The first week of school is a great time to integrate STEM activities that set the stage for the expectations you have throughout the year related to teamwork, communication, collaboration, failure, empathy, and all those other crucial skills that make STEM such an inviting way to learn.
Below are 3 suggestions for very BASIC STEM activities I have done using simple materials and pre-made slides that are ready to go!
I hope you’ll consider including one or more in your lesson plans with your new students! Click on each title for a link to the slides, and as always, feel free to make a copy and tweak it however best fits your situation.
Activity 1: Teamwork Challenge
This is an oldie but goodie and I use it every year for the very first lesson. I want to ensure that my students understand that teamwork is going to be one of our most valued skills during the year.
Materials: 10 plastic cups per team (4 students/team), rubber bands and string/yarn
The directions/procedures I use are in the notes under each slide.
Activity 2: Saving Sam
This is another oldie but goodie that my digital integration team and I use to introduce teachers and students to the engineering design process in a simple non-threatening way.
Whereas Activity #1 relied on larger group teamwork, this activity allows students to practice being a good partner. There are notes at the bottom of some of the slides. A picture of the setup and further information can be found HERE.
Materials: clear short plastic cups, Gummy Savers (NOT the hard lifesaver candy), Gummy Worms (Pro tip: Don’t get the sour kind with the sugar coating), paper clips
Activity 3: Bridge Building Challenge
Simpler to conduct than many bridge-building activities, this activity will help your students see that not everything is easy. Failure, perseverance, and critical thinking are going to be important in your room this year.
Materials: craft sticks, pennies (or other weights) The weights are to be used as part of the bridge, not as a load it must hold.
Students can work with partners or individually. The goal of this activity is to design and build the longest bridge using only the provided materials. This will encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. After everyone finishes, have them measure their bridges and do a gallery walk to see the different designs. Then make sure you save a few minutes for the ending discussion questions!
Integrating STEM involves more than giving kids materials and a challenge to solve. Often social-emotional skills like collaboration, sharing, teamwork, effectively communicating, and staying positive through failure/ difficulty take a while to develop. Consistently modeling expectations and providing continual practice is key, and starting during the first few days sets the tone for the remainder of the year!
I’d love to hear about your favorite beginning STEM activity in the comments! #BetterTogether
STEM Advocate and Picture Book Author