Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Lessons

Like a lot of people, my most memorable moments from elementary school involved hands-on science lessons. One of my favorite experiences was making working model circuit boards in my sixth grade science class. The board was a piece of plywood that we hammered nails into and then used copper wire to make a circuit that illuminated a light bulb controlled by a switch. I bet that you probably have similar memories of hands-on learning from your days as a student too. That’s why I get excited when I find things like Microsoft’s Hacking STEM Library, Exploratorium’s Science Snacks, and SciShow Kids Super Simple Machines.

Microsoft’s Hacking STEM Library is divided into activities that take multiple days to complete and activities that can be completed in one day. All of the activities in the Hacking STEM Library include detailed directions, materials lists including places to acquire materials, and lesson objectives. This afternoon I did the homemade wave machine project from the collection of a one-day project templates. I modified it slightly by using Velcro tape that I bought at Lowe’s in place of using ribbon and hot glue. I did that because I wanted something reusable and faster to set-up than hot glue.

Here’s a video overview of one of the Hacking STEM multiple day projects.

Science Snacks is a resource that I have referenced for years when looking for hands-on science activities. Science Snacks features activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations. You can search for Science Snacks alphabetically or you can search by subject. The subject search is the best way to search if you are looking for an activity to match a lesson plan or curriculum standard that you already have in mind.

SciShow Kids has a playlist of videos titled Super Simple Machines. The videos in that playlist feature explanations and demonstrations of simple machines that students could make in your classroom. One of those videos is Spin a Wheel With Sunlight. By watching Spin a Wheel With Sunlight students can learn how solar energy can be transferred through a solar updraft tower. The video provides clear directions on how students can make their own solar updraft towers with materials commonly found in classrooms or homes. In the example in the video, the solar updraft tower makes a pinwheel spin.

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