So, I was going back through blog posts the other day, looking for a photo and I kept finding the best little posts all about the STEM Lab.
And y’all, the posts always look just so pretty!
Anyway, I seem to always make my classroom look just perfectly spectacular and all good and you probably think it always looks like a magazine spread. Right? WRONG!
I decided to devote this week’s Lab Update to telling you the truth.
Sometimes our lab is a mess.
A hot mess. A chaotic, sand-filled, playdoh covered, paper towels everywhere kind of a mess. Let me just tell you all about one week that happened recently.
Let’s start right there with those innocent-looking little tubs. My fourth graders were experimenting with absorbent materials and the second part of the challenge was to design a flood barrier. So, I had this bright idea that sand would be a great supply.
Huge. First of all, kids don’t know how to clean up when they spill it. Wait a second, they actually do have a technique. It’s called “Rake it off onto the floor!”
Well, my idea was that sand BAGS would be the way to stop the flood so in the first (and only) class that tried sand I gave them little bags I had filled up. I was thinking of SAND BAGS. Not what the kids had in mind. They dumped the sand into their containers to surround the house we were flooding. Did you know that small amounts of sand will float? Anyway, then I had all these containers of wet sand.
There they are in the photo drying out. Because, of course, it was raining and I could not put them on the back porch to dry in the sun. (Yes, my lab does have two porches!)
So, let’s move on to the second class. I put away the sand and got out the PLAY-DOH!
What was I thinking? Kids and play-doh don’t always work out so well. Do you know what happens to Play-Doh when it gets wet? Epic Failure. Huge.
The kids built the flood barrier around their little houses, but for some reason, they thought if they really mashed it flat, like right into the bottom of that pan, it might work better. And it did, except for the cleaning up part. WET PLAY-DOH IS BAD! Very bad. It turns gooey and slimy and won’t come off of anything. I scraped the bottom of pans like that one with plastic spoons to get it all out.
I decided to try clay.
Well, that worked and we just had a blast and made all these little barriers and had so much fun. Until it was time to dump all those big pans of water and we ended up with this: Yeah, we had piles of pans all over the place.
In the meantime, I still had a class that was in the experimenting stage of this challenge and that involves ten tons of little cups and graduated cylinders and various other little things that must be washed.
Yes, that is the sink where we do dishes.
The plant in the sink needed to be watered and it was raining outside. So, I resorted to filling both lab sinks with plants and switching them out until I got all the plants taken care of. Well, now that covers fourth grade. What was fifth grade doing?
Building catapults and testing them!
That would explain all the wood piled on the counter. Way down at the end you can also see some of the absorbent materials we were testing in another class. And the container of dowel sticks was for another class that was building towers.
You know, it would certainly help matters if I could keep all the classes doing the same thing! But, inevitably one class gets ahead of the others so we constantly have something new going on! What was third grade doing in the middle of all this?
At least index cards are easy to clean up!
So, there you have it. I usually post only the good stuff. But now you know the truth.
We work hard in the lab.
We make a mess!
We learn a ton!
And, by the way, I wrote this blog post many years ago and have since updated it in a new and better version. The updated post contains tons of tips for you about storage and where I get materials. It’s called Ways I Can Help You with Messes in STEM.
And I mentioned some particular STEM Challenges in this post that you might enjoy: