George Crum: A Potato Chip STEM Challenge

In honor of Black History Month, I held a mini-virtual history lesson, paired with a fun STEM challenge. This was a challenge I’d seen from pictures in the past and I even tested it out a few months ago with my 4-6th grade book club.

The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Or so the legend tells it. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. When a customer complained that his fries were too thick and soggy, Crum sliced them as thin as he could, added lots of salt and fried them to a crisp! And so chips were born.

After giving the kids a mini history lesson about the potato and what we know about George Crum’s life. We discussed the various myths and then we talked about how stories can often change through the telling, like the telephone game and how history can sometimes be biased based on whose telling.

From there I introduced our challenge. The challenge: Build a ring using only Pringles potato chips. For this challenge, you need a full sized can of Pringles and a flat surface. I warned the kids NOT to eat their chips or else they might run out before they completed their ring.

We thought about three questions in getting ready to do the building:

  1. How will the base of your ring be support the top?​
  2. How will you layer your chips? Will you work off a set pattern? If so, what pattern?​
  3. What will you do if you need to reevaluate your plans?​

Then we went in to a little of the science. We talked about how as the sides of the ring get taller, gravity pushes down on the chips. This can cause them to slide down as your ring begins to curve. In order for the chips to not slide, there has to be enough frictional force on the sides of the chips so that gravity can’t push them down​.

And then the race was on!

How’d it go:
It ended up being a snow day at my house, so I had a three year old and a 6mo old “helping” me with the program but other than that it went great. We had a great turn out and some of my colleagues helped me to commentary and spotlight the kids rings as they were building.

The success of this program has me thinking up so many STEM/History possibilities. Time to get my research hat on!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Virtual Book Discussion: The Shadow Cipher W/PigPen Cipher Challenge

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby is the first book in the York series, a juvenile fiction, historical re-imagining, series for 4-7 graders. 

 In 1855, the Morningstarr Twins, the greatest and most mysterious architects New York City has ever seen, go missing and in their place, a cryptic puzzle promising to lead to a treasure greater than can be imagined. But decades later the puzzle still hasn’t been solved.  

 In the present day, twins Theo and Tess, along with their friend Jamie are determined to solve the puzzle and save their home, one of the original Morningstarr buildings, from being torn down by rich developers.  

 Most people have given up on the puzzle and don’t even think it ever ends but Tess, Theo and Jamie believe that the puzzle is just waiting for the “right” people and time to be solved.  

 Will they solve the cipher before it is too late? 

Discussion Questions: 

1. What is this story about? What are the main themes? 
2. What is an alternative history? What are some examples of this in the book?  
3. Tess, Theo, Jamie and the rest of the residents of 354 W. 73rd Street are about to lose their home. If you were in their shoes how would this make you feel?  
4. Explain why Tess says their effort to solve the Cipher seems “adorable,” as though it were more than a coincidence. 
5. In this version of the world, people have hybrid animal pets. What type of hybrid pet would you want to have?  
6. Chapter 11 – “People like to fool themselves into thinking that they could never be fooled.” In chapter 11, Tess and her dad have a discussion about a “black box.” What is this and would you open the black box? 
7. Chapter 21 – Jamie wonders if maybe the Morningstarr creations are actually alive. What did you think of this? 
8. Does the design of a machine influence how well it is accepted? Why do people sometimes have trouble accepting scientific advances? Advances in engineering? 
9. Slant says, “the solution is not in the streets or the buildings of this city, but in us, in its people. We are the magic. We are the treasure.” By the end Tess wonders if Slant is just a little bit right by saying that “we are the treasure,” What do you think is meant by this? 
10. At the end of the book, is seems as though a battle has just begun. What war is coming?  

STEM Challenge: Decode the secret message 

STEM Supplies Needed: Pencil & Paper 

A PigPen cipher is a geometric simple substitution cipher, which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid. For example “C” would look like an uppercase L , and “L” would look like an uppercase L with a dot in the lower left hand corner.  

First, I explained to the kids how this cipher works. Then I pinned the cipher and our first challenge, saying “using the above cipher, let’s see who can decode our secret message first.” I moved on to each cipher, making them a little longer each time.   

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson 
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” by Albert Einstein
“Sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” by Lewis Carroll

 Sources: 
https://www.walden.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/YORK-THE-SHADOW-CIPHER-EDUCATORS-GUIDE-FOR-CLASSROOM-USE.pdf  

How’d it go:

Meh, this was not our favorite book or our favorite activity. But the kids got through it and are excited to here that next week we are back to our messy STEM activities!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Virtual Family Storytime: 1/9/2021

I’m so excited to get back to doing virtual storytime after my maternity leave! My first one back, just happens to fall on Law Enforcement Appreciation day, so I thought we could do all things community helpers.

Here’s what I had planned:

  • Hello Rhyme – H.E.L.L.O 
    • For this one, we clap out each letter of the word “hello.”

Let’s clap and say hello… 
H.E. L. L. O. 
H.E. L. L. O. 
H.E. L. L. O. 
Let’s clap and say good morning. 

  • Stretch – Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes 
    • I wondered about doing this one virtually but I don’t want to get rid of all my fun movement exercises just because we are using Zoom.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, 
Knees and toes.  
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, 
Knees and toes.  
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose, 
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, 
Knees and toes. 

  • ASL – POLICE / FIREFIGHTER / DOCTOR 
  • Book – Whose Hands Are These? By Miranda Paul 
    • I love this book. It has cute rhymes and can be read as a guessing game.
  • Finger Play – This Little Helper 
    • This is an easy finger play about helpers in our neighborhood.

This helper builds our houses. (thumb) 
This helper brings our mail. (pointer) 
This helper teaches the children. (middle finger) 
And this one has groceries to sell. (ring finger) 
And this little helper, yes, it’s me (pinky finger) 
When I grow up, (Stretch arms above head) 
Which will I be? (Point to self) 

  • Prop/Felt Board – Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat 
    • For this one, I have a felt board with different helper hats. I hide the cat under one of the hats and we look for it using the rhyme below. Via Zoom, I just wait and give the kids a beat to answer but I don’t actually un-mute them.

Kitty cat, kitty cat are you under the _________ hat? 

  • Book – Police Officer on Patrol by Kersten Hamilton 
    • This is another fun book. A little long but with a neat rhyme, so I thought it would work better for a family storytime audience.
  • Prop/Rhyme – What is my job? 
    • For this one, I printed out community helper people, with their uniforms and I am going to show the people as we say the rhyme. It goes to the tune of Frere Jacques.

What is my job? 
What is my job? 
Can you guess? 
Can you guess? 
I help people get well. 
I help people get well. 
Who am I? 
Who am I? 

*Other verses: I make meals for you. I keep your pets healthy. I put out the fires. I grow food for you. I can help you stay safe. 

  • Rhyme – Early in the morning 
    • I found this one on Jbrary. It’s a little weird of a rhythm, so I would look up the video. I plan on pulling out my felt letters from Valentines Day.

Early in the morning at 8 o’clock  
You can hear the postman knock  
Up jumps Ella to open the door  
One letter, two letters, three letters, four! 

  • Book – I’m Brave by Kate McMullan 
    • BookFlix has a really cute animated version of this and I am SOO going to try to copy the voice of Brave from that video clip.
  • Rhyme – The More We Get Together 
    • Everyone knows this one and adding the ASL signs for more, together, friends and happier bring a nice movement to it.

The more we get together 
Together, together 
The more we get together 
The happier we’ll be 
‘Cause your friends are my friends 
And my friends are your friends 
The more we get together 
The happier we’ll be 

  • Goodbye Rhyme – See You Later Alligator 
    • And finally, a fun goodbye rhyme!

See you later, alligator (Wave goodbye) 
In a while, crocodile (crocodile arms) 
Give a hug, ladybug (Hug yourself) 
Blow a kiss, jellyfish (Blow a kiss) 
See you soon, big baboon (Salute) 
Out the door, dinosaur (thumb over shoulder) 
Take care, polar bear (Hands on hips)  
Wave goodbye, butterfly (Wave goodbye) 

How’d it go: This was a fun storytime and worked well virtually. I had a bit of mic trouble, so I ended up using my laptop for the video and my phone for the audio. But ultimately fun was had by all!

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carols Hernandez is a juvenile fiction book best for 5-7 graders. 
 
Sal Vidon is the new kid at school and a budding magician, but it wasn’t magic that landed him in the principles office for the third time in three days, it was for allegedly putting a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker… a raw chicken that has since mysteriously disappeared. 
 
In steps Gabi Real, student council president and editor of the school paper. With her keen eye, book smarts and unwavering task oriented personality, Gabi soon realizes that Sal Vidon is hiding something big. 
 
After getting off on the wrong foot, Gabi and Sal become fast friends and it’s a good thing too because Sal is going to need all the help he can get if he doesn’t want to irreversibly break the universe for good. 

Discussion Questions:

1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?  
2. Sal is the new kid at a creative arts school. Why is it hard to be the new kid and how might being the new kid at Sal’s school be different than being the new kid at a public school? 
3. Sal has type one diabetes. What do you know about diabetes? Is you or your family affected by diabetes? How does this disease make life harder for Sal? 
4. This book embraces Spanish culture and is written with many Spanish vocabulary and phrases. For my Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, how did this effect/change the story for you?
5. Chapter 27 – “The key is to make your best move in the moment…” What do you think this means? How does Sal make his best move in the moment? 
6. Bonita-Dad: The Final Frontier is an AI. How would you like to have a robot for a parent? What would the pros and cons be? 
7. What is an everyman play and how does Sal and Gabi embrace the theme? 
8. Chapter 36 – “Sometimes, when it’s too hard, when it hurts too much, only silliness can save us.” How have you used silliness to defuse a situation in the past?  
9. Yasmany and Gabi both go through some hard moments in this book. How does Sal handle these situations?  
10. Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe is the sequel to this book. Do you have any predictions?  

STEM Activity:

Pringles Ring STEM Challenge

Engineering Challenge:
Pringles Ring 
Supplies:
1 full can of Pringles chips 
The Challenge:
Building a ring using only whole Pringles potato chips. No glue, paper, etc.  
Things to think about: 
-How will the base of your ring be able to support the top? 
-Will you layer your chips in a certain pattern? If so, what pattern? 
-What other strategies will you try if your first design doesn’t work as planned? 
The Science: 
“As the sides of the ring get taller, gravity pushes down on the chips causing them to slide down. In order for the chips to not slide, there must be enough frictional force on the sides of the chips so that gravity can’t push it down.” 

Source:  
https://carlyandadam.com

How’d it go:
We had quite a few kids for this one, which was awesome! AND quite a bit of discussion… that kept going back to food and was somewhat off track, but we are craving social interaction, so I take it as a win!
The Pringles ring however, was HARD. In half an hour only one person was able to fully complete it. So make sure you bill yourself some time if you are going to do it.

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Shine by J.J. & Chris Grabenstein

Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading 

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. What did you like and dislike in this book? What would have made it better?
  3. What STEM themes can you pull out of this book?
  4. Do you think Piper did the right thing when she gave back the money that she and Hannah found at the mall? What would you do? What if you only found a $1? $20? $50?
  5. How important is it for you to get good grades and excel in school, sports, and/or the arts? How does this make you feel?
  6. Depending on the culture and area in the world, people see the moon’s shadow as something different. It makes Piper realize that a lot of things look different depending on your point of view. Can you think of an example in your life or an issue in the world where this applies?
  7. What do you think of Piper’s acts of kindness? Would you do the same?
  8. Let’s think about Mr. Van Deusen’s assignment (p51-52). Who do you want to be? Not when your grown up. Not in the future. Now.
  9. What did you think about the Excelsior competition now that you know what is it? Why do you think Chumley Prep needed this competition?
  10. Why is this book called Shine! What message is this book meant to inspire?

DYI Moon Craters

Supplies: Foils cooking pans, flour, coco powder, various size/weight marbles, balls, step stool, ruler

How to:

  • First, create your moon surfaces by pouring an even layer of flour in the foil pan. Smooth it out and then lightly sprinkle a layer of coco powder on top. You may want to use a tarp or plastic table cloth underneath.
  • Try to select “meteors” of varying size and weight.
    • A small and large marble, a foil ball, maybe a nerf ball or a large bouncy ball.
  • Set up three different heights to drop the objects from. ie standing, on a stool from a table top.
  • Take turns dropping each item. For the first test, try dropping the same marble from each height. Then test your other sized objects.
  • Measure the size and depth of each “crater” made. Keep track on paper.
  • Which marble from which height made the deepest/largest impact? What does this tell you?

The Science:

  • Dropping the marbles at various heights can show us how speed affects the size of the craters. Using different sized objects, shows how the mass of the object also affects the size and shape of the impact crater.
  • Piper found that “The rounder the object hitting the moon, the faster an object is travelling, the farther away an object is from the moon, the larger the crater it creates.” (p104)

Sources:

Brightly’s Book Club for Kids: Shine!


Click to access 9781524717667_6417.pdf

How’d it go:

This was the last one run by my colleauge while I am on maternity leave but I decided to join in because I just loved this book. Overall, this was a fun one and everyone had their supplies ready. I made my coco level a little too thick but other than that everything went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-