Upcoming: Engaging STEM Lesson Ideas

Here are the slides, links, and videos included in the October 7, 2015, presentation at OTA/EncycloMedia in Oklahoma City: Engaging STEM Lesson Ideas by Amy Loeffelholz (@AmyLoeffelholz), Michaela Freeland and Wesley Fryer (@wfryer). An audio podcast recording of this session will be linked here following the presentation. More information about the upcoming “3D Printing & Digital Design” PLAYDATE OKC PD Event (FREE) is available on, including free EventBrite registration.



Upcoming: Lesson Ideas with Vanessa Perez

Join Amy Loeffelholz and Wesley Fryer as we interview Vanessa Perez (@vperezy), an amazing, energetic, inspirational and always-sharing teacher at Tomlinson Middle School in Lawton, Oklahoma. We will host a live Google Hangout interview with Vanessa on Saturday, August 1, 2015, at 9:30 am Central Time. Vanessa will share some of the STEM lessons she’s done with students in the past as well as lessons she’s planning for the upcoming school year. She’ll also discuss her strategies for success writing small grants for classroom supplies and furniture, as well as share about her innovative classroom space designs. Vanessa recently started a #notreadytour Challenge for teachers on and will talk about the goals for the project as well as how it’s going. Please join us for an hour of great Saturday professional development on August 1st!

Please RSVP on the Google Hangout page for this event.

Also check out the short promotional video trailer we created for this STEMseeds Interview using Adobe Voice for iPad.


Upcoming: Lesson Ideas with Kylie Sanders

Plan to join STEMseeds’ tenth live, Google Hangout with elementary STEM teacher Kylie Sanders on Saturday, April 4, 2015, at 10:30 Eastern / 9:30 Central / 8:30 Mountain / 7:30 Pacific time. Kylie is an elementary STEM teacher in Piedmont, Oklahoma, and is finishing up her first year in this fulltime role. Kylie will share some of the things she’s learned during this transition to fulltime STEM teaching, including some of her favorite STEM lesson ideas. View our show agenda and referenced links/resources on our Show Notes Google Doc, which we will continue to update during and following the show. If you miss the live show or want to hear it again, as always we’ll post both an audio podcast version as well as the archived Google Hangout video link to We hope you will join us for an hour of STEM learning on April 4th! Please RSVP on this Google+ Event page and submit live questions during our show using the Google Hangouts Q&A tool!

Original photo used in this post was taken during the 2014 STEM Seeds PD Camp


Upcoming: Lesson Ideas with Kevin Jarrett

STEMseeds has been podfading for 3 months but we are back! Join us for a 60 minute Google Hangout interview with elementary teacher Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett) on Sunday, March 1, 2015, at 4 pm Eastern / 3 pm Central / 2 pm Mountain / 1 pm Pacific to discuss STEM lesson plans and project ideas, his educational philosophy setting up his classroom, and how he’s been using MinecraftEDU in class and after school to power student learning as well as collaboration. Please RSVP for this event on the Google Hangout / Google+ page. Show notes for this episode are available on this Google Doc.


Register Now: June 2-4, 2015 STEM Seeds PD Camp

Registration is now available for the June 2-4, 2015, Elementary STEM Seeds PD Camp in Yukon, Oklahoma. Super early-bird, early bird, and regular registration is available via EventBrite. From the registration page:

The goal of STEM Seeds Elementary PD Camp is to provide opportunities for teachers to experience classroom STEM lessons from a student perspective, and develop STEM lesson facilitation skills. Camp provides opportunities for STEM teacher networking, idea sharing, and collaboration. Our June 2015 STEM Seeds Camp topics will include:

  1. Engineering Design Projects
  2. Show and Share Projects from 2014-15 STEM Classes
  3. Green Screen Videos
  4. Hands-On Measurement
  5. Playground Design Project
  6. 3D Printing and Design
  7. Egg Drop
  8. MinecraftEDU
  9. Water Bottle Rockets
  10. Circuits & Jitterbug Robots
  11. Classroom iPad Management & Teaching Tips
  12. Curiosity Links
  13. Funding Options: Donors Choose, Local Grants

Primary Instructors:

24 teachers will be accepted for the June 2015 STEM Seeds PD Camp in Yukon, Oklahoma.

More information and registration details are available on Openly accessible handouts are on

Cancellation Policy: Full refunds are available for cancellations made more than 60 days prior to the event. Refunds for half the registration fee (not including EventBrite processing fees) are available for cancellations made 30 to 59 days prior to the event. No refund is available for cancellations made less than 30 days prior to the event. This cancellation policy applies both to purchase orders / offline payments as well as online payments made at the time of registration.

Source for the featured photo in this post: Wesley Fryer on Flickr More photos from the June 2014 STEM Seeds PD Camp are available in this Flickr set.


Group Building Design Challenge

This semester in STEM class as one of our first lessons, I’m using the following “Group Building Design Challenge” to get my 4th and 5th grade students collaborating, designing, communicating, and creatively constructing in groups. This lesson idea originally came from an Oklahoma A+Schools workshop my wife, Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) attended, and I modified with Amy Loeffelholz (@AmyLoeffelholz) during our June 2014 STEM Seeds PD Camp for teachers. Amy also used this last semester with her 4th and 5th grade STEM students.

These are some of the main learning goals for the lesson. One other goal not listed here is practicing oral communication skills and elaboration. It’s very challenging (and good) for many of my students to be the group “engineer” who describes the building/object they need to construct to teammates who haven’t seen it themselves.

Here’s the lesson in a nutshell: In another room or hidden space, build a small structure using blocks, lincoln logs, or other building materials DIFFERENT than those your students will use. Divide students into groups of 4. Assign 4 different roles to students, which include limitations on which hands they can use and whether or not they can talk. Allow 1 student per group to look at the pre-constructed structure for 90 seconds. If possible (if you can go into another room/space away from other students) discuss the characteristics of the building with them. Provide each group with building supplies, and invite them to organize their supplies while 1 student is seeing the example project / model. Give students five minutes to build in their defined roles. After 5 minutes, have students switch roles, and the students who are allowed to see the example project / model have 60 seconds to go look at it and discuss it. Repeat this process until all students have had each job role. At the end, discuss:

  1. What part of the building challenge was most difficult? Why?
  2. How was patience important in this activity?
  3. Who did the best job explaining to others what to build? What did they say?

Here are descriptions for the 4 different job roles I used in this activity: Engineer, Left Handed Builder, Right Handed Builder, and Architect. Each role has specific abilities and limitations, which are key for the learning goals of this activity.

To help students select job roles, I cut blank paper into squares and wrote the first letters “E, L, R and A” on them, and paperclipped each set of 4 together. When we started the lesson, each group got a set and figured out how to “fairly” draw or select initial jobs.

Update 2/27/2015: My wife, Shelly, created much nicer printed squares which can be cut out and shuffled/passed out for each group. This document is available as a PDF.

This is the “model” build which I used the second day of this lesson. There is not anything really special about this design, other than the fact that it has specific characteristics which students can identify and copy. For this example, these include a 3 walled structure with two windows on opposite sides, a door at the entrance, an archway over the door, no roof, and an open back to the building. I asked students what kind of a building they thought it would be if it had a roof. Answers from students included a garage, a car wash, a parking place for a spaceship, a church (the archway inspired that answer I think) and a roadside picnic area cabin. I suggested it could be a “carport,” that wasn’t a term my kids came up with on their own.

I strongly recommend you do NOT make this model build too complicated. One of the simple things which challenges kids and they way they think is that they are having to reconstruct this model with DIFFERENT materials. If possible, it can be beneficial to give different groups different kinds of materials to build their object. The difference in building materials between the model and the supplies provided to student groups naturally creates cognitive dissonance for students. This can be very good for helping students think differently and creatively about problem solving. They have to think “out of the box,” they are not simply copying another model verbatim. This requires some creativity and divergent thinking.

This was the model I used for students the first day I taught this lesson, and it turned out to be TOO COMPLICATED. Students got sidetracked by the imperfect roof and the holes in the roof. Most also didn’t have enough time, in our 50 minute lesson, to construct a roof. It was enough of a challenge to just construct the walls of the simpler structure.

The following photo was one of my favorites from our lesson. A student who was supposed to just use ONE hand and NOT talk forgot and started talking! Students are challenged by these limits on the hands they can use and whether or not they can talk, and often enjoy “policing” each other appropriately and making sure everyone in their group is following the rules!

If time permits, here are some modifications and additional activities you can try for this lesson.

  1. Take photos during the building time, and share those photos with students at the end.
  2. Upload photos to a Flickr set students can access, and teach them to write reflective blog posts about this lesson using one of the photos afterwards.
  3. Use a timer on your classroom projector/interactive whiteboard and give students 5 minutes for each building phase. Then rotate jobs. I had students rotate “clockwise,” but had to teach students what this meant and practice by pointing left (clockwise) and right (counter-clockwise) before actually rotating. Then new Engineers can visit the room with the hidden model structure, and everyone has a new building role with abilities/limitations.

This can potentially be an engaging and valuable lesson, and a fun lesson for students. I’m going to use it as a springboard for our first lessons about “interactive writing” this semester as students learn to post text and images to their class KidBlogs.


Upcoming: Interview with Bethany Ligon

Join Amy Loeffelholz and Wesley Fryer on Saturday morning (Nov 22nd) for a Google Hangout conversation with Arizona science teacher Bethany Ligon, who was featured in the November 1, 2014 Classroom 2.0 Live show, “Technology Integration in Jr. High School.” Bethany has collected a variety of outstanding engineering design project lessons for her students, which she will discuss along with other practical ideas for engaging students in STEM learning. Please join us live if you can, but if you can’t we’ll archive the video and audio version of the show on We’ll start at 10:30 Eastern / 9:30 Central / 8:30 Mountain / 7:30 Pacific and talk together for an hour. Your LIVE participation during the show is invited and welcome!

Visit our Google Hangout Page to RSVP and join the event LIVE on Saturday!


Practical Lessons for Elementary STEM Integration

Here are the slides, links, and videos included in the October 7, 2014, presentation at OTA/EncycloMedia in Oklahoma City: Practical Lessons for Elementary STEM Integration by Amy Loeffelholz (@AmyLoeffelholz) and Wesley Fryer (@wfryer). An audio podcast recording of this session is also available.


Upcoming: Back to STEM School with Amy and Wes

Plan to join elementary STEM teachers Amy Loeffelholz and Wesley Fryer on Saturday, September 13th at 11:30 am Eastern / 10:30 am Central / 9:30 am Mountain / 8:30 am Pacific online (via a Google Hangout) to talk about STEM lesson ideas, Maker Studio lessons, and lots more “back to school” updates as the 2014-15 school year has started. Please RSVP for the Google Hangout if you plan to attend or might attend. (That way the event can be added to your Google Calendar.) Check out past archives of our almost-monthly webcast on We hope you’ll join in our STEM conversations on Saturday! (Note: Time has been updated to start 1 hour later than originally announced. Google Hangout time is updated too!)


Lesson Resources from Julie Poetzel

Julie Poetzel is an 8th grade science teacher in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and was featured in the April 23rd article, “Menomonee Falls students build prosthetic hands during science class.Amy Loeffelholz contacted Julie via email to get more information about the prosthetic hand lessons she’s done with students as well as other STEM activities. Julie shared the following Google Site links to this and other STEM lessons she’s taught to and facilitated with her students! These resources are awesome! Short descriptions provided by Julie for each lesson are also included below.

Prosthetic Hand: Designing and Building a Hand Prosthesis

Over the next few days you will be learning about designing solutions to overcome challenges. Your team of 2-3 will complete a series of activities revolving around the ideas of biomedical engineering, adaptations, team work, while using STEM concepts

Virtual Outbreak

In this activity you and a team of epidemiologists will be tracking a disease in a local community. Using an online virtual program each day you will be given a set of questions to investigate, material to discuss and a plan to disseminate to deal with the outbreak. After 2-3 days of research your team will either create a recorded news broadcast (ie. using the green screen in the LMC or personal camera) or a newspaper article describing the events that took place in the small community. You will inform your audience about the facts that were collected and how your team eradicated the disease.

Butterfly Wings: Using Nature to Learn About Flight

Have you ever seen butterflies fluttering around outside, gliding through the air and landing on flowers? While they are delicate and fragile, butterflies are actually excellent flyers. They are so good, in fact, that scientists at Harvard University studied butterfly wing shapes as an inspiration for building a miniature flying robot. In this science STEM activity you will do your own version of the Harvard scientists’ experiment to measure the flight performance of butterfly wings.

The 4.5 minute video, “Poetzel Hour 2 Geiger Group,” was created by some of Julie’s students completing the “Virtual Outbreak” lesson. Read more background in the February 2014 article, “Menomonee Falls teacher keeps students learning on snow days.”

Poetzel Hour 2 Geiger Group from North Middle School on Vimeo.