What is “Once Upon a STEM?”


STEM curriculum has come to the front of education with the adoption of Common Core standards.  Our new goal is to create problem solvers that are willing to “dig deeper”.  Students today need to tackle challenges and be willing to “think outside of the box”.  With these new requirements comes problem-based learning with a focus on STEM.

What is STEM?  It is a curriculum based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math using an applied approach.  It gives students real life situations and problems to solve in a hands-on manner.  Students are able to design, build, and test their creations in response to a given challenge.

So What is “Once Upon a STEM?”

Creating a STEM unit that has all of the necessary parts is time consuming.  Well… look no further, because Education to the Core has done them for you.  Introducing our Once Upon a STEM series!!!  The first volume of this series features 10 separate STEM units with the added bonus of differentiated student readers that help build background knowledge related to the given challenge.

Click here to see “Once Upon a STEM” Volume 1

Each challenge includes:

  • An instructional guideline for you with a daily lesson sequence recommendation.
  • A teacher guide that includes materials needed, prior knowledge questions, lesson plan, and closure activity.
  • Paired classroom books to build background and make connections to the STEM challenge.
  • Vocabulary cards with illustrations that gear your students toward important words they can use when completing their challenge.
  • Illustrated student readers on the same topic to get your students thinking about the challenge.  These readers are also written on three different levels to meet the needs of all of your students.
  • Design Process Posters that highlight the main steps in completing a STEM challenge.
  • Every student gets a STEM Journal which restates the challenge question, lists the vocabulary words and their definitions, identifies the materials needed, and walks students through the STEM process.  Students are able to plan out and execute their design, while reflecting on what worked and what needs to be changed for next time.
  • As an added BONUS, a math problem, extension activity, and home connection with a project compatible website are also included in the journal.
  • Lastly, a numeric rubric for you to evaluate the projects and journal responses.

Challenges for ALL Interests

Get your students excited constructing airplanes and measuring the distance of their flights.  Create a maze and race marbles through it.    Design a harmonica and compose a song to play.  Walk in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell and build a light circuit.  Can your students make a tower out of index cards or what about with jelly beans?!

Watch them as they problem solve to create a structure out of spaghetti and see how strong it is by balancing books on their completed project.  Put your students in groups and have them build the tallest tower they can by only using straws and tape.  Once done, they can discuss what did and didn’t work and try the whole process again!

These are the challenges your students will undertake when completing our Once Upon a STEM units.  Just imagine  the rich discussions, deep thinking, and community building you will be fostering in your students.  STEM time will definitely become their favorite part of the school day!

Special Challenge Just for Halloween!

How far can I launch a pumpkin?  With Halloween right around the corner, why not try out one of our STEM challenges designed specifically for the holiday?!  Students can create a “pumpkin launcher” (using Halloween pumpkin erasers, wink/wink) and record the distance they can launch their “pumpkins”.  It would be a great way to test out our STEM series in your classroom!

Halloween Launchers is a bonus item in our “Once Upon a STEM” Volume 1 Bundle.  If you’d like to purchase separately, click here for Halloween Launchers!

I know that these STEM challenges sound amazing!  Who wouldn’t want their students engaged in the process of problem solving through designing, constructing, testing, and discussing the outcomes?!  Your students will be begging you to start a new STEM project the moment they finish the current one.  So, you may be thinking, with only 10 STEM units, how will this last the entire school year?

You’re in luck, because we are introducing a whole new set of challenges! 

Once Upon a STEM Volume 2 is here! 

This volume will contain a completely different set of 10 STEM challenges, with the same structure as Volume 1. (ie. teacher guide, vocabulary cards, differentiated/illustrated student books, student journals, etc.)

Would your students love to create solar ovens, balloon rocket cars, and Ferris wheels?  These are just a few of the STEM challenges included in Volume 2.  Add on to your STEM library if you’ve already purchased our Volume 1 series, or buy both and be set for the year!

Get your students up and excited about learning.  Engage them in STEM and the possibilities are endless.  You will be meeting those common core standards of depth of knowledge, while integrating science, math, speaking/listening, and reading into your lesson.  It is a win-win situation for both you and your students!

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At Education to the Core, we provide done-for-you curriculum that is simple, fun, and effective! We want you to be the very best teacher you can be, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In order to be an effective educator, you have to take care of you first!

We strive to make a healthy work-life balance a reality for you each and every day.If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to join my email list to get exclusive FREEBIES, exclusive content, updates, deals! 


Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.