Fairytales and STEAM

By Helen Siegel

We are well into our second trimester of Wellness Wednesday classes, and during this session I have had the pleasure of working with First Grade Teacher Susan Vlodaver and 15 students from grades 1-4 in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) challenges stemming from popular fairy tales. The first two, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “Three Billy Goats’ Gruff,” yielded the two challenges below. After hearing the stories, students were asked to plan and build a solution in teams of two and three. 

Goldilocks Challenge

Per the three chairs that Goldilocks tried, students were asked to create a chair which would remain stable on a flat service using only paper and tape. The chair also needed to be able to hold a Beanie Baby without toppling over. 

Students got busy and amid cries of, “Can we please use a scissor?” and other requests for supplies not offered, students tackled the challenge and were able to construct chairs; some successfully and some not. After two sessions, students were asked to describe their plans, thinking processes, and what it was like working with others. They were also asked to comment on what might have improved their design. 

Heilicher students with Goldilocks chair         












Three Billy Goats Challenge

This challenge was to build a raft that would float while holding three stones and not sink. Supplies available included plastic straws, twine, pipe cleaners, and scissors. Students worked tirelessly and managed their social and scientific problem solving skills with minimal adult intervention. There were a few pleas of, “Please tell us how to do it!” With adult encouragement, the students enjoyed the thrill of discovery.

The path to discovery requires students to address these in advance: 

  • Ask it! Students must identify the problem.

  • Solve it! Students share their ideas.

  • The Challenge! The challenge is articulated.

These motivators are written on posters so students can refer to them if needed. Students then create their plans on a special planning sheet and begin their experimentation. 

In the coming weeks, we look forward to reinforcing the growth mindset of our students and seeing new creations growing out of other well-known tales. A parachute for Jack, as he escapes the giant? A bridge for the gingerbread man? I’m excited to see what’s next.

Heilicher students testing their creation

Heilicher students testing their creation

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