Stems: Our celebration is just a week away

Stems: Our celebration is just a week away

Hello Stem families,

Before we talk about activities in the Stems this week, we want to make sure you all have an important date on your calendar:

The Stem Celebration is scheduled for Friday, June 7th from 4:30-5:30

This is a special opportunity for families to gather together in celebration before the Stems start heading off in new directions.

Now into the classroom…

As we mentioned in the past blog posts, part of our celebration will be a gift that the Stems give to the school, a little something from us that we can leave behind for the future Stems to enjoy. This year, with help from Ms. Amy, we are making a book out of the stories that the Stems dictated to us at various points in the year.

As part of this process, we have revisited past stories and invited each of the Stems to choose one story to include in the book.  And a few of the Stems recently dictated their very first story! While looking back at previous stories some of the Stems made small changes, added a new title or expanded on the original storyline – revising/editing skills in action.  Once they chose the story for the book, they then planned and drew an illustration to help tell their story.  At our group gatherings we have been talking about the illustrations in the books we read and how the illustrations give us information about the story, sometimes including details that aren’t in the author’s words.  At one of our morning gatherings, we looked at a short wordless book and instead of telling the story to the Stems, the class told the story as a group using clues from the pictures.

It is so amazing to see how the stories in our book came out of exploration in different areas in the classroom, using a variety of materials and at different points in the year.  We have stories inspired by building with blocks and loose parts, small world pretend play, working at the light table, exploring clay, drawing, etc. The Stems are enjoying remembering stories told earlier in the year, listening to eachother’s stories and are very proud that they are the authors of this book.

There has been lots going on in the classroom in addition to working on our book.  Here is a glimpse into a few of those activities…

After the excitement over flashlights last week, we were curious about what they remembered from using the flashlights and how they might envision using them in the classroom, so we started out the week making up a story about a mouse from one of our mouse houses who finds a flashlight in our classroom and uses it to explore.  The Stems helped to tell the story by suggesting parts of our classroom that the mouse might explore with the flashlight and what he would see there.  The final suggestion from a member in our class was that the mouse take the flashlight into the projector made last week (see photo below).

We were wondering if the work with the “projector” would take us in any new directions, so on Friday we set out the flashlights, transluscent materials, as well as some thick samples of glass attached to cardboard boxes.  A few of the Stems started to work with the materials on Friday and seeing the interest last weeek plus the idea added to our story on Monday we continued to offer these materials this week to see where it would go next.

Several members of the Stems started building new “projectors” – experimenting with flashlights and light inside the boxes and adding layers of materials on the outside.  On Friday, the Stems told us that the flashlights weren’t bright enough, so we brought in a lamp on Monday that they could use for their experimentation.

But as their work progressed, many of them seemed more interested in layering materials on top of the boxes, making it so that eventually very little light could escape.  Although the Stems were still calling the boxes “projectors” they seemed to be focused on wrapping with tape and talking more about engergy and power rather than projecting light.  One of these projects turned into a “power source” and was added to what is left of the previously built “cruise ship.”

Also the original projector that was made on Monday last week was dismanted by a few of the Stems with discussion of possibly changing it or building it again – but really it seemed that the focus was more on the process of using scissors to take apart all of the tape rather than a plan for rebuilding.

Many times this year we have wondered about the fascination with using tape to attach, wrap and then to take it all apart again.  While sometimes as teachers we would like them to leave their creations intact, we have to wonder” “what is it that they are really trying to figure out.”  What is it about wrapping and unwrapping tape?  Is it the fine motor challenge?  Are they curious about how things connect or is it the tape itself?  Are they exploring volume and space through the schema of enclosure?  These are questions we continue to ask ourselves, but we might have to be satisfied with not ever getting a final answer and just being ok with providing more materials and continuing to observe.

New items in the tinker tray and on the art shelves was also a big source of excitement in our class.  Early in the week, there was a lot of discussion of making pretend food, sandwiches, candies…  Many of the Stems used markers to add color to cotton circles.  There was also a lot of use of tape and cupcake holders to wrap and seal the creations (again the interest in the schema of enclosure).

Other than the work with the “projectors” we saw a small interest in the flashlights.  A few members of the class used the flashlights in different ways, like incorporating them into this animal party scenario below.



By the end of the week, there was less interest in the flashlights.  Depending on how the class interacts with the materials we might continue to offer these materials next week or possibly a different provocation with light, but we wonder if the Stems are leading us into a different direction.

Finally, as always there was a variety of pretend play going on throughout the classroom, lots of restaurant and food prep in the pretend area and some elaborate structures built to play with items brought from home (like Emma’s pink owl to the right of the photo below).

We look forward to seeing where the Stems lead us next.

Ms. Inga & Ms. Soni