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3 STEM Activities for Distance Learning

Saturday, August 8, 2020 12:45:25 PM America/New_York

While distance learning is by no means an ideal situation for hands-on learning, we have put together some strategies that promote STEM skills.

Activity 1: STEM Quick Build Challenge

A STEM quick build challenge is perfect to engage students during a live virtual class! Select a building task that can be completed with a wide range of simple materials. Students can participate from home or during an individual build in a classroom setting.

Examples of STEM quick build challenges:

  • Build a bridge that holds weight

  • Build a tower taller than you

  • Build a tower to hold a stuffed animal

  • Build a zip line

  • Build a chain reaction

For a virtual class, ask students to gather available materials. You may also want to tell students to gather materials before the live class begins. Materials can be anything from paper, straws, paper plates or cups, toilet paper rolls, Legos, tape, newspapers, etc,

You may want to prompt students to draw an initial design before building, but they will likely be excited to jump right in! While brainstorming is important, this stage of STEM focuses more on creativity, problem-solving, and perseverance during the building phase. Plus an added fun of this activity is the timed element. We recommend around 10 - 15 minutes for building. After building, have students share their completed design with classmates!

Activity 2: STEM Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to engage students during distance learning! During this activity, students are tasked with finding different objects that represent a STEM word. Students have a blast running around the house finding objects, and the results are often hilarious! Scavenger hunts are definitely a fun way to break the ice during a live session while also introducing new vocabulary or checking for understanding.

To play, teachers can either post one task at a time or provide students with a BINGO type game board for more options. Example include asking students to find:

  • A wedge

  • A pattern

  • Something living

  • Something powered by electricity

  • An insulator

  • Something that floats

Before starting, make sure to review the rules of the game including a time limit and safety. To be inclusive of students with limited mobility or limited access to materials, an alternative is to allow students to draw the item.

Activity 3: Intro to Coding Communication Challenge

Looking for an activity to promote communication and collaboration? We love using this intro to coding activity through virtual platforms or when students require physical distancing in the classroom.

Activity Set-up: There has been an emergency on the International Space Station! A special tool is required to make repairs, but only Robonaut (a robotic astronaut) can build this tool. NASA’s Mission Control must send commands to tell Robonaut exactly how to build the tool to save the astronauts on the ISS.

Overview: The purpose of the activity is to mimic how a computer scientist programs a robot. To complete this challenge, students will be put into pairs. Student A is NASA Mission Control that has the designs for a tool. Student B is Robonaut on the ISS and will receive commands on how to build the tool.

Materials required: In this challenge, one student will direct the other on how to build a specific object. This requires both partners to have the same materials available. The challenge works best with building materials like Legos or Zoob. Students can also use paper, index cards, modeling clay, or other materials, but the more malleable the object the more difficult the instructions become to precisely replicate the tool.

How to implement the activity:

  • Live class session: A teacher or selected student provides commands and students attempt to build the tool.

  • Google Slides: Students submit their tool commands, and the teacher compiles into a Google Slides presentation. Students are then assigned to replicate classmates' commands and upload a photo of their final design.

  • Flipgrid: Students post a video with commands on how to build the tool. Classmates respond by posting a video of their tool using the instructions.



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Posted in News By

Edwin Tirado