Several years ago, when STEM became official at my school, my first thought was how would I find time to do another thing. Our days are chock-full of required subject minutes, pacing guides to follow, test prep and testing itself. Teachers were already performing a juggling act and now I have to fit in STEM, too.
Truth be told, I love science and teaching STEM was exciting to me. But I couldn’t get past the question of when?
Possibly you have been asking yourself the same question. Keep reading for some uncomplicated ideas to fit in STEM into an already tight schedule. Try one or all of the ideas I am sharing with you, and with a little brainstorming, you will probably find many more ways to incorporate STEM in your everyday teaching.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
This first one should be obvious, but as teachers, we tend to be over-achievers. Begin with small projects and limited materials. Very small projects. Don’t over think this. Not every STEM lesson needs to be observation quality to be effective and beneficial.
If you are really pressed for time you can even break a challenge up and spread, it across several days.
Day One: Introduce Challenge
Day Two: Plan Designs
Day Three: Build and Test Designs
Day Four: Revise
Day Five: Share Results and Reflections
Consider having a dedicated STEM area available to your students. Post a challenge each week. During reading groups, morning work or for early finishers, small groups of students can rotate into the STEM area to work on projects. Like any other center or station, this will take some pre-teaching of rules, but the end results are worth it!
CELEBRATE HOLIDAYS AND SPECIAL DAYS
Holidays are the perfect time to undertake STEM activities. Simply replace crafts with STEM challenges related to the specific holiday. I guarantee they will be at least, if not more enjoyable for your students, as well as much more educational. If you are not sure what differentiates a craft from a STEM activity, I have written a blog post to help you make the distinction. Read it HERE.
Related: STEM: Not Just Another Craftivity
Another quick and easy thing to do is find a Wacky Holiday Calendar and pick a few days such as National Windmill Day or Build A Scarecrow Day and develop a simple challenge for it.
This one you are probably already doing without naming. During reading, or other subjects when a problem is encountered, most likely you are asking your students for creative problem-solving suggestions. Call it out. Ask your students, “Wouldn’t this be a fun STEM Challenge?”, “What are some materials the character might use?”, or “Why might that be/not be a good choice?” Although not a full-blown STEM lesson, it gets your students thinking in the STEM direction.
HAVE A STEM DAY
I have saved my favorite for last. This one can involve more planning and prep, but you will not regret the time you invested. Plus, I will give you some short cuts to make it pain free!
Grab your grade level colleagues and collaborate for a day (or half day) of STEM Activities. Each teacher is responsible for a “station” with a STEM challenge activity. Plan together so that you are all using similar formats for students to design and record. Gather some STEM books or have some STEM choice boards ready for early finishers.
A food-themed STEM day is double the fun. Try having your students build this solar oven and cook their own pizza for lunch. It may not be the most delicious pizza YOU ever ate, but it will be to them!
It is STEM day so let’s skip right to dessert. Anne of Left-Brain Craft Brain also has a remarkable Engineering challenge for simple machines – Build a Snack Mix Machine. Read it HERE.
Don’t you wish there was stuff like this when you went to school?
Check out Pinterest for all sorts of STEM ideas and challenges. Or if you want a done-for-you alternative, consider one of my STEM Bundles. Just collect materials, print and go. Dozens of STEM challenges at your fingertips.
I hope I have given you some ideas to easily fit in STEM into a crammed schedule. You will be surprised, once you get started, ideas just multiply. You can also sign up to my newsletter for more teaching tips, ideas, and FREE STEM and science resources. Thanks for reading and see you soon!