Online STEM and STEAM Projects for Teachers & Students
With many schools closed to protect students and teachers from the coronavirus, many students don’t have access to hands-on science, technology, and arts experiences typical of in-person classroom settings. Teaching online does not have to end experiments and participatory innovation. Here are ten projects that STEM and STEAM teachers can instruct online to teach important concepts while widening students’ horizons:
1. Paper Airplanes (Physics)
Study the principles that go into the science of flight, and let your students’ imaginations fly by challenging them to fold as many different shapes of paper airplanes as possible. Have your students test each of their concepts and, using the principles of flight, improve their designs, and ultimately pick the best ones. Students can explain why some shapes were better than others, and older students can write a paper explaining how the physics affected their designs.
2. Sorting Rocks (Geology)
This project will help younger children learn the scientific technique of classification while also introducing the basics of geology — and as a bonus, it gets them outdoors! Have students go outside (with a parent’s/guardian’s permission) to collect as many rocks as they can. Ask them to sort and categorize the rocks by every parameter they can think of (eg. size, color, shape). Afterward, teach the basics about how sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks are formed and what they look like. Have the students examine their rocks with a magnifying glass, if available, and then classify each of their rocks according to their type. Ask the students to share their most interesting rock with the class.
3. Pillow Fort with Pulley System (Engineering)
Younger kids love to build pillow forts — and let’s face it, the older ones do, too. Have students construct the most elaborate pillow forts they can imagine using available pillows, blankets, and furniture. Teach them the principles behind the pulley (one of the six simple machines), and have them construct a pulley to transport materials around their fort. They can use simple household objects such as a coat hanger, a spool or slim water bottle, and string. Ask your students how they think wheel and axel size would change the effectiveness of the pulley.
4. Freezing Liquids (Chemistry)
Ask students to time how long it takes for ordinary water to freeze. Teach them the process of freezing and ask them to hypothesize if adding salt will make the water freeze faster or slower. Have the students time the freezing of salt water with different concentrations of salt. They can try the same experiment with other fluids, including juices, rubbing alcohol (supervised), milk, and others.
5. Build a Model of Your Favorite Room (Architecture, Geometry)
Ask students to measure the dimensions of everything in their bedroom or their favorite room in their home. Then have them plot out the design of their bedroom to scale on graph paper, making sure all dimensions are accurate. Many kids have toy construction blocks lying around (hopefully not on the floor — ouch!). Next, have them recreate their room with the blocks and share it with the rest of the class. If construction blocks are not available, ask the students to share their graph paper drawing.
6. Test a Tin Foil Boat’s Buoyancy (Physics, Math)
Build a rectangular “boat” out of aluminum foil, and put it in a sink or basin of water to float. Add coins to it one at a time to measure at what point the boat loses its buoyancy and begins to sink. Analyze the results of this experiment by running a series of calculations, including the maximum capacity of the boat, the boat’s volume in cubic centimeters, and the mass of the coins at the time of the sinking. Experiment with boats of different sizes to draw conclusions.
7. Build a Car From Edible Materials (Physics, Engineering, Art)
Have students design and build a car out of edible materials. Encourage them to be artistic as well as practical in their design. What types of materials provide the most effective wheels? Why are some materials more successful than others? Hold an online car show for students to share their creativity and design work. If students have ramps available (or can build them), hold a race to see which cars are the fastest.
8. Turn a Room Into a Castle (Art, Architecture)
Study the architectural and design features of castles of different cultures. Have the students turn one of the areas in their home into a castle by using materials they can gather around the house. This project can be one that keeps going throughout the school term, with students adding new elements to their castles every week and showing them off to the class.
9. Race a Toy Car Without Touching It (Physics)
Challenge students to race a toy car across a tabletop without directly touching it, lifting the table to make the car move, or using ramps to get the car going. Instead, they must devise alternate means of propulsion. These means could include adding magnets to the car and sliding a magnet under the table, attaching a sail to the car in order to propel it by wind power (i.e. a fan), attaching an inflated balloon to the car and allowing it to quickly deflate to propel the car, or anything else you and your students can think of. Don’t time the races, as students will be working with cars and tables of different sizes. Instead, encourage them to come up with as many ideas as they can, working in teams if possible.
10. Design a Model Playground (Engineering, Art)
Have students design a model playground for a specific interest or hobby. Encourage them to be creative as they think about who they might design for (ballet dancers, gymnasts, football players, etc.) and what special equipment might interest each hobbyist. Younger students can draw pictures and design layouts of their playgrounds, while older students can construct 3D models.