STEM activities are a great way to engage elementary students and introduce them to the wonderful world around them. These activities are very visual in nature and provide great opportunities for students to learn by doing and directly interacting with materials.
Because there are so many great classroom activities available, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites below for you to try out in your classroom! Looking for recurring activities you use over and over again? Then be sure to check out our post on STEM teaching tools for your classroom.
1. Create a circuit using conductive playdough
- 9V battery
- LED lights
- Modeling clay (optional)
To get started with this STEM activity, create two shapes out of playdough. Then connect the positive and negative ends of a 9V battery to each of the shapes before inserting the longer leg of the LED light into the same playdough shape that the positive current is connected to.
This will cause the LED light to turn on and show how the circuit is working. Then use the circuit breaking, or not turning the LED lights on, to demonstrate instances where the current flow stops. Examples include when the playdough shapes are touching or when the long end of the LED light is inserted into the shape with the negative current.
Make this experiment more interactive for your elementary students by having them predict whether or not the light is going to turn on. After students successfully demonstrate an understanding of circuits, introduce modeling clay as an insulator in your circuit to increase the difficulty. Depending on grade level and number of supplies, students can make their own shapes and reproduce this experiment on their own in small groups.
2. Learn about the properties of magnets with a magnetic maze
- Cardboard or paper plates
- Crayons or markers
Magnets are magical and great for visual demonstrations of magnetic fields. Using a piece of cardboard or a paper plate, draw a maze with a starting point and an ending point. Then place a paperclip on the starting point of the maze and hold your magnet underneath the maze to guide the paperclip along the maze to the finish line.
Show your students how even though you aren’t touching the paperclip, the magnet is pulling the paperclip along through the cardboard or paper. If you have magnets of varying strengths you can show students how stronger magnets can pull the paperclip from farther away.
Depending on supplies, students can watch you demonstrate this classroom activity before designing and testing their own interactive magnet maze. Bonus points for students with the most creative maze design!
Interested in more maze related activities? See Kodable’s make your own maze activity.
3. See how computers work with a conditionals board game
- Condition Board Game Guide
- Legos and tape or popsicle sticks and playdough
- Dice (optional)
This STEM activity can help introduce students to the concept of conditions. These IF this - THEN that statements and logic are used in the world all around us and are crucial to how technology and computers operate.
To get started use the game guide to have students cut and color one of their own Fuzz characters to use as their player piece. Then have students cut out their board game and dice, if needed, before using legos and tape or popsicle sticks and playdough to make their player piece stand up on its own. Next, depending on grade level, students can either write their own condition rules for their game or use the preset rules included in the game guide.
After playing the game for a few rounds and once students are more familiar with the idea of conditions you can introduce them to the concept of conditions in everyday life like stop lights, water facets, and computers.
If you’re looking for more educational classroom activities around computer science and programming, learn more about how teachers use Kodable in the classroom.
4. Make homemade slime
- Baking soda
- Contact lens solution
- Measuring spoons, cups, and bowls
- Storage containers
- Food coloring (optional)
Want to have fun with slime without all the mess? Then this activity is for you!
In a mixing blow, mix ½ cup water and glue together with a few drops of food coloring. Then add in ½ tsp of baking soda and mix in before adding 2 tbsp of contact lens solution and stir until the slime starts coming away from the edge of the bowl.
Start by demonstrating the normal properties of glue, water, baking soda and contact lens solution as a baseline. Then, after the slime is made, use its texture and consistency to demonstrate how chemical reactions between the ingredients create a brand new substance that doesn’t match any of the ingredients that you started with.
5. Create a DIY thermometer
- Glass bottle
- Rubbing alcohol
- Food coloring
- Modeling clay
- Bowl of warm water
- Bowl of cold water
DIY thermometers are a great way to introduce students to how temperature affects the speed of molecules.
To get started, fill your glass bottle with ⅓ water and ⅓ rubbing alcohol so the bottle is only ⅔ of the way filled. Then add in a few drops of food coloring to make it easier to see the rise and fall of the thermometer. Next put the straw in the bottle and use the modeling clay to make an airtight seal around the straw.
Now that the thermometer is made, place it in the bowl of warm water and after a few minutes mark where the liquid has risen to in the straw. Then take the thermometer out and place it in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes before marking where the liquid in the straw has fallen to.
Bring in real world thermometers to show how the science works in the real world for everyone to know the temperature.
6. Create a lemon battery
- 3-4 lemons
- LED Light
- Zinc covered nails
- Alligator clips
- Copper wire
- Small calculator (optional)
This STEM activity will help students understand how batteries work by using lemons to create a working battery for an LED light and a small calculator.
To get started, insert a zinc covered nail and copper wire into each of your lemons. The wire will act as the positive end of the battery and the nail will act as the negative end. Connect the positive and negative ends of lemons to each other while having one lemon with a positive end free and another lemon with a negative end free. Use these free ends to connect alligator clips to your LED light to power it, with the positive end connected to the longer leg of the LED light.
You can also repeat this experiment with a small calculator for a similar effect. For older elementary students, you can also add math to the equation by using the number of volts required to power the LED light to calculate the average voltage of each lemon.
7. Construct a DIY lava lamp
- Empty water bottle or clear glass
- Vegetable oil
- Food coloring
This STEM activity can introduce elementary students to the concepts of density through an interactive lava lamp experiment.
First fill your empty water bottle most of the way with vegetable oil. Then fill the rest of the bottle with water and add a few drops of food coloring in. Finally, break an Alka-seltzer tablet into small pieces and drop a small piece at a time into the bottle to see a fizzy and fun reaction take place.
Looking for more classroom STEM resources?
Try out literature based stem activities to connect STEM and literacy in the classroom or check out all the great May STEM activities you can do this month.
Kodable also offers a free plan for teachers to help you introduce students to the basics of programming in a fun and engaging way. More than 45,000 schools use Kodable as a trusted classroom resource and now you can too. Create your free Kodable account today to get started!