First Day of School STEM Activities
As summer starts to slow down and pumpkin spice – everything – creeps into stores, teachers’ minds start to think about that first day of school! What will your students be like? How will they interact with each other? How will you get to know all of them? How will they get to know each other?
Getting to Know you activities are a staple for back to school lesson planning and an essential first step in creating a positive classroom community for the year!
Have you ever thought of using STEM activities to help build your classroom community?
Everyone knows that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM is so much more than each individual subject though! At the core of a STEM curriculum is a focus of hands-on, investigative learning – providing students opportunities to apply what they learn!
What’s a sometimes overlooked element of an effective STEM curriculum?? Team work!
The more we thought about the team building aspects of STEM, the more we realized that STEM activities are actually the perfect back to school activities! What better way to help students get to know one another than by having them work together to solve a problem and apply a solution!
Take a look at these 4 different first day of school STEM activities for ideas on how to start your year with STEM!
STEM Team Building Activities – Elementary
You may be wondering why STEM is important in elementary school. Beyond the ability to help students learn to work as a team, STEM lessons challenge students to think critically. Teaching critical thinking at the elementary level is essential to foster student development: helping students learn at a young age how to look closely at a problem, explore solutions, apply a solution, and continue to work through the problem to adjust and improve as needed.
Whether you are already a STEM believer, or still figuring out your stance, let us show you some of our favorite STEM team building activities designed specifically for elementary students to help you see ways you could use STEM in your classroom.
To help students develop critical thinking, all of these STEM lessons begin with a problem that needs to be solved. Part of an effective STEM curriculum is to show students how to apply solutions in the real world. Therefore, each problem presented in these lessons is a real life problem that students can personally connect with.
Once students know what the problem is, they begin to solve the problem by following a clearly outlined protocol. A key component of STEM is hands-on activities! This means having students design and create solutions. The engineering design process included in each lesson guides students through the solution process from identifying the problem to constructing and testing a solution.
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STEM Engineering Design Process Protocol for First Graders
- ASK: What’s the problem?
- IMAGINE: Brainstorm ideas that could solve the problem. Pick a solution.
- PLAN: Draw it and gather materials
- CREATE: Make it! Test it out!
- IMPROVE: Make it better!
Playground Challenge: Build a Playground fixture that is both safe and fun
This team building STEM activity requires students to work together to plan and build a new fixture for the playground. Recess is a common enjoyment for elementary students, so being able to imagine how they could make recess even better is a great way to help students connect with one another.
Crayon Box Challenge: Build a sturdy box that will hold your crayons and protect them from getting lost or broken
Most, if not all, of our students have had the unfortunate experience of breaking a favorite crayon color! Get them excited for this STEM Crayon Box challenge by having them imagine what it would be like to never break another crayon.
School Bus Challenge:Build a School Bus that can go quickly down the hill + drive a long distance without stopping!
Whether your students ride the bus to school or not, they may ride a bus for a field trip. The idea of figuring out a way to make a bus go FAST down a long hill – without stopping – is sure to get your students’ imaginations going!
Students come together with their group for this fun challenge that asks them to create a paper leash to help Pogo the Pup explore outside! This challenge isn’t directly connected to school, but uses a scenario many students can easily imagine. Even if a student doesn’t have their own puppy, they can imagine Pogo is their own pup!
Can you see how STEM activities can be used for team building in your classroom?
Can you see how these activities foster critical thinking?
Are you excited to start incorporating STEM into your classroom?!
We hope so!
If you’re ready, take a look at what’s included in each of these STEM activities to help you plan for your first STEM lesson.
- Step-by-Step lesson plans
- STEM Challenge worksheets for each step of the design process
- Printable templates for design enhancements
- Vocabulary Cards
- Explore science connections with QR codes and an infographic
- Materials List
- Ask Poster
- STEM Challenge Poster
- Recording Sheets
- Engineering Design Process posters
- Self/Group Evaluation Checklist
While we provide you with everything needed to teach the lesson, you will need to provide the materials for students to build the final product. We did our best to include common materials you most likely already have in your classroom, as well as a detailed list of materials to make planning easy.