When planning STEM activities it's easy to feel anxious about the possible cost of the supplies needed. While some STEM activities do include technology which can be costly, a lot of really fun and engaging activities don't require any store-bought supplies at all. Half the fun of a STEM challenge is “thinking outside the box” when it comes to the supplies needed. I'm here to share some of my favorite STEM on a budget activities with you. These activities will save you money and help you rock your STEM challenges!
Solving problems with everyday items is not only fun but also budget-friendly. You would be surprised how many everyday items can be used in STEM challenges. Items like cardboard boxes, bottle caps, blocks, straws, and printables can be used. Repurposing materials engages your students and inspire them to think creatively. Here's my favorite no or low cost STEM challenges that students love!
Recycling challenges are the perfect opportunity to stretch those little imaginations. Use them for Earth Day, to correspond with a recycling unit, or even at the beginning of the year when there are tons of boxes heading out to the dumpster from teachers who have finished unpacking.
You can also set-up a STEM Lab donation box at the front of the school. Send a note home to parents letting them know that you love using recyclable materials in your STEM Lab. Send them a specific list of items you can use and let the donations begin. I recommend being specific on what you need so that you don't waste your time having to sort through unusable items.
Materials that are great for recycling challenges include:
- Cardboard boxes
- Empty tissue boxes
- Cereal boxes
- Shoe boxes
- Plastic bottles
- Milk jugs
- Empty toilet or paper towel rolls
One of my favorite recycling challenges is from my Earth Day Activities STEM Recycling Challenge set. Students are asked to create an invention or something useful using a cardboard box and up to 5 recycled items.
By using the design process, students record the process of creating their prototype with printable worksheets. I can tell you from experience that kids can absolutely come up with the most amazing creations when presented with a challenge that requires using everyday objects.
Use LEGO or Other Interlocking Bricks
LEGO blocks or off-brand interlocking bricks are a great investment for any classroom.
Interlocking blocks are fun to use and easy to clean and disinfect. STEM challenges on a budget using interlocking bricks which can be used again and again saves you valuable teacher dollars!
I throw my LEGO in a mesh laundry bag and send them through the washing machine for an easy deep cleaning! Because they are plastic, they can also be easily sanitized with a disinfectant spray or by soaking in bleach water. This makes them easy to keep sanitized all year long.
My favorite interlocking brick STEM challenge has to be from the Back To School Stem Challenge Set students are asked to create a fantastic new object that could live in a world of possibilities.
Once they have finished their 3D prototype, they use worksheets to record their findings and reflect on the process of creating their new object.
These are especially great to display around the school in display cases or on top of bookshelves in the school library. Include some of their worksheets with drawings and a written explanation of the object for some serious WOW factor!
Build A Bridge Challenge
Bridge building challenges are an instant crowd-pleaser in any classroom! The very best part though is that these challenges can be completed with almost any material. I have used popsicle sticks, straws, building blocks, and even rolled up newspapers as materials for my students to use to build their bridges.
The bridge building challenge in the STEM Building Bridges Set includes real-world examples of bridges built in different ways.
Bridge types include:
- Beam bridge
- Suspension bridge
- Arch bridge
- Truss bridge
Students love working through the challenges to build their own sturdy bridges either in small groups or individually if the class is on the smaller side.
My students always loved the last day of the challenge when we would put weights on the bridges to see which bridge type would be able to hold the most weight. With a printable certificate, I can reward my future engineers for a job well done.
Keep the Creativity Flowing All Year
These are just a few of my favorite STEM on a budget activities that I'm sure you and your students will love! I use budget-friendly activities all year long in my classroom. I've taken all my favorite budget friendly STEM Challenges for the year and put them together in this year long STEM Challenge BUNDLE! It includes everything you need to complete a budget-friendly STEM challenge every week, all year long. These low prep activities can be completed with basic materials you probably already have on hand in your classroom.
Save These STEM on a Budget Activities
Be sure to pin this page to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back quickly for fun and engaging STEM activities all year long!