Whenever I am asked what materials I couldn't live without in the STEM lab, when integrating STEM in the regular classroom, or at home, besides recyclables like cardboard tubes, these are my MUST HAVES!
I've included Amazon links (these are affiliate links), ways I use these materials in my lessons, as well as lots of actual lesson slides. As always feel free to make a copy of the lesson slides and tweak for your needs!
TONS and TONS of masking tape! I always make sure at the very least, each group has its own roll. A management strategy I use is to have students tear off an arm’s length piece and attach it to the edge of their table to they aren’t waiting for the group roll.
You’d be surprised how many kids don’t know how to tear tape. Modeling this fine motor skill and giving them time and grace to practice is important. Of course, scissors can be provided as well.
Some of my STEM challenge constraints include only using a certain amount of tape (ie. 30cm). This helps kids think before building/cutting and allows them to develop other ways to attach materials together (ie. making slits in straws, pushing straw ends inside one another, etc.)
Toothpicks, I always use the round type for their strength and pointy ends which are more user-friendly for kids, are used by the box in my lessons!
I like to have plenty of both the bendable and non-bendable type straws on hand! Let the kids decide which will be better for their particular design. There is a lot of failure learning associated with the bendable kind. Allow that failure to happen, even if you see it coming!
Pool noodles make great boundary areas for activities. I tape them down with Painter’s Tape as Start/Finish lines, to make arenas for robotic challenges, and in large squares to delineate each team’s building area. In addition, they can be used in many challenges.
KEVA Planks are one of my favorite STEM materials because of their simplicity and versatility. They are lightweight, identical pieces of smooth polished wood.
I use pipe cleaners as a material choice in almost every engineering design challenge at every grade level. It always amazes me how many primary students have never held, twisted, or otherwise played with a pipe cleaner!
I always keep a huge bag of packing peanuts as part of my STEM materials. The cheapest place I’ve found them is at your local UHAUL rental store, but you can also get them at mailing stores and on Amazon. I use the common white ones a lot, but have also found that the more expensive water-soluble kind are great for various challenges as well.
Everyone’s favorite go-to for STEM challenge materials. You can never have enough, and I usually make sure I have small and large versions for kids to choose from.
STEM materials don't have to be fancy, electronic, or expensive. These are definitely 8 I wouldn't want to do without! If you have any questions about any of the suggestions or lesson slide links, please don't hesitate to reach out!
I'd love it if you would add your MUST HAVES in the comments!
STEM Advocate and Picture Book Author