Holiday Gifts with a STEM Twist

November 26, 2014

wish listWhether you are still getting ready for Thanksgiving, or have already started making your list – and checking it twice – the big holiday shopping season is upon us.  Are you looking for STEM-inspired gifts this year?  If you are, you are in luck, because retailers across the globe are responding to an increased interest in gifts that are related to science, technology, engineering and math!

Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

The website Modern Parents Messy Kids offers up a brilliant list that not only includes price ranges and target age groups, but real life input from parents on what kids like about these toys.   It goes one step further by breaking the list down into categories to really help you pick a top notch gift:presents

  • Engineering
  • Robotics & Technology
  • Chemistry & Life Sciences
  • Single-Player Math & Logic Games
  • Multi-Player Math & Logic Games

Internet Retail King has joined the ranks by offering a S.T.E.M list of toys to help encourage an interest in science and math while kids play, focusing on toys that excel at being both fun and educational.

“I’ve always been interested in science and math. These toys spark a child’s curiosity about how things work, generating an organic and engaging learning experience.” (Mike G. Amazon Editor)

Math Formulas Tie from Uncommon Goods

Math Formulas Tie from Uncommon Goods

Girls on your list?  Check out the Holiday Gift Guide from Mighty Girl. Broken down by age, this guide really takes the guesswork out of it when shopping for kids.  Might Girl has “the world’s largest collections of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls” (  Just as STEM is not just for boys, this list is not just for girls!  Plenty of ideas for ALL kids to be found here.

Embrace your inner geek with this incredible collection of gift ideas from Uncommon Goods.  You’ll find something for everyone here, even the hard-to-buy-for teens on your list!

tinker crateIf you are looking for a gift that will last well beyond the holiday season, check out some of the new subscription services that have hit the market.  Tinker Crate is one such service, that parent company Kiwi Crate, Inc., describes as “a laboratory for hands-on experiments delivered every month.”  With subscriptions that range from 3 months to 1 year+ the tinkering fun will continue well into the new year.

If you are not into the Black Friday mob scene, the great thing about these lists is that they focus on items that are easily found online, from the comfort of your own home.  Of course, if crowds are your thing, print off the lists or load into your smart phone and off you go.

If you are taking part in Small Business Saturday, many of the small independent bookstores and toy shoppes have innovative and unique gifts that are also STEM related.

So, What’s on your shopping list this year?



STEM on the Big Screen: Big Hero 6

November 21, 2014
In theaters now:  Big Hero 6

In theaters now: Big Hero 6

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out the newest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios: Big Hero 6.

Set in the future in a fictional town called San Fransokyo, it’s a film about kids, robots, and technology.

In this STEM-inspired film, Superheros go high-tech, making the storyline appealing to kids that love the STEM fields, while also captivating others who may have yet to discover how cool science and technology can be.

Rated PG, this film has a running time of 102 minutes.  I took a group of 3 kids: ages 7, 9 and 10.  They all loved it!  If you are wondering if it’s right for your child, check out the parent reviews at Common Sense Media for an in-depth look at the issues that come up in the film.

The 6 Superheros:  Click here to see the full trailer





STEMenizing Parents: Moving the STEM Conversation Home

November 4, 2014

There are increasing conversations surrounding the need for schools to provide more rigorous education in science and math in order to produce graduates ready to meet the workforce demand of the 21st century workplace. As schools assess their programs and begin to implement a more STEM focused curriculum, there are two needs that come to mind when considering how we can prepare students to not only engage in STEM, but once there, stay interested.

  • The first critical need is for a stronger emphasis on engaging students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training earlier in their school career.
  • The second need is to engage parents in the STEM discussion.

Parents creating and testing their rollercoaster.

It goes without saying that parents play a significant role in engaging and sharing the excitement concerning school with their children.  As schools approach the conversations about STEM education and career possibilities, it is critical that schools engage parents in the conversation.

So, what are the steps in taking this proactive approach for engaging parents in STEM discussion?

In the Rochester City School District, Nathaniel Rochester Community School #3 will begin engaging parents in the STEM discussion this October through a program that was developed by STEM Specialist, Peter Mastrogiovanni.  The K-2 STEM Parent Academy, offered to the parents of kindergarten, first and second graders will be held once a month at NRCS to inform and increase parent knowledge of STEM, while engaging parents in hands-on and minds-on STEM based experiences. The K-2 STEM Parent Academy is a combination of the Math and Science Parent Academy, Mr. Mastrogiovanni originally developed as the Math Instructional Coach at Henry W. Longfellow School #36 in 2008.

Focusing on the parents of K-2 students is purposeful. For K-2 children, the world revolving around them is full of wonder and discovery.  Children in the primary years are extremely curious about how the world works. They continuously ask “WHY?”  as they try to satisfy their insatiable curiosity. According to Mr. Mastrogiovanni, “This is the time we want parents to feel comfortable having conversations and supporting discovery with their child about how and why things work in the world the way they do.”

Parents improving their rollercoaster using the Engineering Design Process

Capturing students and engaging them in STEM experiences begins the development of critical inquiry skills for a child in the early stages of his or her life. The K-2 STEM Parent Academy introduces parents to the STEM approach and begins giving parents the tools necessary to prepare them to be an important part of the process that helps their children learn how to find answers for themselves with parental guidance.

Additionally, conversations in the K-2 STEM Parent Academy will allow parents the opportunity to share experiences and fears while building support for each other through STEM based hands-on activities that once experienced, will be taken home to be complete with their child.

In addition to the work they are doing with parents in the classroom, the program recently launched a STEM website that includes a page just for parents.

You can contact Peter with any questions about the parent academy at

Peter Mastrogiovanni is a STEM Specialist at the Nathaniel Rochester Community School, part of the Rochester City School District.