Back-to-school signs now greet me at every store, but I am still in denial that the lazy day of summers have come to an end! Soon, students will fill the hallways with laughter and shiny new backpacks, and teachers will clutch their coffee mugs and brace for another year! To help ease you into the new school year, Vivify invites you to start the year with some hands-on STEM challenges!
Icebreaker STEM Towers
Icebreaker STEM challenges are a great way to kick-off the year! My go-to back to school challenge is this Pipecleaner Tower Challenge with a twist. Students build towers using only pipecleaners, but they are forced to work together with new constraints added along the way.
If you need more icebreaker challenges, you can really use almost anything to challenge students to build the tallest tower in teams. Examples include: index cards and tape, toothpicks and gumdrops, or spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. The tallest tower wins! More ideas can be found on our Pinterest board, STEM Design Challenges and Icebreakers.
Simple engineering activities get your students moving, thinking, and collaborating. These hands-on challenges build a foundation of skills that prepare for them for the school year. Read more about how to build STEM skills through our 3 Stages of STEM.
Growing Icebreaker Bundle
Easily tailored to fit your students, we recommend our growing bundle of STEM Icebreaker Challenges for 2nd - 9th graders. This set includes 12 of our favorite basic STEM challenges that are low-cost and low-prep for any classroom!
Working as a team, the students will learn lessons in communication, innovation, hidden assumptions, and creativity that are central to the engineering process. Use as a warm-up, icebreaker, team building activity, or basic STEM and engineering design challenge! Also included are more in-depth critical thinking activities that are a great introduction to science and engineering concepts.
- 3 Newspaper STEM Challenges: These three newspaper challenges are meant to be completed in a sequence of increasingly more difficult activities. First, the students build a tower, then they create a tower that can hold weight, and finally they are given a more creative challenge of designing and building a chair to hold a student. Handouts are provided to guide students through the engineering design process.
- 5 Tower STEM Challenges: Towers are a great STEM activity to promote collaboration, teamwork, communication, and problem solving. This challenge lays a critical foundation for more intensive STEM challenges.
- 4 STEM Critical Thinking Activities: Students will explore the world around them asking questions with a scientific or engineering mindset.
Back to School STEM
If you are looking for an interactive game, you can check our our free Science Icebreaker: What Am I? This is a great vocabulary refresher to start the year. Each student gets a word placed on their back, and then the students go around asking yes or no questions to guess their word. A fun way to break the ice and meet new classmates.
Also checkout our free STEM scavenger hunt where kids get to know each other, work in teams, and learn something while having fun! This activity provides exposure to simple machines which are the foundation of tools used in physics and engineering to multiply force. In the scavenger hunt, students are asked to find items that represent the list of tools commonly used in S.T.E.M. fields!
If you are ready to include more in-depth STEM challenges in the new school year, we recommend our 6 Starter STEM Challenges. From catapults to cars to an egg drop challenge, this is all you need to get started in STEM! Each activity has an in-depth student activity sheet along with a guide through the engineering design process. Materials are cheap, but the learning is fun, hands-on, and engaging!