Nobody can inspire us like great teachers can. They seem to come along at just the right moment,..
When teaching STEM concepts to younger kids, capturing your audience is key. You want to make these subjects engaging and accessible for the students to understand.
It takes imagination, innovation, and playing to their interests to give our primary learners interesting challenges for learning STEM subjects.
By investing in irresistible primary school STEM projects, you can set up students for gaining an interest in STEM subjects for life. These following lesson ideas can help you with making that happen.
So without further delay, here are 10 primary school STEM projects that are certain to excite your learners.
1. Homemade Five-Minute Ice Cream
Kids get a big kick out of this experiment (mainly because you can let them eat the results). This is all about the chemical reaction of ice and salt. You'll be doing it using a one-gallon plastic bag and a pint-size plastic bag. All you need are 4 simple ingredients:
- 1 tbs sugar
- ½ cup cream
- 7 tbs kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Fill the gallon bag half full with ice and mix the salt through it. Then in the smaller bag, put and seal the sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. Finally, you place the smaller bag into the larger ice-filled bag. Now the students take turns shaking the bag constantly for five minutes. That’s all it takes to make ice cream.
2. Twinkly Volcanic Eruption
The old erupting volcano experiment is something students still love, even though it’s one of the most basic to teach about how different substances react to one another. Watch this video for a quick primer on how to build one.
Start with a vase if you don’t have a ready paper mâché volcano at hand (if you want to incorporate that into the lesson, here's how to make one).
First, add ¼ cup baking soda in the bottom of the vase. Then add food colouring and glitter of the students’ choice on top of the baking soda. Finally, add a ½ cup of vinegar to watch the twinkly volcanic eruption go.
3. Lemon Juice As Invisible Ink
This project teaches how an acid reacts with heat. Squeeze a lemon into a bowl with a little bit of water. Using a paintbrush, have the students paint words onto a piece of paper. Once this is done, wait for it to dry and then hold up the paper to a light bulb or run an iron on low heat over it.
Watch how the acidic lemon turns brown when confronted with the heat, allowing the mystery words to be read.
4. Multi-Coloured Weight Jars
The goal of the multi-colours in a mason jar is to show how different liquids can measure all kinds of different weights. You need five different liquids and five different kinds of food colouring.
You can use a variety of liquids, but here are five that work really well: honey, dish soap, olive oil, cranberry juice and just plain or coloured water.
5. Build Your Own Robots
When learning STEM subjects, you can get as complex or as simple with them as your supplies will allow. This is one of those projects that lends itself to a wide range of student innovation and creativity.
It’s always easy to start with a Lego base of blocks and attach it to movable objects, like remote control cars. More importantly, ask your learners what kinds of purposes their “hypothetical robots” would be able to serve.
Kids of all ages and experience levels can dive into this one and create amazing robotics projects that are functional and useful. FIRST, a mentor-based program that builds science, engineering, and technology skills, has a cool robotics competition that may interest your learners.
6. Build Gingerbread Structures
This doesn’t have to be a holiday activity anymore. It's a fun creative activity that teaches kids about architectural design and building.
Have them draw up their blueprint plans first and then actually build them out with edible items like graham crackers, marshmallows, and pretzels. Frosting, as any crafter knows, makes a great glue and mortar for these structures.
Again, depending on the supplies at hand, you can get as complex as you want with this activity. If you want to see what it's possible to achieve with gingerbread houses, check out these stunning examples.
7. The Mousetrap “Rube Goldberg” Machine
Explore cause and effect with this experiment, which is the main theory of the Rube Goldberg machine. It’s a simple contraption that uses small movements to produce a domino effect.
You can use dominoes if you like for some components, or you can build the old school “Mousetrap” game which uses a tiny marble to trigger the different stages.
This is yet another experiment that can range in its levels of complexity. It all depends on your learners' imaginations combined with what they have to work with for materials.
8. Egg Parachutes
You can use an egg or some other fragile food item, like a crumbly cookie, for this experiment. Whatever you use, ultimately the goal is to not break the item. That said, eggs work best because they can be the most delicate and therefore the most challenging.
Have the students build individual parachutes for a dixie cup, holding the egg. This is meant to teach the relationship between force and momentum, when they drop their project from a height of at least six feet.
9. Homemade Slime
Students go bonkers for homemade slime. This is also an activity that teaches how to turn a couple of elements into something completely different. There are so many different recipes for slime online that you can really get creative with it.
These 5 recipes are non-toxic and mom-approved. Dye your slime different colours and have a contest for who can make the coolest slime.
10. The “Annoying Orange” Buoyancy Test
Here's a density science experiment that only takes two oranges and a large vase of water. First, show the kids what happens when you drop a regular orange into the water. Does it sink or float? How about when you peel the orange? The kids will have fun guessing what will happen with both of the “annoying oranges.”
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Oct 24, 2019, updated October 18, 2021