Tag Archives: science

Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck in Traffic?

My students are always fascinated when I have an ant farm in the classroom, and there is a lot to be learned from these insects as we observe their organized frenzy.  Joe Hanson of “It’s Okay to Be Smart” recently published a YouTube video that answers the question, “Why don’t ants get stuck in traffic?”  After watching the video you may second guess your feelings on self-driving cars…

Ada Twist, Scientist

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have outdone themselves with their latest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  Beaty (author) and Roberts (illustrator) made their mark in children’s literature with their two previous books, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Demonstrating the sometimes exasperating, but always creative, personalities of inquisitive and innovative children, these books have become favorites for those who champion maker education and S.T.E.M.  They are also great examples of growth mindset and passion based learning.

Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of an adorable young girl whose curiosity knows absolutely no bounds.  Her parents fondly support Ada’s intellectual investigations until she decides to throw the family cat into the washing machine in an attempt to find the origin of a terrible smell, at which point Ada is exiled to the “Thinking Chair.”

You will have to read the book yourself to find out how Ada handles her isolation and whether or not she solves her stinky mystery. Suffice it to say that the book has a happy ending and will inspire parents and children to see questions as exciting learning opportunities rather than as time-wasting obstacles.

For a teaching guide and links to other related activities, visit the Ada Twist website.

You can’t resist Ada Twist, Scientist!

image from Ada Twist, Scientist
image from Ada Twist, Scientist

Teach STEM with Stuffed Animals

I recently read a post on We are Teachers by Erin Bittman (@ErinEBittman) about how to use stuffed animals to teach STEM concepts.  In the article, Bittman gives several examples of how students can practice measuring, weighing, and using other mathematical skills as they compare their stuffed animals.  In addition, lessons can be learned about animal adaptations and habitats.

One reason I love these ideas is because I have seen the devotion that younger students have to their stuffed animals.  With that kind of interest, students will definitely be engaged.  The lesson give multiple opportunities for cross-curricular connections that will make the learning memorable and relevant to the students.  Check out Bittman’s article for specific activities, and feel free to add more in the Comment section!

I have a “Stemspirational” Pinterest Board here if you are looking for even more resources.


Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole

While searching for a TED talk for my 5th graders last week, I came across one that I hadn’t seen before.  It was given by Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, and Amy O’Toole, a 12-year-old published scientist.


Beau and Amy tell the story of a class of 8 and 9 year-olds and their serious scientific research into the fascinating minds of bees, which eventually became known as the “Blackawton Bees Project.”  During their talk, we learn about the mistaken perceptions that we can have – such as underestimating the abilities of bees to reason and the abilities of young people to make meaningful contributions to our society.  It’s a great video that should inspire adults and children to challenge common assumptions and believe that we can all make a difference in the world.

You can find more inspirational videos for students here.  I also curate inspirational videos for teachers, which are located on this Pinterest Board.


I briefly mentioned Blippar in a post last summer about the Augmented Reality magazine, Brainspace.  A tweet from last night reminded me that there are other educational uses for the free Blippar app.  In this post by Rob Stringer on Blippar’s blog, you can find some great uses of Blippar for science activities in the classroom.  I’m ready to try the solar system one tomorrow!

At Diary of a Techie Chick, you can find lots of AR activities.  Using Blippar’s sunflower trigger and a couple of other resources,  @KatieAnn_76 offers a free lesson plan full of rich ideas for learning more about plants.

To learn more about Blippar for Education, click here.  If you are interested in seeing more Augmented Reality activities, here are some I’ve collected over the last few years.

Blippar Volcano


Hidden Miracles of the Natural World

I am so thankful that my colleague, Suzanne Horan, shared this video this week.  Hidden Miracles of the Natural World is a video of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s TED Talk in 2014, where he shared some clips from his film, Mysteries of the Unseen World.  The footage serves as an incredible reminder that humans are not alone in this world; we are merely a part of a vast system of living things -many of whom are yet to be discovered.

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com.  One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language.  The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.”  I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons😉

To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift.  I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.

The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others.  For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.

Of course.  What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?

Periodic table.  Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.

You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one😉

I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom.  Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example.  Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book.  (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.”  They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)

Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom.  If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).

Buy Thing Explainer here!