The leaves have fallen and there is a crisp chill in the air. Winter is upon us! While winter can be a magical time of year, unfortunately, it can also mean a lot of time spent cooped up indoors for kids. That means we will be encountering a lot more restless energy in our classrooms. Winter STEM activities are the perfect solution. They are hands-on, interactive, engaging, and most of all fun! Whether you are new to STEM or a STEM expert, here are some of my favorite STEM activities. They are sure to keep your students engaged and ready to learn this winter.
What are STEM Activities?
STEM projects combine science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for highly engaging activities to help students prepare for the future. These activities connect classroom studies to real-world experiences and help students develop problem-solving skills.
I know from experience STEM challenges get kids excited to collaborate with a team. It's amazing to watch them solve problems based on fun and engaging scenarios.
My favorite things about STEM challenges are they help students to focus on the process of planning, creating, and reflecting.
I love connecting STEM projects to the seasons or holidays to really engage students.
Winter STEM: Sled Challenge
This Winter STEM activity focuses on creativity, speed, and building. The sled challenge requires students to build the fastest sled on the slopes with interlocking bricks like LEGO. For my older students, I might differentiate the challenge by giving them a strict time limit for building or giving them a limited number of bricks adds to the challenge. You could also throw in some math by giving them a budget and setting a cost for the different type of bricks.
After students are done building their sleds using the parameters given, it's time to race them! This is always a huge hit in my classroom! We build a “hill” out of a chart paper easel turned upside down, cardboard boxes cut and taped to make the hill, or use butcher paper on top of overturned chairs stacked to make a slope. Just find something in your classroom to create that inclined plane and cover it with a solid surface so the sleds can slide down.
It's fun to ask students to work collaboratively to build the hill. This makes a great activity for those early finishers. It's always fun to see what little extras they add like drawn trees, forest animals, and even a bigfoot!
The winners of the challenge will be the sled that makes it down the hill the fastest. Think slot car racing but with interlocking blocks.
When the race is done I always like to end with a review and reflection process. This is such an important part of the design process and is where that learning really cements itself in the brain. If time permits, we might even use our reflection as a basis for a rebuild and round 2!
Winter STEM: Build a Tool for Winter Mittens
Have you ever noticed how quickly kids lose just one glove or mitten in the winter? Our school lost and found bin is forever full of single mittens looking for their match during the winter months. This is one of those winter STEM activities that will get students thinking like an inventor.
It's always amazing to me how creative my students are when designing a solution to a real-world problem. This winter mitten challenge asks students to solve the problem: “Can you create a device to hold and store your mittens?”. My students get so excited to get started on this project.
I love watching as my students work together in small groups to complete the steps for the project including: Research, Planning, Sketching, Building, Testing, and Reflecting.
Using mitten templates, students can design and color cute mittens to show how well their design works.
Filling out a reflection sheet at the end of the project is something I feel is super important for STEM challenges.
It helps students to think about their design as a prototype and not a finished product.
This is a great connection to real-world experiences designers and engineers face every day. It's also important for students to think about what they would do differently if they were able to continue working on their designs.
Winter STEM: Winter Tinker Tray
Here's a great way to get some literacy and writing in along side your STEM challenge. The Winter Tinker Tray gets students thinking creatively not only on their design but also in a writing piece.
I like to begin this winter STEM activity with a read aloud. This activity pairs really well with the book Snow by Uri Shulevitz.
After hearing the story, I break up my students into groups and send them to stations with tinker trays. The goal is to build a snowman or snowflake using only the items provided. I don't make all of my trays the same, so every group will have a unique snowman or snowflake when they are finished.
Anything from cotton balls to toothpicks can be used in the Tinker Tray. I have even thrown in some packing peanuts, string, beads, feathers, and air dry clay in the past for students to use for this building challenge. It is all fair game when it comes to tinkering! In fact, if you find yourself with an abundance of a supply, throw it in and be amazed at what your students will do with it.
Once students are done, I like to add some creative writing to the mix. I ask students to think about a story they could tell where their creation is the main character!
It's amazing to watch their creations come to life as students read their stories and show off our creations. These awesome sculptures also look great as part of a winter display. It's easy to show off their work. The school display case, library, or even hallway make great places for a STEM Showcase!
Looking for More?
If you are loving these winter STEM activities, you can find all of these and more in my Winter STEM Activities Bundle. All of the activities are easy to prep and also come in a digital format for even more fun and engagement.
For even more fun and engaging STEM challenges with a Christmas theme, be sure to grab the Christmas STEM Challenge Bundle. It's full of fun Christmas-themed building activities your students will absolutely love completing during the holiday season!
Save these Winter and Holiday STEM Activities
Be sure to save these awesome winter STEM activities to your favorite teacher Pinterest board so you can come back all winter for fun and engaging winter STEM activities your students will love!