Fun STEM Activities for Elementary and Middle School Students

Fun STEM Activities for Elementary and Middle School Students

  Everyone has heard the infamous acronym STEM, but what exactly is STEM and why is it so important in the 21st century? STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. It is a broad term that helps to describe the technological age we are amidst. It is almost impossible to go one day without interacting with electronic technology, and this will only become more prevalent in our daily lives, as it makes society more efficient. Similarly, the job market for STEM fields has already and will continue to boom. Even though our children already have major interests in STEM because it surrounds them, it is important that we encourage their participation in these fields. Fun STEM activities for elementary and middle school students can be done inside or outside of the classroom to encourage and excite students. Below are four great activities to engage students in all four areas of STEM.

Science

     A superb S activity in STEM is making your own spectrometer using an empty cereal box, an old CD, and aluminum foil. Spectrometers are commonly used in physics to measure wavelengths of light. They split light into all of its component wavelengths, which can be useful to identify substances light passes through. Astronomers can also use this to see the temperature, weight, and even speed of an object in space.   

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     Students can work individually, in pairs, or in groups depending on how many resources are available. Following the specific instructions in the link below, students cut holes in a cardboard box, inset a CD, place aluminum foil on the opposite side, and create their own spectrometer. Have students try receiving light from different sources such as candles, fluorescent lightbulbs, or neon lights if available to see how the produced spectrums can differ.

Link to Activity: http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_games/spectra/makeGrating.htm

Technology

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     A thrilling T activity in STEM involves Roboloco’s robot building kit and programming software. Once students have completed the guided tutorials and know how to use Free Coding Mode, give them a chance to show their creative robot building skills. Split them into teams and challenge them to use a sensor in an unexpected way, or try to incorporate every sensor into one coherent robot. Give awards for the most creative, most structurally stable, and most useful everyday-life robot.

Link to Activity: Buy the Origin Kit Here http://www.roboloco.com/productlist/roboloco-origin-kit

Engineering

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   An electrifying E activity in STEM is designing, building, and testing the structural integrity of a spaghetti noodle bridge. In this activity, students will be given a certain amount of spaghetti noodles and glue and be challenged to build a bride. Students can either work in pairs or groups. Have them draw out a design before working together to create the bridge. It must have a minimum length requirement, because when students are done building, you can attach a hanging scale and bucket and see how much weight each bride can hold before breaking. Have a discussion with the students afterwards analyzing why some bridges were able to hold more weight than others due to structural support. This introduction to engineering is sure to get students interested in how structures around them work. 

Link to Activity: https://www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/wpi_spag_act_joy

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Math

     This mystifying M activity for math in STEM will make students think about creative ways to use geometry. Students will be given the chance to make their own flexagons. What exactly is a flexagon? Discovered by Arthur H. Stone in 1989, they are hexagon shaped folded paper that have more than the two faces you thought they would have. After coloring two sides and “flexing” the flexagons, students will discover a plain white face they could not see before. Flexagons seem to be a paper-folding craft, but soon turn into a mysterious mathematical puzzle. The link below provides cut outs that can be colored and folded into flexagons. Start out trying a triflexagon, and then move on to the more challenging hexaflexagon.

Video Explaining Flexagons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIVIegSt81k

Link to Activity:  http://www.murderousmaths.co.uk/GAMES/flex/flexmake.htm

     There are innumerable amounts of engaging STEM activities to try at home or in the classroom; the four above are only a beginning. An introduction to pi and making a paper chain with different color links to represent the numbers 0-9, unplugged computer science activities that do not require any technology, coding a simple HTML website about yourself, the infamous elephant toothpaste experiment, or even the classic baking soda volcano are all great hands on activities to help your student explore science, technology, engineering, and math activities. Try one of them today to get excited about STEM!

Derek Capo