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STEM-tember: Engineering Design Process


Welcome to Day two of STEM-tember here at The Curious Catfish!

The Engineering Design Process is a series of steps that engineering teams use as they solve problems. The process is cyclical, meaning that engineers repeat the steps as many times as needed, making improvements along the way.


The engineering design process is to engineers what the scientific method is to scientists. When I started doing STEM activities with kindergarten and first grade students the prospect of using this process with my mini-MacGuyver's felt preposterous. Over the years I've come to realize that this process is intuitive. Essentially, it's how our minds naturally work through problem solving and my students have fully embraced it each year.

So let me break it down for you!

Students will move through these steps naturally when they are problem-solving. Teachers orchestrate the "Ask" and "Imagine" stage, then hand it over to students to create their own solutions.


During the "Plan" and "Create" phase I leave students alone to work with their partners and collaborate. Occasionally, I push in to question their idea or design and challenge them consider their choices. If I see they are making a choice that will fail, I allow them to continue down that path. They can reflect and make changes later but I think it's very important to allow students to fail as long as I'm there to foster critical thinking about that failure and then question them into thinking about how they can approach the task from a different perspective.



The "Improve" and "Present/Discuss" phases are my favorite! Primary students are surprisingly resilient through struggle and failure when they are engaged in an exciting or interesting task. For the first few STEM challenges you may have tears but after they realize it's not the end of the world when you blow their paper house away using your big, bad blowdryer; they learn to laugh and jump right back into figuring out why their idea didn't work and what they can do to accomplish the task. Questioning them about their choice of materials and listening them discuss what went wrong with their partner during this phase will teach you a lot about their reasoning and independent critical thinking skills.


After each challenge I always facilitate a whole group discussion about what went well, what was challenging, what did you change. When appropriate, I also allow students to present/demonstrate their solution. This both models and leads to deeper thinking about the challenge.

All of these materials are available in my FREE STEM Starter Kit! Download it today as a guide to help you implement STEM in your classroom and join me for the next three days to learn about more STEM resources!

STEM-tember: What is STEM?



Happy STEM-tember! 

Hopefully you've taken the opportunity to get your STEM on this month! I'm ending this STEM-tember sharing with you what I've learned about implementing STEM in a primary classroom over the past three years. I'll also share resources I love and a variety of ways to begin adding STEM activities to your repertoire. Check back each day this week for a new post full of ideas and resources!


STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This cross-curricular approach to learning is exciting because it stimulates the creative and investigative nature of young learners! 

Teachers facilitate learning by asking open-ended questions and allowing students to explore potential solutions using a variety of materials. As students work with partners or in groups, teachers help students question, predict, explore, observe, investigate, create, and reflect.


Early exposure to STEM helps students develop important critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It also provides a unique opportunity for all students to be challenged as well as learn to cope with struggle and failure as they work through potential solutions. Bring on the GROWTH MINDSET moments!



Now that we know what STEM is, let's explore the difference between STEM, STEAM, & STREAM.

The term STEM started to grow in the US around 2006. The basis of this movement was the growing concern about the readiness/preparedness of our students for the high-tech jobs of the future. Soon after, a push for adding "arts" and transforming STEM to STEAM began.


Any teacher knows that without the ability to read and write, it is impossible to be fully prepared for any career. Standards for Science and Technical subjects even reference reading and writing. This brings us to the need to add "reading" to the acronym. Hence, STREAM was born. 



Now that we know what STEM is and what the difference is between the acronyms we're ready to learn more about the Engineering Design Process. This cyclical process will walk our young learners through STEM challenges and encourage them to remain engaged through struggle and failure. Check back tomorrow for more information about the Engineering Design Process!

All of this information is available in my Free STEM Starter Kit!


Classroom Reveal 2016-2017

I love seeing pictures of other teachers classrooms! They always inspire me to try something new in my own and it just fills my teacher heart to see kids learning in such happy places! I'm a little late to the party (I like to keep expectations low) but I'm going to share a few pictures of my classroom! Try not to be jealous of the blush and maroon splatter paint walls and mystery stains. Not everybody can have such nice things.

I'm starting with a silent video tour and pictures will follow. You'll see differences between the pictures and video because I've changed it up a bit to make things more manageable. I hope you enjoy peeking inside of my classroom!







Back to School 2016


Summer always passes in a flash. With Target filling their dollar spot full of adorable classroom decorations two days after summer break started to Dollar Tree and Walmart stocking their shelves with crayons, pencils, notebooks, and markers galore at the beginning of July; back to school was upon us before the last school year ended. It's like everyone adopted Hobby Lobby's stance on Christmas and applied it for Back to School! I think we were all secretly ok with that though ;)

With BTS in full swing, TPT's big Back to School SALE is here! Starting Monday, August 1st and running through midnight Tuesday, August 2nd you can get 20% off all products in my store. Use the code: BestYear at check out to get an additional 10% off of your purchase!


I've been using these EDITABLE Homework Menus for several years and LOVE them! Each menu for August through July contains tasks for phonics, reading/writing, math, and science/social studies. High Frequency word lists are included for each month using the first 100-300 Fry words. There are pre-and post assessments for each month to assess acquisition of high frequency words. Finally, there are several files in the download including: complete menus, editable high frequency words, editable tasks, fully editable, editable monthly calendars for behavior or parent communication.

These menus cut my prep time in half! Tasks are aligned to Common Core standards for kindergarten and first grade so students are getting meaningful practice in each night! Parents love that the homework tasks are brief, lasting no more than 5-10 minutes. Students love the autonomy of choosing which task they want to work on each night! It's a win-win! Check them out today!


Are you looking for ways to manage routines through the day? CHAMPS may be the answer! These CHAMPS posters are simplified and easy to implement. Just print, laminate, and manage behavior like a boss! To learn more about CHAMPS or this product click here!

What about morning routines. Are you in the market for a simple, paper saving morning work option? I don't know about you but I don't have the time or copies to print a page for each student everyday. I also don't believe in being that wasteful! These Morning Work Quick Activities may be the answer! Print one page per student per week! Everyday after my students unpack they take out their morning work folder and complete one of the five standards based tasks. This helps everyone settle into the day with a meaningful activity. I glue a library pocket into the front of each morning work journal. Students cut out the tasks on Monday and keep them in the pocket until we complete that task through the week. It's simple, efficient, and effective!

Can you tell I like to simplify things for myself? #WorkSmarter


I love book companions! I make them for any story I fall in love with. Check out the original Room on the Broom or the original Squirrel's New Years ResolutionChicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Kissing Hand are perfect for back to school! Click here to check out all of my book companions and book buddy activities!


How about engaging ELA activities?!?! Responding to Literature and Ultimate Word Work Pack are units I use ALL YEAR LONG! Click here to check out all of my ELA/Literacy games and activities!


These Math Supplements were a labor of love! This summer I completed mini-units for every first grade skill, concept, and standard! There is a cost saving Mega-Bundle marked down and available for further discount for this sale ONLY! Get it now for the lowest price ever! There are 18 mini-units including: Fluency within 10MoneyEquivalent ExpressionsPartitioning ShapesGeometryTime, the Commutative Property of Addition, and so many more! Check them all out here!


Remember how I told you I love book companions? I also love STEM! These book companions are a confluence of all that I big puffy heart love! There are ELA activities to help you dig into the text and pull out the very important meaning and lesson in each story. To top it off there is a STEM challenge based on the story! A single resource couldn't get any more perfect for me!

Start your school year with Rosie Revere! Your students will learn the important lesson of perseverance with Rosie as she realizes:

Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
Come on, let's get busy and on to the next!
Life might have failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.

I mean, sign me up! Check out my STEM Book Companions here!


Finally, Minute to STEM it! These quick challenges are perfect for primary classrooms. I try to do one every Friday. They really help nurture a culture of perseverance and higher order thinking in my classroom!

Happy shopping and an even happier back to school! #BestYearEver