10 STEM activities for $10 or Less



The subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are so important in our ever increasingly technological world. Here are ideas that are inexpensive and low-prep. These easy, low prep, cheap STEM activities work for any age child. Great hands-on, summer projects for children and teens.


Why are STEM activities for kids so important?


As a parent or educator, you may have started hearing people talking about STEM activities and wondered what it means and why it seems so important all of a sudden. STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It is usually referring to activities for children that help them to gain real-world practice in these content areas.


This style of teaching math and science has become increasingly more popular as occupations in these subjects have become more prevalent. Improving skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is crutial for students to understand and contribute the world around them


Children of all ages can begin to practice thinking about ways they can apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems. From a toddler holding puzzle pieces to a highschool student programing a robot, all children can practice developing a mindset of creative problem-solving.


Here are 10 STEM activities that can be done with children from preschool to highschool for less than 10 dollars. As you complete the projects, make sure and save time out for kids to go back and make revisions after their first attempt to solve any of the problems...a big part of STEM is learning from your experiments and changing your design.


1) Don't crack the egg



Directions:

In this activity students will each be given one egg and a variety of materials. They must use recycled materials to create something that can hold the egg and keep it from breaking after being dropped 10 feet.


Tips:

If you want to make the activity more challenging you can add time limits for creating your contraption to protect the egg. You can also make the task easier by dropping it from a shorter distance.


Make sure and be clear with the kids that they will only receive one egg. Only give the kids their egg when they say they are ready and tell them they must be very careful with the egg as they build their protective case.


You can also make the activity easier by giving the students examples or by only providing materials that are best suited to take the impact.


Benefits:

This activity is a great real-world connection for how engineers make vehicles safer in case of a crash. It helps kids understand how different recycled materials take the impact of the fall.


Materials:

Any recycled materials you have in your house: paper plates, bags, straws, sponges, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, cardboard, newspaper, and styrofoam are all examples of things you could collect. You will also need tape and glue to allow students to create their structure.


2) Windmills



Directions:

Teacher drills or punches a hole into two sides of a two-liter pop bottle, fills it up with water halfway and sticks a dowel through both holes. Then tie a string with a small dixie cup to one end of the dowl. The students will be given a styrofoam ball and a variety of materials. They will need to create the blades for the windmill from recycled materials. Once they have fastened the blades onto the styrofoam ball they will place the ball on the other end of the dowl to form the windmill. Blow a fan on the windmill, if it spins it will twist the string and lift up the dixie cup. If it spins well, unravel the string and begin again, placing pennies into the dixie cup. See who can make the fan blades that catch the wind well enough to lift up the most amount of pennies in the cup.


Tips:

You as the educator only need to make one bottle with the dowel and dixie cup. The students can each place their styrofoam ball with their blades on the windmill one at a time.

Make sure when you punch the holes for the dowels, they are round enough that the dowels will spin.


Make sure when you tie the string on the dowel that the knot is tight, otherwise the dowel

will spin, but the string will just slide and not begin to twist up.


Benefits:

This is a great way to teach about sources of energy and how we can use renewable energy. You can also talk about how energy is used to make electricity with older students.


Materials:

To make the blades use recycled material from your home like: toothpicks, paper or plastic plates, bags, cups, or sheets. Also use things like tin foil, plastic wrap, tissue paper, cardboard, popsicle sticks, etc.

You will also need to have tape and scissors.

For the windmill, you will need a dowel, a dixie cup, string, a pop bottle, styrofoam balls, and a fan.


3) Sail Boats



Directions:

Students will be given a variety of recycled materials and will need to create a boat that will float, with a sail that will catch the wind. First kids make a raft and sail for a boat. Then the students will place the boat in a bathtub, small stream, kiddie pool, or plastic tote filled with water. Then wind will be created with either a fan or the students blowing. Either you can see which boat goes the farthest distance in a certain amount of time, or which boat goes a certain distance the fastest.


Tips:

Make sure there are sufficient recycled materials to create a raft that will float and a mast that can be secure.

The angle of the wind will affect how well the sail catches the wind too, so if none of the sails are working well, blow the wind from a slightly different angle.


Benefits:

This activity is also great for teaching about sources of energy and renewable energy.

It can also be a good opportunity to teach about buoyancy and weight distribution.

There is also a social studies application. You can use this activity and talk about different models of boats and ships that are used in different cultures or throughout history.


Materials:

The sail and raft are made from recycled materials from your home like toothpicks, paper or plastic plates, bags, cups, bowels, or sheets. Also use things like tin foil, pie pans, plastic wrap, tissue paper, cardboard, popsicle sticks, etc.

You will also need a source of water like a bathtub, baby pool, tote or small stream.

Finally, you will need a source of wind either a hairdryer, your own breath, an air mattress pump (you will need to stand far away because the wind will be very strong) or a fan.


4) Paper Airplanes



Directions:

There are many different types of paper airplanes and lots of blueprints on how to make them. Have the students create a paper airplane and see which one goes the farthest, which one goes the farthest, fastest, highest ...there are all sorts of things you could measure.


Tips:

You can differentiate this activity by having easier or more difficult patterns or blueprints prepared for students of all different skill levels.

You also can challenge the students to create their own designs of a plane without a blueprint.


Benefits:

This is a great way to help tie in STEM concepts to something that students frequently like doing on their own outside of academics. Making paper airplanes and talking about design, aerodynamics and the engineering process may help them think like an engineer as they do everyday tasks.


Materials:

All you need is the internet to find different blueprints and paper!


5) Programing Practice


Directions:

Have students work in pairs. Give one student the name of a task (for example: making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peeling a banana). Student one must tell student two exactly what to do to complete the task. Student two may only do EXACTLY what the student one says. For example, if a student one is describing how to make a PB&J and they tell student two to put jelly on the bread, student two must take the whole jar of jelly and put it on the bread. Student one must practice until their directions are specific and detailed enough that the task is completed correctly. Then students may switch roles.


Tips:

It may be helpful to show the students an example by first being the partner who is completing the task. The task only works if the student following the steps, follow sthem EXACTLY as they are told.

You can also take this activity further by having students make mazes with tape on the floor. One partner is blindfolded and has to listen to the other partner’s directions to follow the maze to the end.


Benefits:

This is a great task to help students learn the idea behind coding. The students will learn to be very specific and clear in their directions and this will help them when they start coding to make their codes accurate, look for bugs and fix their mistakes.


Materials:

You will need specific materials for the task you give each student to describe and complete, but this activity is essentially free because you can give them a task that fits the materials and setting you have at your disposal.


6) Index Card Towers


Directions:

This activity is very simple and students of every age enjoy it. Even groups of adults have fun with this challenge. Give the students a stack of index cards, a pair of scissors and tape. The student or group of students who make the tallest tower that can hold a beanie baby or small stuffed animal wins.


Tips:

You can make it more challenging by only giving a small amount of tape to each group or no tape at all.


You can also give groups a time limit.

I always told the students they could hold the stuffed animal to feel it’s weight, but could not test it on their tower until the end.


Benefits:

This activity is great for talking about shapes in architecture or talking about how to make a structure strong.


Materials:

All you need are index cards, scissors, and tape.