A few afternoons a week, I tutor students right after school. My older kids have homework to complete and are old enough to occupy themselves while I work. My third grader has a more difficult time finding engaging ways to play. I organized all his building blocks, Magnatiles, wooden peg people, loose parts on a low bookshelf so he could do some free play while I tutor, but the shelf remained unused. I wanted to encourage him to play freely but I needed to find a way to entice him to build and play independently.
For a little while now, I have been following Brooke Brown from Teach Outside the Box for her Maker Space ideas. I read more about her STEM/STEAM bins and realized I had most of the materials for the bins sitting on the shelf I organized for my kiddo. What was missing from my set-up was inspiration, ideas, and prompts to help him get started.
We all need ideas and inspiration when we start a new project. I often go to Pinterest to collect ideas for lessons, learning invitations, hobbies and recipes. I find that once I have developed a familiarity for working with certain materials or concepts, it gets is easier to get create using my own ideas.
I purchased the DIY STEM Bins product to create my own bins and reorganized the materials into meal prep containers. I added the labels and task cards. It took a little bit of work to laminate and cut the cards and labels, but my son has really taken to the Steam Bins.
Along the way, I came across a really cute STEAM cart put together by Vanessa @princess_leia_teaches_2nd. She has created a very inviting classroom for her students and put a STEAM cart together using the Kids Market Cart from Hearth and Hand™ with Magnolia from Target. I kept my eye out for this cart and purchased it when it went on clearance this summer.
Using STEAM Bins as an after school activity has been very helpful. I can work with students while my son explores and creates with materials and learns playfully. I am pleased that while I am working, he’s screen free. He is also excited to tell me about what he created while I was working a student. He built the train pictured below with Keva Blocks and we had to leave it out until his dad came home from work.
I recently began using the STEAM Bins with the younger students I tutor. They are using “Story Boards” to develop stronger writing and language skills. Learning to write can be difficult for young students. By inviting a child to build a setting and choose characters, writing becomes more a more hands-on and accessible process. The opportunity to build with various materials provides fine motor practice. As the child builds, her story begins to develop. When it is time to write the story, the ideas are firm and the writing comes more easily.
The STEAM Bins have been such a hit in my house that I am hosting a little winter STEAM party as a fundraiser for our school. I am excited to create some STEAM challenges and offer some free build time with the bins. I think the kids are going to enjoy it!