STEM activities are becoming more widely used in classrooms everywhere and students are loving all the hands-on problem solving that is taking place as well. Next time a student asks “when will I use this in the real world?” you will have it covered.
So many career fields are requiring training in STEM to be considered for jobs. Science, technology, engineering, and math are important skills for most positions in the workforce. Maybe not graduate level education, but certainly some elementary level of knowledge and practice in those subjects will have students ready for future work.
As a gifted intervention specialist for math, I dreaded the sentence, “When are we going to use this in real life?” For anyone who has worked with gifted students on a regular basis, you already know you hear that question often.
So I always tried to include some examples of how different math were used on a daily basis by people everywhere. Sometimes I asked parents and community members to come in to the classroom to speak to us.
We have had:
- representatives from the local bank
- auto line workers
- and others
come to speak to the students for even just 15 minutes and allow the students to ask them questions about how STEM (or STEAM) training is important to them knowing how to do their job well.
And other times, I have shown short videos to the class that shows real-world science, technology, math, or engineering examples. I felt it was important to see those local community members share experiences close to home, but to also “see” more of the wider world beyond our front door.
In addition to talking about real-world examples on Fridays, we also had posters in the classroom for each letter of STEM in big block letters. As students were looking through magazines or newspapers (or even a cereal box) and they noticed a picture that represented something in any of the 4 categories, they cut it out and brought it in to attach to the matching poster.
By the end of the year, we had a collage of pictures covering each of the letters in STEM on the wall and I rarely heard that dreaded question again.
What is STEM?
The definition of STEM officially stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In recent years, it has even changed and evolved to include Art in the acronym, so now many prefer to use STEAM projects when planning new programs or products.
You can find STEM toys, camps, summer programs, games, wikis, and more.
There are even high school scholarships to support women in STEM opportunities.
Middle school students can even attend intensive computer science academies to practice research-based learning labs.
There really is no shortage of different STEM options out there for children of all ages and interests. Local libraries tend to have lots planned too.
What are some STEM projects that can be used in school?
Teachers might think planning these technical sounding lesson integrations will take a lot of work and be super hard to implement with students since they are project-based learning, but you may be surprised to find out that STEM lessons can be structured learning experiences with just a little documentation to get that accountability piece in place.
Check out some of these great ideas:
Engineering Challenge: Can YOU Make a Pringles Ring?? – I’m not sure I could personally do this one without eating al the supply materials, but it would be worth a try. HA!
How can you stand on a paper cup without breaking it? – I bet students would get very creative with this one!
DIY Robot Hand STEAM Activity – I mean, who WOULDN’T want to build a robot hand out of plastic straws? How cool is that?
A Melting Ice Experiment – Even if you live in Florida, your students will love testing out this “cool” science.
Zoo Themed STEM Activity – Zoo animals + learning always equals fun.
Click HERE to grab the packet and save yourself time!
STEM Straw Bridges – A classic STEM activity and one that really never gets old. Student could repeat it every time and get different results.
STEM Activity for Kids: Free Printable Gliding Robot – Making a movable gliding robot on string? Yes please!
Build a Marble Run with Craft Sticks – If your children are anything like mine, anything with marbles is a-ok in their book.
The Unsurpassed Challenge of Roller Coasters – So, I live 5 minutes away from the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” and we never get tired of new roller coaster ideas. Even better these versions use simple paper plates to construct the tracks.
Oil Spill! Connecting STEM activities to real world problems – Isn’t the point of the learning to see how it relates to the real world? Practicing solutions to real life problems can change the world.
STEM Paper Airplane Challenge – Paper airplanes are the perfect vehicle for testing out math and engineering concepts. And the creativity might really surprise you!
Salt Crystal Leaves – This project always mesmerizes me as the formed crystals are so neat to look at after they climb the pipe cleaner. I’m sure students will feel the same.
DIY Constellation Projector – Space is cool. Enough said.
Bucket Tower Challenge – Mini white plastic cups and a hole punch. Grab them and you are ready to roll.
Bottle Flipping – Use that annoying in the classroom habit to your advantage! Have students grab their water bottles and try different amounts of water, fill it with other materials, etc – and see how the results vary. You’ll definitely have student engagement for this one friends.
Water Slides! – How fun is this one? Uses aluminum foil and other small supplies. Easy peasy!
How to Survive as a Shark Coding Game for Kids – Well when you have shark and coding and game all in the same title, I’m guessing this one will be a hit no matter what.
LEGO Bridge Building Challenge – I think the part I like the best is the hand drawn and colored “river” on the paper to allow students to see exactly how long or large their bridge needs to be. This activity could be used with littles who are just getting introduced to STEM activities, or can even be used for older students who want to build more elaborate structures.
STEM Respiratory System Investigation Asthma versus Healthy – The thing I love about this is that you probably have a student in your class who has asthma (or at least within your school). Students would be able to get a much clearer image of how asthma affects the individual with it.
Pom Pom Drop STEM Challenge – Supplies needed = toilet or paper towel rolls, washi tape, and mini pom pom balls. Count me in!
Peep Catapults – It doesn’t even need to be Easter to appreciate the fun in this learning lesson. Not to mention the sight of marshmallow chicks flying through the air has me smiling already.
Basketball Tower STEM Challenge – Get your sports nuts interested super quick when you toss out this fun project!
Fake Snow STEM Experiment – While students in colder environments probably won’t appreciate this one as much, those who live in warm climates (and may have never seen snow in real life) will probably be in awe over this one.
Drops on a Coin: A Preschool STEM Activity – For the littles and all you need are coins and eye droppers (and water obviously). Easy to set up and clean up!
Hot Chocolate Science Experiment – Anything that says hot chocolate you can count me in.
Design a Bridge – A more advanced take on a standard straw bridge activity. For this one the bridge must be able to hold a bag of 100 pennies for at least 30 seconds. This one might take a little more rigor to figure out.
How Strong is Spaghetti? – I’m kind of curious to find out this answer myself…
Fingerprinting Science Activity for Kids – CSI for students – how fun is that?
Motorized Coloring Machine Kids Can Make – So cool! Looks a bit like a lunar module!
Code Your Name in Jewelry – Boys and girls alike will enjoy this beading exercise once they learn the basics of coding.
Popsicle Stick LED Flashlight – Probably for the older students, but I can definitely see students wanting to turn out the classroom lights and use their new flashlight for independent reading time. That’s a win-win if I ever heard one.
Tin Foil Boat Ideas for the STEM Penny Challenge – Using foil as the boat and some pennies as the cargo, this lesson would be a wonderful spring afternoon project outside in large tubs in the school yard.
DIY Foosball Table – Not only would students learn a lot about building and problem solving, but they could take their finished creations home and actually use them again and again.
Build A Winch Simple Machine Activity – It would be interesting to see how the students design their winch and make it work before you explain it more in detail. Great for creative thinking!
What Makes the Best Umbrella – Lots of scientific method action going on here for sure. And so many different materials could be tested as well. Could even be a quarterly class activity.
How to Have a Blast with Balloon Cars! – Love this!
STEM Toy: Penny Spinners – Children will be amazed that they get to make a toy at school – and play with it. And even better – get smarter because of it too!
Make a Paper Plate Maze STEM Challenge – The creative possibilities are endless with this one.
Snowman Stretch – You have to see this one to believe it.
Need even more? Stop by and follow my STEM Activities for Kids Board on Pinterest so you can see when I add to it. There are even pins for supply lists, free STEM posters, books lists, STEM tub labels, and more!
How do you incorporate STEM or STEAM activities into your curriculum? Feel free to share in a comment below. We can’t wait to hear your ideas too!