After reading Mapping Sam by Joyce Hesselberth my students work on a STEM mapping activity. The story will appeal to students that wonder what cats are doing while their humans are asleep.

Have you ever wondered where your cat goes when you are sleeping? Every night after Sam’s family goes to bed, Sam explores her neighborhood. Through Sam’s escapades, the reader is introduced to 10 different types of maps including botanical diagrams, a cutaway map, and a map of the stars. We learn maps can show us directions, streets, and countries. In addition, they can show us what we can’t see with just our eyes such as things at the bottom of the pond or in space. 

Student Activity:

Now that you have read Mapping Sam it’s time to work on some mapping activities. 


  • First, ask your parents if you can watch the following 2 videos. They explain how a compass works and how to use a compass. 



  • Work on the compass rose page.
  • Work on the map of the United States page.
  • Take a look at the map key page. 
  • You are now ready to work on the Mapping Sam’s Route page. 


  • Ask your parents if you can take a walk. Bring your notebook, a pencil, and your compass with you. Read page 7 before you go.
  • Using your notes make a map of your neighborhood and make sure your map has a key.


A Compass Activity


This is a compass rose. A compass rose is a symbol that helps you read a map. The arrows on the compass rose point to the four main directions, North, South, East & West.


  1. N stands for  ______________________________


  1. E stands for  ______________________________


  1. S stands for  ______________________________


  1. W stands for  ______________________________


Your Neighborhood

Take a walk:

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood. 
  • Use the compass and determine which way is North. 
  • Write down details in your notebook that you want to add to your map. 


Compass Directions:


N – Never (North)

E – Eat (East)

S – Soggy (South)

W- Waffles (Waffles) 

Using your compass directions make a map of your neighborhood. Make sure and add important features like roads, your house, your school, and the park. 

Teacher information:

This activity is part of our take-home STEM kits that are based on children’s books. Students check these kits out of our library. Inside the bag are the book Mapping Sam, a small notebook, and a compass. When the student is done reading the book and doing the activity they send the book and the compass back to school but they keep the notebook.

Helpful Videos that can be shared with students.


These links are through Safelink, so they don’t show commercials. (How does a compass work?) (How to use a compass.)


Additional Information:

If you would like a PDF of this activity that includes compass worksheets please check out  my teacher-pay-teacher link



After reading Oliver Jeffers The Great Paper Caper my students spend some time doing a STEM paper airplane activity. The Great Paper Caper is a perfect book to have in your Makerspace. Something strange is happening in the forest. The animals are concerned because someone has been cutting down all the trees. After a careful investigation, bear confesses he is the culprit. Bear has been cutting down the trees to make paper airplanes. He wants to win the annual paper airplane contest. The animals help bear with his paper airplane and bear in turn learns about taking care of the forest and recycling.

Questions to Ask Your Students

Have you ever flown a paper airplane? Sometimes it flies straight up, does a loopy-loop, flips over, and dives straight into the ground. Other times it loops and twists through the air and then lands soft as a feather. 

  • What keeps a paper airplane in the air?
  • How can you keep your paper airplane in the air longer?
  • Can you control its loops or turns?
  • Would it help to fly your airplane on a windy day?
  • What can you learn about real airplanes from building paper airplanes?

Making Paper Airplanes

To get started you only need a sheet of copy paper. The following list is things you can use to possibly alter or improve your paper airplane. 

  • Clear tape 
  • A stapler 
  • Paper clips 
  • A ruler 
  • Thicker paper such as construction or cardstock


Step 1:

Start with an 8 1/2 x 11” piece of paper and fold in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun.)

Fold the paper in half.

Step 2:

Fold the corners down. They will make a point.

Fold corners into a point.

Step 3:

Starting from the point, take one side and fold it in. Do the same on the opposite side. 

Step 4:

Fold your airplane in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun.)

Step 5:

Starting at the point fold down the wing. Flip your plane and fold down the wing on the other side.

Step 6:

Your plane is ready to fly!

Student Follow-up

After my students have had a chance to make their paper airplanes and test out different designs. I have them fill out a STEM follow-up paper. This is a basic step that will help them when they need to fill out lab report forms in the upper grades. If you would like a copy of this you can check out my Teacherspayteachers account

Teacher Information 

The Great Paper Caper is part of my take-home STEM projects that I let students check out of the library. When students check out this book I also send home Folding Paper Airplanes with STEM For Beginners to Experts by Marie Buckingham and copy paper. I put everything in a bag with a letter. When they are finished with the books they return the bag with both books to the library. I started these check-outs during COVID, but I will be continuing to let students check out our STEM books during our regular school year.

A Fun STEM book.
A take-home STEM bag.

I send home the following letter in the STEM bag. 


Dear ___________ student, 


You have checked a book that is part of our Storybook STEM collection. In addition to The Great Paper Caper book inside the bag is Folding Paper Airplanes with STEM and paper for you to make paper airplanes. When you are done reading the book and making the paper airplanes, please put both books back in the bag, but you can keep the paper. 


Have fun, 


Mrs. R

Finishing UP a STEM Paper Airplane Activity 

Students love to make paper airplanes. I provide them with the instructions for one airplane, and from there they redesign and make their own airplanes. If you are doing this STEM project in person the students love to turn this into a contest. I have set up hula hoops to have them maneuver their planes through and they have flown them both inside and outside.  I have also put tape marks or chalk on the ground and we measured to see whose plane flies the farthest. STEM paper airplanes are a fun activity for the end of the school year when you might be out of resources, because the students only need a piece of paper to participate. 


Magnolia Mudd and The Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe 

After reading Magnolia Mudd and The Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe my students do a STEM launcher activity, Magnolia Mudd loves to create and design things and Fridays are her favorite day of the week because she gets to invent things with her Uncle Jamie Mudd. Her uncle is a rocket scientist and their motto is “Mudd Power.” One Friday Jamie tells Magnolia that he is getting married and they would like her to be involved in the wedding. She doesn’t want to wear a frilly flower girl dress so she uses her inventiveness to come up with another way to be involved in the wedding.

Magnolia is a clever, determined main character, and students will feel inspired to invent their own creations after seeing Magnolia’s determined attempts to invent a way into her uncle’s wedding in a way that feels true to who she is. Magnolia makes mistakes along the way and is a great model for discussing growth mindset, and will appeal to student makers and inventors.

Making a Launcher With Students


Building a Launcher:

After trying many different ideas, Magnolia finally decided to make a confetti launcher for her Uncle’s wedding. Today after reading Magnolia Mudd we are going to make a pom-pom launcher. 




  • 6 small popsicle sticks 
  • 3 heavy-duty rubber bands
  • 1 plastic spoon 
  • Pom-poms


Optional Supplies:


  • 1 additional popsicle stick
  • 1 cap from a water bottle 
  • A hot glue gun 


Instructions for Launcher


  1. Stack 5 popsicle sticks on top of each other. The sticks should all lay flat on top of each other (like a hot dog bun.)
  2. Use a rubber band and wrap it around one end of the popsicle sticks. You will need to keep twisting and wrapping the rubber band until it is tight. 
  3. Do the exact same thing to the other side. When you’re finished your stack of popsicle sticks will be secure on both ends. 
  4. Slide one stick in between the 2 bottom sticks. The one that you just slid in should look like a diving board. 
  5. Rest your spoon on the top stick and line it up with your diving board stick. 
  6. With a rubber band secure the end of the spoon to the small end of the stick. (see picture below.)
  7. Put your pom-pom on the spoon and use your finger to push down on the spoon and launch your pom-pom. 
The completed launcher.

Optional Instructions:


Follow the instructions for the launcher, but don’t use the plastic spoon. Instead of a spoon use another popsicle stick in its place. Secure the bottom and top sticks with a rubber band at the end. Your launcher will look just like the picture except instead of a spoon your top piece will be another popsicle stick. Using a hot glue gun carefully glue the water bottle cap to the end of the top popsicle stick. Make sure that you glue the flat side of the cap to the stick. After the glue has cooled you are ready to try your launcher. 

Revise and Redesign


Now that you have made a launcher you can revise and redesign like Magnolia Mudd did in the story and see what works best. You can try some of the following ideas or come up with your own. 


  • Try larger popsicle sticks 
  • If you used the hot glue gun, try using a large-cap instead of a small one. 
  • What happens if your stack of popsicle sticks is smaller or larger?
  • Try launching something heavier than a pom-pom. You might try small erasers or marshmallows. 
  • You can decorate your launcher with markers or paint. 
  • Try putting tape around the sticks. Does it help your launcher?
  • Place a piece of tape on the floor and see who can launch their object the farthest. 
  • Do heavier or lighter things fly the farthest? 


Teacher Information

I normally make launchers (catapults) with my students in person in our Makerspace. We make them without the spoons. If I’m making them with a younger grade I pre-glue the caps onto the popsicle sticks before we start the project. My 3rd- 5th graders use the hot glue gun to adhere the caps to the sticks. This is one of my students’ favorite projects because after we all have our launchers made I give them mini-marshmallows and we have a marshmallow war.

This year because of COVID I am sending home STEM projects with picture books. I changed the instructions to a plastic spoon because I don’t know if students will have a glue gun at home and I want to be able to send home everything a student will need to successfully complete the project. 3rd-5th graders should be able to complete the launcher independently. Younger students might need help securing the rubber bands on the ends. When I’ve done this in big groups, generally there will be at least one student that can help me with the students that are struggling.



After reading Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty my students participated in a STEM building activity. They used toothpicks and Play-Doh to make structures. Iggy Peck is an imaginative boy that loves to build. Second grade was almost ruined for him when his teacher refuses to let Iggy build because of the fears she developed in elementary school. Iggy, however, gets his time to shine and show off his ingenuity when his teacher has a near disaster on a class field trip. Luckily, Iggy saves the day and he grows up to be a famous architect. This book supports the creative ideas that students come up with in Makerspace and therefore lends itself to STEM activities.  

STEM Building Activity

Building Towers:


After hearing the story of Iggy Peck I have my students do a STEM building activity. There are many ways to do this. If students are in our Makerspace Lab I let them make towers or bridges with all the supplies I have in our Makerspace such as clothespins, popsicle sticks, cardboard, yarn, toilet paper tubes, masking tape, and hot glue. For this project, I’m sending home a packet with the students when they check out Iggy Peck Architect. They will make their towers at home. I encourage them to take a picture of their finished project and email it to me. When they are finished with the book they will return the book to the library, but they will keep the supplies.

Supplies For A Take Home STEM Kit:

  • A small Ziplock bag
  • A small container of Play-Doh 
  • 20 toothpicks 
Play-Doh & Toothpicks
The STEM kit is ready to go home.

Build A Tower 

In the story, Iggy Peck built towers out of things he found including stinky diapers. Luckily, I didn’t send home any diapers just Play-Doh and toothpicks. The Students’ challenge is to see what they can build with just these two things.

A tower built with toothpicks & Play-Doh.

Information For Your Students

I send home the following information with my students.

  • Be careful with your Play-Doh. 
  • Pick a good place to make your tower. 
  • Don’t make your tower on the carpet. 
  • Open your Play-Doh and pinch off a small piece. Roll your small piece of Play-Doh into a little ball. Use the little balls as the anchors or as a base for your tower. 
  • Use your imagination and see what kind of tower your can make. 
  • When you have a tower you love ask your parents if you can take a picture of it and email it to me. 
  • If you want to reuse the Play-Doh, disassemble your tower and put the Play-Doh back in its container. It will dry out if it isn’t sealed. 
  • Have fun.
  • Fill out the tower building follow-up paper.
  • Return the book back to the library and check out another book.

Tower Building Follow-Up


Make A Paper-copter: A STEM Activity 

After I read the book How Do Helicopters Work?  by Jennifer Boothroyd I had my students make a paper-copter as a STEM activity. The book is a non-fiction easy reader book that gives your students the facts about how helicopters work. Readers can learn about how helicopters get in the air and how they steer and land. The text also covers information such as how helicopters can hover, how pilots control helicopters and fun facts such as helicopters are multi-directional. The pages are full color, with images, large font, and sidebars. The Accelerated book level is a 2.9, however, both younger and older readers interested in flying will like this book.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 copy of the paper-copter pattern for each student.
  • Scissors
  • Paperclips

Teacher Prep:

  • Make a copy of the paper-copter pattern for each student on regular copy paper. 


How to Make: 

To assemble the paper-copter cut on the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines. When folding, section A should fold forward and section B should fold backward to make blades. Sections C and D will fold towards each other. After C and D are folded experiment with folding up the tail to different lengths and slide paper clip on the tail. (See picture below.)

Flying Your Paper-copter

  • The goal is to keep your paper-copter in the air for as long as you can. 
  • Try standing on your playground equipment and drop your paper-copter. 
  • Drop it at least 3 times and observe what happens.  

Redesign Your Paper-copter 

Now have your students redesign their paper-copter. Ask them to think about what they observed when they dropped it. How well did their paper-copter work? What changes can they make in the design to make their paper-copter stay in the air longer? 

Have your students draw their new design and then make a new paper-copter. 

Extra Credit:

For students that need a little extra, I have them answer the following questions.

  • What changes did you observe when you redesigned your paper-copter.
  • What caused your paper-copter to stay in the air? 

Try your design with different types of paper. Does printer paper work better than construction paper?

Wrapping It Up: 

Once students get the hang of folding their paper-copters they can make their own designs and they don’t need a pattern. The measurements are flexible and they just need to try and see what works. I’ve used this STEM activity in a whole-class setting, but I’ve also sent home the instructions, the pattern, and paper clips and had students make them at home. If you need the printed instructions or a pdf of the pattern check out my teacher pays teacher site. This activity is part of a series of STEM activities that I do with students that are based on children’s picture books. 


Memoirs of a Parrot

Birdcage Activity 



Picture Book Stem

Memoirs of a Parrot birdcage activity is perfect for picture book STEM. After hearing the story students can use a variety of supplies to build the parrot a new birdcage.  

A Quick Book Review 

  Memoirs of a Parrot by Devin Scillian is a hilarious journey of friendship and understanding through new forms of communication. Brock is a very stubborn parrot that lives at Wilber’s Pet Store until one day Todd purchases him and brings him home. Brock and Todd do not understand each other and they speak different languages. The one thing Brock does like is toasting his crackers in a toaster, until one day he almost catches the house on fire. The near-disaster brings Brock and Todd together and they learn to communicate and enjoy each other’s company.


Building a Birdcage – A STEM Project

When Brock started a fire with his cracker in the toaster he could have burned down Todd’s house, however, Todd saved him. Imagine if Brock’s birdcage was damaged. After reading the book aloud and discussing I asked the students, “how can you build him a new cage with the supplies provided?”  I let them know that they could use other supplies that were not sitting out. I told them to use their imagination and think about what Brock would like. Depending on how many students you have this project can be done independently or in a small group. We have a Makerspace room that I can do projects with students and they have free reign of supplies there, however, during COVID I also made kits to send home to the students. Their kits had the basic supplies, but I didn’t send home tape or glue. 


A disposable bowl

2 coffee filters 

2 rubber bands

10 small popsicle sticks



Beads  (they glued these on to decorate their cage)

Small piece of Cardboard 

Masking Tape 

Supplies to make a birdcage.

Getting Started

I always have the students do a rough sketch of their plans. Their birdcage might turn out completely different than their original plan and that is okay, but I like them to have a starting point. If they are working in a group after they sketch out their plans I have them collaborate with their group partners.  

Makerspace Rules

  • No Running.
  • Do not touch the end of the hot glue gun.
  • If you need help ask.
  • No drawing or making weapons of any kind. (even Perler beads or 3D prints)
  • Don’t annoy Mrs. Rheingans (lol)

At the beginning of the school year, we go over the rules for Makerspace and how to handle the equipment properly. For 2nd – 5th grade I let them use low temp glue guns and I let 4th and 5th graders use cardboard cutting tools. 


There is no Right or Wrong Way 

As with a lot of STEM projects, there is no right or wrong way for the students to build their birdcages. The best part of STEM projects is they provide students a place to make mistakes. In our current testing culture, students are afraid to make mistakes. Another benefit is they are able to try things and then come up with a better plan. After all the birdcages are done I have the student or groups fill out a paper that states what worked, what didn’t work, and what they learned. If time allows I think it’s important that every student or group gets a chance to share their work with the whole class. Sharing their project and listening to their fellow students talk about theirs might help them develop better ideas or a new way of doing things. 

Wrapping Up

Sharing the birdcages might be the end of the project for some schools, however, if you have access to a 3D printer you can take it farther. Our students will use theMorphi App or Tinkercad to design their own parrots and then we will 3D print them in the Makerspace Lab. I never know what part of the lesson a student might connect with and that’s the beauty of STEM projects. 

Additional Information:

I have created a PDF of the Memoirs of a Parrot birdcage activity. This pdf includes a supply list, instructions, and worksheets. If you would like a copy please visit my TPT store.


The Curious Garden 

Sunflower Planting Activity

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

The Curious Garden sunflower planting activity would make a great Spring or Earth Day Activity. After reading The Curious Garden by Peter Brown I did a sunflower planting activity with a second-grade class.  The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a hopeful story with beautiful illustrations. Liam is a boy that likes to be outside, but his town is dreary and gray without plants or trees. On one of his walks, Liam discovers the remnants of a garden along an old abandoned railroad track. Liam takes it upon himself to care for the garden and eventually it begins to flourish and grow. People in the town notice the work that Liam is doing and it inspires them to start to take care of the ever-spreading garden. As a result of all the hard work, the town becomes a better place where adults and children enjoy being outside. The environmental theme in the story lends itself to a planting/Earth Day Activity.

Supplies Needed:

  • Peat pellets (1 for each student)
  • 2 Sunflower seeds for planting (we’re using Mammoth)
  • Large Dixie cup or small container (1 for each student)
  • Water (warm works best, but cold will work too)
  • A toothpick or pencil (1 for each student) 
  • A copy of The Curious Garden

The Preparations

I am the librarian/makerspace coordinator so in order to make things run smoother I made a kit for each student in the class. Inside of a resealable sandwich bag, I put a Dixie cup, a peat pellet, 2 seeds, and a toothpick. I gave all the kits to the classroom teacher and because we did this project during COVID and we are on a hybrid schedule some of the kits got sent home during material exchange day and some stayed in the classroom. For this second-grade class I read to them on Fridays so I let all the students know that they should hold on to their kits until it was library day. 

Getting Started

On our Friday library day, I connected with the class via Zoom, some of the students were at home and some were in the classroom. When I do this project another year I will just do it in person with the students in their classroom or we’ll do it all together in our  Makerspace room. Because I tried the project first ahead of time I learned that the peat pellets take longer to expand if the students use cold water. Instead of reading the book first, we jumped right into the project. 

Step 1:

  • Place the peat pellet in the cup. 
  • Add enough water to cover the pellet. (Warm water helps the soil rehydrate quicker, but if you are at school and only have access to cold water it just takes longer. 
  • Read The Curious Garden while you are waiting for the soil to rehydrate. 


Waiting for the peat pellet to rehydrate.

Step 2: 

  • The pellet should rehydrate in 5-10 mins.
  • Carefully lift out the expanded peat pellet and sit on a desk. 
  • Pour any extra water out of the cup. 
  • Using a toothpick or pencil make a small well for the seeds. Place 2 seeds in the well and push the soil back over the top of the seeds. 
Planting the sunflower seed in the peat pellet.

Step 3: 

  • Place your pellet back in your cup. 
  • Students can take home their seeds in the Dixie Cup.
  • At home place the cup in a warm location, but not in the sun. 
  • Check on your seed every day. Some seeds sprout in as little as 2 days. The soil should feel damp. Only water your pellet if the soil seems dried out. 
Planted and ready to go home.

Step 4: 

  • Once the seeds have sprouted move the cup to a sunny location. 
  • Water as needed. 
  • If more than one seed is growing in a pellet, simply pinch off the other plant so you only have one healthy plant per peat pellet. 
A seed after just 2 days.

Step 5: 

  • When the plant has sprouted over the cup it is probably time to replant the sprout into the soil. 
  • Find a perfect place in your yard or a large pot with soil and dig a hole as deep as your peat pellet. You can leave the netting on the peat pot and place the whole pellet in the hole. Cover with soil and water. 
  • Continue to check your plant to see if it needs water, but be careful to not overwater. 
  • Keep checking on your plant to see your flower bloom. 
My seed after 3 days.

Final Thoughts

We planted Mammoth Sunflower Seeds from Raw Earth Color and according to their website, Mammoth Sunflowers can grow as big as 12 feet tall. I chose Mammoth because I thought it would be fun for the students to have a flower taller than them. I doubled checked the Farmer’s Almanac and they say that it should take between 80 -95 days for the flowers to bloom. With sunflowers, it’s important not to overwater. They are actually drought tolerant and have adapted to growing with little water because they were originally found on the prairies in the midwest.

*If you would like a pdf of the instructions, a supply list, and worksheets please visit my TPT store.