STEM-i-fying the Classroom

October 30, 2014


Stem-i-fying the Classroom

Finding Room on Your Plate for Engineering

 (We were recently invited to do a guest blog on STEM and literature for Rachel Lynette’s wonderful Minds in Bloom site at We were delighted to share our ideas on integration of  engineering into other subjects)

When we first started developing an engineering program for our school, our administrator was very supportive. He only had one request: “ Please don’t tick off the staff!”. We knew that our greatest challenge would be assuring the faculty that this would be a great addition to their classroom, but not an “add-on” to their already overloaded program. And so began our slow roll out of STEM lessons that could be integrated into the curriculum. Over the years we have found ways to integrate engineering lessons into history, math, health, art, and of course science. But literature has been our biggest STEM integration success due to the fact that literature is an integral part of the elementary school curriculum and usually teachers have a large block of time for language arts. Literature has the potential to present situations that can challenge students’ imaginations. Stories can serve to encourage student to begin to problem solve, generate design proposals, and make connections to engineering. So how do we start? We begin with a “what if…?”
  • Discuss the plot and characters of the story. Can we improve the situation in the story?
The Three Little Pigs - Can we help the pigs keep their house upright? Using a Popsicle sticks, straws or toothpicks for materials and a hair drier to represent the Big Bad Wolf, have the students design a house that won’t blow down
  • What problems do the characters encounter? Can we develop a product, tool, or system to help them?
The Three Bears – What happened when Goldilocks told her mother about her encounter with the bears? Time for the students to develop new chair for baby bear.
  • Is there an item mentioned in the story that we can redesign or improve?
Charlotte’s Web – Charlotte had amazing webs. Can we do that? Using string and a wire hanger, students can engineer a web and test its strength.
  • What science or math can we connect to the story?
Peter Pan- If we have run out of fairy dust to help us fly, why not create a prototype for a zip wire? Force, motion, acceleration, and gravity will all be explored as it is engineered and tested. (We have a free download of this lesson on our web site:
  •      Think about what happened after the story ends?
Cinderella – Cinderella doesn’t want to live with her in–laws! Using recycled cardboard, create a new castle for Cinderella. Literature is great place to start, but as one review’s the curriculum for a grade level, keep an eye out for that connection that can be made. Ancient history leads to building and testing pyramids, columns and arches. Art lessons can lead to paper engineering projects or snap circuit spin art. Include vegie car races to help students remember good nutrition choices in health. Simple machines and physical science becomes very intriguing if one has to apply the concepts to a Rube Goldberg contraption. We bet once you start looking for the STEM links, you and your students will “Get Caught Engineering” regularly.   We have many more integrated STEM lessons on our Teacher Pay Teachers site at:

What They Say


Wendy came to Bellevue Arts Museum to co-lead our Full STEAM Ahead! Summer Camp in August 2014. This camp was a huge success thanks to her expertise, experience, and warmth working with the campers throughout the week…

Educational Outreach Director, The Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington