STEM is fundamental to the education of all children, regardless of grade level. With technology rapidly advancing and becoming essential to daily life, it is crucial that everyone have STEM literacy. Whether a student plans on moving into a STEM career path or not, having a general understanding of science, technology, engineering and math concepts is important to functioning in everyday life.
However, the teaching of STEM education is not cookie cutter. STEM is a comprehensive subject that requires specific activities depending on a student’s age and grade level. The ideas connected to STEM are often complex and intimidating. That means that it is important to expose children to these topics in a way that does not stop them from wanting to continue to take STEM courses.
Approaching STEM by using fun activities and active learning is an effective way of making the science, technology, engineering and math more appealing to students. This hands-on approach will teach STEM curriculum, both at school and home, through doing rather than seeing. These real life connections are key to the retention of dense, complex STEM topics.
For most students, kindergarten is the beginning of their academic journey. Prior to this, they probably have not had much formal explanation of STEM. However, that does not mean that they have not come in contact with things that are in the science, technology, engineering or math field.
Taking advantage of the curiosity that most students this age possess can be key in aiding their STEM literacy. Whether at home or at school, there is a variety of different age appropriate activities to engage K-2 kids in STEM:
Making a tangram rocket will help young students with shape recognition. In a classroom setting, students can work together to make a larger rocket and then use the pieces from that rocket to make their own smaller ones. In order to add to the fun of this activity, the students can color their cut out shapes that shows each individual shape that was used to piece together their rocket.
This hands-on and visually stimulating activity is a great introduction for primary learning. It is an easy to implement activity that allows students to use a trial and error approach to make their tangram rocket- teaching them 21st century skills as early as Kindergarten.
Rainbow in a Jar
This is a great project to do with your K-2 child during their time outside of the classroom. Most of the supplies can be found in your own pantry, which makes it easy for parents and fun for kids. This lesson will teach children about density while also allowing them to make a beautiful art piece inside their jar or cup.
Blow up the Balloon
In this fun and engaging kindergarten STEM activity, students learn which substance blows up the balloon the most. This science focused activity shows chemical reactions and gas release. Students will be in awe at ways to blow up the balloon without having to touch it at all! With simple materials, this hands-on activity is easy to do at home or in the classroom.
First Grade STEM
Beach Time Subtraction
This puzzle game is a fun and visually stimulating way to introduce the idea of subtraction to kids. Playdough to Plato has all of the printable things that are necessary to conduct this activity either at school or at home. They highlight that although their puzzles focus on numbers 1-20, it is easy to adjust the number range to each child’s skill level.
Making hot ice will shock your first grader and make them want to explore more chemical reactions in the future. With two simple ingredients, you can implement it at home or in the classroom. This experiment can also be a lead in to other chemical reaction experiments that are fun and easy to do.
The Magic Star requires toothpicks, a plate, a dropper and water. This STEM activity has a low cost and is easy to implement! Children will see the bent toothpicks expand when exposed to water which leads into a bigger real-world example of STEM. These toothpicks are a lead in to how the human body works, more specifically, the capillary system. By giving these already curious kids a real-life connection, it will give them a hunger to do more education, yet fun STEM activities.
Second Grade STEM
Using a small cardboard box, a magnify glass/camera lense, scissors and your own smartphone, your child can create a smartphone projector. This simple project requires minimal supplies but allows kids to enter the world of engineering and how to construct something usable and effective.
Pool Noodle Marble Run
After the initial cutting of the pool noodles, for safety reasons, students are able to self-teach the rest of this STEM lesson. This activity allows creativity in making the track and then getting to see what has been put into action. This simple yet effective activity is an introduction to engineering and science.
Fireworks in a Jar
Make everyday the fourth of July with this second grade STEM activity! By dropping food coloring into both water and oil, students will learn about the density of liquids. Then they will get to see the food coloring slowly begin to dissolve. This two-in-one learning experience will give children a disguised learning science experience.
Third Grade STEM
Water on a Penny
Using an eyedropper, water and a penny, you can conduct an easy, painless STEM project with your students/children. Through the use of both the heads and tails side of the penny, kids will be able to see which side holds more drops. Then they can use deduction skills to make guesses on why their results were a certain way.
Foaming Dragon is a hands-on science experiment that keeps children excited and engaged throughout the whole activity. With a detailed materials list and step-by-step instructions, this experiment is easy to conduct and helps children to better understand chemical reactions.
Basketball Tower Challenge
Make your student an engineer for the day by making basketball towers. This third grade STEM activity presents students with the task of creating a tower that will hold a basketball using only a newspaper and masking tape. This teaches them problem solving skills and critical thinking. Alongside that, it emphasizes the use of soft skills such as teamwork and how to deal with and recover from failure.
Fourth Grade STEM
This experiment takes under 10 minutes; yet, it teaches kids about physics. The only supply that is necessary is a piece of paper! Making it easy and educational. Children can drop the paper from different heights and places around the room to see the differences in the way that they fall. To continue the experiment, allow the child to drop different kinds of paper to observe how those drop in comparison.
Turn a Penny Green
Peak your students curiosity by showing them the chemical reaction of turning a penny green. By adding white vinegar to the penny, it will react with oxygen to create a compound known as malachite – which will turn the penny a greenish tint. This connects to the real-world examples of the State of Liberty!
Edible Soil Layers
Create a science experiment with your fourth graders that they can both learn from and eat after. This experiment teaches students about soil layers and leads into the topic of soil conservation. This is easy to conduct and gives students a tasty incentive to learning about STEM!
Fifth Grade STEM
Bounce the Light
This activity allows students to hit a target using their light source and a mirror. After the student is done engaging in the activity, STEM Playground offers links to engaging videos that sum up the main lesson points from the activity so that the students can better comprehend the concepts they have just learned.
The Sky is Falling
In groups, students will have 20 minutes to construct one parachute. This parachute will compete with other groups to see which one best slows a golf ball being dropped (from a height that is predetermined by the educator). This activity covers a variety of NGSS and CCSS requirements for the fifth grade level while also teaching students the soft skill of being able to work in teams.
Build A Bouncy Ball
This do it yourself (DIY) bouncy ball experiment allows fifth grade students to create their own mixture of everyday household ingredients to make their own ball that they can use. This lesson dives into molecules and how combining different materials can cause them to make something completely different. This fun natured STEM activity is both educational and exciting for students to partake in.
Free Supplemental Curriculum: Playing with Precision
STEM Sports® is now offering a free supplemental curriculum lesson known as Playing with Precision! When you give a child a ball their first thought is to throw it as far and as hard as they can. But what about precision? In this hands-on lesson, students learn about energy transfer, precision and accuracy as they try to get a “ball” into a bucket.
Playing with Precision aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), making it perfect to implement in the classroom or after-school program. While having fun, students will also begin to learn about the Engineering Design Process (EDP) through trial and error.
The lesson is easily implemented at any grade and skill level. STEM Sports® has created a 3-5 lesson plan as well as a 6-8 lesson. Each of these separate curricula teaches the same core concepts, but they are presented in a way that is going to make students in each of these grade categories most successful.
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Sixth Grade STEM
NASA has constructed this sixth grade STEM lesson on rising sea-levels in order to inform students on a pressing issue in the environment in a way that they are able to conceptualize. The NASA page provides all of the data and the worksheets needed to give the students a robust lesson experience on this dense, pressing topic.
Creating a balloon car introduces students to the engineering design process (EDP) in an effective, fun manner. Teachers Pay Teachers offers a free worksheet for this activity along with step-by-step instructions for educators on how to properly implement this into their classroom. This activity pushes students to think critically, be creative and be innovative during the design process.
The best part about Teachers Pay Teachers is that, if you enjoy this activity, there is a variety of other easy-to-implement STEM activities for your sixth grade students and other grade levels as well!
Seventh Grade STEM
Charcoal Water Purifying
This experiment poses the question, “Can charcoal remove molecules from water?” Throughout this activity, students will be able to answer this question and maybe even make connections to the water filter that their family uses at home. This website allows students to slowly draw their own conclusions throughout the experiment process but with guidelines that allow them to reach the correct answer. That is why this easy-to-implement experiment promotes deeper understanding as well as independent learning.
Mummify a Hotdog
This experiment takes 2-4 weeks to complete, making it perfect for a middle school science class. Using hotdogs, students will get to watch their hot dog, over time, go through the mummification process. Using a hot dog and baking soda, students will get to witness something that they have heard about in Ancient Egyptian times, but have never gotten the opportunity to see for themselves.
This seventh grade STEM activity will cater to students’ scientific curiosity as well as give the opportunity for students to learn more about history.
Eight Grade STEM
Pi in the Sky
Using Pi, 3.14, students will have the opportunity to see how mathematics connects to real-world situations. They will be able to determine the size of a dust storm on Mars, estimate the water content in a rain cloud, decide how much Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has shrunk and calculate how strong a laser must be to destroy ice samples. NASA provides real results to each of these things, allowing students to see how accurate their calculations were.
By conducting this eighth grade STEM experiment in your classroom, it gives middle school students the opportunity to temporarily enter a field that they may end up wanting to pursue in the future.
Make a Rainbow Colored Flame
Using common household chemicals, students can change the color of a flame. This allows them to see how each of the chemicals reacts with fire. This STEM activity provides strict and specific procedures in order to ensure student safety and success throughout the experiment.
High School STEM
High school is a very important time is a student’s life. They are preparing themselves to either go to college or enter into the workforce. Since these students are at a crucial decision point in their lives, it is our job, as educators, to help them go in the direction that is best for them.
STEM job opportunities are increasing rapidly with today’s technological advancements and changes. Through high school level STEM classes and activities, schools can help students find their love for STEM and possibly even lead them down a path of obtaining a STEM degree and profession.
Preventing Soil Erosion
This activity is meant to tackle a real-world issue that involves the use of STEM concepts. Throughout this high school STEM activity, students will figure out the energy behind the erosion on ocean shorelines and work through if it is possible to prevent this from happening. The STEM project gives step-by-step procedures on how to conduct the experiment and gives all of the necessary equations for students to effectively get their results.
Restoring and Improving Urban Infrastructure
In this high school STEM activity, students evaluate the different factors of urban cities and their infrastructures. They will look at everything from energy to water systems in order to determine if a city is sustainable, and if not how it can be improved. This is an important aspect in today’s world where cities are trying to go green in order to preserve the earth’s natural resources.
This also gives high schools the opportunity to spend time in a real engineering occupation looking at things that someone in that field would. Activities like these give high schools a chance to see if this is something that they enjoy and would possibly want to pursue in the future.
STEM professions are important to the continuing growth and prosperity of the United States and the world. Since they are so key to future success, it is important that children achieve their STEM literacy.
Whether it be at home or in the classroom, K-12 students need to be exposed to STEM concepts through active learning activities that they are able to relate to real-world situations. This will help them to not only enhance their skills, but also to find a love for STEM that can lead them down a STEM career path.