Susan Riley | June 2016

“Fun”ctional Art with Strawbees

Every once in a while, we just want to play with materials and see what happens.  No lesson plans, so carefully crafted outcomes.  Just play.  So when I received this box of Strawbees, that’s exactly what I did.  I just opened it up, pulled out the starter guide and asked my daughter what she wanted to create.

We took a look at the pieces and figured out how they worked together, and then jumped right into our first project: creating a catapult.  Now to be fair, that one was in the guide.  But do you know what wasn’t in the guide?  What to do with your creation once you put it together.

We ended up taking the catapult outside and when I asked my daughter what she wanted to do with it, she suggested trying to put sidewalk chalk in it and create a picture from where each piece of colored chalk landed.  When we started, she then suggested that we should see if different thicknesses and sizes of chalk would make a difference in where they landed.  And so, we moved straight into a STEAM lesson without realizing it.  We crafted hypotheses, looked at how physics might play a role and all the while, we focused on creating the beautiful abstract piece of sidewalk chalk functional art.

In today’s video, I share the overview of how to create with Strawbees and other ways that you might be able to use these in your classroom to create a STEAM lesson.  After all, there’s room here for sculpture, prototyping, engineering, creating musical instruments and mathematical understanding.  You can even create an arm that grips using their connectors and hinges – and there’s a whole lot of fun that could be had with choreographing a movement sequence with that.

Even so, I think the biggest benefit to this great tool is the fact that it simply invites you to play.  From there, imagination, creativity and yes – even math and science – just take over.

PS – Today’s video comes from our Facebook Live feed on our EducationCloset Facebook page.  Each Tuesday, I go live with a great tip or idea and you can ask me questions in real time.  It’s so much fun!  If you haven’t “liked” our page yet, join us here.

What are some of your favorite STEAM toys/resources to play with in (or out) of class like this Functional Art with Strawbees?

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan