Benefits of STEM Learning
There are many benefits to STEM learning in the classroom. STEM is something we see more frequently in our classrooms to prepare students for an advanced future and stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Why is STEM learning important? Well, it is used to push students forward in their learning. There are many benefits associated with implementing STEM, such as improving creativity, increasing collaboration, condoning critical thinking, and boosting curiosity and cognitive skills.
Thinking “Outside the Box”
Students are prompted to come up with their own ideas and immerse in more inquiry-based learning. They strive to answer their own questions so that they do not rely on teacher guidance as much and tap into their engineering side.
Through increased collaboration, students tend to improve communication and leadership skills. They communicate with one another to talk through problems and scenarios to learn and grow together.
STEM Learning condones critical thinking. Thus, students actively conceptualize problems and relate to the world around them. They also use logic to reach conclusions and make judgments in different situations.
Creativity and Cognitive Skills
This is where students begin to open their imaginations. If students are curious about their education, they may be more likely to make unique discoveries. When engaged in STEM subjects, students can develop and strengthen their cognitive skills. From there, students can potentially learn the basics of advanced concepts such as coding or engineering.
Inexpensive STEM Challenges
There are many STEM challenges that are inexpensive and time-friendly that students can complete.
Paper Airplane Challenge
The challenge is to make a paper airplane that can carry cargo and glide more than ten feet. In this challenge, the “cargo” are coins. The winner is the student who can fly the most amount of money! Materials for the challenge include:
- Construction paper
- Handfuls of coins
- An open doorway
Two different parts make up the entire challenge. In the first part, the students should aim for accuracy; the planes need to fly through a target successfully. The steps to complete this first part are as follows: use tape to mark a line on the floor ten feet from the doorway that is being used. Then, stretch a piece of tape across the door about a fourth of the way from the doorway top. At this point, students will throw their airplanes, attempting to fly over the tape and not run into the wall. The winner is the one that is the most accurate with the heaviest plane (the most amount of money, in coins.)
In the second part, the goal is to fly the furthest distance. The steps are as follows: use tape to make a starting line on the ground or floor. Then, determine what “in-bounds” is based on your surroundings. Students all start with the same weight on the paper airplanes and take turns throwing for distance. You should mark the planes’ landing positions with a marker if multiple rounds are played. The winner is the one who threw their plane the longest distance.
Play-Doh Marble Run
There are two parts to this challenge. The first part incorporates Play-Doh, cups, and craft sticks. It is recommended for ages ten and up in groups or slightly younger if adult assistance is provided.
The students must build a marble run with a Play-Doh path. The paper cups come in handy for support, and they can be cut and customized to fit as appropriate. The Play-Doh should be easy to mix and mold. Per marble run, you’ll need four to five containers of play dough. You can also be creative and make your Play-Doh. As far as a base for the marble run, a cheap cookie sheet works, is sturdy, and is easy to clean and use again. This type of marble run takes about 45 minutes for completion.
The other part of this challenge is to utilize only a cookie sheet and Play-Doh. This may be more suitable for ages six and up. The setup for this challenge is simple: all you need to do is prop up one end of the sheet and you’re ready to go. Then, roll the Play-Doh into long shapes like long, skinny snakes and roll the marble down!
Straw Roller Coaster
A final challenge that incorporates STEM is building a straw roller coaster. Materials needed include:
- Cardboard box (sturdy base)
- Solid-colored straws
- Hot glue gun/glue sticks
- Ping pong ball
- A bowl to catch straws at the bottom (optional)
Adult assistance is needed with the hot glue; the recommended age for this challenge is eight and up.
Adult assistance may also be needed initially to get the track going, and then students should be okay going forward. A good tip: remember to hold the straws in place for several seconds until the hot glue dries. Also, building from the top and working down may be an excellent strategy to try!
This challenge is also recommended for partners as one partner can cut and glue, and the other can work to hold the straws in place. Partners should take turns. Finally, this challenge can be as simple or complex as you wish; you can add as little or as many straws for ramps and turns as you desire.