Our world is spinning faster and faster every day. As educators, we want to make sure our students can keep up the best they can while they are in school and once they get out. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are a massive part of our future. STEM careers are also one of the fastest-growing employment categories globally, which gives us even more of a reason to expose our students to STEM activities! So, how do we integrate STEM into the elementary classroom? With these great ideas!
Science: Experiment Virtually Anywhere
One way to integrate STEM into the elementary classroom is to entice students with science! Science is so fun when you get to do fun experiments! Whether you are in school or online, you can find fun ways to create an investigation and get students excited about science.
If you're like many teachers, you might be online or in a classroom with a limited budget. Don't fear! There are so many household materials you can use to demonstrate several scientific experiments. For example, you might be able to do a fun snowman activity that teaches students all about the states of matter.
While household items can be handy, not everyone has access to all the materials needed at home. If you find yourself in this boat, you can always do some virtual experiments. Can't find what you need? Check out the Scholastics list of science experiments.
Technology: Integrate STEM Using Tech to Engage
All of our students are well versed in technology, but do they know how to use it to better their minds? Studies have shown that students spend around 8 to 9 hours a day in front of a device. However, most of that time, their screentime is spent watching YouTube or on social media.
Most students do not know how to use technology effectively, and when it comes to STEM, educators don't always use technology to its full potential. For example, it is essential to build a background on the topic you are teaching. When implementing this spider web activity, students must first understand that different spiders create unique webs. Use Jamboard to engage students with the exercise below:
Exploring with Technology
However, it's sometimes hard to allow students to build background through research using technology, especially with little ones. Be sure to scaffold students by providing them links on Google Classroom, Seesaw, or other learning management systems.
You also need to include a graphic organizer to help students write down their findings. When participating in this STEM “Disguise a Turkey” unit, students were put into groups to explore the idea of animal types to learn three things their animal can, have, and are.
Students can't disguise a turkey if they don't understand that animals are different.
Integrate Technology to Explain
Students seem to get stuck when you ask them to explain something. So, why not have them do it with technology? Teach students how to explain using graphic organizers to upload to Pic Kids, Seesaw, or Jamboard. Then have them draw their design using the drawing feature.
Another option is to have students take a picture and upload it to Seesaw. Students can explain what they have learned by recording a video.
If you want to have students explain their work or demonstrate a more profound sense of understanding using technology, you can integrate interactive digital notebooks into the classroom as well. These are an excellent way for students to use technology to create and update a working document using Google Slides.
Going Beyond the Surface and Elaborating
Sometimes it can be challenging for students to go beyond what the book tells them to say. Elaborating can be difficult for students to do, especially if you ask them to further their ideas. However, you can promote elaborating my integrating STEM into your classroom. Instead of having students talk in front of the class, you can have them take a video and pictures of a process and present it virtually.
In my Build a Sneaker STEM activity, students use FlipGrid to create a 30-second commercial. Not having to be in front of the class might give students more confidence to explain and fully show their thought process.
Engineering: Building a Better Future
You can teach the love of building things and create a strong engineering background with fun activities and experiments. For example, you can have students build bridges to withstand so much weight using only a set amount of supplies. With bridge building, you can add another layer and have the students “battle” for the materials they get by answering engineering questions.
Another way to integrate engineering is to find ways to tie in the time of year. For example, you can teach students about simple machines with a Leprechaun Trap Activity. By applying what they know about simple machines, students develop a trap for the pesky leprechaun who has invaded the classroom. Finding fun ways to teach engineering concepts will help students in STEM.
Math: More than Just a Class
When we think of math, we might think of teaching math concepts ONLY during math class. Still, there are so many other ways to incorporate math throughout the day—one way to integrate math during STEM challenges is to charge money for materials or limiting the amount students can spend to create their prototype.
All you need to do is make sure you give students enough money or give them chances to earn bonus pay so they can afford all the materials they need in your classroom.
In the Build a Gingerbread House STEM challenge, students must purchase the materials to build their homes.
STEM is a fast-moving industry, and it's our job to ensure we expose students to STEM concepts. Finding fun ways to integrate STEM in the elementary classroom can be challenging, but don't reinvent the wheel! Check out these fun activities and save yourself some time and brainpower.
Not sure where to start? I always like to start with The Design Process. Grab my Fun Friday: STEM Edition by signing-up below:
Whether you have been using STEM in the classroom for a long time or you're just starting, remember you're making the future better for everyone.