Part 4: STEM with the Reader in Mind

Hi everyone!  I'm so excited to start collaborating with this great group of educators on the Virginia is for Teachers blog, starting with one of my favorite topics.... STEM!

But first, here's a little bit about myself!  I'm a elementary Gifted Resource Teacher in the Richmond area.  Most of my experience is in upper grades - I taught 5th grade for three years before switching positions.  I truly love all things science, technology, engineering and math related.  I'm also a National Board Certified Teacher.

Outside of the classroom, my husband Bryan and I have a five year old son and newborn twin boys.  We love spending time with our two dogs, boating, and being at the beach.

In my county, there is a GRT (gifted resource teacher) in every elementary school.  Our job is to collaborate with teachers in the planning and implementation of lessons that meet the diverse needs of our gifted learners.  I quickly realized that goals of STEM lessons correlate with the goals I have for any student!  Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and meeting a variety of curriculum standards - it's a beautiful thing.

Picture books are a great way to introduce STEM challenges to younger students and I am constantly on the hunt for new resources!  I recently came across a book titled How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace at Barnes and Noble (hardback for $8.41 with my Educator discount card!) and fell in love.  This cute rhyming picture book shows a sneaky leprechaun who continues to escape different traps that children have engineered.  It poses a final question at the end: who can build a trap that would outsmart the leprechaun?  

It seriously doesn't get any better than that.

Each STEM lesson should have specific materials and constraints that students have to abide by, just like Engineers do in the "real" world.  The materials are typically things I already have in my STEM lab (more about my STEM lab classroom in an upcoming blog!).  I always spend time going over the different materials so students can visualize them, and remind them of the constraints several times during brainstorming.

One thing I've learned that really works is for students to spend time brainstorming their own individual ideas first before working together with their group to create and build.  Younger students love to feel validated in their ideas, no matter how realistic they are.  I require students to label their sketches with the materials they want to use, so they can later articulate their ideas to their group members.  This takes some time getting used to, so I made an anchor chart for students to refer to.  

Once all of the individual ideas have been shared, as a group they are challenged to come up with one final design idea before they begin their build.  This is where the true collaboration and communication come in.  Beware - there may be tears at first (especially with the K-2 students) but it gets easier the more you implement STEM lessons.

After that, it's building, testing, and reflection time!  Don't forget to remind students of their purpose.  In this case, building a trap to catch that sneaky little leprechaun.  If time allows, be sure to have students present their final ideas to the whole class so they can see each others designs.  Rebuilding and changing their ideas is another a great way to self reflect on their successes.  Want to try this lesson with your students?  Click here to download this STEM lesson for free! 

As you're wrapping up this important reading week, remember that using picture books is a great way to incorporate STEM with the Reader in Mind.  How will you challenge your students this year?


  1. What a wonderful and timely post! Love it !!

  2. Hi Alicia! I just read this post, and am so glad my little Leprechaun book fit so well into the STEM framework! As an ex-engineer, I love the ideas you put into this. Thanks so much, and have a brilliant weekend!