Are you looking for fun ways to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? Then read on!
As any teacher (or homeschooling parent) can attest to, making engaging lessons can be challenging. If you’re looking for inspiration for your own STEM curriculum and lesson plans, we’ve compiled some ideas to help you keep teaching fresh and fun.
Whether you’re in the classroom or at home, you can inspire kids to learn about STEM subjects and become curious enough to want more. By making STEM fun, we can help our kids learn. We’ve compiled 13 ideas to help make STEM fun. Let’s explore!
How To Make STEM Education Fun
There are multiple ways to make learning STEM subjects fun, provided you are willing to spend the time to get to know what methods work for your kids. After all, STEM is all about experimenting and adapting. Let’s get started.
Related Post: What is STEM Education?
Although the following methods of improving engagement in and outside of the classroom are not a definitive list of all the ways you can make learning STEM subjects fun, it provides enough variety and flexibility to suit the interests and learning styles of most students. Feel free to mix and match and implement what works best.
Incorporate Cooking into Your STEM Lessons
Although cooking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing STEM subjects, cooking is actually an incredible platform for teaching the fundamentals of STEM.
This is because cooking presents a unique combination of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and technology in an engaging way to learn how to follow recipes through planning and recorded observations. Furthermore, cooking illustrates how science can be a creative endeavor that encourages experimentation and personalization.
Finally, cooking teaches kids an important life skill that can be used in their daily lives. After all, we’ve all got to eat, right?
Whether you’re cooking lessons include baking, drink preparation, stovetop cooking, or strait up kitchen science, your kids are bound to enjoy themselves while making tasty treats for their family and friends!
Check out our article on Kitchen STEM for some more ideas!
Work Outside And Conduct Field Research
Many fields of science, such as ecology, marine biology, and geology, require scientists to be outside conducting practical fieldwork instead of writing dissertations in front of their computers full-time.
Consequently, working outside and conducting field research is a fun way to get children out into nature and a practical illustration of the type of work scientists conduct in the real world.
Furthermore, it is well-known that being out in nature and moving improves the concentration of students who are prone to boredom when most of their day is spent in classrooms. Fieldwork is also a form of holistic education, as it encourages exercise and spending time outside to improve one’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Field research doesn’t have to mean going on a field trip. There are plenty of things you can do in your backyard, playground, or a local park. Studying and identifying trees, leaf collecting, or nature sketches just require a tree. Try our post about hands on activities with plants for some inspiration.
Plan a Class (or home) Garden
To help teach children about the practical application of science and to encourage ongoing engagement with the subject, we recommend a year-round class project such as planning and growing a garden.
Consequently, this encourages problem-solving skills, diligence, and administrative skills, as tasking a classroom with growing and managing a garden requires students to learn about:
- Which plants/vegetables grow in which seasons,
- How to manage, fertilize, and rotate soil,
- Draw up and follow a class routine to ensure the daily management of the garden,
- The construction of basic garden infrastructures such as a fence or tiered platforms.
Your garden can be subject to different themes throughout the year to encourage continued maintenance and investment (i.e., growing roses for Valentine’s Day or pumpkins for Halloween.)
Keep in mind – a garden doesn’t necessarily have to be outside. You can build terrariums or tinker with aquaponics if climate conditions, seasons, or lack of space are an issue.
Encourage Reading And Book Projects
A curious observation noted among children (and adults!) is the belief that particular interests and aptitudes are mutually exclusive. A typical example is a belief that certain students are more language/creatively inclined at the expense of their mastery of STEM subjects and visa-versa.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as nearly all people can enjoy both artistic and scientific endeavors in equal measure, hence the importance of encouraging students to read about topics that interest them through the lens of scientific theories/practices.
Projects centered around books are an excellent way to encourage children to research topics surrounding their interests.
Not only does this help children learn library and research skills, but it promotes a level of control over their own learning process, rather than being lectured on set topics. If they can pick the books and stories that interest them, they are more invested in learning.
For example, a child who enjoys sci-fi movies may do a book project on the CGI effects used in their favorite films, while another child with a completely different interest like motorsports can do a project on the mechanics/logistics of racing cars.
To get you started, we have some STEM Activities for kids that go with books.
Whether your experiments take the form of firing up Bunsen burners, or doing some simple STEM projects at home, teaching science without seeing practical applications of theory doesn’t always provide the full picture.
In addition to the theory, strive to include practical experiments to help children bridge the gap between the academic and real-world applications of STEM.
Use the Scientific Method as a guide and incorporate these steps into any STEM activity:
- Asking question
- Conducting research,
- Establishing a hypothesis,
- Testing the hypothesis through experimentation,
- Observing results,
- Capturing data and forming a logical conclusion,
- Presenting one’s findings.
Related Post: Scientific Method for Kids
Incorporate Visuals And Technology
One of the challenges with teaching science is that while the use of chemical equations and complex calculations surrounding the laws of physics help scientists solve difficult problems, this teaching method can be abstract and boring for most students.
Fortunately, countless resources are available to make science a more engaging and accessible subject through audio-visual mediums such as science videos, images, podcasts, tv shows, etc.
Consequently, streaming services such as YouTube or Netflix allow educators to access various channels/shows on numerous scientific topics to help children visualize challenging concepts in a fun and exciting way! We’ve spent hours going down the Youtube rabbithole finding answers to kids’ questions.
You can also check out augmented reality apps or books to bring virtual subjects into the real world. No fancy equipment needed. If you’ve got a smartphone, you can find some AR apps to play with. You can get started by looking for different animals or dinosaurs in Google Search on your smartphone and clicking on the “View in 3D” link. Check out our post on Augmented Reality now to find out more.
Host A Quiz Or Games Day
One of the best methods to promote learning is incorporating some gamification and/or healthy competition in the classroom through games and quizzes.
There are various educational board games and digital games for children to play, as well as comprehensive guides online as to how best to structure a science quiz, such as using different science categories or mirroring popular game shows like Jeopardy or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Suppose your school has structural methods of distinguishing students in place, such as students in different classes, grades, or buildings. In that case, this is a fantastic method to divide up students for a competition that capitalizes on class spirit!
For those at home, having a family game night or using games in home school lessons can be a great way to spend time with your kids (while learning, of course.)
Host A Science Fair
Sticking to the theme of creativity, teamwork, gamification, and removing kids from the rigors of a classroom environment, hosting a science fair is a fantastic way of encouraging students to engage in science projects that are of particular interest to them.
The benefits of hosting a science fair as while it provides an incentive for competitive students to commit to projects in their own time outside of the classroom, it also allows students of all disciplines and ability levels to engage with the tasks of other students for their own education and inspiration.
A science fair creates an open and welcoming environment for teachers and students to mix socially, whereby this may be an ideal opportunity to invite participants and teachers from other schools to the science fair to promote communal education and collaboration.
Yes, this can be a big undertaking. If a full blown science fair seems daunting, try something on a smaller scale. Can you do just something with the kids in your grade level or even just within your own classroom?
Related Post: How to Make Science Fun
Encourage Topical Learning
Learning STEM should correlate to real-world events and students’ interests to help them understand science’s application in their daily lives and to link science to their own interests.
Examples of discussions to have with students about science in the modern world may include:
- Interplanetary travel and terraforming
- Climate Change and Environmental Science
- Electric vehicles
- Practical and CGI effects in movies and TV
- The evolution of the internet, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and social media
- Applications of 3D printing
For many students, STEM subjects can prove challenging, meaning some classroom or after-school assistance from their peers goes a long way in helping children understand and unpack complex topics organically, rather than being lectured by a teacher.
Consequently, this sense of self-discovery and camaraderie between students with different aptitudes can create a more engaging and accepting classroom environment.
Teamwork encourages students to delegate work to each other in accordance with their unique skills when completing a project (i.e., a group of students splitting up into different teams such as data capturing, research, and presentation.)
Take A Field Trip
Field trips provide the perfect opportunity to escape the rigors of academic learning and the classroom environment while encouraging socializing in a setting that promotes learning through unique and exciting mediums.
You can plan a field trip to a traditional learning facility such as a museum, science center, or planetarium. If you have the leeway to do so, you can incorporate STEM concepts into nearly anything. For example, consider checking out a ballgame to learn about the science of sports (you’d be amazed at the physics calculations involved in a simple task like catching a ball.)
There are a host of ways you can plan a fun STEM trip for your kids. If you don’t have the budget or availability to get out, consider a virtual field trip. You can find a number of ideas in our post on activities to keep kids occupied and learning, or some virtual mine tours in our post on STEM Activities with Rocks.
Use Creative Teaching Methods
It can be tempting for teachers to follow an introductory STEM course with little to no variation on the content being taught due to the fear of accidentally missing important content or the difficulty in creating fun activities from mandated or canned learning materials.
While both of the above reasons are legitimate concerns, doing so will likely be a disservice to your students, as children tend not to engage well with solely material directly from textbooks.
We’ve all had that teacher that simply read from the textbook every class. (Yawn.) Don’t be that teacher!
We’re not suggesting ditching the set course work. We are suggesting you get creative with the way that material is presented. To this day, I still remember a History lesson about Pickett’s Charge. The teacher explained it in the classroom before we went out into the field and wooded area behind the school and reenacted it with water balloons! (Yes, it’s not exactly a STEM lesson, but the fact I recall this American Civil War battle many years after Junior High is a testament to the teaching method.)
STEM is about getting hands on in addition to all of the critical thinking. Mix it up a bit!
Implement A Reward System
While some teachers may argue that getting good marks are a reward in and of themselves, for a lot of students, this is an abstract and arbitrary method of recognizing their hard work.
Furthermore, while top students may be awarded good marks and academic prizes for their efforts, moderate students may feel a lack of recognition for their improved results (i.e., going from a C-grade to a B-grade.)
A basic reward system for steady improvements, aptitude, or diligence may be a way of encouraging students to continue working hard in their STEM subjects.
This can work at home as well as in the classroom. Small incentives, such as simple as an ice cream date on report card day or one on one time with a parent can go a long way. A special toy or game can also serve as a reward.
Wrap Up – How to Make STEM Fun
STEM isn’t just about learning facts and figures; It’s also about creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. With a bit of extra effort, some brainstorming, and dialogue with your kids, there are ample methods that can make learning STEM subjects fun, accessible, and topical!