It's back to school time! That means it's time to start planning your amazingly fun STEM activities for the beginning of the year. Whether you are new to STEM or a seasoned pro, getting a plan in place for the beginning of the school year will help you and your students have the best start to the school year. Here are 5 of my most favorite back to school STEM activities to help you begin!
1. What Can You Do With an Idea?
Because you may have students who are new to STEM, the What Can You Do With an Idea STEM challenge is the perfect way to start the year. The STEM challenge encourages a growth mindset which is something I focus on heavily throughout the year.
I love any opportunity to read aloud to my students, so pairing this STEM challenge with the book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada is the perfect way to get my students inspired. It's all about a child who starts with an idea and as their confidence grows, so does the idea. No matter the grade level, my students always enjoy this story.
After reading the story, it's time to let your students get creative. I give my students the freedom to discuss ideas with each other. Then, give them a variety of materials to choose from for their build. Using various response sheets, your students can plan out their idea. Then, they can write about them, and reflect on the process of designing and building their idea.
This awesome challenge is a great addition to your back to school STEM activities. And, it is included in the I Am a Maker Bundle. It also includes two more amazingly fun challenges your students will love!
2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom STEM Challenge
This is a great back to school STEM challenge for younger students who are learning the alphabet. You will also help your kiddos practice fine motor skills with this hands-on building and balancing challenge. Pairing this activity with the fun and engaging book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault is the perfect way to kick off this back to school STEM challenge.
Supplies I use for this challenge include:
- Toilet paper rolls
- Popsicle sticks
- Wooden or plastic blocks
- Foam, wood, or magnet letters
Students complete the challenge by building their own alphabet tree. This can be done as a center or whole class activity.
I always love how each of the trees created in this challenge looks different. It's a great way for students to observe how different techniques can be used to solve a problem.
You can grab this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom STEM Challenge in the Miss Tech Queen TPT store which includes:
- Task cards
- Printable response sheets
- Printable certificates and stickers
- Google Slides presentation
- Song video
- Interactive drag & drop activities
3. The Recess Queen Back to School STEM Activities
The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill is a wonderful story for the beginning of the school year because It has a great message about bullying. Because of this, it's perfect for kids as they are learning how to engage with others. This challenge is all about building a piece of playground equipment that everyone can have fun on.
The Recess Queen STEM Challenge is the perfect low prep activity. So, it's easy to incorporate into the first few weeks of school. Using simple materials like cardboard tubes, craft sticks, colored paper, pipe cleaners, and other recycled materials, you won't have to go out and spend money on supplies.
I have used this STEM challenge as a whole group and center activity and both work great. If I want to have students complete the challenge in a whole group setting, I use the Google Slide Show. Because of this, I am able to display the digital task cards, photos, and timer for every student to see.
If I'm using this activity as a center, it's easy for me to differentiate based on each of the student's or class's levels. I laminate the sheets and give my students dry erase markers so they can draw, write, and erase before moving to the next center.
Because of the uniqueness of this challenge, if you have a Special Needs classroom in your school, this would be a great opportunity to pair with the teachers, students, and aides to design inclusive playground equipment.
4. The Pigeon Has to Go to School STEM Challenge
Creativity, math, and building are the focus of this fun and engaging STEM challenge. Inspired by the book The Pigeon HAS to Go to School, by Mo Willems, students are asked to help the pigeon get to school by building some kind of transportation to get it there.
After observing different ways kids get to school in other countries, your students will use the engineering design process to work through planning, sketching, describing, labeling, and building their creations.
Using easy-to-find materials like boxes, scrap papers, pipe cleaners, buttons, small paper plates, paper tubes, or almost anything else you have in your classroom, your students can work in partners or small groups to design and create their transportation.
The Pigeon Has to Go to School STEM Challenge can be completed digitally as well. Then, it's as easy as using the Google Slides or Seesaw option projected on your classroom whiteboard.
The digital resource includes:
- Google Slides Presentation that works with Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Task cards
- Various response sheets – ready to type on
5. I Am a Maker STEM Activity
The book Be a Maker by Katey Howes is the perfect way to introduce the idea of what makes someone a maker. While reading the book to my classes, I pause and ask questions like, “What is a maker?” and “What types of things can makers create?” It's a great way to get students thinking about how to think creatively.
Because it's similar to the other STEM challenges, this I Am a Maker STEM Activity doesn't require any special materials.
Using items you already have in your classroom, especially those left after unpacking all of your classroom supplies, makes this challenge easy for you to prep.
What I like most about using this activity as one of my back to school STEM activities is the openness of the challenge. Students are able to create ANYTHING using the materials you have on hand. It's so amazing to watch their creativity and imaginations take over.
If you are interested in making a dedicated area of your classroom available for students to complete STEM challenges, this Makerspace STEM Starter Kit makes it super easy. Because it includes 16 products in the bundle, you will have everything you need to set up and keep a successful makerspace going throughout the school year.
Back to School STEM Activities for Every Classroom
No matter what grade level or subject area you teach, STEM activities are a great addition to your curriculum. These activities are a really fun way to teach kids to be resilient, creative, and work collaboratively with others. I know you and your students will love these STEM activities as much as my students and I do.
So, if you are excited to get started, check out this helpful video on organizing a makerspace in your classroom for all of your STEM activities throughout the year!
Make sure to save these awesome back to school STEM activities to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back all year for exciting STEM challenge ideas your students will love!