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The 10 best resources for K-12 STEM projects

There’s a whole lot more to STEM projects these days than baking soda volcanoes (but those are still fun, too)

STEM-project-K12 [1]With the current national emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum, educators are often left wondering where to find new ideas for STEM projects that won’t dig deep into school funds. However, thanks to resourceful peers, and the power of the internet, many organizations and websites offer well-vetted STEM project resources for students of all ages.

For example, NASA offers free STEM curriculum for grades K-12 and includes projects on precipitation, constructing a cooling system for a spacesuit, and constructing a paper model of a satellite.

Projects found in these resources range from instructional posters with STEM projects embedded within to inspire students in the classroom, to national competitions for video game design that urge students to independently learn how to create online games using their math skills.

“At a time when many people are asking how we can get more students interested in STEM fields, we are hearing from teachers who have found ‘making’ to be a great way to get students excited and engaged in their classrooms,” said AnnMarie Thomas, executive director of the Maker Education Initiative [2] for Edutopia [3].

Thomas gave examples of students working on designing and building furniture for their classroom using algebra and geometry to figure out dimensions.

“E-textiles and soft circuitry, in which circuits are sewn using conductive thread or fabric, have shown to be an engaging way to teach electronics and programming, especially for young women,” she explained. “The possibilities for ways to incorporate ‘making’ into the school day are endless, and it is exciting to see what teachers have been developing and sharing.”

Know of any STEM project resources we may have missed or that you’d like to mention? Leave your suggestion in the comments section below, or email me at mstansbury@eschoolnews.com [4].

(Next page: Project resources 1-5)

[Listed in alphabetical order]

1. FIRST Robotics [5]:

FIRST is a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for STEM and has attracted more than 300,000 youth and more than 120,000 Mentors, Coaches, and Volunteers from more than 70 countries. The annual programs culminate in an international robotics competition. Programs include the Junior FIRST LEGO League, the FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and the FIRST Robotics Competition.

2. Kinetic City [6]:

Kinetic City is a collection of science experiments, games and projects for students of all ages both online and offline. Kinetic City is a production of AAAS and the NSF and was designed as an after-school standards-based science program in which kids complete activities in conjunction with the website. The more kids play, the more standards-based science content they learn.

3. MASTER Tools [7]:

Developed by The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc [8].,  MASTER Tools are the result of on-going collaborations with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications [9] (NCSA), George Mason University [10], and other education organizations. They are designed to be interactive tools and simulation environments that enable and encourage exploration and discovery through observation, conjecture, and modeling activities. MASTER Tools’ growing portfolio will soon be fully integrated with new collaboration tools and online research facilities to create an “authentic scientific experience,” says the site. All of the simulations and supporting curriculum materials are designed in accordance with the new National Science Education Standards and the National Math Education Standards.

4. NASA for Educators [11]:

NASA’s special site devoted specifically to educators provides free lesson plans and project ideas to K-12 educators. Projects include understanding precipitation, constructing a cooling system for a spacesuit, and constructing a paper model of a satellite. Lessons and projects are divided by K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

5. National Science Foundation [12](NSF):

The NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education provides a list of activities and resources for K-12 teachers and students. Projects include “Is Pluto a Planet?” from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) under Science NetLinks, lake ice comparison lesson plans from Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, and much more.

(Next page: Project resources 6-10)

6. The National STEM Video Game Challenge [13]:

Middle and high school students are encouraged to submit their original game designs for the opportunity to earn recognition and prizes for themselves, as well as monetary prizes for their schools. The site provides free game-making tools for all levels of experience, as well as toolkits for teacher mentors.

7. Pinterest [14]:

Search for STEM activities on Pinterest and there are multiple boards for a range of K-12 students and teachers. For example, STEM projects [15] provides a list of projects as a “jumping-off point for ideas, and this board [16] includes hands-on activities for teaching middle school students about STEM.

8. Project Lead the Way [17] (PLTW):

PLTW is a provider of STEM programs, which offers K-12 curriculum, teacher professional development, and partnerships. PLTW courses are aligned with Common Core State Standards in math and English Language Arts, Next Generation Science Standards, and other national and state standards. Yet, programs are also flexible and customizable so that schools can meet their local curricular and community needs. Courses are designed to complement math and science courses offered by a school and in some instances are used as the core curriculum. Curricular programs include PLTW Launch, PLTW Gateway, PLTW Engineering, PLTW Biomedical Science, and PLTW Computer Science. Learn more about this STEM project solution [18]. The participation fee is assessed annually: $3000 for Engineering, $2000 for Biomedical Science and Computer Science, and $750 for Gateway and Launch. More registration facts [19].

9. Science Buddies [20]:

This site lists science fair project ideas, 1,183 in total, categorized by STEM topic. For example, have students complete the “Do Submarines Need Fins?” project for Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics, or “Storytelling Alice: Once Upon a Time in a Computer-Generated Land” for Computer Science. All projects include a difficulty level, time requires, prerequisites, materials, cost, safety guidelines, procedures and more.

10. Science Fair Project Ideas [21]:

Education.com has assembled a vast collection of science fair project ideas written by science teachers, professional scientists and educational consultants on popular science fair topics ranging from physics and chemistry to biology and even sociology. The site offers free science fair ideas suitable for every grade level. Check the boxes in the sidebar to filter results, or use the search bar to find that perfect science fair project or experiment. Projects include anything from a “Galileo Inclines Plane Physics Experiment” for seventh grade physics to “Changing the Period of a Pendulum” for fourth graders.

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