I used Playful Classroom’s FREE 10 Day Stem Challenge with my class for the last 3 weeks (I give them 2/3 a week and they upload their results to Seesaw – they absolutely love them and the parents have found them fantastic too). I was delighted when she agreed to write a guest blogpost for Irish Primary Teacher.
One thing that we have all learned in recent week is that Remote Teaching ain’t easy. Its difficult to know how much work to set for the children, aswell as what type of work to set. Bookwork? Worksheets? Websites? Fun activities? Every family situation is different so it’s important not to put pressure on anyone to complete anything. Giving optional work and being very explicit that it is not compulsory, is key.
Many children are not motivated to work from books or worksheets, especially when away from their usual classroom environment. Practical activities such as projects, science experiments, and baking, while appealing to many children, can often be stressful for parents. What to do?
STEM Challenges can engage a wide variety of children, with minimal planning, set up or fuss. But how can we go about it?
Keep it simple. If there’s an opportunity to integrate with a topic you’re already covering; use it! If not; don’t force it. For example, if you’re looking at Ancient Rome in History, challenge the children to build a Colosseum.
If you’re looking for a way to introduce your class to the idea of STEM for the first time, consider using a picture book. Two that I would recommend are ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ by Andrea Beatty and ‘The Dot’ by Peter H. Reynolds. Both of these can be found on getepic.com, which is free for teachers and parents at the moment.
Videos can also be a great way to pique the interest of children. There are some amazing educational YouTube channels especially for children. SciShow Kids is one great example.
You can share these using whatever platform you are using for distance learning. If you are doing live video classes, you can even share them in real time and engage the children in some discussion.
In an ideal world, time would be given to brainstorming, writing and drawing in preparation for a STEM challenge. You can encourage the children to do this at home, but they are more likely to jump straight in!
Children can complete many, many STEM Challenges using materials they already have at home. No need to go to the shops to buy magnets, balloons or bicarbonate of soda. The following is a (non-exhaustive list) of toys and household items that can be used:
- Lego Duplo
- Jenga Blocks
- Playing Cards
- paper or plastic cups
- lollipop sticks
- cocktail sticks
- mini marshmallows
- paper plates
- elastic bands
- paper clips
- pipe cleaners
Testing and Improving
This is a natural stage in any construction challenge, and in the classroom you can place more of an emphasis on it. It’s not as easy to do this remotely, but it’s worth reminding the children that it may take a few attempts to achieve their goal.
This part is easy. The children will be very keen to share photos and videos of their creations with you. Encourage the children to present and describe their constructions orally or in writing. You could compile all submissions into a digital photo album or video to share with others.
10 Days of STEM Challenges
These 10 challenges have been tried and tested by many and are guaranteed to engage children and adults alike!
- Build your name in 3D.
- Build an animal enclosure for one of your teddies or toy animals.
- Make a boat that can float.
- Build a house of cards
- Make a chain reaction.
- Make a marble maze.
- Build a bridge that can hold some toy cars.
- Make a robot from recycled materials.
- Build a tower as tall as yourself!
- Make a paper aeroplane that can fly at least 2 metres.
You may also find these other free resources useful:
Manga High – Coding Activities
Teach Outside the Box – STEM Bins at Home Blog Post and Choice Boards Freebie, STEM Mini Journal Freebie , What can you build with 100 Legos Freebie, Summer STEM Freebie, Unplugged Coding Freebie