STEM Challenge: PEEPS!
The buzz of STEM (or is it STEAM?) is growing louder by the day. While I’m still wrapping my head around Common Core, Smarter Balance and about a zillion other new programs, I thought I’d dip my toe in to this area the last few weeks of school.
I teach Chemistry as my science rotation (each fifth grader teacher takes one topic area and we teach it 3 times during the year) and the labs are pretty prescribed and regimented. I’m working to remedy that for next year, but until then, I’m totally digging the STEM Challenges by Smart Chick.
This week, our first week trying it out, we took on the Dissolving Peeps challenge. I had purchased the lesson with the intention to perform it before Easter. Buuuut, as usual, we ran out of time. This actually worked out perfectly-I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Easter candy is now on CLEARANCE! That means half priced Peeps for everyone!
The only items I need to supply were the Peeps, bowls and prizes for the winning team (also a clearance Easter item: light-up bunnies). Students were posed with the question the day before the challenge-What liquid will dissolve a Peep the fastest? They were told they could bring in any school legal/safe liquids the next day to use in their test.
This is where it got interesting. Students first asked if they could combine liquids. While my gut was to say ‘no’, I’m working on letting go of control. I told them as long as they kept track of their ‘recipe’ and could tell me exactly what was in it, that was fine. We then had a brief discussion about toxic fumes and why we shouldn’t combine liquids like ammonia and rubbing alcohol. They then asked if they could do some internet research to get ready. This really took me off guard, but again, I said ‘yes’. My students then spent the next half hour reading blogs, watching YouTube videos and making lists of possible liquids-I have never seen them so into researching science!
The next morning was all about the Peeps. Students brought in all kinds of liquids, as well as stories of how they were up late the night before conducting pre-tests in their kitchens. They were then given bowls and test Peeps to practice on. Each group could do as many pre-tests as they wanted, but had to agree on ONE liquid to submit to the challenge. They each named their team and their liquid, and poured it into a bowl for the challenge table.
I cut the Peeps in half in order to speed up the dissolving time-I was worried that if I put an entire Peep into each bowl, none of them would make enough progress in our limited time period to really see. Some teams wanted their Peeps rolled in baking soda, some wanted them ‘naked’. All Peeps were put into the bowls at the same time and left for 3 hours.
We pulled the peeps out after the 3 hour time period, and one Peep was far more dissolved than the others. The winning solution? Hot water and dishwasher soap. Who knew?
The kids had a blast, the winning team basked in their glory, and the class is begging to know what next week’s challenge is going to be. Looking at Smart Chick’s STEM Challenges, it looks like I have quite a few to choose from! I’m looking forward to implementing this from get-go next year, but it’s also a great way to keep up the energy in these last few weeks of school. It fits PERFECTLY with the CA Science Standards asking students to design their own labs and collect data.
Have you done STEM challenges in your room? If so, where are your favorite places to find them?