Home » 50 Stem Activities To Help Kids Think Outside the Box

50 Stem Activities To Help Kids Think Outside the Box

by 100IQ Win The Knowledge


These days, STEM learning is more important than ever. Science, technology, engineering, and math are the keys to many modern careers, so a good grounding in them from an early age is a must. The best STEM activities are hands-on, leading kids to cool innovations and real-world applications. Here are some of our favorites, with challenges that will really get kids thinking about how STEM plays a part in their everyday lives.

Table of Contents

1. Participate in the St. Jude EPIC Challenge

St. Jude’s EPIC Challenge gives students a chance to create real-world impact for other kids currently facing cancer. EPIC stands for Experimenting, Prototyping, Inventing, and Creating. Participants come up with innovative ways to help St. Jude kids, following through from concept to creation. Past winners have created comfortable pillows, buddy blankets, and more. Learn about the EPIC Challenge and find out how to join here.

Plus, get a free copy of our engineering and design poster we created together with St. Jude right here.

2. Add STEM bins to your classroom

Plastic containers labeled "STEM Bins"

You can use STEM activities in a wide variety of ways with these cool bins. Incorporate them into literacy centers, create a makerspace, and offer early finishers fun enrichment ideas. Learn how to create and use STEM bins.

3. Conduct an egg drop

Paper straws taped around an egg in a triangle shape (STEM Activities)

This is one of those classic STEM activities every kid should try at least once. Kids can do it at any age, with different materials and heights to mix it up.

Learn more: Buggy and Buddy

4. Engineer a drinking straw roller coaster

Student building a roller coaster of drinking straws for a ping pong ball (STEM Activities)

This is such a fun way to encourage engineering skills! All you need are basic supplies like drinking straws, tape, and scissors.

Learn more: Straw Roller Coaster/Frugal Fun For Boys and Girls

5. Simulate an earthquake

Fourth grade science teacher's hand shaking a pan of Jello topped with a house model made of toothpicks and marshmallows

The ground under our feet may feel solid, but an earthquake changes that pretty quickly. Use Jello to simulate the earth’s crust, then see if you can build an earthquake-proof structure.

Learn more: Teaching Science

6. Stand up to a hurricane

Two paper houses standing in tins of water with a fan in the background

In a hurricane zone, houses must be able to stand up to strong winds and possible flooding. Can your students design houses that make it safer to live in these dangerous areas?

Learn more: Carly and Adam

7. Create a new plant or animal

Science project showing an imaginary plant called a Snap-a-Doodle (STEM Activities)

Kids will really get into this project, indulging their creativity as they invent a plant or animal that’s never been seen before. They’ll need to be able to explain the biology behind it all, though, making this an in-depth project you can tailor to any class.

Learn more: I Love 2 Teach

8. Design a helping hand

Collage of photos showing a variety of student-made mechanical hands

This is a great group science project. Students hone their design and engineering skills to make a working model of a hand.

Learn more: Model Hand/Science Buddies

9. Understand the impact of non-renewable resources

Index cards with various pasta types glued to them, including rotini, rigatoni, and shells

Discuss the differences between renewable and non-renewable resources, then have your class form “companies” to “mine” non-renewable resources. As they compete, they’ll see how quickly the resources are used. It’s a great tie-in to energy conservation discussions.

Learn more: The Owl Teacher

10. Devise an amazing marble maze

Child holding a marble maze made from straws on a paper plate

Marble mazes are one of students’ favorite STEM activities! You can provide supplies like straws and paper plates for their project. Or let them use their imaginations and create marble mazes from any materials they can think of.

Learn more: Marble Maze/Raising Lifelong Learners

11. Fly clothespin airplanes

Two planes built with clothespins

Ask students what they think the airplane of the future might look like. Then, provide them with clothespins and wood craft sticks, and challenge them to build a new kind of airplane. Bonus points if it can actually fly!

Learn more: STEAMsational/Clothespin Airplane

12. Play catch with a catapult

Plastic cups and pencils turned in a catapult launcher and catching cup

This take on a classic science project challenges young engineers to build a catapult from basic materials. The twist? They also must create a “receiver” to catch the soaring object on the other end.

Learn more: Catapult Challenge/Science Buddies

13. Bounce on a trampoline

Miniature trampoline built from wood craft sticks, rubber bands, and fabric (STEM Activities)

Kids love bouncing on trampolines, but can they build one themselves? Find out with this totally fun STEM challenge.

Learn more: Teach Student Savvy

14. Build a solar oven

Solar ovens built from pizza boxes, with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers

Learn about the value of solar energy by building an oven that cooks food without electricity. Enjoy your tasty treats while discussing ways we can harness the energy of the sun and why alternative energy sources are important.

Learn more: Desert Chica

15. Build a snack machine

Candy dispensing machine made from recycled materials (STEM Activities)

Incorporate everything students learn about simple machines into one project when you challenge them to build a snack machine! Using basic supplies, they’ll need to design and construct a machine that delivers snacks from one location to another.

Learn more: Snack Machine/Left Brain Craft Brain

16. Recycle newspaper into an engineering challenge

Students balancing a textbook on top of a pyramid of rolled up newspaper

It’s amazing how a stack of newspapers can spark such creative engineering. Challenge students to build the tallest tower, support a book, or even build a chair using only newspaper and tape!

Learn more: STEM Activities for Kids

17. Design a biosphere

Miniature biosphere made with plastic wrap

This project really brings out kids’ creativity and helps them understand that everything in a biosphere is really part of one big whole. You’ll be overwhelmed by what they come up with!

Learn more: Laney Lee

18. See the effects of an oil spill

Sixth grade science student using a spoon to try to catch a puddle of oil floating on water

Learn why an oil spill is so devastating for wildlife and the ecosystem with this hands-on activity. Kids experiment to find the best way to clean up oil floating on water and rescue the animals affected by the spill.

Learn more: Kitchen Counter Chronicles

19. Assemble a steady-hand game

Colorful acrylic boxes with wire shapes attached to the tops and electrical wiring (STEM Activities)

This is such a fun way to learn about circuits! It also brings in a bit of creativity, adding the “A” to STEAM.

Learn more: Steady Hand Game/Left Brain Craft Brain

20. Craft a cell phone stand

Basic cell phone stand made from wood craft sticks, paper clips, and rubber bands (Sixth Grade Science)

Your science students will be thrilled when you let them use their phones in class! Challenge them to use their engineering skills and a small selection of items to design and build a cell phone stand.

Learn more: Science Buddies/Engineer Cell Phone Stand

21. Engineer a craft stick bridge

Collage of bridges made from wood craft sticks, glue, and yarn

Here’s another one of those classic STEM activities that really challenge kids to use their skills. Build a bridge with popsicle sticks and push pins, and find out which design can bear the most weight.

Learn more: Build a Bridge/Scholastic

22. Forage and build a bird nest

Bird nest built from twigs, leaves, and other materials

Birds build incredibly intricate nests from materials they find in the wild. Take a nature walk to gather materials, then see if you can build a sturdy, comfy nest of your own!

Learn more: Kids Craft Room

23. Drop parachutes to test air resistance

Card with text Which is the best parachute? Plastic, paper, cloth. Surrounded by pieces of fabric, plastic, and string.

Use the scientific method to test different types of material and see which makes the most effective parachute. Your students also learn more about the physics behind air resistance.

Learn more: Education.com

24. Find the most waterproof roof

Third grade science student spraying water on a LEGO house with a wood roof

Calling all future engineers! Build a house from LEGO, then experiment to see what type of roof prevents water from leaking inside.

Learn more: Waterproof Roof/Science Sparks

25. Build a better umbrella

Cupcake wrapper balanced upside-down on wood craft sticks, with water being poured on top

Challenge students to engineer the best possible umbrella from various household supplies. Encourage them to plan, draw blueprints, and test their creations using the scientific method.

Learn more: Better Umbrella/Raising Lifelong Learners

26. Go green with recycled paper

Third grade science student pressing paper pulp into a wood photo frame

We talk a lot about recycling and sustainability these days, so show kids how it’s done! Recycle old worksheets or other papers using screen and picture frames. Then, ask kids to brainstorm ways to use the recycled paper.

Learn more: Undercover Classroom

27. Brew up your own slime

Teachers' hands stretching some green slime

Chances are good your students already love making and playing with slime. Turn the fun into an experiment by changing the ingredients to create slime with a variety of properties—from magnetic to glow-in-the-dark!

Learn more: Slime Design/Science Buddies

28. Create a taxonomy system

Seventh grade science student sorting a pile of seeds and making notes in a notebook

Students can step into Linnaeus’ shoes by creating their own system of taxonomy using a handful of different dried beans. This is a fun science project to do in groups, so students can see the differences between each group’s system.

Learn more: Our Journey Westward

29. Find out which liquid is best for growing seeds

Small cups of soil labeled tap, bottled, sugar, and salt (STEM Activities)

As you learn about the life cycle of plants, explore how water supports plants’ growth. Plant seeds and water them with a variety of liquids to see which sprout first and grow best.

Learn more: Lessons 4 Little Ones

30. Find the best soap bubble solution

Student blowing a soap bubble through a bubble wand

It’s easy to mix your own soap bubble solution with just a few ingredients. Let kids experiment to find the best proportion of ingredients to blow the longest-lasting bubbles with this fun outside science activity.

Learn more: Soap Bubbles/Science Buddies

31. Blow the biggest bubbles you can

Girl making an enormous bubble with string and wire

Add a few simple ingredients to dish soap solution to create the largest bubbles you’ve ever seen! Kids learn about surface tension as they engineer these bubble-blowing wands.

Learn more: Scholastic/Dish Soap Bubbles

32. Help monarch butterflies

Students looking at monarch caterpillars on milkweed

You may have heard that monarch butterflies are struggling to keep their population alive. Join the fight to save these beautiful bugs by planting your own butterfly garden, monitoring monarch populations, and more. Get all the info you need at the link.

Learn more: Monarch Watch

33. See water pollution in action

Plastic bin full of filthy water and litter

Learn about the challenges of cleaning up polluted water sources like rivers and lakes with this interesting outdoor science activity. Pair it with a visit to a local water treatment plant to expand the lesson.

Learn more: Water Pollution/JDaniel4’s Mom

34. Test your local water quality

Water testing strip and instruction sheet

Once you’ve “cleaned up” your water, try testing it to see how clean it really is! Then head out to test other types of water. Kids will be fascinated to discover what’s in the water in their local streams, ponds, and puddles. Student water testing kits are readily available online.

Learn more: The Homeschool Scientist

35. Explore with an edible Mars Rover

Mars rover made of graham crackers, peanut butter cups, and other items. Text reads Building (and Eating) a Mars Rover

Learn about the conditions on Mars and the tasks the Mars Rover will need to complete. Then, give kids supplies to build their own. (Add to the challenge by making them “buy” the supplies and stick to a budget, just like NASA!).

Learn more: Library Makers

36. Baked potato science

Potato, foil, and metal sticks on yellow and green background. Text reads Baked Potato Science Fair Project.

This edible science project is a nutritious way to explore the scientific method in action. Experiment with a variety of methods for baking potatoes—microwaving, using a traditional oven, wrapping them in foil, using baking pins, etc.—testing hypotheses to discover which works best.

Learn more: Potato Science/Left Brain Craft Brain

37. Waterproof a boot

Drawing of a boot with several types of waterproofing material taped on top

Ask kids to select various materials and tape them over the free boot printable. Then, test their hypotheses to see which ones work best.

Learn more: Waterproof a Boot/Science Sparks

38. Determine the best way to melt ice

Muffin tin filled with frozen ice, each labeled with a different melting agent

Conventional wisdom says we sprinkle salt on ice to melt it faster. But why? Is that really the best method? Try this science experiment and find out.

Learn more: The Chaos and the Clutter

39. Don’t melt the ice

Colorful ice cubes sitting in a bowl with bubble wrap

We spend a lot of time in winter trying to get rid of ice, but what about when you don’t want the ice to melt? Experiment with different forms of insulation to see which keeps ice frozen the longest.

Learn more: Ice Insulation/Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

40. Build a straw house

Grab a box of straws and a package of pipe cleaners. Then task kids with designing and building their dream house, using only those two items.

Learn more: Deceptively Educational

41. Design a balloon-powered car

Car built from cardboard with CD wheels and a balloon "motor" (STEM Activities)

Explore the laws of motion and encourage creativity when you challenge students to design, build, and test their own balloon-powered cars. Bonus: Use only recycled materials to make this project green!

Learn more: Balloon-Powered Cars/Science Buddies

42. Learn map skills by designing an amusement park

Amusement Park Map Design graphic

For this cross-curricular activity, students investigate the parts of a map by creating an amusement park. After they create their map, they do a detailed drawing and write about one of their ride designs. Then they design an all-access park pass. So many STEM activities in one! Find out more about it here.

43. Reach for the ceiling

Children building a tower to the ceiling using building blocks

Round up all your building blocks and try this whole-class project. What will students need to do to be able to construct a tower that reaches all the way to the ceiling?

Learn more: Mama Smiles

44. Cast a tall shadow

Flashlight shining onto towers made of toy bricks, casting a tall shadow (STEM Activities)

Here’s another tower-building challenge, but this one’s all about shadows! Kids will experiment with the height of their tower and the angle of their flashlight to see how tall of a shadow they’re able to cast.

Learn more: No Time for Flashcards

45. Devise a recycled toy bot

Toy bots made from pool noodles and electric toothbrushes

These adorable toy bots are made from pool noodles and recycled electric toothbrushes. So clever! Kids will have fun designing their own, plus they can tweak this idea to make other fun wiggling toys.

Learn more: Artsy Momma

46. Link up the longest paper chain

Two students measuring paper chains (STEM Activities)

This incredibly simple STEM activity really gets kids thinking. The challenge? Create the longest possible paper chain using a single piece of paper. So simple and so effective.

Learn more: Paper Chain Challenge/Frugal Fun For Boys and Girls

47. Find out what you can make from a plastic bag

Collage of items made from recycled plastic bags

Plastic bags are one of the most ubiquitous items on the planet these days, and they’re difficult to recycle. Give each student a plastic bag and ask them to create something new and useful. (These ideas from Artsy Craftsy Mom offer some inspiration.)

48. Start a school robotics team

Two students playing with a tablet and a simple maze (STEM Activities)

Coding is one of the most valuable STEM activities you can include in your classroom plans. Set up a school robotics club and inspire kids to embrace their newfound skills! Learn how to set up your own club here.

49. Embrace the Hour of Code

Collection of coding activities from the Hour of Code website

The Hour of Code program was designed as a way to get all teachers to try just one hour of teaching and learning coding with their students. Originally, the Hour of Code event was held in December, but you can organize yours any time. Then, continue to learn using the huge amount of resources on Hour of Code’s website.

50. Give kids a Maker Cart and a pile of cardboard

Collage of students working with cardboard and tools from a maker cart (STEM Activities)

You don’t need a whole lot of fancy supplies to create a STEM Cart or makerspace. Scissors, tape, glue, wood craft sticks, straws—basic items like these combined with a stack of cardboard can inspire kids to all sorts of amazing creations! See how these STEM activities work here.

What are your favorite STEM activities for upper elementary? Come share on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, 20+ free STEM posters for your classroom !



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