What is the PictureSTEM Project?

The PictureSTEM Project includes instructional units for K-2 classrooms that use an engineering challenge and picture books as supports for learning science, mathematics, engineering, computational thinking, and reading. These transformative new models for STEM provide students with authentic, contextual activities that engage learners in specific content while integrating across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Currently, there are limited curricula that address this need for integration. The goal of PictureSTEM is getting these high-quality, research-based materials into practice in a form that fits with teachers’ current implementation structures. Therefore, the units are modular with the ability for teachers to implement different lessons during different parts of their school day. Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Computational Thinking (STEM+C) with reading provides children opportunities to see the connections between the subjects we see in school and also see how these content areas are used together to solve problems for people.

The PictureSTEM Units:

Kindergarten: Designing Paper Baskets

Overview: Max and Lola are going to display their rock collection at a local nature center. They want to give people who visit their display a basket to help them collect their own rocks; however, they will not be able to make enough for everyone. In this unit, students explore patterns and investigate the strength of paper before designing a paper basket plan to be given to Max and Lola’s visitors.


First Grade: Designing Hamster Habitats

Overview: Perri’s Pet Palace wants to offer its customers an enlarged hamster habitat that meets all of the basic needs of a hamster. In this unit, students learn about animal’s basic needs and how a habitat provides for these needs. Students also learn spatial reasoning through exploration of 2D and 3D shapes (tangrams and solids) before applying them to design a prototype of a hamster habitat cage and exercise trail.


Second Grade: Designing Toy Box Organizers

Overview: Talia’s Toy Box Company has received complaints from parents about how messy toy boxes can get and how hard it is for their children to find their toys without dumping out all of the toys. In this unit, students investigate standard units of measure and sort objects according to their physical properties before applying them to design a toy box organizer.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1055382 through the Early Faculty Career program from the EEC division, through Grant No. 1519387 through the I-Corps for Learning program, and through Grant No. 1543175 through the STEM + Computing (STEM+C) program from the DRL division. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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