One of the best things about STEM activities is the collaboration and cooperation skills integrated into every project. So hearing the recommendation from the CDC that students shouldn’t share materials has caused many a STEM teacher’s heart to break. Although necessary for the current times of COVID, it seems impossible to teach STEM without sharing materials. It’s not impossible, though. We just have to go about it little differently for the time being.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, we may need keep kids apart, but that doesn’t mean students can’t do STEM activities.
Here are some ideas for teaching STEM without sharing materials:
Modify challenges so each student builds their own. Carol from Teachers are Terrific has a new series of resources designed for one student. Other challenges that kids could do solo are aluminum foil boats, toothpick towers, and paper airplanes. Look at your old challenges. Which ones can’t you modify this way?
Towers with Twelve Cards: Stem for One by Teachers are Terrific
Engineer with paper (preferably recycled). It’s a lot easier for students to do challenges by themselves if the supplies are cheap and readily available. There are tons of challenges you can do with a single sheet of paper. I always keep a bin in my classroom where I put extra copies, pages that we ended up not using, or things that were printed by mistake. (Ask the teachers at your school to do the same or put a bin by the copy machine). Use this paper for challenges. And as an added bonus…the kids always get a kick of seeing what’s on the paper. Try these paper challenges:
Simple STEAM with Paper from Meredith Anderson
Paper Cylinder Flyer from More Than a Worksheet
Paper Column from More Than a Worksheet (free)
Engineer with other bulk materials. The next best thing for STEM without sharing materials is to use materials that are cheap and easy to buy in bulk. Paper clips, paper plates, and index cards are three that lend themselves to STEM challenges. You can make a tower or a bridge challenge out of almost any material, so let’s go bulk. Some activities with various supplies:
Quick STEM Challenge for Kids – Engineer a New Paper Clip from Meredith Anderson (Free)
Who Invented Paperclips from Get Caught Engineering (free)
STEM Challenge Index Card Tower from Teachers Are Terrific
5 Easy STEM Challenges You Can Do with Paper Plates from Meredith Anderson (free)
Use materials that can be easily disinfected. Of course the first thing I think of is, Lego. If you have enough, put them in individual mesh bags for students. Then, when they are done, you can drop the whole bag into a disinfecting bath. (Note: the Lego site recommends not using the washing machine or dishwasher.) Other easily disinfect-able would be plastic gears, Zoobs, K’nex, and others plastic building toys. If you’re teaching multiple classes and multiple grades, this one may be a challenge to manage.
Building Brick Task Cards from More Than a Worksheet
STEM Mats for Building Bricks from Meredith Anderson
Raid the recycle bin. Now is the time to break into your cardboard tube collection. (C’mon, I know you have one.) Things like cardboard and newspaper can be used for a ton of independent engineering challenges. Using the recyclables for STEM products means when you are done, you can just have students disassemble them and throw them in the recycle bin. This way, there is no germ sharing and no need to disinfect later.
Maker Space Task Cards: Cardboard from More Than a Worksheet
Maker Space Task Cards: Newspaper from More Than a Worksheet
Stem Challenge Materials Cheat Sheet from Vivify STEM (free)
Newspaper Basketball Tower from More Than a Worksheet (free)
STEM with Toilet Paper Rolls from Meredith Anderson
Get digital. If your school is one-to-one, get digital with STEM. Meredith Anderson created some building brick challenges that are completely digital. Now might also be the time to introduce code.org or Scratch.
Digital Building Brick Challenges from Meredith Anderson
STEM Video Series from Vivify STEM (free)
Unplug. And if digital is not an option, or you want to try another way, here is an unplugged intro to coding from Vivify STEM. It’s printable, students can work independently, and they are still using essential STEM processes.
Robot Tool STEM Activity: An Unplugged Coding Challenge by Vivify STEM
Simple Code Challenge (Unplugged) by Meredith Anderson
These are tough times right now. We’re all doing the best we can. I keep repeating to myself, “This won’t last forever.” We will be able to share materials again someday, and oh that will feel good! So if you find yourself in a position where you are teaching STEM without sharing materials, hang in there!
You got this.