The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.

Getting Creative with iDO 3D Art Pens

My daughter has always loved anything related to arts and handcrafts. Even as a toddler she would spend hours drawing and making gifts for her family with my craft supplies. It is no wonder that art is one of her strongest passions. She has wanted to try 3D art pens for some time and was delighted to learn I would have the opportunity to review the IDO3D for my readers.

As a family, we have been volunteering regularly at the new marine life center and have made several field trips to a variety of coastal habitats to learn more about the local ecology. When the IDO3D art pen arrived, she knew immediately what she wanted to create … jellyfish.

3D Art Pens

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time reviewing this product and for writing this review.

IDO 3D Art Pens

The IDO3D comes with four pens (or color cartridges): blue, green, red, and yellow. Each pen has a safety seal or cap that will need to be removed. Thereafter you will twist on the cap. Lastly, you snap the blue spotlight holder into place (it clicks into place).

There are instructions on how to use the 3D art pens provided as well as helpful tips and tricks detailed in a short video. I was very impressed with how quickly we got the hang of it. Granted, our lines are a little wobbly and jiggly but as they say in the video, “Practice and patience are the key.”

3D Art Pens

Creating Jellyfish with 3D Art Pens

Using my invertebrate zoology textbook as a reference for jellyfish anatomy, she was underway within just a few minutes. One of the materials in the box was a plastic sheet shaped like a bowl which she used to begin her project; creating the exumbrella inversely. She chose blue ink for this part – though she also opted not to fill in the connecting space as she wasn’t sure if she would have enough ink.

Once it had cured, she proceeded to create the internal anatomy with green ink: mouth, gastrovascular cavity, gonads, and oral arms. She discovered, however, that the space was too confined for the spotlight and she wasn’t able to add all the parts she would have liked. “I probably would approach it a little differently next time,” she stated. “I think I should have created the internal parts separately and then attached them later.”

Lastly, she began to add the tentacles and worked vertically as she did so. This proved to be the most challenging part of the process. As they were so long and thin, they kept leaning in one direction or another rather than staying vertical. Like any art medium, she recognizes that it takes practice and patience.

“I really like this pen. It is easy to use and I can create something right away. Perhaps the jellyfish was too complicated for my first project.”

3D Art Pens

Classes & Projects for IDO 3D Art Pens

We look forward to creating a variety of projects with the IDO3D art pen. There are also several 3D Art Classes from which to choose. When my son saw the following video he said,

“You can do all that?! That’s so cool!”

Where to Buy IDO 3D Art Pens

The IDO3D art pen is available from a variety of retailers nationwide. It is also available on Amazon.

For ideas and inspiration for projects, I encourage you to follow IDO3D on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Wrap-up

Where did the summer go?  I completely forgot to summarize our activities each week during our unit study Explore Our World : AFRICA.  We were actively engaged in a variety of learning activities but as the summer progressed, other obligations began to conflict with our plans and my neighbor and I were not able to get together as often.  Not surprisingly, I also neglected to take many photos!

Week 3 :: Western Africa

  • Key Points – Region more diverse ecologically than Northern Africa.  Many European nations had colonies in this area.  The cultures are more settled (as opposed to nomadic) and thereby agricultural cultures dominate.
  • Read aloud Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears by Verna Aardema and created a crayon resist of a savannah animal
  • Did a comparison (Venn diagram) of Little Red Hen by JP Miller and Talking Vegetables by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret Lippert
  • Discussed the meaning of onomatopoeia
  • Sampled cassava chips
  • Began a mini-book of African animals
  • Played several games of Mancala
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD.

Week 4 :: Western Africa, cont.

  • Key Points – Slavery was once prominent here –> huge impact on economy –> formerly rich region now poor.  Masks are a key component/feature in festivals and ceremonies.
  • Read aloud In the Rainfield by Ann Grifalconi, Mrs Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye, Talk Talk, Why the Sky is Far Away and Anansi and the Talking Melon
  • Painted an animal in Naïve style of Ghana and read aloud Man Who Painted the Sky (illustrated in a similar style)
  • Began a mini-book of African style homes
  • Cooked Benne Cakes (a recipe from the Malinke) and sampled dates and chocolate from West Africa
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Watched a Schlessinger media video on Ancient Africa.

Weeks 5 & 6 :: Eastern Africa

  • Key Points – Animal / Wildlife Reserves prominent in Eastern Africa.  Water is a valued resource for life.  Differences and similarities among daily use of water in Africa and in the United States.  Mt. Kilamanjaro.  Lake Victoria – source of the Nile River.  Madagasgar has unique (endemic).
  • Did a water comparison study.
  • Read aloud Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Trouble, The Good Lion, Young Mouse and the Elephant, The Lonely Lioness, Rain Makes a Monkey of Lion, We All Want a Safari, Count Your Way Through Kenya and Kenya A-Z
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Created beaded bracelets inspired by Maasai.

Week 7 :: Central Africa

  • Key Points – Ethiopia considered the cradle of civility, so many fossils, etc.  Birthplace of coffee.  Region is dominated by rainforest.  All countries are former colonies of European countries.
  • Played a thumb piano or mbira on PBS Kids.
  • Read aloud The Elephant’s Wrestling Match
  • The kids wrote their own African fable.

Week 8 :: Southern Africa

  • Key Points – Apartheid.  Nelson Mandela.  Desmond Tutu.
  • Read aloud Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, A Child’s Day in a South African City, Marriage of the Rain Goddess, Count Your Way Through Zimbabwe, The Girl Who Spun Gold
  • Put together lapbooks with all the mini-books we had begun
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Week Two

This past week, we focused upon the countries in Northern Africa.  In doing so, we learned that the countries in the northern region of Africa are characterized by the desert biome and thereby many of the cultural groups that reside in this area are nomadic.  As such, for many, cattle are very important in their lives.

We also discovered that along the coastal areas, the populations are very dense and as you proceed south, the populations become more sparse due to the climate and environmental conditions (desert).  Throughout the first centuries (633-732 AD), Arabs spread their culture and religion across the northern countries and even into the southern parts of Spain.  To this day, their influence is very strong though Christian and Jewish faiths are also prominent.

Africa Unit Study :: Week Two

Listed below are the key activities we coordinated for the second week of our study. Join me each week as I outline the many hands-on activities and projects we implement to introduce the kids to the beauty and culture of Africa.

  • Read aloud Living in the Sahara by Nicola Barber, Houses & Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman, and A is for Africa by Ifeoma Onyefulu
  • Read about the Tuarag of the Sahara
  • Began a flip-book illustrating many of the cultural groups of Northern Africa (Tuarag, Berbers, Copts & Nubian)
  • Illustrated on a map the cultural regions of a variety of ethnic groups in Northern Africa
  • Prepared a few Northern African recipes:
    • Saffron & Raisin Couscous (National dish of Algeria)
    • Carthagenian Flank Steak (Morocco)
    • Chick Pea Tagine (Morocco)
  • Discussed differences between soils (potting soil/dirt, clay, and sand) and took part in a soil erosion experiment
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Week One

My neighbor is a retired teacher and the grandparent of two girls the same age as my children. This summer we are venturing on a journey through the continent of Africa together; team-teaching a variety of lessons to engage our kids in the culture and geography of the continent.

We will meet three mornings a week for approximately 90 minutes. In that time, we will do a variety of activities that will incorporate the art, language, music, science and history of the region. Each day, the children will also journal about what they learned each day in illustrations and words.

image of a child's salt dough map of the African continent

This first week, our focus was to introduce the kids to the 7 continents, assuring they were able to locate each on a globe and printed map. We also discussed the overall geography of the continent of Africa – emphasizing the three main ecosystems in Africa (savannas, deserts, and rain forests). While the kids worked in their journals or between activities, we also introduced the kids to African music.

Africa Unit Study :: Week One

Listed below are the key activities we coordinated for the first week of our study. Join me each week as I outline the many hands-on activities and projects we implement to introduce the kids to the beauty and culture of Africa.

  • Overview of the 7 Continents
  • Practiced identifying Africa on the globe & on a printed map
  • Shared what we know about Africa and what questions we have
  • Salt Dough Map of the African Continent (MeiLi’s is shown above)
  • Put together a floor puzzle of the world, identifying the continents as we did so
  • Read aloud Atlas of Africa by Karen Foster and Africa by Mary Lindeen
  • Drew a map of the continent showing the three major ecosystems (Savannah, Desert & Rainforest)
  • Listened & danced to the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Ready for more? Jump over to see what we did during week two.