Standard: IELD Goal 13

posts

The Magic of Magnetism

  “Look!” squeals three-year-old Eleanor.  “I can pick up these two balls! It’s magic!” Have you ever seen young children playing with magnets? The “magical” properties of magnets never fail to captivate early learners and spark a play buzz! Children learn by investigating, observing and figuring out how things work. Magnets fuel that curiosity in […]

Rocking through Early Learning Standards

  Rock balancing or CAIRNS has found its way into our play again this week! Stacking and balancing rocks encourages math and science investigations that are always developmentally appropriate. My adrenaline starts flowing and a smile grows on my face when a two-year-old child exhibits an innate sense of how to balance many more rocks […]

Fort Building 101

  “LOOK!” screams a four-year-old with such joy that we know this isn’t a garden-variety “I want to share something with you” moment. As the gang rushes to her side, they come to a complete standstill, frozen in awe. Oh happy day! Some kind souls have shared a fort with the community! There before us […]

Nest Building is STEM Building

“I found an empty nest! Can we keep it?” Owen’s joyful discovery captures everyone’s attention. Three-year-old Avery comes running. “Are there eggs?” she asks her older and wiser five-year-old friend. “Can I see?” she begs. “Please let me see?” “There are no eggs, just an old nest. Can we please keep it?” pleads Owen. After […]

Return of the Sand Gardens

  “I found GOLD!” squeals Laura. Four little friends are quick to join her in the latest gold rush in the sandbox. In the wee hours of the morning, often when the sun is barely above the horizon and the coffee is still being brewed, gold will magically appear in our sandbox. Spray-painted rocks that […]

Squirrely STEAM Learning

“If the squirrel comes down from this direction, we can trap him under here!” yells Elliot. The playground equipment sits empty as Elliott, Harper and their fellow “squirrel trappers” congregate at the base of a towering oak tree in our neighborhood park.  The children have long been captivated by this venerable old oak, which has […]

Rock and Roll

  One bright fall morning, I notice that the noise level at Under the Gingko Tree is exceptionally low. A quick glance around reassures me that all of my early learners are safe and accounted for. Then I notice a quiet but intense play buzz happening in our rain garden, so I wander over to […]

Frosty the STEM Snowman

“Look! The snow packs!  Let’s make a snowman!” Today’s sunshine and rising temperatures have transformed yesterday’s powdery snow into packable fun—ushering in an afternoon of playful math and science learning. These are the times when I love to pull out my camera to document the many foundation-building moments that find their way into our play. […]

Finding STEM in Snow Play

  After months of sequestering and social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, we could all use some fresh winter air! Nature is just what the doctor ordered to stimulate our senses while we meet our early learning standards. The winter months offer an abundance of STEM learning opportunities, so don’t let the falling […]

The Magical Field of Magnets

  ” Hey guys! Look over here! My magnet sticks to the bike!” On this warm November morning, our magnetic wands have brought STEM learning to our outdoor classroom. By leaving the other magnetic materials behind, I am hoping to encourage the children to harness their curiosity and creativity for other forms of magnetic exploration. […]

Shadow Play

  “Do our shadows look like the monsters in the book?” asks James. I glance over and see James and Noa connecting their shadows by overlapping their arms. When we engage children in outdoor shadow play to support active exploration and discovery, their creativity is endless! James and Noa are playing out their version of […]

STEM Building in the Window Frame

  “AUGGGHHHH!” I hear screams, a crash and giggles galore. The joy of Magna-Tiles® has returned to our ever-popular window-stacking play. When these colorful magnetic tile mosaics come crashing down from the window frame, the children respond with laughter and joy. By contrast, the collapse of three-dimensional block formations often elicits groans and tears. Something […]

STEM in the Bird Feeder

“I see the daddy cardinal, do you know where the mama bird is?” Four-year-old Noah, binoculars in hand, is busy counting birds in our outdoor classroom. Are you aware that the annual Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up later this week? This is a great opportunity to create a bird-watching station and knock out […]

Finding STEM in Squirming Worms

  “AAAAUUUUGHHHHHHH! Worms! Look, look! They are everywhere!” Eleanor is jumping up and down hysterically. Nothing will bring our crew running faster than a good worm sighting! Let the earthworm exploration begin. We love worms! Last spring, we witnessed an unusual natural phenomenon as a mass of earthworms wiggled out of their subterranean homes in […]

Rainbows, Sunshine and Superheroes

  “Evie, come look! I’m a superhero! I have superpowers!” calls Jamie from the foyer. Curiosity piqued, Evie leaves her blocks behind to see what her best friend is up to now. “Rainbows!!!” Evie shrieks as she spies the colorful light pattern on Jamie’s wrist. Everyone within earshot dashes over to see the rainbows. And, […]

Ramps, Inclines and STEM in the Great Outdoors

  “Hey, Hudson! How did you do that?” Eleanor is amazed at Hudson’s success as he races a car down the ramp. This is the same car that she couldn’t get to stay on the ramp just minutes earlier. I listen as Hudson turns the car over and explains, “See those wheels? The front ones […]

STEM + Beanbags = F U N!

  I recently grabbed our dusty box of beanbags off of the top shelf of the closet and took the beanbags outside. We rarely played with them indoors, so what was I saving them for?  If a beanbag gets lost or forgotten under the plants and soaked in the rain, who cares? At least it […]

Creating STEM Environments with Loose Parts

As I look around me, I see busy, contented children. Jimmy and Tali are seeing how high they can stack their rocks. Eve and Noa are creating a tea party for fairies near the sandbox. Eleanor and Salli are creating homes and meals for the squirrels who frequent the rain garden. Everyone is happy and […]

STEM Pinwheel Play

‘Why are they moving so fast?” This windy summer morning has Harper and his fellow STEM explorers racing toward the pinwheels in our outdoor play area. “They are really, really fast today,” Jimmy agrees. “They move faster on windy days!” adds five-year-old Noah. “You can stop them and then watch how fast they start up […]

A Small Whiff of STEM

“I smell cinnamon rolls!” exclaims Henry as he races through the gate towards our outdoor classroom. Everyone stops what they are doing to inhale deeply. “I do too! I want a cinnamon roll!” pleads Noah. My group is quite disappointed to learn that I am not baking cinnamon rolls this morning. The delicious cinnamon-roll smell […]

T is for Teachable Moments

“Hey everybody! Look at all of the tomatoes that are ripe today!” shouts Jacob to the gang. “Can we eat them for lunch? Can we?” asks Lucus. “Can we eat them now?” pleads Elizabeth. It’s early September and preschoolers around the country are learning about apples, but we have tomatoes at our fingertips. The same […]

STEM Play with Dominoes

  “Hey, Evelyn!  Go get your cell phone and meet me at the stumps!” calls Noa. My head whirls around as I check the classroom to see if a cell phone has actually made its way into school today. Then I see Evelyn running to the basket of dominoes to get her “cell phone.” Whew! […]

Full STEAM Ahead with Geoboards!

“Look what I made!” shouts Parker. Our moment of silent concentration and focus is interrupted by Parker ecstatically showing off her geoboard. “You made a house?” asks Linnea, looking a little wide-eyed and confused. “How did you do that?” “I just added shapes and it worked!” Parker answers, equally amazed by her own creation. “I […]

Exploring Colors on the Light Table

As the days grow shorter and the slanting rays of sun that create our rainbows are replaced by clouds, we shift our energy to other forms of investigative play with light and color. “Saaliha, come play with me at the light table!” Nora calls out. Saaliha joins her friend and the STEM investigations into light, […]

lessons

Not a Box!

To be a child again and rediscover the joy of a simple box? This lesson represents STEM creativity at its finest!

posts

The Wonders of the Winged World: STEM Bird Books

“It’s a murmuration! Hurry everybody, come look!”  Five-year-old Elizabeth is jumping up and down, joyfully shouting for her friends to share in the delight of her discovery. Have you ever seen a “murmuration” of birds? It is such a magical and mesmerizing sight that it will stay in your memory bank forever. “Starling murmurations” are […]

lessons

Magnifying Magic

In this lesson, children will use magnifying glasses to explore the world around them.

Be a Rocket Scientist!

In this lesson, children will learn scientific facts as they follow the book, “If You Decide to Go to the Moon,” which documents a boy’s fascinating excursion to the moon and back. The children will then construct and launch straw rockets to learn about the physics of space.

Be a Magnet Detective!

In this lesson, children will be magnet detectives as they investigate and experiment with magnetic forces.

Pinwheel Power in the Wind

Celebrate the warm winds of spring with a colorful, breezy pinwheel investigation! In this lesson, students will learn about wind energy as they use a pinwheel to model a wind turbine.

Smells So Sweet

Activities that engage a child’s sense of smell can also help develop a child’s sense of taste and language skills. In this lesson, children will learn how to use their sense of smell as an important observational tool.

Force Can Push or Pull

In this lesson, children will explore force and motion concepts as they play with boxes and objects found around the classroom.

The Science of Root Beer Floats

In this lesson, children will combine two simple ingredients—root beer and vanilla ice cream—to observe a reaction between a liquid and a solid that releases a gas.

Dandelions in the Wind

In this lesson, you will introduce young learners to STEM concepts such as velocity, speed and wind as they blow on dandelion puffs to disperse the seeds.  

posts

A World of STEM in a Dandelion Puff

  “No, Trey!  You have to blow out—like when you blow out the candles on a birthday cake,” Noah counsels. “Don’t suck the seeds in!” I look over to see Trey, our youngest learner, pulling dandelion seeds off of his lips. There are no giggles from his peers, just many suggestions and a short science […]

A Morning in the Science Lab

“Who wants to play chemistry with me?” asks five-year-old Katie. “What is that?” asks Annika as she jumps off of her swing to see what adventures this moment may bring. “You mix things up, like concoctions or recipes,” Katie explains. “Sometimes things change colors or the mixture gets real thick and gooey. It’s an experiment. […]

The Solid State of Crayons

  “It is so hot!” moans five-year-old Manual, who is sweating profusely in the sweltering heat. The temperature—which has soared unexpectedly during this second week of May—is in the high 90s, with a heat index of over 100. “It is so hot!” Can we have a popsicle?” pleads Lauren, who knows that I’m a sucker […]

Tinkering With Nature

  Last month, the Early Science Matters team presented at the Midwest Early Childhood Educators Symposium. Sponsored by the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association, the symposium took place at a particularly inspiring site for nature lovers: the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Surrounded by nature and in the company of a truly amazing audience of […]

Playground Physics

  “Noa, what are you doing?” questions Jose. “I’m giving this rock a swing!” giggles Noa as she embarks on her latest investigation into force and motion. “Are you sure that will work?” James asks. “I think the rock will fall off!” We all stop what we are doing to observe as Noa cautiously pulls […]

Fix-It Fun!

  “Miss Diann, I need a hammer! Look! Look! See? I need a hammer!” Three-year-old Jonathan—our “fix-it man”—is pointing to a loose wagon screw that needs his immediate attention. We turn the wagon on its side to take a closer look at the wheel. Yes! We definitely have a loose screw. “Do you need a hammer […]

Flower Power in the Outdoor Classroom

  “Look, look! Come and see what is inside this flower!”  It’s a warm, late-spring day and our friends are scattered around the yard, discovering the new surprises that have popped up overnight. The flowers are finally showing their beautiful blooms! “Is it a bumblebee?” I ask. They look at me—their eyes big with wonder. […]

lessons

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

In this lesson, children will graph the different vehicles that they scoop out of a bucket and then analyze their collected data, creating rules for why a vehicle is similar or different than other vehicles.

Guess the Weight Scavenger Hunt

In this lesson, children will start with one object and decide which objects in the room are heavier or lighter than that object.

Run, Walk, Crawl

In this lesson, children will measure the time that it takes to move quickly versus moving slowly.

Designing Bridges

In this lesson, children will use a variety of open-ended materials to create engineering designs of bridges and then construct and test their designs.

posts

Finding STEM in a Ball of Clay

  Two-year-old Eleanor squeals with delight: “I did it! I made a ball! Look, I made a ball!” Whether they are using homemade play dough, modeling clay or Play-Doh from a can, children can spend hours learning, playing and collaborating with that little ball of STEM magic. STEM play integrates science, technology, engineering and math […]