reading some clues. Eventually, they piece all the clues together to open that last box.
So much fun! The clip art I found for this set is spot-on in representing the gold rush tools, methods of travel, and people of the time. We loved learning about the stagecoach and forts that travelers found along the trail.

The Escape Room resource has all the parts you will need, including my very detailed teacher’s guide. Y’all I am a direction-follower. I need the write-up for things. Like, when I open something new I read the directions first. So, just know that I am a little fanatical about adding those details in my resources for you!

Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This Escape Room includes 3 tasks featuring the gold rush trail map, mining for gold, and reading skills. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
Each task has its own page of directions in 2 styles. My style is the written version- all words. If you are a picture style person I have you covered. There is also a set of directions with photos and arrows and tips. 
Students love these Escape Room events. Mine would seriously do these every week- if I could invent them fast enough!

Build a Raft

The perfect STEM Challenge to accompany the Escape Room was also amazingly full of problem-solving. We built rafts!
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes a STEM Challenge about building a raft. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
My test class helped refine the materials on this one. I originally only included straws, but the test class really wanted craft sticks so we added those. And we used a lot of tape.

Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes a STEM Challenge about building a raft. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
As teams tested their raft they had to take it back to their work tables and improve it. This included pulling it apart to make it better. Guess what? Wet tape loses its stickiness. So, I gave each team a roll of the really cheap tape. (Wal Mart for 97 cents) 
In the end, we had a lot of clever solutions and a lot of rafts that would float. Only a few held weight. This was a challenge that was tested with 4th graders, but 3rd graders could complete this one easily. For 5th grade, I would add rules about the size of the raft to make it a little harder.
This Quick Challenge is available in two places:

Let’s Read

I added a reading resource for the Gold Rush and loved creating it!
Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes a Reading resource with four passages and a newspaper article page with text features. #teachersareterrific #goldrush
Students read about the discovery of gold in California, the hard life of a miner, the stagecoach, and the different mining methods. I also included a newspaper page with articles about the Pony Express, the town of San Francisco, and the role of women during the Gold Rush. The main selections have two reading levels and all have question sheets. The newspaper page is labeled with text features! Win-Win!

What a fun way to add some engaging activities to your study of the Gold Rush and Westward Expansion! Click on any of the images for more details!

Upper elementary ideas for the California Gold Rush. This includes an Escape Room., a STEM Challenge, and a reading resource. #teachersareterrific #goldrush