Our world is changing fast. As teachers, we want to ensure our students are ready for all the cool stuff coming their way in school and beyond. And guess what? Science, technology, engineering, and math, which we call STEM, are super important for the future. Many jobs available when they grow up will be in STEM fields. So, how can we make learning STEM accessible in the elementary classroom? Let’s check out how we integrate STEM into the elementary classroom.
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Maximize Time through Fun Friday Activities
Time is a big challenge, especially in the K-2 classroom. In many school districts, teachers are encouraged to focus mainly on reading and math, bringing in science through read-alouds and shared reading. While I’m all for integrating subjects, I do have a concern. It can be challenging for students to fully grasp science if we’re not building a solid foundation of knowledge on the subject beforehand.
I often use the Simple View of Reading or Scarborough’s Rope as my guide. If students lack the necessary vocabulary or background knowledge on a topic, understanding what they’re reading becomes quite challenging. So, if you’re short on time, here’s a helpful tip: consider introducing “Fun Friday” into your routine.
Once you’ve downloaded my Fun Friday freebie above, you’ll discover that Fun Friday is an ingenious way to motivate your students. It allows you to fulfill your responsibilities, such as interventions and paperwork or offers a fantastic opportunity to bond with your students and build relationships. Furthermore, it will be your secret weapon for integrating STEM units.
Science is an invaluable way to engage your students! We’re talking volcanoes that erupt (with baking soda and vinegar, not lava) and figuring out why some things float while others sink. By bringing STEM into the classroom, you’re becoming a science hero in a child’s mind!
A favorite STEM project involves using everyday household items to teach about the states of matter to create a snowman. How cool is that? 😊 STEM makes learning an exciting journey that students can’t resist.
Integrating STEM in the Classroom Using Technology
Most 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 8 to 9 hours in front of a device daily. However, most of that time is spent watching YouTube or on social media.
Do you see students spending a lot of time consuming information in the classroom? I know some programs can provide value to students, but if that is all they do, you are missing out on why technology can be the best tool in your teacher toolbox.
Regarding STEM, technology offers ways to bring the world into your four walls. Look at the image below. Pulling images up on your interactive whiteboard to show students the different types of webs would be a great way to build background, discuss phenomena, and visually represent a concept students may not understand.
I’m a big fan of using videos to enhance learning. Check out this video from my Circuit Bug unit that introduces a fascinating phenomenon about fireflies: When fireflies fly together, they blink their lights simultaneously.
The beauty of video lies in its ability to offer a close-up, real-life view of a concept that a book can’t provide to a child. I don’t know about you, but I love exploring science concepts that come to life through videos.Phenomena: Fireflies by TechwithJen
Use STREAM Centers to Explore
Another way to integrate STEM in the elementary classroom is during small group instruction. Students can participate in what I like to call STREAM centers or stations to explore the science topic.
Here are some examples from my Kindergarten Weather Unit
Science – Have students math the weather event to its description.
Technology – Sort weather events using real pictures in Google Slides.Design by TechwithJen
Reading – Have students read books about the weather. I love to share my collections on EPIC with my students. They love this resource! And the best part, it’s free! There are ‘Read to Me’ books videos, and levels can categorize the books. It’s a must-have in the classroom. Here is the link to my weather collection.
Engineering – Create a LEGO car and a windsail. Use wind power to race the vehicles.Design by TechwithJen
Art – Use cotton balls to create fluffy clouds.
Math – Use weather dice to create a weather map. Count the number of days for each weather event. Compare and contrast the weather events.
STEM Challenge Enrichment Time
Our school dedicates a particular time for intervention, primarily designed to assist students who require extra support. However, it’s equally important to nurture the talents of those students who are ready for enrichment. Let’s challenge these young minds to reach their full potential.
To achieve this, all of my STEM challenges are structured the same. Once they’ve completed one or two challenges, they possess the skills and confidence to tackle more challenges independently during this dedicated time.
But it doesn’t have to end there! This period is also an excellent opportunity for students to build upon their newfound knowledge. For instance, consider my “Build a Sneaker STEM challenge.” In this engaging project, students explore the intricate process of designing and constructing their sneakers, all while following the design process.
And here’s the exciting part: Students can elevate their learning during intervention time by creating a 30-second commercial for their sneakers using FlipGrid. This hands-on activity not only beats sitting in front of a computer program but also empowers even the shyest students to shine, as they can comfortably express themselves without the pressure of a live classroom audience. This way, intervention time becomes a platform for both growth and self-expression.
So there you have it! I hope these ideas give you a few ideas on integrating STEM into the elementary classroom. Now it’s your turn. What are ways you integrate STEM? Comment below. I would love to hear from you!