I know it’s half way through January already, but better late than never!
Back in December, the week before break, my classroom was transformed into the Polar Express. My Kinder babes were so excited to partake in the STEM challenges and fun that accompanied the train that took over our room.
The train was made with my 2×4 cube storage that I have in my Makerspace, my storage bench, and my trapezoid table. The sides are covered in black bulletin board paper with construction paper wheels and cross bars. On the floor is a combination of duct tape and painter’s tape to create the railroad tracks.
The other decorations include a ticket stand (created from my class mailbox system and antsy pants play builds), a train crossing pole (leftover tube from a carpet, covered in black paper with laminated signs on top), and an old display window from a department store (my school’s librarian has a ton of random stuff that I can steal for my classroom.. she’s amazing!)
My amazing student teacher Maddy brought in tiny picnic tables for seating (I have 1 in my room but she supplied the rest!) I know… she’s fantastic! On the movie day, we all wore our jammies and enjoyed hot chocolate and pancakes with our third grade book buddies. They arrived and had their tickets hole punched (just like the movie!).
Teacher tip: just use chocolate milk and put it in the crock pot. After 2 1/2 hours- its the perfect temperature for hot chocolate. Funny story- we made pancakes on a flat top and kept shorting out the power supply. After a few failed attempts, we rearranged the room to be able to cook the pancakes.
After the movie was over- I texted my secretary to call down to the room stating we had a delivery. I ran to the teacher’s room and picked up our container of bells that have been in the freezer all morning. When I arrived back at the room, I gave out the bells that were still cold from the North Pole. This is such a magical experience that I love doing each year for my students. It doubled in magic when Santa showed up about 3 minutes later! SURPRISE! Needless to say, after this my students were jumping out of their skin with excitement.
Now all of this fun happened on Monday and we had 3 more days before break. So I created a Polar Express Freebie with some activities for the book to keep the students busy and focused.
On Tuesday, we sat down and read the book together. We discussed the story elements that you can get from my TPT store right now! There are also some fun pattern pages and number recognition games inside of the resource. It worked so well to keep my kids entertained and focused.
I recently added a fun STEM lesson into the Polar Express unit too.
I love STEM. I created a “Toy Shop STEM” resource that is meant for ages K-2. Inside the unit there are various pages made for differentiating between your students abilities. There is also an option for Santa or a toy company (if your school or you choose to not mention Christmas things!).
The resource includes famous toy inventors to inspire and teach your children before they begin the project. Planning is just a part of the process here- if you haven’t heard of it, I use the Engineering Design Process in my STEAM activities to give your students the problem solving and research skills that they need to be a successful adult. All of that is included! So here are our builds:
The toys that they come up with were interesting for sure! But here’s what was amazing… Students were on task, they were communicating with their peers, and they were having fun! I call that a win right before break.