4 Amazingly Simple STEM Challenges to Tackle First

Are you tackling STEM this year? Will this be your first foray into a STEM challenge?

Take a look at the photo below! Y'all, that is one of the best STEM challenges we complete! It's an exploration into the ingredients of pancakes and we actually cook them and taste them and do it over and over until we make the perfect pancakes. I cannot tell you how much kids love this one!

As much as I love this challenge, I will tell you the truth. I would never recommend that you start with this one. It's messy, busy, chaotic, messy, super engaging, messy....get it?

But I can recommend some super simple and easy challenges for you to start your year with. These are perfect for training your kids with STEM procedures and getting them acclimated to STEM Class!

Cooking in the STEM Lab! Kids experiment and then design the perfect pancake!

Doesn't that Pancake Challenge look yummy? And it is! The kids learn so much.

Let's Focus on Simple

How about we talk simple and easy. I have four super easy challenges to share with you. Each has a small amount of materials to gather and things you likely already have. Each can be completed in 1-2 class sessions. All are kid-tested and loved!
  • Foil Towers
  • Hoop Flyers
  • Launchers and Targets
  • Paper Chains
So, hold onto your hats and let's see which one you want to try first!

Foil Towers

Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this one. It only uses one or two materials, but it is challenging!

STEM! Can you make a tower using foil? How tall will it be? Super Challenge!
When kids first get started with this one they make a lot of mistakes and quickly learn that they must have lots of support legs and nothing can get too heavy on the top. They also learn to tear off little tiny pieces of foil to keep extending the height. They are so proud when they finally have a tower that stays standing up!

Hoop Flyers 

#Superfun This next challenge starts off with experimenting with different sizes of paper and straws. You really only need a few materials- paper, straws, and tape. 

STEM! Experiment with different paper, straws, and sizes and then design the perfect hoop flyer! Kids love this one!
This one is going to be a little bit more set-up for you because of cutting paper strips, but it's super easy to do. I always use this with third graders and they adore it- mainly because fourth graders always complete a Paper Airplane Challenge and this is similar. (Makes them feel more grown up!) What I like best about this one is that we learn our STEM procedures with it, but it also uses the Scientific Method and we spend time taking about variables! 

It might actually take you two class sessions to finish this one!

Launchers and Targets

Oh. My. Kids love to propel things. Airplanes, catapults, pom-pom blasters, pumpkin launchers...

You name it- they will throw it. So, when I thought of this challenge I knew they would love it.

STEM! One team makes the target and one makes the launcher. Then they join together to make the whole device work! Can you hit the target?

The story behind this challenge is so interesting! Originally I wanted to give every group the same materials and then have every group build something different. But, before I created that I thought about a different scenario! What if two groups each had the same supplies, but had to build something different, and then had to join the two things together! Ha! Launchers and Targets was born!

Each group has a bin with the same materials. Groups are paired. One team builds the launcher. The other team builds the target. They have to work together! If a target is too high then the launcher can't hit it. The launcher has to propel the pom pom or cotton ball accurately enough to hit the target.

I have three of these Same Supplies - Two Tasks Challenges and love all of them! It's the ultimate in teamwork.

Paper Chains

For this last challenge you only need paper and a stapler or tape. 

STEM! Make the longest chain possible using only one piece of paper!

When I use this one in the beginning of the year kids always look so puzzled. I give each team a stapler and one piece of paper and the instructions, "Make the longest chain possible!"

It seems so simple (to me and you), but kids' understanding of what a chain is makes this one very interesting to watch.

I have a vintage blog post about this paper chain challenge that will give you more details and you can find it right {HERE}.

Are You Ready?

I hope you are going to try some STEM activities this year. If you need more help getting started I have blog posts for you. Take a look:

There is No "I" in Team - this post is about team building activities and I share three that we have used over and over.

3 Kid-Tested Ways to Conquer the STEM Planning Step - this post is all about the planning procedure I use in the lab when kids are ready for that step of the Engineering Design Process. It's a fabulous procedure that really works. >>>>>The Blog Post has a freebie for you, too!<<<<<

One more thing you can do is join my STEM Journey by clicking right {HERE}. That will get you signed up to grab a free Planning Checklist and my newsletter!

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