STEM, Art, SEL, and Literacy: A Perfect Match for Learners

One of my favorite things to do as a school librarian is to find ways to combine STEM, art, SEL, and literacy. From an educator’s point of view, learners are constantly engaged with STEM and Art projects. STEM and Art projects are so engaging to learners from my perspective because they are fun, a place that allows them to be creative without a right or wrong answer, and more out of the box than traditional lessons. Every chance I get, I integrate STEM, art, SEL, and literacy to not just help reach learners but to always just make learning fun. 

The book that I am going to use as an example today is Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day written by meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and illustrated by Rosie Butcher. Not only does this book have STEM, SEL, and art but also a book that AASL is celebrating during Crayola Creativity Week at the end of January. A little cloud, Misty, deals with a variety of good days and bad days and how Misty handles her emotions. I love this picture book because this book creates great discussion about emotions and SEL for learners but also discussion about STEM and clouds in the book. Here are a few of my favorite activities that are paired perfectly with Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day and any other weather picture book that discusses emotions. 

SEL Activities dealing with Emotion: 

Origami Worry Boxes – Origami Worry Boxes are another SEL activity that I love to collaborate with the school counselors. I usually do this activity on National Origami Day, November 11. For this, I just teach how to make an origami box and either I or the school counselors talk about how worry boxes work. Worry boxes are the perfect way to write down your worries and put them in the box and forget about them. (I have discussed this SEL activity and a variety of others like this in another blog post I wrote, Different types of SEL Activities to Build School Library Culture.) 

Guatemalan Worry Dolls – Guatemalan Worry Dolls are small dolls that originate in Guatemala. Traditionally, you tell your Guatemalan Worry Dolls your worries and anxieties are placed under your pillow at night. To make Guatemalan Worry Dolls, all you need is a pipe cleaner and yarn. First, you fold the pipe cleaner in half, you can fold the bottom half up to create arms or you can leave them down, you then wrap your pipe cleaner in yarn. This is a great activity to not only help calm any worries or anxieties but also to teach about this Guatemalan tradition. To find more instructions, you can access them here:

Weather Activities 

Cloud Watching –  Cloud watching is a simple activity that requires zero supplies. Simply teach the variety of clouds and what each cloud looks like. Take the learners outside, lay down, cloud watch, and describe all the clouds they see. I often find any way possible to take learners outside to just bring out a different environment. To put an artistic spin on this, as the learners are laying down outside cloud-watching, have them sketch the different clouds that they see.

Rain Cloud in a Jar – To make a rain cloud in a jar, all you need for this activity is a clear cup, shaving cream, food coloring, and water. Fill the clear cup with water, leaving a little space at the top. Add shaving cream on top of the water and add food coloring on top of the shaving cream. Keep adding food color to the top of the shaving cream until the shaving cream “cloud” gets too heavy and the food color “rain” falls through. This is a fun activity to bring STEM and cloud to life for learners. To find more instructions, you can access them here:

Art Activities 

Cotton Ball Art – Cotton Ball Art is a fun activity to allow learners to create their raincloud. All you need is paper, cotton balls, and blue watercolor paint. Have learners glue cotton balls to a top of a sheet of paper and then watercolor blue paint to make the rain come out of the clouds. This makes really pretty art that brings the book to life for the learners. 

Cotton Ball Stamp Art – This is another fun activity that allows learners to create their clouds. For this activity, all you need is blue paint, cotton balls, and paper. Have learners use cotton balls as stamps to dip in blue paint to make clouds. You can have learners make their little twist on the painted cloud by having them draw Misty in the clouds. 


Author: Jessica Fitzpatrick

Jessica Fitzpatrick is a high school librarian in Houston and is in her tenth year of education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Houston and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. She is a 2022 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2022 TLA MVP, an AASL Inspire Special Event Grant recipient, 2022 YALSA’s MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, the 2022 TLA Branding Award Winner for Reading Program, the 2020 TLA Branding Award Winner for Community Engagement, YALS article contributor, and on the TAYSHAS Reading Committee. She enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her two daughters and husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @librarian_fitz and on Twitter at @librarianfitz .

Categories: Literacy, STEM/STEAM, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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2 replies

  1. Fun! The link for the Guatemalan dolls did not work, but I was able to go to the site and search for the dolls. What a great activity.

  2. This is an excellent example of how to integrate STEAM with literature—using Jessica’s idea, I created an activity for my course, “Desing for Informal Learning,” with the book “The Tiny Seed” by Eric Carle. The learning goal is to teach about the different seasons and the challenges people can face with the weather such as the difficulties the tiny seed has in the book.
    Thank you for sharing!

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