Saturday, September 28, 2019

African Grasslands Room Transformation and Activities

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African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique
African Grasslands Room Transformation!



I did my first room transformation last week! I know room transformations have been around for a while, but when I taught Pre-K I had students with special needs who would not have been able to handle a room transformation well. Now that I am in first grade, I'm getting to explore new teaching methods, and this one was a winner!

We have been studying how animals adapt to their environments. Since I already had my mind on all things safari after creating my STEM Safari system, I decided to transform my room into the African grasslands!

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

It seemed like such a fun theme...until I realized how hard it was to decorate based on a place known for its abundance of grass and few sparse trees. When I searched for ideas, everything that came up had vines and jungle vibes. The teacher in me was a little surprised that so many decor packs designed for birthday parties and the like depicted lions and zebras in a rainforest-esque environment. When I went on safari in South Africa a few years ago, I was amazed to see how similar the grasslands looked to my native Midwestern United States--not at all tropical. Since the entire purpose of this room transformation was to depict the actual environment to which the animals have adapted, I couldn't use any of the pre-made decor packs that made it appear as though these animals lived in the jungle or rainforest.

The best solution I came up with was hanging green streamers vertically on the walls. I also put green butcher paper on my tables, and had envisioned hanging green streamers vertically off the edges of them. Long story short, I unexpectedly ended up having my one-year-old at school with me while I set up, so the streamers hanging off of tables didn't actually materialize for me. :)

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique
I found this backdrop which added to the look quite a bit.


African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique


I cut grass out of green butcher paper and attached it to my door. My husband had the great idea of adding some animal tails sticking out of it--it was easy and didn't require too much artistic ability, but really completed the look! This would also look cool on walls around the classroom!

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

I hung a banner outside my door and put footprints in the hallway leading to my room.

I couldn't get over the idea of how adorable it would be to have my students wear safari hats, so I found some here, and set them on their tables.

In the morning, I dressed in khakis and an oversized button-down shirt. I played safari sounds in the background to help set the scene (this video was perfect!) and projected a picture of a baobab tree on the SmartBoard. When I greeted my children, I acted the part of a safari guide, saying, "Welcome to the African grasslands! Come join me on safari!" I got weird looks from the first few, as they asked, "What's going on...?" but then their eyes widened as they stepped into the classroom. They were thrilled!

I had themed lessons planned for the entire day. I began by reading aloud Here is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy.

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique

We did a write the room activity with spelling words, some color by code addition sheets, an animal adaptations presentation and booklet, a STEM challenge, and more. It was certainly a memorable day, and the kids hardly realized they were learning. I heard lots of "best day ever!" comments throughout the day.

African Grasslands Room Transformation | Apples to Applique


You can find all of the printables for the room transformation here!

This set includes:
  • Printables, instructions, and resource suggestions for transforming your room
  • Science activity: Animal adaptations presentation and booklet
  • Social Studies: My region and Grasslands compare/contrast with Venn diagram
  • STEM challenge
  • EDITABLE spelling word write the room activity
  • Writing assignment
  • Math activity: color-by-code addition worksheets in 3 different levels
I hope you love doing this grasslands room transformation; I know your students will!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

STEM Safari

Every once in a while, I create a product for my classroom or my TPT store that I get just giddily excited about. Products that are unique and that I know kids and teachers will both love. I felt this way when I released my escape rooms for early childhood, and I'm feeling it again with my latest project: STEM Safari! I've been working on it for weeks, and I am thrilled that it is finally live!

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari is an organized approach to implementing STEM in your classroom, and so much fun!

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

Each STEM session, a student picks a challenge card to complete. There are 5 different types of cards:

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

1. Elephant Engineering (engineering challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

 2. Cheetah Challenge (challenges with specific parameters in place)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

 3. Rhino Riddles ("How can you...?" challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

4. Warthog Wonderings (reflection questions and challenges)

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique


5. Buffalo Building (free choice building).

I wanted to prevent students from always picking the same type of card, such as the free choice building, which is, of course, valuable, but doesn't do as well with developing problem-solving skills. To do this, and to encourage my students to try new things, they each have an Animal Checklist.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

Every time they complete a specific type of challenge, they check it off. When they have completed all 5 of the different challenge types, they color in one country in their STEM Safari Africa map. Then they "journey" to a new country and start again with a new animal checklist! This way, the fun just keeps going, but they have a way to track how many challenges they have completed.

There is also a STEM Safari Journal included, which helps build their reflection skills.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique


Any of the Warthog Wondering cards that say "write about it" can be completed in their STEM Safari Journals. There are also a few "design" challenges in the Elephant Engineering cards that can be completed in their journals. As they continue their STEM Safari journey, the reflections they have completed in the journal will help them polish their problem-solving and engineering skills.

I love doing STEM projects with my students! It is amazing to see what they can accomplish with a few basic supplies and some open-ended directives.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

However, storing all of these supplies can be a challenge. Included in the STEM Safari kit are tons of supply labels with photographs, to help keep everything neat.

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique

STEM Safari: Over 60 STEM Challenges for Elementary! | Apples to Applique
Here's a close-up example of a supply label.

I even included some editable labels so that you can customize them for any supplies you have on hand!

I really hope that your students enjoy STEM Safari as much as mine do! (Click here to purchase!)
There's just something about open-ended, hands-on learning that gets kiddos excited. I would love to hear how you use STEM in your classroom; drop me a comment below!

Happy teaching!