The STEM curriculum platform has become a major contributor to many science, mathematics, and technology programs in schools today. STEM curriculum works to simultaneously incorporate four major domains which are: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics into an engaging lesson or activity that can be implemented primarily by the student with limited teacher guidance.
The goal of STEM is to enhance scientific/mathematical functions by making them relevant to students through age-appropriate STEM activities that promote creativity, innovation, and a healthy level of student-led learning to further grasp the entirety of the concept.
When STEM lessons are thoughtfully developed and made to be interactive for the participant, students can practice and develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creative thinking all of which will greatly enhance their overall learning and development in both academics and important life skills.
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Why is STEM Important?
STEM projects and STEM activities are designed for every type of learner. Whether a student is an auditory learner, visual learner, or kinesthetic learner, STEM activities have something for everyone.
No two students are exactly alike. Each one possesses different abilities and interests that make them unique. This means that a standard, one size fits all curriculum just is not appropriate for our nation’s group of growing young minds.
These minds deserve to be challenged, engaged, and interested in the learning they are participating in because not only will this improve their retention abilities, but it will also make a lasting impact on their sense of curiosity and their desire for continued learning.
The importance of STEM learning reaches well into many aspects of our world today. Throughout just the last 20 years alone, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of occupations that use technological skills to succeed. In fact, hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created because of advancements in technology alone.
Our students need access to relevant STEM activities that will help them develop the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic skills they need to grow and thrive in our fast-paced, technology-driven world.
What Makes a Good Stem Activity?
When used in the classroom environment, the four core subjects that makeup STEM often are combined into one engaging and interactive activity that will promote higher-order thinking skills such as: creating, evaluating, applying, analyzing, understanding, and remembering which are all part of Bloom’s Taxonomy for higher-order learning.
A well-constructed STEM activity should promote innovation and independence in child learning. Children should be able to apply a sense of creativity to the project. STEM activities are rarely a step-by-step process, rather they provide kids with the guidance and materials they need to stay inspired in developing a unique project that is all their own.
My 5 Favorite Fun STEM Activities and Projects for Kids
Most likely, the best part about STEM activities is their simplicity and the ability to participate in them at virtually any location. STEM activities certainly do not need to be confined to the classroom.
They can be easily pursued by your student at home, in the car, on vacation, or even waiting in line at the grocery store.
STEM challenges are all around us, it is our job to open our children’s eyes to the engaging STEM activities that they can explore anytime and anywhere.
1. Marble Run
Marble Run is a very versatile STEM activity that can easily be adapted to accommodate your child’s specific age or abilities. Through trial and error as well as creativity and innovation, your child will create a “track” in which marbles have to travel from point A to point B with the goal of not falling off the track.
There are several unique ways that kids can go about engineering a marble track using a wide variety of common household objects. This activity will allow young kids to practice problem-solving skills in a safe environment while also being able to express their own, unique ingenuity in their project.
This particular activity is geared for elementary school students, however, it can be performed by younger kids with adult guidance and supervision, especially with the use of scissors. To construct a wall-mounted marble run kids will need the following materials:
- Cardboard tubes of various sizes and lengths
- Wall safe tape
- Decoration tools such as markers or stickers
Once the marble run is constructed, kids can experiment with different angles and positions of the cardboard tubing to achieve their desired result. Kids can also race their marbles and keep track of times which further integrates mathematics into the activity.
For inspiration and more information on the construction of marble runs or to help gain your student’s attention in the project, check out the marble racing masters on YouTube called, Jelle’s Marble Runs.
2. Lego Seed Starter
For kids that love building, Lego Bricks can be an excellent material for children to play with independently and practice their creative engineering skills. It is truly amazing what kids can construct with Legos and when these popular building blocks are used in STEM activities for kids, the potential for future learning and growth spans even wider.
Among simple STEM projects for kids, our next top choice comes from Lemon Lime Adventures which is a parenting blog that is run by bestselling author and teacher, Dayna Abraham. The lego seed starter will not only engage your child’s engineering and creativity skills but will also involve them in the science of plant growth as well as teach them about the responsibilities associated with plant care and maintenance.
This activity is very adaptable making it a great activity for both younger and older kids. Whereas older children should be encouraged to complete this activity independently, younger kids can receive positive guidance from family members or teachers to succeed in this project.
To complete this fun activity with your child you will need just a few simple ingredients:
- Square lego bases, preferably with holes for water drainage
- Numerous, rectangular lego blocks to construct an even wall around the base
- Seed packet of any type
- Potting soil
- Measuring Tape
- Graph Paper
Once you have gathered all of the necessary materials for your child to participate in this fun STEM challenge encourage him or her to begin building a sturdy wall to go around the perimeter of the lego base.
Construct the base to be at least 5-6 inches high and wide enough to hold about 2-3 cups of potting soil.
Next, guide your student in the process of properly planting a seed and watering it while also placing it in the correct level of sunlight to promote germination.
After the planting process is complete, kids can take a step back and participate in the important, scientific discipline of observing and recording. Encourage your child in the care of their new plant and use the measuring tape and graph paper to help your student catalog the growth data they gather each day.
3. The Solar Oven Smores STEM Challenge
The solar oven challenge is perfect for the end of the school year or throughout the summer. Solar energy is an ever-developing concept that can capture the minds of grade school and middle school children alike.
This fun STEM activity, brought to us by Jennifer Findley, a teaching resource creator, and enthusiast, brings the concept of solar energy to life for kids of all ages and boasts bigger results that can easily be seen, smelled, and even tasted making this project a winner among all kids.
To construct a solar oven you will need the following materials:
- A clean, cardboard pizza box
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Black construction paper
- Pen or pencil
- Graham Crackers
- Oven mitts
Follow the step-by-step guide provided in the link above to complete the solar oven activity and create your very own, delicious smores all made through solar energy.
Through this challenge, your child will be able to explore STEM in a meaningful light as well as apply the scientific concepts of evaluating and hypothesizing while gathering mathematical data such as time and temperature measurement.
Not only does this activity provide a great opportunity for direct participation in fun STEM activities, but it also allows for frugal fun for impactful learning on a budget. Also, Jennifer Findley, the creator of this great project provides a free printable to accompany this project.
4. Salt Pendulum Science
A pendulum is a scientific concept related to gravity in which a weighted object is suspended from a stagnant point of reference and can be swung in various directions due to an accelerating force.
To refer to a common pendulum that kids see throughout their day-to-day lives, swings that are found on most playgrounds are an excellent example of what a pendulum is. The child sitting on the swing is the weighted object that is suspended from the bar holding the swing. Then the outside action of someone pushing the child’s weight creates the pendulum force or the back and forth motion.
This STEM challenge called Salt Pendulum Science is an exciting and artistic way to teach kids about the scientific concepts of potential energy, inertia, and gravity. This project also gives kids the opportunity to engineer their own unique design platform and construct a “prototype” to complete the challenge.
The Salt Pendulum challenge can easily be adapted to fit the learning needs of all ages. The Homeschool Scientist, which is the creator of this particular STEM challenge gives a highly detailed and kid-friendly step-by-step process on how to complete this challenge.
A unique feature of this STEM project is its artistic capacity with the potential for color mixing and shape recognition.
5. Craft Stick Castle
This STEM classic is an engaging activity that can be performed by children of all ages. I love the simplicity of this project that packs a huge punch when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic skills.
To create a craft stick castle, kids will have to use large quantities of craft sticks in various sizes along with marshmallows of different sizes to construct the tallest castle they can build. By participating in this challenge, kids will practice determination, ingenuity, measurement skills, engineering skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork to create a structure as tall as possible without collapsing.
Many different supplies can be used for this project. Not only do kids have to use craft sticks, but they can also use similar objects such as toothpicks or pretzels to achieve the same result.
The STEM Laboratory, which is our source for this exciting project, has many helpful suggestions on how to help kids get the most out of this STEM learning activity. Please refer to their page in the link above for more information.
STEM learning is an integral part of our school system today and for a very good reason. Our nation’s kids must be given the skills and tools they need to be able to appropriately use and benefit from the technological resources that continue to expand in our world every day.
STEM projects and STEM activities work to boost students’ confidence in subjects such as science and math and make them understandable and approachable to all learners. By providing STEM education to our nation’s students we are slowly beginning to break down academic barriers so that children of all academic abilities can gain useful skills to apply to their overall science and mathematics education.