5 ways to get started with STEM education


STEM education… we hear those words a lot nowadays. We know that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will play a crucial role in shaping our futures. STEM education is a cross-discipline approach to teaching these subjects with problem solving at its heart. Great STEM education works through activities with real-world applications, helping children to understand how their learning is relevant and how they could use it in the future.

But how do we get started with it?

Here are 5 quick, easy to implement ways to help get you started.

Remember…

  • You don’t need to be an expert in STEM to deliver great STEM education.
  • You don’t need lots of spare time in your day to fit STEM education in.
  • You don’t need lots of expensive resources.

Start with these small steps and you’ll steadily see the STEM culture in your classroom grow!


 

STEM activities with a practical, real-world purpose are a really fun way to engage children with STEM education. Not only that but they’re a great way to get children working collaboratively – perfect for the start of the academic year!

I truly believe that it’s possible to slot high-quality STEM education into those spare 15 minutes in your day.

Take my 15-Minute STEM books. Each book contains 40 activities, each starting with a curiosity question to spark interest and excitement. They give you activity instructions and an explanation of the learning. There’s even suggestions for further investigation if you wish to take the activity further.

Or check out the free STEM activities on our website here. New activities are added regularly!


How to get started with simple STEM activities:


Our year is packed full of rich opportunities to set STEM education within a real-world context. From seasonal celebrations such as Halloween or Easter to special days/weeks such as National Space Week or Ada Lovelace Day.

It’s always good to be aware of whats coming up each month so you can plan opportunities to link your STEM learning to it. For example, Autumn is the perfect time to try out our free Frozen Fireworks activity.

We’ve put together a handy guide for each season so you can plan ahead. You can find these in our blog section. We also recommend you make links to local events going on in your community, as well as to global events going on in the news.


How to get started with celebrating STEM events:


When you think STEM education, what kind of equipment comes to mind? Robotics, Raspberry Pi, 3D printers… expensive stuff!

STEM education doesn’t need to break the budget. It can also be all of these things: cardboard boxes, lolly sticks, yoghurt pots and elastic bands. The kinds of things we have lying around our homes and classrooms.

Instead of throwing these things out, save them up, safe in the knowledge they will soon come in handy for a STEM activity! Over time you could build up a class or school ‘Makerspace’, an area to store creative materials. For now a box in your cupboard will do.


How to get started with saving STEM resources:


It’s easy to underestimate the influence of a book on a child’s understanding of the world. Stories help to shape children’s perspectives and form their understanding of cultural and gender roles. What better way to teach the importance of STEM skills than through a book?

There are lots of fantastic fiction books around that your class will love. See below for some of our suggestions, including seasonal STEM books and maths picture books.

STEM books are also a great way to address diversity and challenge stereotypes in STEM. They help to introduce positive role models and to raise the profile of influential people in STEM.


How to get started with reading STEM books:


What better way to bring STEM education to life than with STEM visitors. When we invite in people working in STEM careers we not only help to educate children a bit more about the world of work but also to introduce them to a range of positive role models.

Why not start with the school playground? Reach out to the parents in your school community to see if they would be willing to speak to the class about their jobs. You may well be surprised by the offers you get!

Additionally try approaching local companies and businesses. You will find they are often only too happy to help out and some really productive relationships can come about as a result of this.


How to get started with speaking to STEM visitors:


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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