Getting Started With STEM

I'm starting a short mini-series on some things I want to try during this school year.  Join me on this journey by following along - I'd love to hear what new things you are trying this year!   Make sure to read all of this - there are TONS of FREEBIES linked up to help you get started too!

Getting started with STEM! 

First, I want to say that I am in the same boat as most of you - I am a beginner.  I started doing research when I saw this coming up more and more and since I will be teaching 4th and 5th Science, I thought this would be a great addition to help meet our state standards. 

STEM challenges are small problems that students solve with specific materials.  Through this learning with little or no direction they learn the engineering process.  This align with almost all state standards and NGSS to some degree at every grade level.  I love the open-endedness of the challenges and how students get to really explore and share how the process works.  Students essentially get in groups (for most challenges) and have a limited amount of time.  I require that during that time they document their learning through a recording sheet so they have information to share with the class when finished. 

Here are some amazing blogs/posts that will give you a better explanation:

  1. Sunny Days in Second Grade: Our First STEM Challenge
  2. Teachers are Terrific, She has a great store as well TONS of stem resources. I love the way she says what she is working on for each grade - so helpful and you can differentiate activities without changing process to make it work for different grade levels and from year to year.

  1. Smart Chick - Growing a STEM classroom - she has tons of challenges in her TPT store.  

My STEM Pinterest Board.  Click the link to be taken to it - click follow at the top to make sure you see any new pins being added (closer to school there will be plenty)

My links and where I got resources: 

Stem Rules Poster = FREE (see below)

STEM Challenge Role Cards - FREE from Smart Chick

Engenieering Design Process Poster - FREE from Bethany Baptiste

Design Cycle Organizer - FREE from Smart Chick

STEM lab Reflection - FREE from Pepper's Picks

STEM Engineering Starter Kit - FREE from Ivy Taul - Excellent resource about starting STEM guidelines, rules, and timeline!!!

Here are the FREE cover and rules pages! (click the pictures to download!) To make them editable you lose the cute fonts in Google Drive, so you'll have to use some of your own. 

Challenge Ideas:

Use this list to get some resources.   To me the important parts are materials, and any guidelines that they might have.  Leaving them open-ended is great for students to explore.  I plan to make notes for next year about what could be included or what worked best!

Homemade Toys - make a toy for younger children explain why it works and what it does.
Marble Track - 4/5 Learning about angles
STEM Crazy teachers - TONS OF great briefs!!!
Spaghetti Tower STEM Challenge - Great for younger grades or to start out
Saving Fred - great beginning activity to work together! + it uses candy!
Roller Coaster Challenge  - pretty wordy but you can use Pinterest pins to fill in the gaps
Zipline Racers - this one looks really cool!  Not official STEM plan but could easily do with a little modification
Design a Car - this is versions of this that use editable (food) items, they look fun too!
Design a Boat - fun challenge
TONS of challengs and lesson plans - eGFI (look on left column to search for specifics

In my binder, I have 3 sections: Back to School, Challenges, and Projects.  Projects require more effort and multiple parts along with a challenge and really integrate the learning across different subject areas.  I compiled my list of challenges and you can download for FREE - here OR click the picture below.  You can google the name of any challenge to get the gist or lesson plans and those are what I have printed in my binder for reference.  Because I'm teaching 4th and 5th, I only included those grade levels and these are NOT editable (sorry!) but you can get your ideas there and fill out the blank ones at the bottom!

How I plan to implement:

I plan to do 1 STEM challenge or experiment to start every new chapter.  Currently, I just don't have the funds and resources to do them once a week although I would love to!   I plan to start with the Saving Fred activity for both 4 and 5.    I want the students to get the feel starting with a fun activity before moving forward.
During the first couple sessions, I plan on introducing the role cards (crossing my fingers) they will be able to utilize them.  I think it will be good but since not working with this age level before, I'm willing to just go with teamwork on the challenges.  I will also explain the rules before every challenge and make sure each group has paper to document trials and be able to explain once finished what worked and what didn't  -  a HUGE part of the process.
Getting all of that in place, will make it easier for the continuing challenges the rest of the year. 


  1. I just found your blog today. I am going to be teaching fifth grade math and science this year….moving up from fourth. I love finding fellow bloggers that teach the same grade and subject!

  2. Well, oh my goodness! I followed a pin to your blog post and found my blog button! Thank you so much for the shout out. I hope things are going very well with you and your STEM adventure!
    Teachers Are Terrific!

  3. I teach 2nd grade and want to plan some STEM challenges for my class next year 16-17 and decided to start doing some research.Thank you for all the great information and links. It has given me a good starting point.


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