STEM Lesson Plans for Substitute Teachers

Early and consistent exposure to STEM curriculum is key to student comfortability and success in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects. It is essential that students’ in-classroom STEM learning continues even when their teacher is out and not able to facilitate lesson plans. 

Substitute teachers play a major role in a student’s education. They can help students progress in their learning journey, have a new unique perspective on lessons, and find a new mentor to look up to. In this article, we provide a variety of STEM lesson plans that can be easily implemented by substitute teachers looking to engage students in lesson plans that will help improve STEM literacy. 

Understanding the Hurdles STEM for Substitutes

Substitute teachers have a unique challenge when creating a curriculum. Most, if not all, of their lesson plans need to be compact and able to be completed during their short time with the students. That means substitute teachers are tasked with finding engaging STEM lessons that get students excited about learning and can be completed in one or so days. 

Quick-Start STEM Activities

Below is a list of quick-start STEM activities for substitute teachers:

  1. STEM Careers Bingo Game: The classic game of bingo but with a twist! Throughout the game, students will learn about different STEM careers that connect to the STEM lessons they do.
  2. Popsicle Stick Catapult: Turn students into engineers with an easy-to-implement STEM lesson. Students will create their catapult using popsicle sticks and other common classroom materials, all while learning about the Engineering Design Process (EDP). 
  3. STEM Sports® Stretching and Injury Prevention: Where STEM meets physical education! In this lesson, students identify warm-ups and stretches to prevent common injuries and occurances. Then, through collaborative exercises, students evaluate how to best prevent injuries using pre-and-post exercise stretches.
  4. Introduction to Coding: If you have access to computers, get students engaged in coding lessons to help them build their skills! Regardless of their current skill set, has lessons to get students excited about coding. 
  5. Ice Cream in a Bag: Make STEM learning fun (and tasty) with the DIY ice cream in a bag lesson. Students learn about chemical reactions through a hands-on lesson that shows them how STEM is in their everyday activities, even cooking.
  6. Make Your Own Thermometer: In this DIY thermometer activity, students will put on their engineering hats and learn how thermometers work. After it is created, students can use the thermometer and practice reading them in a variety of different liquids. 
  7. Force Maze – STEM Sports® Baseball: In the Force Maze lesson, students navigate their way through a baseball maze by finding the force of each hit. Throughout this hands-on, real-world example, students solve up to 15 problems given the distance, mass, and time it took for each hit to reach the distance.

Resource Kits for Substitute Teachers

It can be extremely effective and efficient for substitute teachers to have access to turnkey resource kits that allow them to easily implement STEM learning with their students. By having all of the required curriculum and materials, substitute educators can quickly add STEM learning to the daily lesson plan to get students engaged in quality STEM education.

Below are some options for STEM resource kits for substitute teachers: 

  1. STEM Sports®: STEM Sports® offers turnkey STEM curricula for K-8 students. Each lesson connects complex STEM concepts to real-world sports applications, keeping students engaged and active throughout the lesson. 
  2. KiwiCo: KiwiCo offers hands-on STEM curricula for students starting from birth and continuing through primary education. Depending on student interests, they have a variety of kits focusing on different STEM topics. 
  3. STEM Lab Makerspace Carts: The STEM Makerspace Carts offer a variety of learning opportunities for students. Each cart comes with materials that can be used to facilitate STEM learning lessons for grades K-5 or 6-8 students. 

Digital Tools and Resources

There are digital tools and resources that substitute teachers can leverage when looking at different STEM learning opportunities to implement with students. Assuming students have access to technology in the classroom, apps and other online websites can get students engaged in STEM learning with little materials required.


Here are some resources for you to bookmark for your next substitute teaching experience: 

Tips for Effective Classroom Management

Many students see substitute teacher days as free classroom days where there will not be any new lessons. This is a common misconception and something we need to debunk! Here are tips for substitute teachers to effectively manage their classroom and ensure students are in the headspace to engage in lessons and learn new things. 

  • Verbalize Expectations: Immediately verbalize your expectations for the class and their behavior while you are their teacher.
  • Utilize Hands-On Learning Opportunities: Hands-on lessons engage students on a deeper level and lead to increased engagement. This is a great way to ensure students stay active in the lesson.
  • Connect Lessons to Real-World Situations: Connecting classroom learning to real-world situations is an effective way to increase student comprehension. It also answers the question of WHY students are learning something, which leads to a deeper level of engagement.
  • Create an Inclusive, Safe Environment: By creating an inclusive and safe environment for students, they will feel comfortable taking risks throughout the lesson. This also shows students that it is okay to fail, ask questions, and, most importantly, try again. 

Building a Substitute-Friendly Classroom

There are things school administrators and educators can do to create a substitute teacher-friendly environment. Through preparation and the compilation of relevant classroom materials, educators can set their substitute teachers up for success. For example, educators can provide background information on students, highlighting their skill sets and areas where they need more assistance. It can also be helpful for substitute teachers to know which Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) students are focused on, as it will help them choose which STEM lesson to implement in the teacher’s absence.

Empowering Substitutes to Succeed in STEM

Substitute teachers should feel empowered to implement STEM curricula with students and help them improve their STEM literacy. These educators play a key role in a child’s education and can help prepare students to enter the STEM workforce in the future.

If you are a substitute teacher looking for STEM lessons to implement with K-8 students in the classroom or afterschool programs, click here to learn more about STEM Sport® current curricula offerings. 

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