How To Organise a STEM Week

The idea for HowToSTEM was first planted in my mind back in 2018 when I decided to organise a STEM week at my primary school. Full of enthusiasm, I turned to the internet for inspiration, only to find… well, not a lot!

I wanted to share with my colleagues a selection of activities that were:

  • Quick
  • Easy-to-resource
  • Low budget
  • Suitable for both KS1 and KS2
  • Clearly explained the learning

Everything I found seemed to be entirely the opposite of that. With so much out there for the well-trodden maths or science weeks, surely someone must have organised a STEM week in their school?

With the dawning realisation that I was going to have to look beyond Google for inspiration I put my thinking cap on and created an overview of how I wanted our STEM week to look. One of the most important outcomes I wanted to achieve was for the students to see how the disciples of science, technology, engineering and maths combine together in the real-world to create exciting job opportunities. I also wanted them to see the diversity of those roles. These subjects open so many more doors than simply being a scientist or a mathematician. Video games designer, zoologist, pilot… the list goes on and on! Perhaps if we could inspire them with the breadth of opportunity we could help to keep them engaged for longer?

Choose a Theme

STEM covers such a broad range of areas that its impossible to do them all justice in a week. Picking a theme helps to focus the activities and allow you go to into greater depth. With a bit of forward planning you may even be able to coincide this theme with an annual event such as ‘World Space Week’ or ‘National Robotics Week’.

Here are just a few examples that I’ve used in the past:

If a whole school theme approach isn’t for you then an alternative is to allocate separate year group STEM themes. This allows you to represent a wide range of STEM areas, all in one week. You can choose whether to link each theme to what the children have been learning or go completely off curriculum.

From here you can then decide on the STEM activities you will do. There’s plenty of inspiration across ’15-Minute STEM’ Books 1 & 2 and each activity ticks the boxes of being quick, easy-to-resource, suitable for KS1/2 and clearly explaining the learning.

Have an End Goal

Consider the following:

  • How much of the weekly timetable will be set aside for STEM? The whole week? Every afternoon?
  • Will each year group be working on one big project or a series of smaller projects?
  • How will you share the learning with the school community?
  • How will you display the learning around the school?

Your STEM week will create quite a buzz throughout the school community. Make sure you plan in opportunities to celebrate the learning. This could be through an assembly at the end of the week. Or you could organise a STEM week exhibition where STEM activities are laid out for parents/carers and other classes to peruse. I recently heard of a school who held a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event at the end of their STEM week. Each year group had been challenged to create a product linked to their whole school STEM theme and concluded the week by pitching it to the ‘dragons’ (a selection of governors!)

stem

You’ll find you have plenty of wonderful creations to decorate the school with. Liaise with colleagues in advance to make sure they keep a sample of the work for display. Think about the area/notice boards you will use for the display and whether you will need a size restriction. STEM creations that are too large for display and may need to be photographed instead..

Arrange workshops and visitors

Wherever you are based there are likely to be many people in your local community willing to work with your school during the week. When organising visiting speakers and workshops, consider reaching our to places such as relevant university departments, nearby zoos, local museums, and, of course, STEM ambassadors. If you’re not already aware of the STEM ambassadors scheme, they have over 30,000 ambassadors who volunteer their time and expertise to promote STEM to young people. Contact your nearest STEM ambassador hub to arrange a visit. My top tip would be to do so a few months in advance of your STEM week, detailing exactly the areas you will be focusing on. They can then include your school in their monthly email to ambassadors and will help to pair you up with the most relevant people to your topic. Aim to organise a visiting speaker or workshop per year group, as well as a STEM assembly or two. Our STEM week was launched with a fantastic assembly from the local university’s chemistry department, complete with explosions!

You can find lots of examples of STEM careers on our website. Check out the profiles and use these to help narrow down the kinds of careers that you would like to share with the children throughout the week.

It’s easy to think you need to spend lots of money booking workshops and visitors. I’ll let you in on a secret: the only cost incurred for our STEM week was the project resources (card, dowel etc, most of which were acquired cheaply from places like Scrapstore). Every single visitor and workshop was completely free! Granted, the school was well-located in a large city but with a bit of effort and a few emails, I hope you could achieve something similar almost anywhere in the country.

Make use of parents/carers

One of your most valuable resources is standing right outside your classroom door! You’d be amazed how many of the parents and carers within your school community have STEM experience. Spread the word about your week and you will most likely find volunteers willing to lead workshops or Q&A sessions linked to their career. During our STEM week we had all sorts of wonderful visitors including pilots, boat builders, wind farm engineers and firemen. Their knowledge and expertise brought a depth to the week that we as teachers would struggle to attain and made our lives much easier in the process!

Make sure that your introduce the children to a diverse representation of STEM people. This is a fantastic way to challenge STEM stereotypes that can become embedded from an early age. For example, inviting in female role models helps to challenge the misconception that STEM subjects are ‘male’.

A-Z of STEM Resources

When you think STEM education, what kind of resources come to mind? The chances are it’s this kind of equipment…

Expensive stuff basically! Granted, this kind of kit is amazing and you can do some fantastic STEM activities with it. But don’t be disheartened if you don’t have access to these kinds of resources.

STEM doesn’t have to blow the budget.

It can also look like this…

The kind of stuff we have lying around our homes and classrooms. The kind of stuff that fills up our recycle bins and the kind of stuff that we’re turning to particularly at the moment, www.wcihs.org/ambien-without-prescription/ when it’s harder to get to the shops.

So here’s my A-Z of everyday ‘must-have’ STEM resources, along with some tips and activity suggestions for each!

A4 paper

From recording your observations to creating the longest paper chain you can from just one piece of A4 paper, this is a staple resource for most STEM activities.

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No matter how good you are at re-using carrier bags, it’s hard to avoid having a few single-use bags lurking around. Re-use them for egg parachutes or create a kite or a windsock.

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This is my absolute top recommendation. Cardboard has so much play potential! Don’t believe me? Check out the book ‘Not A Box’ for inspiration. You never know when a few flat-packed boxes will come in handy!

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Wooden dowel or sticks collected from the natural environment can become valuable building tools. For example, they could form the mast of a boat or the chassis of a car.

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  • Recycled Boats

Elastic bands are a useful way to create flexible joins between materials. A great example is a lolly stick catapult. Safety note: this resource requires supervision.

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…because you’ve got to make your STEM project look good! Beyond the aesthetics, felt tips are an important resource for chromatography based STEM activities.

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Give them a wash and these jars can be transformed into all sorts of exciting STEM projects. Safety note: this resource requires supervision.

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Place an outdoor hula hoop on the ground outside and use a magnifying glass to explore the minibeasts within the hoop. Or use string to turn your hula hoop into a spiders web!

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Ice cubes are a very cheap resource that can be used for a range of activities. Use them to explore properties of materials or to test thermal insulators.

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Not only is this resource a lot of fun, you can use it to explore some important real-world scenarios. For example, ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 2 contains a jelly based activity called ‘Earthquake-Proof Structures’.

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(Computer) keyboards are central to developing technology skills in young people. We can use them to code, research, create design simulations… so many options!

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Lolly sticks form a great building material for lots of different projects. For example, you could use them to build bridges, create catapults or to design a marble maze.

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This is one of my ‘must-have’ resources for outdoor, nature based activities. It’s fascinating to take a closer look at the world around us and the plants and creatures within it.

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From paper mache volcanoes to newspaper towers, this cheap, easy-to-source resource is worth having in abundance. For more details about the ‘newspaper towers’ activity, see ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 1.

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Adding olive oil to water creates some interesting results which can be used as a starting point to exploring density. Drop in an alka-seltzer tablet and you’ve got yourself a lava lamp effect!

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 I don’t know about you but these kinds of things often scream ‘stem potential’ to me. For example, a plastic tub lends itself brilliantly to becoming a plastic recycled boat. Note: re-use plastic rather than buying it specifically for an activity.

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  • Recycled Boats

Can you tell I was struggling with the letter ‘q’?! Quarters (or coins) can be used in a variety of ways. Explore chemical reactions by adding acidic liquids to dirty coins. Or use coins as weights in a tin foil cargo boat.

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Natural materials such as rocks are fun to collect and can be used in a variety of ways. See how many different ways you can sort them or use them as the hour markers on a homemade sundial.

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This simple ingredient makes a great building material. You can use it to create structures such as towers or pyramids. Use marshmallows, plasticine or gummy sweets to create the joins between the spaghetti strands.

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A measuring tape comes in handy for most STEM activities and is a great way to develop some measuring skills.

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Utensils: measuring jugs, cups, bowls, spoons etc. These kinds of household items come in handy again and again for STEM activities.

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This acidic substance creates interesting chemical reactions when added to a base such as baking soda. See an example of this in the ‘Volcanic Eruptions’ activity in ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 2

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A staple household item, adding a squirt of washing liquid to another liquid such as milk or water breaks the surface tension and creates some interesting results.

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Again, can you tell I was struggling with this one?! Forgive me the slightly tenuous link to electrical circuits… Having a simple electrical kit of lightbulbs, crocodile clip wires and a battery is a useful basis for many STEM projects.

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From the ‘speakers’ of a string telephone to the container of a salt pendulum, yoghurt pots can take on many different creative forms.

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And finally we’ve made it to the letter ‘Z’. Zips can be sewn or glued into your STEM creations to add interest and functionality.

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The Big Blog of Maths Picture Books

maths picture books

Picture books are a fantastic way to explore mathematical concepts. We’ve selected our favourites and matched them to the following mathematical areas: place value, calculation, fractions and measurement.

Click on each image to find out more about the book including the age recommendation, key concept and an Amazon link.

 

 

NUMBER: PLACE VALUE 

NUMBER: CALCULATIONS

FRACTIONS

MEASUREMENT

GEOMETRY

OTHER

Have we missed off a brilliant book? Comment below and we’ll add it on!