When we help kids make connections, we strengthen their learning experience. Integrating multiple subjects when studying a topic or theme is one way to help build these connections. STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math) activities provide a fabulous vehicle for integrated learning.
However, I like to add another crucial element to the mix.The subject that binds all the others together is LITERACY. The communication of ideas to and from the child is where the real learning and processing comes into play.
5 Ways to Add Literacy to STEM Activities
1.Use a piece of writing such as a children’s book, newspaper article or an interview as the inspiration for a STEM project. Check out these book inspired STEM activities;
Enjoy Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and then build an alphabet tree from Handmade Kids Art.
Read Twenty-One Elephants and then create a bridge strong enough to hold toy elephants from Playground Parkbench.
Giggle along to Ten Apples Up On Top! and then try these 10 STEM apple ideas from Little Bins for Little Hands.
Enjoy the classic, Corduroy, and then try this button building challenge with The Educator’s Spin On It.
2. Gather a stack of books on a topic. Share books about being a scientist, mathematician, inventor, artist and engineer. Here are some of our favourites;
Also, collect fiction and non-fiction books that will help your child delve deeper into the topic of your study.
3. Keep a project journal. Documenting your process as you work is important for gathering information, analyzing results, and creating future plans. Try a simple individual journal of folded sheets of paper or purchase a bigger blank notebook in which to record several studies over a period of time.
4. Make a book. After it is complete, challenge your child to write and illustrate their own book about the activity. This is great for helping kids to sequence events and retell the process they used for completing the activity.
5. Talk. Talking with others about your work helps to solidify your learning and creates a bridge to further inquiry. Pull up a chair and ask, “Tell me about your work.” Then, let the flood gates open to some great conversation.
A Literacy Rich STEM Activity: Popping Buttons
Now, I thrive on examples. So here is one idea for a STEM activity packed with literacy.
1.Read Pete the Cat’s Four Groovy Buttons. It’s a fun and beloved book about a blue cat that loses all his buttons from his shirt.
2. Challenge the kids to create an object that will literally pop a button from one place to another.
3. Gather a stack of books for research on simple machines or Rube Goldberg machines, utilize the internet for examples and further research. Here are some books to inspire your investigation;
4. Let the kids draw their plans and create a list of materials they will need for their project.
5. Carry out the challenge.
6. Record the steps and results of your challenge in a journal.
7. Make a book to explain the project to a younger child.
8. Have the kids read their work or tell someone about the activity.
So the next time you decide to do an awesome STEM project with the kids, I encourage you to look for opportunities to weave literacy into the experience. The learning benefits derived from the one activity will increase, and the project will be greatly enhanced.