Subscribe to SLJ
Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

STEM Friday

To begin STEM Friday today, the blog “Playing by the book ” has a post “in which my kids ran a mile and I had a ball.” I love the creativity on that site and couldn’t wait to share with the teachers at my STEM Magnet elementary school.

From reviewing the book The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book to making their own snot, this family has exploration down! What a way to personify STEM principles.

Currently my STEM school is focusing on our PBL (project-based learning) for The Circle of Life:

In the role of a zoologist, the students at our STEM magnet elementary school will investigate the life cycles of various animals through observation and research using community partners (Nashville Zoo, pet stores, etc.).  Each grade level will focus on a different animal kingdom.  From within that kingdom, each class will select an animal to INVESTIGATE and then design an apparatus that will assist in the survival of that animal.  These will be presented to a public audience for review and a DVD will be made for the MNPS teacher tube.

Our Essential Question is How does an organisms’ physical attributes aid in its survival?

While I have been frantically locating books for my students on individual animals, I’ve also used the purchase of 72 new Netbooks at our school as an opportunity for staff and students to learn how to access e-books like Capstone Digital, databases such as PebbleGo’s Animals, World Book Encyclopedia online through TEL (the Tennessee Electronic Library) and the Encyclopedia Britannica – particularly their Animal Kingdom section.

I led an afterschool session on electronic resources such as these for my staff:

In addition my students helped me review books from the publishers Rosen, Lerner, Heinemann-Raintree, Enslow, Marshall Cavendish, ABDO, Stone Arch, Picture Window Books, Compass Point, and Capstone. The students have been arguing about their favorite titles and writing sentences to tell me why we should purchase more in each series.

A surprising favorite has been Marshall Cavendish’s Benchmark titles. The Guess Who series was very popular with the preschool and kindergarten students. Can you picture them bouncing on their bottoms with hands over their mouths trying to catch their guesses from escaping as we turned each page?

The most popular kindergarten series is the Benchmark Rebus Animals in the Wild Ocean set. We began with my sending  the Jellyfish title into a kindergarten classroom (while I waited for the Bearport Portuguese Man of War title to arrive through Interlibrary loan).

Within half an hour several ELL students raced into the library to ask for additional books in the series. They conveyed to me that those were excellent books and they needed more, more, more.  There are even teacher guides for this series from the publisher’s website.

Remember that I am providing unique animals for 465 students with the following focus:

  • Preschool – Birds and animals that live in trees
  • Kindergarten – Ocean animals and Fish
  • First Graders – Mammals
  • Second Graders – Insects and Arachnids
  • Third Graders – Reptiles
  • Fourth Graders – Amphibians

The Backyard Safari series has been an excellent addition. Mighty Minibeasts appeals to our second graders. There are many series with reptiles, but the problem has been amphibians. I was able to pull out an older animal encyclopedia set and teach fourth graders how to use the index to find a list of possible amphibians for them to research.  There are not as many amphibian books. Second most difficult was locating divergent reptiles such as lizards, Gila Monster, Komodo Dragon, etc. We could find snake titles and turtle titles. Capstone’s Desert Tortoises provided us launching points for further research with third graders.

I am still seeking more titles and will share them with you as soon as I can pry the titles back from my reviewers. I cannot wait to hear from other STEM educators to learn something new today.

**** FOLLOW UP ******

For unknown reasons, this blog post did not go live Friday as it should have. I apologize and hope everyone continues to send me their links.


  1. Wow, sounds like you are very busy indeed! So glad the post finally made it :-)