Brianne Gidcumb | December 2014

8 Picture Books for the STEAM Classroom

Like many of you, when crafting my holiday wish list, it often includes as many items for professional use as it does things for personal use. Today, I’m sharing some children’s titles that can be used as part of a STEAM lesson, along with lesson seeds for some of these titles. Happy STEAM-ing!

Water Dance (Thomas Locker):

Water Dance uses oil paintings and simple poems to depict water in its various forms in the water cycle. Have students identify the words used to describe the movement of the water (leap, spiral, fall, cascade, etc.), and pantomime or choreograph each step of the water’s “dance” through the water cycle. As an extension, students could create a poem to describe a solid form of water and create a watercolor painting to accompany their poems.

Grandfather Tang’s Story (Ann Tompert):

Give each student a set of tangrams. Give them time to explore and have them put the seven pieces in a perfect square. Read Grandfather Tang’s Story. As you read the story, students can try to figure out the next animal by using the clues given in the reading. Have students create a new tangram animal and draw this tangram animal, then write a new page for the story to introduce their animal.

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Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children (Gladys S. Blizzard):

The artwork in these picture books is a great way to engage students in NGSS standards for Places and Regions, as well as Environment and Society. Use pieces of art aligning with themes in nature as a prompt for speaking and listening, as a writing prompt, or as a prompt for creating original artwork.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk (Charles Shaw):

These picture books book are a great companion to a STEAM classroom unit on weather and clouds with younger students. After reading the book, have students add a couple of drops of white tempera paint on blue construction paper, fold and rub the paper to create a cloud shape. Next, students can use their “cloud” painting to complete a cloze prompt in the style of the text of the book.

Rosie Revere, Engineer (Andrea Beaty) and Iggy Peck, Architect (Andrea Beaty):

Both of these story picture books for kids are great for getting kids to think in terms of STEAM careers! This is a great way to discuss how the design process in engineering aligns with the process of creating works of art. Facilitate discussion on where the arts belong in engineering, and vice versa. How does each letter of STEAM have a part in engineering and architecture? Design a building incorporating elements of visual art, or use the engineering and design process to build musical instruments from found materials.

I Spy Shapes in Art (Lucy Micklethwait) and Museum Shapes (NY Metropolitan Museum of Art):

The connection between visual art and geometry is clear, and these are great resources to add to your STEAM classroom library to foster this connection. These picture books can be used for independent exploration by your students, or pieces can be incorporated into any lesson on geometry (our lesson seeds on geometry, Character Shapes and Mondrian Geometry, can be adapted for different geometric concepts or to include various pieces of visual art).

And my must-have for creating patterns based on musical listening…

Plastic Pattern Blocks

No, it’s not a picture books, but this year, I am in the market for a big set of plastic pattern blocks to replace my foam shapes from the dollar store. When listening to a new piece of music, we often map out the form of the piece, making the distinct connection between musical form and mathematical patterns. A great way to bring integrate music into STEAM!

What titles have you used in STEAM classroom lessons?

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: