Our Table STEM Challenge

In October, my students enjoyed learning about U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomoyor by reading her picture book biography, Turning Pages: My Life Story, and completing the Carly and Adam Tower of Knowledge STEM Challenge.   

Since I am a long-time reader of Peter H. Reynolds’ books, I had pre-ordered Our Table as soon as I found out about it, and received it on its book birthday in early November.  I thought it would be a good story to share with my students during Thanksgiving week, when my students would have a special meal with their families.  Because the Tower of Knowledge STEM challenge was so successful, I was inspired to create a similar STEM challenge for my students to help them extend their learning.

Our Table is a reminder that our family time together is precious and in the book, Peter asks us to “rediscover the gift of time shared together.”  The message of this picture book is particularly poignant to me because my four children have all grown and flown from the nest.  The times that I do have all four of my children around the table is precious to me.  The publication of Our Table was ten days before my father passed away, and knowing that we will never share a meal with him again added to the importance of its message to my family.

In my media lesson, I focused on students finding a text-to-life connection with Our Table and  reflecting upon how their own family shares a meal at their table, discussing Peter’s use of color to visually explain the separation Violet was feeling and her happiness when they came back together.

Lesson slides: Our Table STEM Challenge. You are welcome to make a copy of my lesson plan, but please give me credit.

My friend Georgann made a tiny table for me to use as a prop when I read the book to my students and it helped them to make a connection with the idea of the disappearing table.

The STEM challenge was simple: build a table that could hold a can of vegetables with only 6 index cards and masking tape.  Since I was doing this challenge with my 2nd graders, I did not give them a specific limit on the tape, but none of the teams used more than 18 inches.  If I were  to do this challenge for upper elementary students, I would limit tape to 12 inches in 6-inch increments (and encourage them to use the least amount of tape that they can).

For more lesson ideas using Peter H. Reynolds’ books, please click here for the Scholastic Activity Guide.

If you use my lesson, or create your own, I hope you will share your thoughts with me!

Watch my blog for future literacy-based STEM and STEAM challenges!