With back-to-school season in full swing, you are probably looking for fun activities to use in your classroom at the beginning of the year. In kindergarten, those first days typically look like doing a lot of hands-on activities, getting familiar with school, and being introduced to more structured learning time. Having fun with Back-to-School STEM Learning can do all of those things!
Typically, in STEM challenges, you give students a problem to solve as well as various materials that they can use in order to solve the problem. First, you give students a scenario. In kindergarten, this could be something as simple as ,”The teacher needs an apple.” Then they look at the materials that they have available so that they can think and plan through the steps that they should take in order to create that apple.
Not only are these types of activities really fun for our young students, but they are also very purposeful and beneficial. Here are just three of the many benefits of incorporating STEM in your back-to-school plans.
Especially in the beginning of kindergarten, the more hands-on an activity is, the more likely our students are to succeed at it. They need to be able to touch, move, and manipulate things in order to stay engaged in those early days of kindergarten. STEM activities give students a chance to do that.
Because they are building things, they are also firing up their fine motor skills, which is a great way to prepare students for future activities in kindergarten. Fine motor skills are necessary for writing, coloring, and even cutting, so any chance you have to build those skills early in the year is worth taking!
Structured Learning Time
At this point, students likely have little experience with structured learning time. I’m sure that we have all heard that play is the work of children, and while that is true, kindergarten is often a transition time of turning play into work. STEM challenges are very beneficial with that transition.
For students, STEM feels like play as they are tinkering with different materials. However, it is more structured in that they have directions to follow and a given task to complete. Doing tasks like STEM activities early in the year helps students build up their learning-time stamina, while still allowing them time to ease into more rigorous expectations.
Sets the Stage for Learning Throughout the Year
Another great thing about using STEM challenges is that they set the stage for learning activities throughout the year. There are many lessons that students learn from STEM activities, and then apply to school and life in general. For one, it is okay to not have the “right” answer. In fact, in STEM, there are often many different solutions to one problem. Students may use different materials but still create the object that they were supposed to create, such as an apple from our earlier example.
STEM challenges also encourage students to keep trying. Maybe the first set of materials they used didn’t quite work out as they had hoped. They still have an opportunity to try solving the problem in a different way or using different materials. Through this, they also learn that it is okay to be challenged and to continue to work hard even when things do get challenging.
By using STEM challenges as part of your back-to-school plans, your students will gain so many benefits. They will start getting familiar with learning time routines but in a hands-on way that is engaging for our young learners. Students will also begin building important mindset skills that they will use throughout kindergarten and beyond.