Friday, March 25, 2016

5 Best STEM Challenges! (According to the Kids)

Happy Friday everyone!
It's getting so close to being the last Friday of the school year! Only 8 more Fridays for us!

In the meantime I decided to recap the last three years of STEM class with a post about the best challenges we have tried---
according to the KIDS!
The challenges  I am sharing today are the ones kids LOVE, and beg to do again, a lot. Like weekly.
Like, "When are we making pancakes again?"

So, let's take a look at the TOP 5 STEM Challenges ever- according to KIDS!
STEM Challenges: Ask the students about their favorite STEM tasks and these five are the ones they will mention! They love these! You will, too!

STEM Challenge: This one is a kid favorite! Using foam tubes students try many versions and then design a marble coaster with twists, turns, and loops!
Of course, this is number ONE! I have not yet found a kid that didn't love this one. When we use this challenge with kids I have them do some experimenting first and then they get to build a model. I do have rules about the model- it has to have a certain number of turns and loops.
These are fun, kids give them a name, and they absolutely love demonstrating them with the entire class! Trust me, if one group makes a giant loop, every group will try it. If one group makes a completely vertical drop, then all of them will try it. They just want to have the most outrageous model ever! Total kid fun! (I might add that there is a lot of science involved in this challenge: force and motion, Newton's Laws, scientific method, and the engineering design process!)
More details about Roller Coasters {HERE}

STEM Challenge: Kids love this one because it involves food! After testing a recipe to determine the right amount of ingredients kids design the ultimate pancake -- and eat it!
This challenge is number 2, but for some kids it is even better than roller coasters! I guess the ones that love it must love pancakes!
In this one I have kids experiment with different versions of the pancake ingredients and they keep data tables to show results of each trial. In the end they use the data to determine the best recipe and then we make it. And eat it. And they bring toppings. And eat until they are groaning! (There is so much science behind this one and math: chemical reactions, measuring liquids and solids, mixing, and cooking!)
More details about Pancakes {HERE}

STEM Challenge: This one is on our best challenges list because all kids love it. After building a boat students test it with weights! How many pennies can it hold? It all depends on the boat's design!
Every kid loves building boats which makes it #3. I am just not sure why, but they love to build them and watch them sink. We add weights to them and keep track of the number. I know the competition is part of why they love this challenge! It's super easy to prep for this and the materials for the boat are easy-peasy, too! I love this one because kids choose the materials based on using a budget!  (Science: floating and sinking, measuring, engineering design process, and budgeting.)
More details about Boats {HERE}

STEM Challenge: Kids really enjoyed this challenge. They tested the bungee jumping doll at many heights and kept data tables. The data was plotted on a graph and kids used it to determine a predicted height for a much higher jump! Did Barbie survive?
Oh, my goodness, Barbie bungee jumping is number 4! I knew I would like this challenge, but kids did, too! We experimented with dropping from many heights and kept extensive data. This included graphing the results of the drops which included averaging the distances. The graph was used to predict the length of the bungee cord that would be needed to drop Barbie from a much higher distance. This was such a great challenge for teamwork- one kid dropped Barbie, one kept the data, and others did the averaging and graphing. (Science and math are covered in this one: force and motion, Newton's laws, averaging numbers, graphing, and using data.)
More about Bungee Jumping {HERE}

STEM Challenge: Another kid favorite! There is just something fantastic about making catapults! This challenge has the added benefit of testing and keeping data on the catapult distances. Kids then use their data to build versions of the catapult to complete distance challenges.
Coming in at number 5 is Catapults. Kids love these almost as much as roller coasters. First, they experiment with different angles of catapults made by the number of cross beams added to the model. Then that data is used to build models that will launch a projectile the longest distance or over an obstruction. (Yes, I squeezed some science and math into this one, too! It's: force and motion, Newton's laws, measuring, averaging numbers, using data, and predicting.)
More about Catapults {HERE}

So, there you have it! These are the top five STEM challenges we have completed- as voted on by my students. They love them and I made sure they included science and math.
Come back in two weeks and check out the "TOP FIVE CHALLENGES from MY Point of View!
My favorites are different from the kids!

Also, go and check Doodlebugs for the Five for Friday link up:


  1. I love your STEM challenges! I do a Roller Coaster challenge with my classes and they love it too! I'm curious what materials you use to make the roller coasters?

    Teaching Voracious Learners

    1. Thanks Katie! Just foam tubes! And ten tons of tape. My kids are really creative with using plastic cups and our lab stools as props! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. HA! I love the Barbie Bungee! There is something gleefully wicked about dripping the beauty queen on her head :) See you later. Kathleen

  3. HA! I love the Barbie Bungee! There is something gleefully wicked about dripping the beauty queen on her head :) See you later. Kathleen

  4. The roller coaster challenge looks like great fun.Can you further explain the materials though? You said the track was foam tubes? I'm having hard time picturing what this is or where I would get some. Also, what are you racing on the track? marbles/hot wheels?

    1. The foam tubes are insulation tubes I purchase at Home Depot and cut in half. These are normally used to insulate pipes for cold weather climates. We use marbles on our tracks. Thanks for your interest! You can see this in more detail from my Teachers Pay Teachers store:


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