Little STEAM punks


Today is our first STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) day. I am introducing the concept of STEAM  by merging a few of my favourite childhood learning memories and creating a class for LM and her bestie CB. The children woke very early, eager to get to it (note the pyjamas). I already need more coffee.

The first thing we are doing is using technology (tools) to source recipes. And work out how we would decide which ones were the best for us out of all of those available. We settled for simplicity and the availability of ingredients (on hand) and noted that we didn’t care much about the quality or reputation of the source for this one (we were on pinterest).

Then we did the Science and Maths part, exploring how everyday materials can be made into play materials by using different formulas and ratios and who those materials can be transformed using different types of energy (heat and motion). Our basic material was flour. From that we are making play dough, moon sand and paint.

CB was responsible for the moon sand using a ratio of 8 parts/cups of flour to 1 part oil (8:1). He needed to knead (use his energy) to blend the two until every part of flour was coated by oil. He wanted it to be blue and added the food colouring to the final mix, realising that it wouldn’t blend. So we talked about dispersion and agreed that next time we should mix the colouring to the oil before combining the ingredients to see if that works.

LM was responsible for for the Play Dough which was 1 parts/cups salt, 2 parts water, 2 parts flour mixed with another formula of 4 tablespoons of  cream of tartar blended into 2 tablespoons of oil. She used two forms of energy to mix the ingredients, low heat and the motion of mixing (her energy). She added blue food colouring to make up for CB not being able to make his sand blue.

I was responsible for the paint. I gave myself the easy one: 1 part/cup salt, 1 part cup water, 1 part cup of flour. I used a blender to make it smooth and then divided it and added different paint colours.

Now CB and LM are in the midst of engineering. We had some giant novelty straws on hand and so they had a competition to build the highest structure using just the straw and the play dough we made. I suggested that they think about the great architectural buildings we talked about (and built with blocks) in our travel session yesterday. I left them to it but said they could ask specific questions about something that might not be working eg. Q: “Why is this part falling over” A: “Because you are using a giant blob of play dough, which adds extra weight that the structure can’t support”. I loved that not only did the structures aim for height, but also aesthetics with additional buildings and even a nearby straw boat – the arts seem to take care of themselves in this house. Part of this task was also learning about creative competition, conflict, persistence and kindness – even though you might think you are losing.

The task they are currently immersed in is collaboratively making a bridge out of the same straws and dough. The aim is to make it strong enough to hold at least one matchbox car (we have heaps of them from a recent garage sale) and high enough for a boat to go under. LM and CB are much better at collaborating with each other than competing – they love making things together. I can hear them excitedly planning and bouncing ideas off each other and it seems that they have settled on keeping it simple and having a wide solid play dough foundation/pile on the riverbank and cutting and bundling the straws to create a solid girders and decking. They refused to refer to the bridge building guide I offered them, preferring to work it out themselves.

While they are working and I am writing this and my FB ‘pinged’ letting me know that I have message from a dear and brilliant friend informing me that it is Roald Dahl day and that we should refer to each other using our Roald Dahl names (from a guide). LM should henceforth be known as The Ucky-Mucky Hornswaggler however she prefers her initials reversed The Squiggly Oompa Loompa and CB is the The Gloriumptious Bean. We will also dedicate tomorrow’s classes to him in style and substance.

Yours Sincerely,

The Wondercrump Hornswaggler.



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