Saturday, February 27, 2016

Five for Fraturday: STEAM Night

For this week's Five for Fraturday, I want to share some pictures, ideas, and thoughts about our school's STEAM Night. Thank you to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

I wrote about last year's STEAM Night in this post. This year, one of my colleagues and I wanted to try something different. We had attended a STEM Conference at UNC-Charlotte. At one of the sessions, we learned about an elementary school whose teachers hosted a parent night for Pre-K to First Grade that revolved around STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). We were excited about the idea and discussed it with our K-2 teachers.  They quickly jumped on board and we decided to add a hands-on element to our already scheduled STEAM Night. While different grade levels had different activities, I'm going to share the ones I decided to use in second grade. They are either aligned to or an extension of our second-grade curriculum.


I have to start off with the favorite station of the night, Oobleck. We connected each of the stations with appropriate books and, of course, this one was tied to Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. We've been teaching about types of matter and how matter changes, so this was a natural fit. For those of you who've never experienced it, Oobleck is a non-Newtonian liquid. In some ways, it acts like a liquid; in others, it acts like a solid. For me, the kids, and their families, it was just lots of fun! 

If you'd like to try it, the recipe is simple: 1 part water to 1.5-2 parts cornstarch. Add a little green food coloring to the water before mixing and that's it. Make sure you cover your work surface with newspaper or bulletin board paper. It does get messy, but the looks on the kids' faces are worth it!


This year, the kids learned about weather and the water cycle. I thought a nice extension of that would be a couple of experiments related to surface tension and adhesion. First, students explored how many drops of water could fit on a penny. I provided recording sheets from Lakeshore Learning, the water, pennies, and some droppers. Our families loved exploring surface tension! Some of them were very surprised when they found out how many drops would fit.

I'm sorry that I somehow I missed taking pictures of our other water experiment. In this one, students used a toothpick to try to drag a drop of water along a path from start to finish. We spread waxed paper over the activity sheet (a simple picture of a curvy path with a start and finish line). The students used the dropper to put one drop of water at the start. They then dragged the water along the path to the finish. Simple, but fun - and a great demonstration of the property of adhesion (water is attracted to other substances). 

We also had several weather and water-related books at this station that our families enjoyed. My favorite is The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks


We had two activities at this station along with several books that dealt with sound. 

Mystery Sound Canisters is a great activity to explore our sense of hearing. I put several different objects in separate film canisters: marbles, rice, pennies, rubber bands, dry lima beans, and paper clips. I labeled the containers A, B, C, D, E, and F and then taped them shut. Students and families tried to identify the objects by gently shaking the canisters and listening closely to the sounds. Not an easy thing to do! I tried to share this activity with you, but because I created it on my workplace google drive, I wasn't able to. Here are the pictures of the slides so you can create your own if you'd like.

We also explored pitch, vibration, and sound waves using tuning forks. We were lucky enough to get a set of tuning forks with our new science kits last year. The kids had a blast making the rice "dance" on the waxed paper using the vibration of the tuning fork.

Here are the directions for this activity:
Life Cycles

It really bothers me that I didn't take pictures of all the books we had out. What was I thinking? Anyway, we brought out a ton of books about animal life cycles. We haven't begun this unit yet, so I wanted to do a simple activity just to introduce the concept and review prior knowledge. I had several life cycle models on display. Some came from our science kit; others I had picked up at Michaels. A colleague also had a cute center with pictures of animal life cycles that students could put in order. I provided life cycle sheets, paper plates, and supplies so students could create their own model of their chosen life cycle. Not many of the kids completed this activity, but a few of them really enjoyed it!

STEAM Night was a welcome reminder of why I enjoy teaching. I didn't have any data to record. I didn't have to complete any paperwork. I didn't have to mediate any arguments. I didn't have to motivate anyone to complete their work. Students were naturally engaged and excited about learning. Some parents had to literally drag their children away. The event was supposed to end at 7:00. The last family reluctantly left at 7:25. Our principal had to do an all call to tell them to go home.  

While we had a willing audience - only about 1/3 of my class was there - I wonder how our days would go if we were always allowed to teach this way. The students who did come were excitedly sharing their experiences with their friends the next morning. The ones who couldn't make it begged me to do some of the experiments in class that day. 

It was a reminder that I need to make learning fun and engaging everyday. It isn't always easy, because I'm bound by district and state mandates, but I can try.

Our STEAM Night was awesome - for the students and for me.  Have you ever hosted anything like this? I'd love to hear about what you did. I'm planning to do this again next year and I'd love some new ideas. Please share them in the comments!


  1. Your STEAM ideas look awesome! I love how people have included Art in STEM now! Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Hi, I love your ideas- especially the penny-water one. We are all about STEAM now, too. Thanks for post. Kathleen