Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chemo Care Package Ideas

Confession...I'm one of "those people" who change the TV channel when I see telethons for children with cancer. I avoid images of suffering children for the reasons you would suspect; but mainly because I've never wanted to think it could happen to my own kids, or to a child in my family.

My thirteen year old niece has cancer. 


Use a soft long-sleeve t-shirt to make a matching chemo cap and cup cozy: from STEMmom.orgMaggie (not her real name) has been sick since November, but didn't get her diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lympomia until mid December. In the world of cancer, this one has the best prognosis, so for that we are thankful. However, the next year will take its toll on her, her body, and her family. 

I imagine there are many who could articulate this better than me, but I feel so hopeless. I want to help the family, comfort them, provide help when I can, without being too pushy. I want them to know we are praying for the family, but I'm scared I'll say the wrong thing. 

Maggie has asked for fun hats to wear when her hair falls out (long beautiful blond hair). This project has helped me deal with her sickness and allows me to do something constructive! I've researched what chemo patients prefer, what is popular, and what is comfortable. I am surprised not to find many tips for kids going through chemo, but maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. If you know where to go to get ideas, please let me know.

I went to a thrift shop and found lots of fabrics and scarves, and I'm hoping to sew some great head coverings after Christmas. But for now, I'm providing t-shirt caps, flower clips,  scarves, and store bought hats.  I was amazed to find out, that using really soft t-shirts is preferred by patients for around the house and for sleeping. You simply cut the the shirt under the arm pits to create a tube, put the finished edge on your forehead, and then twist the remainder at the nape of your neck.  Although I found this great tutorial for how to customize the t-shirt cap at Fehr Trade. Maybe when I see Maggie I can get her head measurements and make it fitted for her!


I found some wonderfully soft long-sleeve shirts and after I cut below the arms I realized that the sleeves would make a nice cup cozy for some hot chocolate or coffee! You could decorate your cozy with buttons and other embellishments; but I'm leaving mine plain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Modified Crayon Rolls for Adults

Modified Crayon Roll for adult sized writing utensils: STEMmom.org

the pleated poppy blogI've always been a sucker for things having their place. Ever since I can remember, I have loved boxes, tins, totes, bins, and we can't forget the '90's and my love affair with Longaburger baskets. So its no surprise that I loved this crayon roll tutorial I found at The Pleated Poppy.  Each crayon has its own little sleeve. Then the whole thing rolls up! So cute...and functional! The purpose of this post is not to teach you how to make this very cool crayon roll, but to give you ideas on ways to modify it so that the writing utensils belonging to the adults in your life can also have a "sweet" home. Read my ideas, then go over to The Pleated Poppy to get the nitty gritty on how to make this cool craft. Here is a photo of my son playing with the one I made for him. While I don't trust him yet with crayons unsupervised, he loves pulling the crayons out, and putting them back in. The button closure is also an area of great intrigue.

Boy using tractor crayon roll: from STEMmom.org

The best part of this craft is that I had all the materials on hand. I used fabric swatches and elastic hair ties, as well old flannel receiving blankets. I spent a little money on buttons, but that was my only cost!


The crayon roll in the photo below is using the measurements from The Pleated Poppy. I modified the measurements to hold fewer, but taller writing instruments. I chose to make spaces for 8 pencils or pens.  The two in the photo below are a matching, mother and daughter set I made for my sister and niece. I know my three year old niece will love having something like "Mom."

Matching Mother and Daughter Crayon Rollls: STEMmom.org

Because the modified roll I made was only a fraction of the width of the crayon roll, it doesn't have the thickness of the crayon roll. Great for the purse.

Matching Mother and Daughter Crayon Rollls: STEMmom.org

I decided that my sister, an avid studier of God's Word, might enjoy having all her Bible study pencils in one place and easily portable. I found some colored pencils in neon colors that I thought would be great for highlighting scriptures.  For my niece's crayon roll, I found a really cute corduroy skirt (for $2  at a thrift shop) that had  amazing sequence and gems embellishments that are showcased when the crayon roll is buttoned shut! Cute  huh?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Easy Handprint Calendar

Easy Handprint Calendar; STEMmom.org

I put this calendar together for less than $2! I decided to make two at once. I figure, since my boys' hands are painted, I might as well make doubles. However, I will be honest and say that you'll probably need a lot of patience, as my kids didn't enjoy sitting down to make the handprints all in one sitting. My 18 month old did handprints for 6 of the months, but it took two afternoons. I was able to get my 5 year old to do it in one afternoon, but it was a challenge to keep him on task, as well as the paint on the table and water from spilling. 

Here are the materials you need:

  • patience...I'm not kidding!
  • $1.00 calendar (from the dollar store) size 12x12"
  • 12 pieces of white cardstock
  • Paper trimmer or scissors
  • Corner punch (optional)
  • Single hole punch
  • Ink (optional for inking the edges of the cardstock before putting it down on the scrapbook paper)
  • Various colors of paint
  • 12 pieces of 12x12 scrapbook paper
  • Adhesive (I suggest repositionable) or glue
  • Little hands
  • bowl for washing hands
  • towel for drying hands
  • Ideas for handprints for each month: I got my ideas from E is Explore

Getting Kids organized for the Kid Handprint Calendar: STEMmom.org


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab

Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: 3 student versions from STEMmom.org

While on my journey of learning what inquiry is NOT, I now realize that I might have had a smoother transition if I had seen some of the labs I was used to doing to compare to higher-level inquiry labs  that  have similar goals. So when I have time, I've been modifying the labs I post to include both a cookbook version along with an inquiry version.  At the end of this post I offer a free single download that includes three versions of the same lab, a coobook version, inquiry version, and science notebook inquiry version. 

Cookbook Version of the Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab 


The cookbook version of this soil lab provides a list of materials, a detailed procedure complete with directions on how data should be collected and recorded. The labs have pre and post lab questions that help students process what they learned from completing the lab experience. Although the term "cookbook lab" is usually said with distain, they have their purpose. My suggestion to you is to be sure you can tell the difference between cookbook labs and the varying levels of inquiry, and use them purposefully to help build students up the inquiry levels throughout the year. 

Student working on Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from STEMmom.org

Materials needed for Permeability Lab
  • water
  • gravel, sand, and dirt (about 1 cup per group)
  • funnel
  • 3 coffee filters
  • ring stand (optional...we didn't have them)
  • stopwatch or watch with a second hand
Materials for Porosity Experiment
  • water
  • graduated cylinder (100 mL minimum)
  • 6 clear, plastic cups
  • permanent marker
  • metric ruler
  • large, medium, and small pebbles (about 1 cup per group)

Soil samples for a Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from STEMmom.org

Inquiry Versions of the Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab 



I have two inquiry versions of this soil lab. Both versions have students gather and request the  materials they'll need to meet their challenge.

Inquiry challenge: "Develop a way to measure soil porosity and to develop a way to compare the permeability of different soils."          
The inquiry versions lead students through brainstorming, and then ask them to hypothesize which samples have the most permeability and porosity. Both Inquiry versions refer to "Play Time" which is where they are guided by questions and given time to play with their materials to test ideas they have before they write a procedure they will use as a compare their soil samples. Students doing an inquiry version of these soil labs come up with their own data tables in which to put their results. 

The difference between the two inquiry versions is that the first leads students a bit more than the third version, which I call the "Science Lab Notebook" version. In this third version I don't provide any post lab questions, instead, I gently guide students in how to write a lab write up using the following categories: Procedure, Data and Results, Analysis and Conclusions, Limitations, and Social Applications.       

Final results of Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from STEMmom.org

I've been working with my students to increase the level at which they develop procedures themselves. Therefore, we did the first inquiry lab. I am concentrating on having them "play" and then develop their own procedures for labs we do. While I don't have them memorize the phases of the scientific method, I am introducing them to the lingo; contstants, control, manipulated (independent) variable, responding (dependent) variable, extraneous variables, control groups vs. experimental groups. You'll notice in the post lab questions, I'm getting students to think about these things. 


Challenges of Implementing Inquiry

I am finding that inquiry is easier for me to teach when I'm teaching a concept outside of my STEM passion area. For me, my passion is biology. I find I hold too closely to the procedures I used when learning a lab, and I have too narrow a view of what I think students should be learning. For this soil lab, teaching at an inquiry level was easier for me because I'm not as familiar with how scientists actually perform these measurements in their own research. My goal was not for them to figure out how scientists do it, but to find accurate, measurable ways to compare differences in soil. I'm more concerned about the scientific research thinking process, then the content-specific answers they come up with.  

In Inquiry Learning, Encourage Students to Admit Being Wrong


At this stage in their learning, students want to design an experiment, and then be able to say "it worked." However, because I let them design their procedures, there is a possibility that the method they chose didn't test what they thought it would. An important question to ask students, is "How confident are you that your results answer the question you set out to answer?" You'll need to ask this question in a variety of ways. Such as, "Is it possible that the method you designed, gave you misleading data? How could you improve your procedure to fix this?" In this particular lab, student should address how well their procedure measured permeability and porosity. We've got to stop students thinking they should "get the answer" the first time they try. STEM is about designing ways to find answers, and rarely can we do that the first time!     


Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: 3 student versions from STEMmom.org

All three of these labs are available for FREE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Please visit if you'd like to download a copy of these labs. I'd love to hear from you if you download this file! Leave me comments here, or at my TPT store!

If you like having options for labs, another lab you may want to check out is my Marshmallow Flight Lab where I provide both a cookbook version and an inquiry student version. 

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