Teaching My Baby To Read

Home » A STEM Summer

Category Archives: A STEM Summer

Giving “blood sugar” new meaning


The kids and I had a lot of fun with this one. Be warned, it’s sticky! Thanks to Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses for the idea.

Keep Kids Busy this Summer

Summer Rules

Looking for ways to keep kids “edutained” this summer? Here are my favorites:

Ko’s Journey Review

On Monday I signed up my eight-year-old son Bruce for Ko’s Journey.  We got a great deal through Homebuyer’s Coop that’s good until June 30th (link here that gets me points or something.)

Bruce has just finished Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions 4th grade, so I figured Ko’s Journey would be an appropriate level for him.

It turns out that it is and it isn’t.  I’d say Ko’s Journey is falling into the easy range.  I did have to stop and teach Bruce how to multiply extremely large numbers like 2,500 X 380.  He also needed to review multiplying decimals, and figuring out percents.  So that’s all been great.

But Ko’s Journey isn’t so challenging that I feel like Bruce is learning a ton Take that opinion however you wish.  That might be a good thing for a child who is math-phobic.  Ko’s Journey isn’t so hard that it’s scary.

Bruce has probably played Ko’s journey about 4 and a half hours by now.  (Yes, that’s a lot of screen time.  No, I’m not evil.)

Today was the first day of summer vacation and he begged me to play.  I figured, what the heck?  It’s educational and it’s summer.  Plus, that freed me up to read library books with my daughter.

The weird thing is that Bruce has already completed 75% of the online portion of the game.  It’s supposedly a 15 hour program.  But I guess the time allotment is different for every child.

There’re also some hands-on activities that come in the educator’s guide with Ko’s Journey, but we haven’t done those yet.

If you’re familiar with Dreambox, Ko’s Journey is really different.  I don’t think this could be a stand alone program (although I don’t think Dreambox should fly solo either.)  But I would say that Ko’s Journey is a great supplement.

Bruce is really enjoying Ko’s Journey a lot, but he’s almost done.

Is there anyone who could please tell me what Descartes’ Cove is like?  😉

Gearing up for Summer

Last year we did A STEM Summer and had a blast.  This year I’m planning on doing the Activity Guide from Story of the World Volume 3.  Other ideas are for percolating as well…

I was shopping at JoAnn’s Fabric yesterday and saw that all of their teacher’s supplies were on clearance.  Even though I’m not a teacher any more, is was really hard not too go nuts.  Especially since almost everything was under a dollar.

It got me thinking some more about summer.

This reading poster is one of the things I am really excited about.  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it includes pictures about genres.  Then I got 100 die-cut books to with it.  So every book my son reads this summer, can be proudly displayed under the corresponding genre.  That will be really motivating for him, plus it will let us know “the big picture” of whether or not he’s reading in a balanced way.  If he’s not, that’s okay too.  It’s just useful to be mindful.

Another thing I found (not pictured) was a US Presidents bulletin board kit, also for super cheap.  So I picked that up too.  Maybe I can do something with presidents and books I pick up at the library.  (I’m still not sure.)

But what I do know, is that I’m excited by the possibilities!

Jackson Pollock for kids

Here’s the next to the last “Art on Monday” activity from my A STEM Summer plans. (When life gets less crazy I’ll go back and update the rest, so they will be all ready to go for people next June.)

Today’s activity from Irene Luxbacher’s book 123 I Can Paint, was definitely Jackson Pollock inspired. Thankfully the weather cooperated and we could do this project outside. First we taped off sections of our paper, and then we splattered away. The vocabulary word of the day was “technique”.

Things got really messy! It’s been a long time since I have had to physically carry my son Bruce(7) up to the bath, but I did not want to get paint on my white carpet.  Jenna(3) even had paint in her hair!

But all of that mess was worth it, because we had so much fun.

Normally I share who painted each piece, but this time I’ll let you guess!

Oil Spill Experiment

For week three of my A STEM Summer, we did a chemical engineering experiement about oil spills. The best part was, we had all of the needed materials in our house already. The full directions are right here, but that page is full of typos and weird writing errors. I’m not sure what was going on with that, but the instructions still worked just fine.


  • a glass bowl
  • water
  • cooking oil
  • cotton balls
  • cheese cloth
  • a hiking sock

First, a word about cheesecloth. Why the heck did I happen to have cheesecloth on hand? Well, it all goes back to a time period when my husband was into yogurt making, but that’s another story… 😉

If you don’t have cheesecloth on hand, you could probably use a rag or a paper towel.


Put some water and oil in a bowl and then let your kids try to sop up the oil using the different materials. Some helpful teaching tips would be to make sure each kid has his or her own bowl (less fighting that way) and have a plate ready to catch all the gross remains.

The polypropylene hiking sock really does turn out to be the clear winner. I’m not sure if my kids understand that the reason is because polypropylene and oil are both composed of carbon and hydrogen and therefore attract each other. But Bruce and Jenna definitely understand how hard it is to clean up oil, and why oil spills are so devastating to the environment.

Art on Mondays, Day 5

Full confession. My A STEM Summer right now is looking more like AAAAAA! That’s because our family has been hitting the trails, spending time in the backyard, and trying to escape the heat because it is finally hot. None of us are use to 90 degree heat, but maybe it will be good for my tomatoes.

The Bardsley men climbed Mt. Si last week when it was still cooler. We are all pretty impressed for Bruce(7) hiking the whole 8 miles without one complaint! When they got to the top, my husband harnessed Bruce up and he even climbed the “haystack”.  I’m glad I wasn’t there to freak out!

It was fitting then, that our latest 123 I Can Paint art lesson had to do with painting mountains. It was also a big “a ha” moment for Jenna(3) because she happened upon making pink paint for the first time, and was very proud of herself.

Here’s Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here’s Bruce’s work. He’s 7. Can you see how much he is improving?

Here’s my result. Whoo hoo! I finally seem to be teaching these kids something about art even though I don’t know what the heck I am doing.

Finally, I wanted to share this fabulous front page article from the Sunday Herald yesterday about plans to expand North Cascades National Park. It’s too bad that my days of writing letters to the editor are over! My father-in-law was president of the North Cascades Conservation Council for 17 years, and so all of us Bardsleys are really excited for the public to know more about how beautiful North Cascades National park is, and why it is worth protecting.

Ice Cream in a Coffee Can

My A STEM Summer is plodding on, although I’m really behind in my blog posts about it. For Week #3, we did a chemistry and made ice cream in a coffee cam. Full directions here.

Calling this a “chemistry” experiment might be a bit of a stretch, but we did talk about why you need to add rock salt to the ice. Ice cream freezes at 27 degrees. If you just had ice, it would only be 32 degrees. Adding salt creates a brine solution that absorbs heat and makes the ice solution a lot colder. Duh! I should have tested this theory with a thermometer. That would have made this experiment even better.

Art on Mondays, Day 4

Egads! It was Monday again and time to paint. My kids have been asking me every day to “do art” and I kept holding them off until Monday because I’m pathetic, and start hyperventilating when I think about the mess it’s going to create. But at least with Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint, I have a plan.

Lesson #4 (pp 12-13) is called “Busy and Bright” and it teaches the vocabulary word complimentary colors. It also uses a technique where you squirt blobs of paint on your background color, and then use scraps of cardboard to pull down the paint and make them look like buildings.

In retrospect, I can see what I did wrong as the art teacher this time. (That’s an improvement, because normally I can’t even figure out what I did wrong as an art teacher, even though I clearly messed up.) This time, I didn’t squirt big enough blobs of paint on the background. So when Bruce tried to pull down the skyscrapers, they were really sparse. He of course freaked out, and then I had to cajole him back to the table with a lot of Mindset coaching. “Well of course it will look awful if you give up half way through. Stick it out and it will look better. I think this is hard too, but that’s what makes it so fun”. etc.

Bruce did make it back to the table, and I think his end was result was pretty good. All of the drama meant that I never actually introduced the concept of complimentary colors and we also never put the finishing touches on our paintings which were supposed to include a road, people and cars. Whatever. Don’t’ blame Irene Luxbacher. This was all my fault!

This is Jenna’s. She’s 3.

Here is Bruce’s work.  He’s 7.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s. 🙂

Learning about Maritime Engineering at the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks in Ballard

For Week 1 of my A STEM Summer plans, my kids and I went to Ballard to visit the Hiram M. Crittenden Locks. This was a great chance to see engineering in action.  We got to see boaters go through the locks and salmon swim up the fish ladder.

Our trip to the Ballard Locks was also a chance for Bruce(7) to learn about technology. He took a bunch of pictures with our digital camera, and then a few days later I helped him create a 2 minute movie using Windows Live Movie Maker. You can tell which pictures Bruce took, because they have the railing going across them, or else are shot from the ground looking up at the signs!

If your family gets the chance to visit the locks, see if you can plan to go during summer when the salmon are making their way through the fish ladder. It’s pretty cool!

Pizza Wanted Signs, Part 3

Teaching my son Bruce(7) how to use technology this summer is backfiring on me. He is now using the camera, color printer, and sometimes even the scanner to make high-tech “Pizza Wanted Signs” and post them all over the house! (This is what they looked like a year ago.)

(This is what they look like now.)

On the plus side, we just finished a lesson on suffixes in All About Spelling Level 3, so at least Bruce is no longer writing “wantid”. He’s also branching out into ice-cream, which I am also choosing to view as a positive sign of growth. 🙂

Art on Mondays, Day 3

Once again my usual disclaimer: I AM SO NOT AN ART MOM!!!! Irene Luxbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is helping me change this (hopefully) and give my kids a chance to get messy. (Here are my Week 3 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Lesson #3 (pp 10-11) is called “Warm and Friendly” and it teaches the concepts warm colors vs. cool colors . I don’t know what went wrong with this activity. Things were going okay, but then we all ended up with way too much paint on our paper.  When it dried, Bruce’s flowers all melted together. Clearly I do not know what I am doing as an art teacher! On the plus side, we are learning about blending colors and the different shapes and brush strokes you can make with different brushes.

This is Bruce’s final product. He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here are my results. I would appear that I am an 8-year-old painting, but really I’m in my 30s.  🙂

Engineering on Thursdays, Day 2

Week 2 of A STEM Summer’s theme is Farms. For our environmental engineering project, we built a solar oven. (Full directions can be found here.)

We did not follow the directions exactly in that we didn’t use a pizza box. So feel free to “wing it” on the materials. Since Puget Sound is not known for hot summers, we also had to be flexible about sunshine. It was only in the mid-60s when we tried cooking in our solar oven, but this was still enough to melt the chocolate.

I say “we”, but really it was just Jenna(3) and I building this today because Bruce(7) was in a bit of a funk. He did decide to participate for the smores eating portion of the project however. The good news is that we ended up proving that this was a fun project for a preschooler to do too.

A few days later Bruce was inspired to tackle the project himself using random supplies from our house. We are waiting for sun to give this oven a try!

Technology on Wednesday, Day 2

Here is the movie my son Bruce(7) made from our trip to the Woodland Park Zoo.  I am teaching him how to upload pictures from a flash memory disc and use Windows Movie Maker.  Bruce used a lot of special effects for this 3 minute film, so hopefully you don’t get seasick.  🙂

Art on Mondays, Day 2

I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again:  I AM SO NOT AN ART MOM!!!!  Oh my goodness this summer is really pushing me out of my comfort zone.  We didn’t even own any paint before I started my A STEM Summer plans.  Irene Luzbacher’s 123 I Can Paint is the perfect, inexpensive book for me because it is holding my hand through the whole process. (Here are my Week 2 plans for A STEM Summer.)

Lesson #21 (pp 8-9) is called “Light and Dark” and it teaches the vocabulary word tone.

This is Bruce’s final product. He’s 7.

This is Jenna’s work. She’s almost 3.

Here are my results. I’m 30-something. 🙂