You realize the benefits of STEM, but wonder when to add it in? Your day is already packed, and you can’t see where STEM fits? What about your Daily 5 time? Why not add another option to the choices that are available to your students? STEM choices! Incorporating STEM into your Daily 5 routine is a great way to bridge science, technology, engineering, and math into your literacy block. Gone are the days where we treat reading and writing as separate silos. We understand the bond between reading and writing; we can also come to understand that science and math, as well as other content areas are not silos either!
I recommend that STEM be added into the rotation of options ONLY AFTER your class has had good success with the “traditional Daily 5” routine. This means that your students are already at the point of working independently during Daily 5. They choose daily from options including Read to Self, Partner Reading, Listening to Reading, Word Work, and Work on Writing.
The following activities worked for my first graders, as well as my tech club (which consists of students in grades 2-5). I could see them working in kindergarten too!
Hex-Bug (Nano Bug) Mazes
I learned about this STEM challenge from Buggy and Buddy. They used LEGOS and other building tools. I had my students use straws, masking tape, and cardboard tubes. Be sure to explain what a maze is and the characteristics of mazes. My first graders needed a little guidance with this. I encouraged them to write the words START and FINISH, which gave them a little more success. Some groups made their mazes without “tricky turns and corners,” while other groups did incorporate them. The Hex bugs that I used were purchased from Amazon. I was amazed to learn that these were toys! I knew they were a cat toy, but not kid toys (my cats have one…which we cannot find at the moment…probably under the refrigerator)!
Army Man Launchers
This activity is from The Ardent Teacher. Using a given set of materials, students are challenged to create an army man launcher. I asked for a donation of army men from parents through my parent communication app, Bloomz (their donation/supplies needed feature is FABULOUS!). I cut the guns off of the army men, as not all were weapon-less when they arrived at school. Working in teams, students were encouraged to use whatever materials they wanted to use (from given materials) to create a tool/mechanism/structure that could launch their army guy across the room. This was challenging for my students, but I was very proud of them for sticking with it! It was interesting to see the varied results and end products! Materials that were available to them included tongue depressors, yarn, spoons, cups, and an army guy.
Apple Jenga Towers
This challenge is from Heidi Songs. I gave my students the exact same number of cubes, tongue depressors, and Jenga pieces. They worked in groups of 2-3. This happened to be on a day we had a Guest Teacher. She texted me pictures and said they were SUPER ENGROSSED in the activity and that they wanted to keep doing it in subsequent days! The apples came from a parent donation. I used the parent communication app, Bloomz to request apples the day before, and they arrived the next day). I love Bloomz (and my students’ parents!!). Students were challenged to build structures using the given materials and to put their apple on top. Their goal was a stable structure. I then had them use the app Seesaw to record their structure and the process they used. With Seesaw, students can upload artifacts, which are then in turn shared with their parents and me! I loved getting notifications throughout the day as groups uploaded their Apple Jenga Towers!
Structures with Cubes, Cups, and Sticks
This challenge is from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls. I tried it with my Lunch Bytes tech club (grades 2-5), and my first graders BEGGED me to let them try. They just couldn’t stand seeing the materials and not being able to use them! The idea behind this STEM activity is to work your way through a series of challenges. Students were asked to build four structures, one at a time. They were challenged to create 1) a structure with one cube as a base, 2) a very tall structure with any size base, 3) a structure that had something sticking out in an “impressive way” and 4) a structure with one cup as a base. I then just let them free design with the materials.
Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!