Your colleague gives you a nudge and a wink, and you follow their eyes as they look around the classroom. Both your class and your colleagues class are fully engaged working together using classroom STEM kits.
When classroom STEM activities include inviting other students into the classroom, it was a powerful and effective way to invest classroom time into developing positive community. It expanded the walls of our classroom community.
Why is STEM important to students? Let’s think Social Emotional Learning Activities. 😉
STEM-based opportunities provide hands-on learning opportunities, and often it includes real world applications. This combination teaches children more than science and mathematics concepts.
It will help your students to develop a variety of skill sets, including creativity and 21st-century skills.
These skills may include:critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, leadership, problem solving, decision making, acceptance of failure, entrepreneurship and more.
Looking closely at that list, you will see opportunities to practise their social and emotional learning strategies.
And let’s not forget that hands on interactive activities are amongst the most powerful strategies for student engagement.
STEM activities develop skills that prepare students for more than a future career, but more importantly, for a successful life.
STEM versus STEAM in Classroom?
I dig into this a little bit more in my earlier blog post, but here is a summary.
STEM is an acronym for activities that are entirely focused in the purest form on:
STEAM in classroom on the other hand incorporates the Arts. They may be included subtly through collaborative problem solving. Or it may be more evidently by combining STEM with visual arts, humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts and design.
Therefore, the acronym STEAM class meaning represents integrating:
I do refer to STEM throughout this post because all of these activities incorporate STEM as their base. Others may expand to incorporating Art.
Classroom STEM Kit Ideas
In my previous blog post on classroom STEM kits I dig into amassing, creating and storing STEM materials. My class primarily engaged very simple materials.
There are various ways to access some money to purchase more elaborate materials. A classroom budget like I had is wonderful, but rare.
Perhaps a fundraiser that doubles as a math project would be possible.
Do you have a parent committee to support you once you explain your STEM classroom ideas?
I discuss these things in the previous blog post as well.
In my classroom I had a number of simple classroom STEM kits that included craft sticks, paperclips or index cards. There were also more expensive material such as Magnatiles. The children engaged with all of them, and I recommend all of them on my previous post.
There is a LOT that can be done with simple materials. However, if you have a budget, today is all about exploring other resources you may want to consider..
Diving into the Deep End with Classroom STEM Kits!
I am unable to give a personal recommendation on all of the items below. I did not have any mechanized STEM kits.
However, those items marked with an asterisk**, have been used, and loved, in my class. The rest just look interesting and engaging 🎉.
I chose them because I can see purpose in them if you have the budget for them.
If you choose to purchase something using these links, I will get a small commission from Amazon.
Always a hit with any child that I have ever seen. There may be an exception, but not in my experience.
As mentioned above, this is another classic toy for simple pleasure. This is a great investment, and it will last the length of your career.
I had never seen these before they were recommended for my class. The students absolutely loved them, and they built some really amazing structures. There are a variety of kit sizes available. The Plus Plus Open-Play Set is if you want enough for larger groups at one time.
There are a number of options for you to choose from. This one is a simple, affordable, open-ended kit.
Carefully crafted to be balanced when building structures, these were a hit in my classroom. You might want to add a ball or a car to the mix as races were definitely a hit.
This toy is so simple it doesn’t even have a fancy name. But there are a number of pieces, for an affordable price, and it will draw out creativity.
These I did have in my classroom, and the students really engaged with them. The connection pieces helped the students to make sturdy 3D structures.
Similar to Magnatiles in that it uses magnets. However, I have never used these in the classroom.
Using magnetic rods and steel balls, students will explore moving mechanical systems. They will learn about motion, gravity, and engineering principles. There are a variety of similar sets to choose from that take the concept of using magnets one step further.
For introducing engineering principles through hands-on projects. There is a fun variety of sets and price points for various ages. The latter has multiple projects and may better serve a large group.
This is another kit designed for students 8 and older. It which comes with directions for practicing the concepts of structural engineering.
Super fun, simple way to combine art and coding.
As mentioned above, dominos are considered a classic for a reason. This kit takes dominos to the next level.
Recommended for children 8 and over. This is something a little more advanced for some of your stronger students they may find this intriguing.
If you are looking for a kit involving even more exploration with electrical circuitry.
This will help you to incorporate engineering and computer coding.
I love the idea of the kiddos exploring renewable energy sources with this kit. Options include solar and wind with electrical engineering concepts with this kit.
Botley introduces coding concepts to kids (5+) through screen-free programming. It offers hands-on activities through coding challenges and games.
Appropriate for children 4 and over, this kit is one of many options from this manufacturer. Your students would have an opportunity to build circuitry, and enjoy seeing their cute little creations move!
Designed for kiddos 4 and over. Your students would end up having great fun directing the mouse through the maze. A great investment for force and motion instruction as well.
This recommendation would be used more for a classroom demonstration as the applications are limited. However, students would have the opportunity to see how to build a solar powered car.
I have made marble runs using toilet paper rolls and tape. I know students will have great fun with this kit. Children will be using gravity, magnetism, and kinetics to expand upon the concepts from creating with simpler materials. Various options available from this company.
For exploration making electrical circuits using conductive dough. The students will be able to watch their creations light up. Designed for kiddos 8 and over, but I can see applications with younger kiddos. Great buddy activity!
How to Pull it All Together with Classroom STEM Kits
Where do you get the financial support to purchase these amazing activities for your classroom STEM kits? I discussed this in detail in this blog post, but a quick summary follows.
I have used all of these options to either raise money or acquire the materials for the kits:
- Go your PAC or whatever parent body you have. You may be required to make a pitch in person, or they may just take requests. Check with your admin.
- Have a classroom fundraiser. This can double as a math project!
- Do you send out a newsletter or does your school send out a newsletter? Can you put a note in one or both. If parents are cleaning out toys you would love some of the options mentioned above?
- Visit garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, church sales, flea markets.
Now you have your STEM kits. What next?
Extend Community Further with Classroom STEM Kits.
By now the other classes have heard that you have these brilliant classroom stem kits. And all the other students want to check them out.
This certainly happened in my school. Kiddos would come to me and talk about them. I can’t say I started a campus wide discussion about them. But other teachers did come to me to discuss kits for their classroom.
Suddenly there is an opportunity here to extend community. They will build new relationships with kids in other classrooms by inviting kids into your classroom.
Let’s stop and think about that . . .
. . . children who see each other on the playground may have unhappy interactions because they lack any kind of relationship.
Invite other classes into your classroom. You will have an engaging, upbeat opportunity for well supervised, pleasant interactions that enable students to meet.
Now these children are real people to each other, and they have had fun together. The goal is not to make everyone besties, but hopefully we can build some friendly acquaintances.
I am not saying this will eliminate bullying. I am saying that I have seen it increase school wide community which creates more support and relationships for everyone.
This does not have to take a lot of time out of your schedule. In my former school we had two grade 2 teachers.
My colleague invited us in on a weekly basis to do worship. On alternate weeks they came to our classroom for classroom stem activities. The visits took about 15 minutes once a week.
Inviting Others to Experience Classroom STEM Kits.
Prior to the first visitors to the class we had a chat as a class. We discussed how to share our classroom expectations and rules, and what leadership would look like with our guests.
Reviewing classroom expectations is an important step. Your students may be inexperienced at setting boundaries, and the visiting students may have very different classroom expectations and rules.
With thoughtful and appropriate organization with your classroomyou will have a valuable opportunity to build a positive classroom community.
And school community too!
- Same grade peers. What a great opportunity to create a closely supervised opportunity for children who are new to the school. They will meet and interact with all of the students in their grade. With support they can hopefully build at least a respectful relationship.
- Have your grade 1-2 students invite in younger pre-k and kindergarten students to practice their leadership with younger kiddos. You will be teaching your students how to be kind and caring to the younger students.
- Invite older students in to your classroom. This supports the relationships between your students and other students who they may not get to know otherwise. Sell the idea to your colleague as an opportunity to teach the older students about leadership. Warning! Hero worship may occur!🥰
Taking Classroom STEM Kits to the Next Level
The more you create connection opportunities with all the kids, the more they will see each other positively.
Not everybody has to be best friends. But if they have spent focused, fun time together it encourages greater community among your student population as a whole.
My school was invested in building relationships Pre-K through grade 12. Pre-K participated primarily in smaller groups with another classroom.
Our K-12 classrooms assembled in organized mixed grade groups periodically throughout the year.
Did I see older kiddos who were disinterested and neglected the younger kiddos?
Absolutely I did.
However, I also saw some amazing leadership, generosity, kindness and patience.
We incorporated all sorts of activities into those times together. Regardless of whether it was classroom STEM kits or STEAM powered, community building was the intent, and the outcome.
Share a question or your favourite STEM activity in the comments below. By sharing you are supporting your colleagues.
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