The Art of Literary Engineering: Crafting STEM Activities from Books

This post contains affiliate links

Welcome to the “Art of Literary Engineering,” where we explore the exciting world of integrating literature and STEM activities from books in the upper elementary classroom. As educators, we are always looking for innovative ways to engage our students and make learning a memorable experience. By blending their favorite picture books with hands-on STEM activities to ignite their curiosity and inspire a love for both reading and scientific discovery.

We are going to delve into the process of transforming any book into a STEM activity, provide you with creative strategies and practical tips to enrich your students’ learning experience. Whether it’s a beloved classic or hidden gem from the library shelf, I’ll show you how to create an immersive learning adventure that bridges the gap between the written word and the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This image contains a stack of books that are rainbow colored. The bottom book is purple, the next book on top of it is blue, then the next one is green, and so on up to the top book that is yellow. At the top of the image are the words The Art of Literary Engineering: Crafting STEM Activities from books.

What should STEM look like?

First, If you need a reminder of what STEM is, you can head to my post STEM Challenges: Basics and Beliefs. Over the years, I have found that there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding STEM. Stem is where students learn, apply, and integrate rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematic content. Here students engage in inquiry practices, logical reasoning, and communication.

Keep in mind that STEM is not something separate from your curriculum, nor it is content. STEM is a method. It is HOW we teach content. STEM needs context. Additionally, STEM is not always building something. STEM is collaborative project-based learning. There are lots of things out there that is labeled as science or STEM but it isn’t either. They are crafts.

How to Transform Any Picture Book into a STEM Activity

1.) First, start with any book. You are not limited to picture books or library books. You could use a reading textbook or even have students create their own stories.

2.) As you are reading the book, ask yourself what engineering can you find? What science can you find? What math can you find? Each book should allow you to develop an overarching question or real-world problem that the students can work together to solve.

3.) Identify the problem in the book and think of how you can turn that into an engineering project. When every book has a problem, it makes it easy to create stem activities from books.

4.) Have students get into the mindset of the characters (which helps relate to the real world). Group students into 2-4 and have students plan, build, test, and improve on their designs for solving the problem of the book. If it doesn’t work, have them try it again.

5.) There’s only two rules: Whatever they create, it has to work and that they need to do it as efficiently as possible.

This isn’t going to be perfect, but you can improve it over time. It’s all part of the process. You will need to allow more time than you think for the stem activities from books because it usually ends up being at least 2-3 classes for planning, building, testing, and improving. This is a simple but effective way to integrate stem activities from books and allow kids to be creative. In fact, encourage crazy ideas!

Examples of STEM Activities from Books

Let’s imagine that you wanted to read the story “When the Leaf Blew In” by Steve Metzger. By using the steps above, we would identify that in science it covers seasons, animals, leaf sorting and observing, leaf seasonal cycles, gravity, and pet vs farm animals. In math, we could cover graphing, perimeter, measurement, composing and decomposing. For language arts, we could cover cause and effect, writing, communicating, and sequencing. The problems I see are leaves falling, and leaves interfering with the animals.

We could have students create a leaf catcher to stop the leaves from falling or design a farm that would stop the leaves from interfering with the animals.

It’s not just limited to creating stem activities from books. You could create stem activities from special events such as Valentine’s Day or Easter. For Valentine’s Day have students create a candy delivery system or for Easter have students create a delivery system that doesn’t break the egg.

Overall, the ability to create stem activities from books should be fun and engaging for you and your students! Whether you are encouraging students to design and build a simple device that helps the main character solve a problem in the story or designing a simple experiment that explores a concept mentioned in the book, you will be helping students make connections and exploring science in a new light!


Sale is over!
GDPR Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner