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If you’re a teacher or homeschool parent looking for ideas for STEM project-based learning activities, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of terrific STEM project-based learning activities that can be tailored to meet your students’ needs.
STEM, like PBL and inquiry-based learning, activates critical thinking which you can read more about in our Critical Thinking Companion. Our list breaks down the learning activities by subject: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Many of these activities are customizable so they can be catered to toddlers all the way up to high school students.
Science Activities for Project Based Learning
Oil spill activity - This one, along with many others, are from a list featured in the article 11 Simple STEM Activities for Kids That Will Stimulate Young Minds by Megan Ruesink.
- The Incredible Shrinking Bag and the Crushed Soda Can – These two garbage science projects from Teach Beside Me take a potato chip bag and a can of soda and turn them into some pretty cool science experiments that are great for elementary-aged kids!
- Frog Study – You can tailor this activity to kids in preschool all the way up to high school. Brought to you by Harrington Harmonies, this amphibian activity will teach students about observation, life cycles, and life science.
- Water Cycle in a Bag – This is a great activity you can find on From Playdough to Plato. It all takes place in a tiny little Ziploc bag.
STEM Technology Activities
Squishy Circuits - This activity from STEAMsational involves conducting electricity using two different types of "dough."
- Become a LEGO Mechanic – Homegrown Learners provides some great videos and detailed explanations of how to use LEGO to teach elementary and middle-school aged children about technology, engineering, math, and building.
- Create a Stop Motion Animation – This is a great project to teach beginners about the filmmaking process, whether in elementary or high school. It involves a little bit of storytelling, experimentation, problem-solving, and hands-on technology. The easy-to-follow instructions to create a stop motion video are provided by TinkerLab.
Engineering-Based Activities for Students
- Bridge Building Challenge – Using just some glue, craft sticks, a ruler, and some parchment paper, kids can build a bridge and test just how well it will hold up. Busy Kids, Happy Mom provides this bridge-building tutorial that can be applied in the classroom or at home.
- Build a Catapult – The Kids Activities Blog provides this fun and easy engineering activity using just a few simple craft items. What kid isn’t going to enjoy learning about engineering by launching objects across the room?
- Up, Up, and Away – This activity from the Homeschool Scientist gets kids working on building their own custom aircraft.
- Propeller Car – Instructables has dozens of great engineering projects for all ages that re fun and simple. This one is about designing a propeller-powered car.
- Miniature Robot – Want to show kids how to make their own customizable battery-powered robot? This easy and fun tutorial from Red Ted Art will get them up and running in no time.
PBL Math Activities Using Hands-On Learning
- Early Math Lessons – These simple math lessons are great for younger children to teach the very basics of math. Our Journey Westward brings us these math ideas to teach division and logic.
- Go on a Math Hunt – This is another great activity for making math fun. Raising Lifelong Learners brings us this idea for a math hunt that’s great for elementary-aged kids who are homeschooled.
- Nerf Gun Math – This fun outdoor activity for teaching basic math is geared towards older elementary-aged children. No Time For Flash Cards breaks down the instructions and materials needed to create this simple Nerf Gun Math game.
- It’s About Time – Check out these activities from Education World that are all about teaching how to tell time.
- Tower of Hanoi – This is a traditional game where discs of varying sizes are stacked onto rods. The discs are stacked in order with the smallest on top and the biggest on the bottom. They can only be moved one at a time, and can only be placed either on an empty space or on a larger disc.
More STEM Activities
Here’s an extended list of STEM project-based learning activities to try:
- Tiny Dancers (Science)
- Build a Volcano (Science)
- Apple Oxidation (Science)
- The Rock Scratch Test (Science)
- Build a Tiny Rain Shelter (Technology & Engineering)
- Build a Pulley Machine (Technology & Engineering)
- Money Math (Math)
- Mirror Symmetry (Math)
- Build a Rubberband Helicopter (Engineering)
- The Cork Launcher (Engineering)
- Build a Simple Pneumatic Machine (Engineering)
Sites for STEM Project-Based Learning Activities
- Planet Smarty Pants
- Little Bins for Little Hands
- Ask Dr. Universe
- How Stuff Works
STEM to Critical Thinking
Like we said earlier, STEM activities are a great way to harness learners' critical thinking abilities for awe-inspiring learning. These activities are the perfect companions to our most popular companion, The Critical Thinking Companion. Explore dozens of games and activities, many of which are STEM-related in their own right. Between the lists above and what's in the guide below, you're never going to run out of ideas for terrific STEM learning adventures.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 16, 2016, updated September 19, 2021