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5 Awesome End of Year STEM Challenges

STEM Activities for the End of the School Year

You have made it far enough to start thinking about an end-of-year STEM challenge! Hopefully standardized testing is in your past and you are ready to tackle some classic (and new) challenges!

Get Outside with STEM Challenges

My best tip for the end of the school year is to take a challenge outside! Especially if you teach through a long winter, take every opportunity to get outside and learn.

Keep your students motivated to learn right up until the very last day. If you would like printable resources to go with some of these challenge, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

STEM Challenge #1 - Design and Create a Paper Airplane

 
This challenge is about as easy as you can get from a materials standpoint, but designing and creating a paper airplane is something you could do every day for a full year with a new design each day!

Start with a plain sheet of paper. Explore different folds, cuts, and strategic weights to change up the design. Can you create an airplane that flies far? What about one that will fly in a loop? What if you need the airplane to curve to the right or left on its flight? This one is so easy to differentiate!

Start with basic paper folding and creasing if you are doing this with young kids. I find that sometimes these skills are lacking and a quick lesson in how to line up edges and crease the paper really helps!

STEM Challenge #2 - Design and Create a Kite

Save this one for a field day or when you see there will be some wind to work in your favor. Students will need to balance form and function with their creative touches to make sure the kite will take flight!

STEM Challenge #3 - Design and Create a Cargo Ship

This is always a favorite challenge among students. You can either give students all the same materials and have them try to support the most mass using those materials, or you can give different teams different objects (of various size, weight) that they must carry in their boats. They can then compare the designs and try out other objects. Can their cargo ship carry a variety of cargo or just the one you initially specified?

STEM Challenge #4 - Design and Create a Bubble Wand

Blowing bubbles never gets old. Can you create a bubble wand that blows large bubbles? What about a wand that will create multiple bubbles at once? How about a bubble wand that creates a bubble that is not a sphere? Is it possible? Students can also work on recipes for homemade bubble solution to determine the ideal quantities of water, dish soap, and either glycerin or corn syrup.

STEM Challenge #5 - Don't Crack Up! The Great Egg Drop STEM Challenge

This is a classic end of year challenge that works for elementary aged students all the way up through college! The simplest way to differentiate an egg drop challenge is to increase the drop height (you can use a foot or even one meter for each year of school, provided you have a tall enough building). Will students provide a cushion for the egg? A shock absorption feature? Maybe a way to slow the fall? There are endless possibilities here and testing is an absolute blast.

Find Resources to Guide you Through the Process

Paper Airplane STEM
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Paper-Airplane-STEM-Challenge-Quick-STEM-Activity-3175974?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=EOY%20STEM%20Paper%20Airplane




Boats: Choose from in-depth Engineering Design Challenge (read this post for more about it) or a quick STEM challenge for boats.



Bubble Wand STEM Challenge

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Challenge-Bubble-Maker-3176657?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=EOY%20STEM%20Bubble%20Wand


Egg Drop STEM Challenge
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Egg-Drop-STEM-Activity-Great-End-of-Year-STEM-Challenge-3774062?aref=lrg27rmm&utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=EOY%20STEM%20Egg%20Drop

Or try these three STEM challenges bundled together:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/End-of-Year-STEM-Challenges-BUNDLE-3785920
 

Pin these End of Year STEM ideas for later:


5 Great STEM Challenges for the end of the school year!




Bird Beak STEM - Animal Adaptations STEM Adventure

STEM Activities for Elementary Students to explore Bird Beaks and Pollination

STEM That is Easy to Implement

This is the fifth installment of the "Choose Your Own STEMventure" series. This story is about a budding ornithologist, Beth, as she visits a nature sanctuary and learns about various birds. Students choose how they want the story to progress; in completing the story students will complete 3-4 challenges. The story not only guides them through the engineering design process, it includes design constraints and areas for them to fill in their thoughts, plans, and testing data.

If you are studying animal adaptations, pollination, or even ecosystems, these are some engaging hands-on activities that your students will enjoy exploring!

Pollination STEM Challenge 

Pollination is a concept that can be difficult for kids to understand. In this challenge, they will transfer "pollen" (which can be chalk dust, flour, etc.) from one flower to another.


A bonus in the resource I created is a page all about pollination. Students learn the basics and can color in the flower diagram to get a better idea of how plant reproduction takes place.

Another Bird Themed STEM Challenge - Eating

Do you know how hummingbirds eat? They don't use their long beak like a straw, but use their tongues to lap up nectar much like a dog does. In this challenge, kids will have to try to grab the food at the bottom of a tube. They will be glad this isn't a requirement for their own meals because it's harder than it looks! The food can be anything that can be picked up, but I use pompoms. In addition to grabbing the item (such as with chopsticks), students can "hook" onto the food. If you are learning about magnets, you could absolutely work this in. Have the magnet be the food, and students will need to use an item in their "tongue" that is attracted to magnets in order to pick up the food.


My favorite challenge in this story explores wading birds and different types of beaks. Can you pick up the food but allow the water to drain out? Can you stab the food?

There are other types of bird beaks to explore as well, and this is a great time to talk about the food chain, the environment, and being a good Earth citizen. What would happen if a bird's food supply goes away? Would they be able to adapt? Would their beak work well to eat another kind of food? These are big questions but I find most kids are ready to tackle them.



Find this STEM Resource on Teachers pay Teachers

If you would like to use the story and printables I've created, you can find them on Teachers pay Teachers at this link, Bird Beak STEM:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Challenges-BUNDLE-STEM-and-STEAM-https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Bird-Beak-STEM-Activities-and-Pollination-STEM-Challenge-3752648-2274850?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=Bird%20Beak%20and%20Pollination%20STEM


or save these ideas for later by pinning this on Pinterest:




Beginning Circuits Activities for Kids that are Easy to Implement!

Paper Circuit fun with Chibi Lights

I just adore Snap Circuits, but occasionally it's nice to keep a project together to take home or create something, like a card, to send to someone else. In these cases, paper circuits are a great option!

Disclaimer: Please note that Chibitronics did send me kits to review, but the opinions expressed are completely my own. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The links below are Amazon affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.


What is the Chibi Lights Kit good for?

I think this kit is best suited for a holiday or birthday gift. It is a great way to encourage a child who is either crafty or interested in circuits (or both!). This is also a good option for Makerspaces that host afterschool or weekend enrichment classes, provided they can charge enough to cover the cost. It would be a great activity near the holidays to create a special card or display as a gift.

What is the Chibi Lights Kit NOT good for?

A classroom setting, unless you have been awarded a grant and have a special project in mind (or if you can charge a fee). It would be too costly otherwise.


 Things we liked about the Chibitronics Sticker Circuit Kit

  • Easy to read, learn, and use. After unpacking the box, we had built our first circuit within minutes. You can't get much easier than that for implementation!
  • The booklet includes fun activities that are engaging for kids. It also includes thorough and useful background information needed to understand and complete the projects.
  • All of the components that are needed for the basic projects are provided.


A few things we thought could be better:

  • Two times, we thought we made our circuit wrong because it wasn't working quite right. Unfortunately as is sometimes the case with electrical components, the LEDs were just not good. This happens with regular (large) LEDs too sometimes, but we wonder if it happens more often with the tiny LEDs. Switching out the LEDs proved that that was the issue but it was a little hard to debug. It's also possible we got a bad batch.
  • The copper tape tears really easily. That is why I am recommending this for ages 10+ unless you have a very careful child.
  • The one-time use factor. We knew this going in, but it would be nice to at least reuse the LEDs somehow. 

All in all, I think this is a great kit to expose kids to circuits. The guidebook/sketchbook was much better than I was expecting and is very much worth it for the educational component. The kids get excited when they see their circuit working!

You can purchase the Chibi Lights Kit here:



or find examples of projects to try by clicking this link to go to the Chibitronics Gallery.

Pin these ideas for later:


 

Wind Powered Sailboat - Spring STEM Challenge

STEM Challenge for Spring: Harness the Wind with a Sailboat

A multifaceted STEM challenge that can be done outside on a nice day!

Warning: You May Get Wet with this STEM Challenge

Why try this challenge? In addition to creating something that is useful, students will be honing their spacial reasoning and mathematics skills while designing and creating their garden box. It may even inspire your students to create a full sized garden bed where they can plant their favorite flowers, plants, or vegetables.

Gather Materials for Sailboat STEM




First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

You will need a tub, storage bin, kiddie pool, etc. for this challenge. You will also need a desk fan to supply the wind. Please use caution operating the fan near the water. You can partition the container to have racing lanes if you want to let your students race the boats. I used a piece of pipe insulation. Students can create their boats with aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, plastic egg carton pieces, etc. They will need to use material for a sail and mount it to their boat. Not only does the boat need to float, it also needs to move forward with the wind.

Design and create a sailboat - Spring STEM challenge. #stemeducation from Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Go Deeper with Science in this STEM Challenge

Have your students research drag and buoyancy. Ask:

Where is drag advantageous, and when do engineers try to avoid it? 

When might you want a water vessel to NOT be buoyant?


What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, students will need to work together and may need to make several modifications to improve their sail designs.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Spring STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Challenges-for-Spring-2461075?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=Spring%20STEM%20Nest


Pin these ideas for later:
Design and create a sailboat - Spring STEM challenge. #stemeducation from Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Garden Planter STEM Challenge for Spring

STEM Challenge for Spring: Garden Planter Box

A math-intensive STEM challenge that can be useful when planning out a school or home garden.

Practical Skills with STEM

Why try this challenge? In addition to creating something that is useful, students will be honing their spacial reasoning and mathematics skills while designing and creating their garden box. It may even inspire your students to create a full sized garden bed where they can plant their favorite flowers, plants, or vegetables.

Gather Materials for Garden Planter STEM



First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

You can use items like card stock, paper, and tape, or have students use building bricks or blocks. If you want to have them make a scale model, set a scale for them that make sense based on the materials you have. You can even procure seed packets or find directions online for the appropriate spacing of their seedlings and how many they can fit in their box.

Go Deeper with Math in this STEM Challenge

Have your students explore using a fixed set of materials. Is there an optimal configuration to support the number of seedlings and garden planter box size? Are there configurations that would make more sense in real life? A square is the most efficient area you can get with a fixed perimeter, but would that make it difficult to rid the garden box of weeds or harvest vegetables? These are all considerations your students can think about.



What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will see that math is important and helpful outside the classroom, as well as work together with patience and perseverance.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Spring STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Challenges-for-Spring-2461075?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=Spring%20STEM%20Nest


Pin these ideas for later:
Spring STEM Challenge - Design and create a garden planter box. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer



Spring STEM Challenge - Design and create a garden planter box. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Bird Nest STEM Challenge

STEM Challenge for Spring: Design and Create a Bird's Nest

A nature-based STEM challenge that is fun to create on both a small and large scale: a bird's nest!


Support a Growth Mindset with STEM

Why try this challenge? In addition to creating something that seems simple (but is actually quite difficult), students have the opportunity to observe nests in nature, gather materials, and work on their growth mindset.

Gather Materials for Bird Nest STEM


First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

This project can be done in two ways - with materials found in your recycle bin or objects found in nature. If you live in an urban area, students may observe that birds often use trash that has been discarded when making their nests. Use paper scraps or go to nature to find grass, twigs, etc. Ask:

What objects do you routinely discard that could be reused or repurposed?


Test the nest with hardboiled, wooden, or plastic eggs filled with pennies (for weight). Can it support the weight of the egg?

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will need to test stability and strength as well as work together with patience and perseverance.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Spring STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Challenges-for-Spring-2461075?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=Spring%20STEM%20Nest


Pin these ideas for later:

Spring STEM Challenge - Design and create a bird nest using recyclable or found materials in nature. STEM for all seasons. #stemeducation | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer


Spring STEM Challenge - Design and create a bird nest using recyclable or found materials in nature. STEM for all seasons. #stemeducation | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Spring STEM Challenge - Design and create a bird nest using recyclable or found materials in nature. STEM for all seasons. #stemeducation | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer





Simple STEM with Plastic Cups

Plastic Cup STEM Challenges Your Kids will Love

Spoiler alert - there is no basic tower challenge in this list. Building towers is a great way to start off any cup STEM challenge, but I have a list of a few some fun and engaging challenges using primarily plastic cups. Some are oldies but goodies, and others you may not have seen or tried before.

Get Started with Plastic Cup STEM - Materials

Although you can use inexpensive plastic cups for these challenges, I recommend using a sturdy variety. You do not need to get the brand name, most expensive cups, though. I used my local grocery store's version of a heavy duty brand name cup.

Create a Plastic Cup Telephone

A really easy challenge to get started with is a plastic cup telephone. Many kids will have done this before, however try to supply them with a variety of string and/or wire types for the line, and have them test out different versions to see which works best.

Make it easier for little ones: Have a variety of telephones already put together. Use different string types or different lengths of string and have them try to speak messages to each other. Make sure the line is pulled tight for best results.

Another Sound Challenge - Create a Plastic Cup Sound Amplifier (shown above, top)

Smartphone speakers just not loud enough to share your favorite jams with your students? Have them create a sound amplifier! Not only is this a really great hands-on STEM activity to explore sound principles, it is actually useful. The roller, also shown above is included in the plastic cup STEM challenge pack I have linked below. It is simple but includes a hands-on way to explore torque and friction.

Plastic Cup Anemometer

This one is a bit tricky but the result is absolutely worth it. Create your very own anemometer to measure wind speed. Use five cups, some towels, and tape or a push pin and you can create an anemometer!

Try These STEM Challenges with the Engineering Design Process

If you want to add more rigor to these challenges by following the engineering design process, please visit the following resource I put together to support these plastic cup STEM challenges. With this  guided STEM resource, students need to meet the design criteria specified to complete the challenge. Add it to your STEM Friday or Maker Monday rotation, or save it for a sub.


You can find Plastic Cup STEM Challenges here:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Plastic-Cup-STEM-Challenges-Simple-STEM-with-Cups-3671887?utm_source=Momgineer%20Blog&utm_campaign=Plastic%20Cup%20STEM




Pin these Plastic Cup STEM Ideas for Later:

Plastic cup STEM challenges that you may not have tried! | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer