Teaching children in a way that is both fun and effective is probably the greatest challenge. All subjects are important when it comes to education, but science and mathematics are beginning to demand more attention as they will better prepare students for future careers. However, these subjects can often come across as boring to learn. To spark an interest, teachers can incorporate STEM projects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as part of the lesson plan. Students can work on these individually or in a group with the same result. They will take pride in their creations and will also have learnt something new in the field, something they will easily remember because they witnesses science happen firsthand. Preparing these projects may be a bit overwhelming, but to avoid procrastination, here are some awesome STEM project ideas to get you started.
To encourage children to think independently and not follow an instruction book, consider trying out the egg drop project with your class. Each student will have to design a contraption that will protect a raw egg from splattering when dropped from a significant height. Using whatever materials available (straws, tissue paper, cardboard, etc.), the student will have complete freedom to create a contraption they believe will work. A free falling object will continue the same speed and direction unless its movement is interrupted by an unbalanced force. With all the different contraptions designed by all, students will see what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, the goal is that children will conclude they need to change how the egg falls rather than providing enough cushion.
Materials needed: raw eggs, supply of recyclable materials
An alternative to the traditional paper plane, a hoop flyer uses rings as wings instead. This simple project allows students to create a prototype, test it out and continue to make changes until their miniature flyer soars successfully. With two paper hoops on either side of the drinking straw, students will learn what size and thickness will work best. Through trial and error, children will learn to think critically about all elements of their flyer. Essentially, the students will learn that the big hoop creates drag (air resistance) and the smaller hoop keeps the flyer on course.
Materials needed: plastic drinking straws, stiff colored paper, tape, scissors, pencils
These colorful and delicious candies can be used for so much more than eating. By sticking toothpicks into their sticky centers, students can learn about 2 and 3 dimensional shapes by creating their own. Begin the project by asking students to build specific shapes without telling them how to do so. Once the students figure out how to make cubes and prisms, encourage them to design their own unique structures. These can be towers or houses or bridges, as long as they are strong structures. When the student has finished, place stacks of books on top to see how much it can hold. Once it collapses, the student can try and build a stronger structure that can support more books. For every new structure created, make sure the student records the number of books and why they think it was either stronger or weaker than the others.
Materials needed: toothpicks, jellybeans (or marshmallows)
If your students have a need for speed, give them the opportunity to design their own wind powered cars. With a few materials, students will need to consider important variables to improve to get their car moving. For instance, students will need to decide where to place the sail, what size of wheel, and what length of body will work best. Even better, the students will have fun decorating the car to reflect their personality. Once they are finished, place their car in front of a fan and see how far it goes. You can even make it a competition and hand out a prize for the car that goes the furthest.
Materials needed: toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaner, cardboard, masking tape, scissors, stiff colored paper
No Matter What … Choose SOMETHING!
No matter what STEM projects you decide to introduce to your class, your students will appreciate a break from the books. Remember, they will be enthusiastic about the project as long as you are. Not only will they have fun, but they might also learn something.