As a math and science teacher, STEM is part of my curriculum. Not only do STEM challenges help me target specific standards, but they also promote problem solving, cooperation, and communication amongst my students. Here are three STEM challenges I do every year in my classroom.
1.) Spaghetti Towers
I always do this STEM challenge the first week of school. It’s a fantastic team-building activity and allows me the opportunity to observe my students in groups. I watch to see who holds back and doesn’t contribute much, who tries to control the situation, and everything else in between. It’s also not an easy challenge, so I observe which groups persevere and which shutdown. I use this data to arrange groups for future challenges.
2.) Rollercoaster Building
These Rollercoaster STEM Kits from Lakeshore Learning are one of the most diverse materials I use in class. My absolute favorite labs included in these kits are the ones for potential and kinetic energy. We start with evaluating how slope effects momentum with the rollercoaster pieces. Next, I introduce a WONDERFUL website where students can digitally create rollercoasters. The website is highly interactive and I have to bribe students to log off the site. For the finale, we spend an afternoon creating rollercoasters with the Lakeshore STEM kits. These kits are a little pricey but I was fortunate enough to receive funding for them from a DonorsChoose grant.
3.) Paper Airplanes
I use this activity after testing. It’s perfect for reviewing converting measurement and I’m usually covering force and motion at this time of the year. I purchased this activity from Lisa Taylor. There are 3 different challenges that include discussion questions and data tracking logs. One of my favorite aspects of this STEM challenge is the small list of materials that are needed; easy prep for me!
STEM education can cover so many standards and critical thinking skills for your students. When my students come back and visit me after they move on to 5th grade they always reminisce about the STEM challenges we did in 4th grade. What’s your favorite STEM challenge to do with your students? Comment below.