With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to share a fun way to put STEM in action at home, with a fun kids engineering challenge! The tradition of building a leprechaun trap goes back many generations in the United States - although interestingly enough it’s not as wide-spread of a tradition in Ireland! At homes and schools all over the country, you’ll find kids putting their engineering skills to the test as they design a trap that will capture the mischievous leprechaun before he can wreak havoc on their houses. We love any opportunity to put STEM in action, so we’ll start with a fun STEM Storytime and then share some ideas for creating your own leprechaun trap at home!
Step One : Interactive Read Aloud
There are so many fun books about Leprechauns and St Patrick’s Day, but we decided to start off by reading How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace. We love this book because it’s light-hearted and fun, with a silly main character who is very persistent about not getting caught in the traps. A few more reasons why we love it...
- It is filled with rhyming words, which makes for great fluency practice for our beginning readers. Finding rhyming pairs is the perfect way to engage kids in the text and get their help to predict upcoming words, which helps develop reading comprehension skills as they get older. The repetitive nature of the book makes it predictable for little ones too.
- The pictures are really fun! They also give great examples of all different types of traps that can be invented. We find that the more opportunities kids get to see models of what they want to create, rather than just one standard design, the more creative they can get with their own creations.
- The book is available on YouTube! It’s a quick read too, so you don’t have to worry about too much screen time, and makes for a great alternative if you aren’t able to get a hard copy in time.
Quick note - if you have another favorite St. Patrick’s Day book that you’d prefer to read, you can definitely do that instead! We also love Pete the Cat : the Great Leprechaun Chase and The NIght before St. Patrick’s Day.
Step Two : Teamwork Brainstorming
After you finish reading the book, we recommend giving your kiddos a chance to process what they read about and brainstorm some ideas.There are many ways to make this happen, here’s how we might structure it.
- Lay out a big piece of paper and some writing tools. Challenge your kiddos to draw, write or dictate to you what kinds of traps they saw in the story. We love going back into the text to find ideas, so encourage your kiddos to flip back through the pages or stop the video on each page to record the ideas they see.
- Talk to your kids about how the traps worked, which one they liked best and what they noticed about the colors and design. We find labeling pictures to be a great strategy to remember details when it comes time to plan their own creation.
- Check out some of our trap ideas here for more inspiration!
- Start planning out what they might want their own design to look like.
Step Three : STEM Challenge - Get creative!
It’s time to get busy with a STEM Challenge! Look over the trap ideas they brainstormed and gather materials from around the house to get started. We created a list below to give you some ideas of fun things that we’ve used to make traps in the past, but this is a great chance to reuse items from the recycling bin or use up some discarded craft supplies.
Now it’s time to get those creative juices flowing! Remember that leprechauns are sneaky, so there has to be a way to trick them into entering your trap.
This part of the STEM in Action activity can start to feel chaotic, but don’t worry! Check-in frequently and point out specific examples of the 4Cs during this kids engineering challenge. We like to use a technique called “notice and narrate” where you simply state everything you are seeing, as it’s happening. This helps kids to process their actions and think through choices. It’s important to acknowledge challenges as they arise, and talk through possible solutions. Encourage finding more than one right answer - testing out many ideas is something that all scientists do.
Step Four : Wrap Up + Celebrate
It’s important to take a moment to debrief an activity like this, even if you’re at home. Take a few minutes to let your kiddos share what they made, tell more about how their trap works and why they made the choices they did. Take a picture of it or send it to a friend/family member - having an audience to share your learning with is important! And see if you can make a connection back to the text - are there any elements present in your trap that you also see in the book? And most importantly, give your kids (and yourself!) a big high-five for taking the time to put STEM in Action!