In Part One of Early STEM Activities , I discussed what STEM is, why STEM is important, listed my favourite STEM materials and shared some of my favourite STEM activities. In Part Two of this Early STEM Activities blog, I am excited to share plenty more STEM ideas.
As mentioned in Part One, I follow a similar set of steps each time I am implementing a STEM lesson:

    • Present the STEM challenge and materials
    • Divide students into groups
    • Allow groups time to plan (discuss and draw designs)
    • Students construct and build their design
    • Students test their own design and watch other groups test their designs
    • Group discussion – groups explain why they chose their design, if their plans look different from what they actually made and why it changed (they often do and that is fine!)
    • Group reflection – we discuss what was successful/not successful and groups reflect on what they would do differently next time. During this time students are also encouraged to reflect on how well they worked as a team.

Here are some more STEM activities that I have implemented in my Prep classroom:

 

Teddy Bear Bridge Challenge

Activity 1.2

What materials did we use?

What did we do?

This is one of the easiest STEM activities to do with young learners, which is why it is one of my favourites! In this activity, students work together to build a bridge for their teddy bears using only four plastic cups and four paddle-pop sticks – and all of their 20 teddy bears have to fit on at the same time! Once I introduced this STEM challenge, I divided my students into groups of 4 and gave each group their materials; 20 teddy bears, four plastic cups and four paddle-pop sticks. Then, I gave the groups some time to plan and design their bridges on a whiteboard. After the planning phase, students worked together to construct and build their design.

During this phase of the lesson, there was lots of collaboration and problem solving as the students tried to work out a way to fit all of the teddy bears onto their bridge. Prepare for lots of teddy bears to fall down but prepare for lots of fun, teamwork and creativity too!

 

Design a Beebot Maze

Activity 2.2.

What materials did we use?

What did we do?

Beebots are one of the COOLEST resources we have in our classroom and lend themselves beautifully to STEM activities. In this activity, we paired our Beebots with our wooden blocks and created a maze for them. This combination of Beebots and blocks was such a fun pairing that allowed for lots of problem solving, perseverance and creative thinking. Due to the nature of this activity, we implemented this over the course of several days, giving different groups of children a go at using the space and resources at different times.

Activity 2.3

Before each group started building their maze, they were given planning time to liaise with each other and to draw and label their design. During the construction phase, students worked together to build their maze, making sure the Beebots would be able to fit through the spaces and be able to reach the finish line.

Activity 2.1

After building their maze with blocks, students had fun testing their maze design by programming their Beebots to navigate through the maze. Our mazes were quite large and elaborate, so students programmed their Beebots in steps in order to be successful. There was lots of perseverance and problem solving and we were very excited and proud when the Beebots reached the end of the maze!

 

Design and Build a Bed For Dolls

Activity 3.3

What materials did we use?

What did we do?

I love when everyday moments in the classroom can be turned into authentic teaching opportunities. Earlier in the term, we were given some dolls for our home corner area, which we absolutely adored! However, the students quickly realised that the babies didn’t have anywhere to sleep! And that is how this STEAM challenge was born… designing and building a bed for our babies!

Activity 3.1

This challenge was more STEAM, rather than STEM, because of the additional element of Art. My students were really excited to make each of the babies a bed; we had four babies so we had four groups of students. Students were given time to collaboratively plan as well as choose the materials they wanted to use. Students had to make sure their baby could fit inside the bed – a great opportunity to use measurement in real-life learning!

Activity 3.2

During the construction phase, it was clear students wanted to make the babies feel at home as they wrote kind messages on the sides of the beds and added a blanket – so sweet! These beds are now in our home corner area and are lots of fun to use in our dramatic play.

 

Straw Raft Challenge

Activity 4.4

What materials did we use?

What did we do?

Who else’s students love anything to do with water?! My students go nuts for water play, so I was glad to be able to incorporate it into this STEM activity. In this STEM challenge, students worked in groups to create a raft out of straws. This raft had to be able to float on water while holding a small animal figurine. Students were given time to explore their materials and plan their design before commencing this activity. When building and constructing their rafts, it was interesting to see the children’s different designs coming to life.

Activity 4.2

Of course, the real fun came when it was time to test out our rafts using animal figurines. Students tested their designs with different sized animals and tried to see how many figurines they could fit on at once without sinking.

Activity 4.3

They enjoyed testing out each other’s designs too and seeing which ones worked best. This presented us with a great opportunity to naturally talk about the different raft designs and how they were successful in different ways.

 

Making 3D Shapes

Activity 5.3jpg

What materials did we use?

What did we do?

We have been learning about 3D shapes in maths, so it was a great opportunity to link this focus to a STEM challenge and explore this concept through hands-on learning. In this activity, students were able to create a 3D shape using only paddle-pop sticks and Blu Tack. Before we began, we revisited all of the 3D shapes and identified some of the shapes that we would be able to make using the materials.

Activity 5.2 After splitting into groups, students created their 3D shapes using the paddle-pop sticks and Blue Tac. My students loved comparing their creations with our 3D shape resources to see how similar they were and making sure they had the same properties!

 

Cup Towers Challenge

Activity 6.1

What materials did we use?

    • Large plastic cups
    • Tape measure

What did we do?

This STEM activity is super simple yet super engaging! In this activity, students worked together to build the tallest tower they possibly could. I gave my students a short amount of time to plan before they began building and this time was used to collaborate, discuss different ideas and draw their designs. As students are building their cup towers, be prepared for them to fall down a couple of times – ours did quite a few times! However, it’s a great opportunity to build perseverance and problem solving skills.

Activity 6.2

Once everyone had built their tower, we measured them to see which was the tallest. We had a group discussion about which towers were the most successful and why. My students loved this activity so much that we continued with some free building with cups after our challenge so the children could explore this interesting building material further.

 

What is your favourite STEM activity for young learners? We’d love to hear from you.

 

ABOUT HEIDI:
Heidi Overbye from Learning Through Play is a Brisbane based, Early Years Teacher who currently teaches Prep, the first year of formal schooling in Queensland. Heidi is an advocate for play-based, hands-on learning experiences and creating stimulating and creative learning spaces. Heidi shares what happens in her classroom daily on her Instagram page, Learning Through Play. See @learning.through.play for a huge range of activities, play spaces and lesson ideas.

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