When I think about the resource in my classroom that provides the most value for both my students and myself, I always come back to STEM boxes. You may be wondering, “What’s a STEM box?” STEM boxes are organized boxes loaded with activities that will get your kids thinking creatively. There are so many ways to use them, which is why they are the cornerstone of my classroom. We use them across content areas and for several different purposes.
My STEM box resource contains five sets of themed task cards with QR codes, differentiated writing organizers, editable labels for the STEM boxes you’ll make, and editable writing prompts. These resources can be used for various subjects, and my season-themed sets (fall, winter, spring, and summer (coming soon!)) add relevant STEM activities to your instruction.
In my classroom, the STEM boxes are located on a cart where early finishers can easily access them after completing an activity. This way, students can grab the materials they need when they finish an assignment. While I love using these for early finishers, this isn’t their only purpose. We also use them in math and literacy! Let me show you how.
1. STEM Boxes in Math
Using STEM Boxes for Manipulatives
There are several ways that we use STEM boxes in math class. One obvious way is using the content of the boxes as manipulatives. Manipulatives are necessary for math because students need to touch objects first to conceptualize numbers. Manipulatives help make math less abstract for students.
Using STEM Boxes for Math Games
Another way that we use STEM boxes is in math centers. We love to play games during math class. One game my students enjoy playing is “STEM to Win.” Students answer game cards in “STEM to Win” and earn materials based on their answers. In the end, we use STEM task cards for a surprise challenge where students build using only the materials they’ve earned.
Each task card clearly states how much of each supply students earn from getting the answer correct. This eliminates students asking to change materials or complaining about the amount they received. I wanted to use this system because I felt that when students earn something, it mimics the workplace. When you work, you earn money. When students get the answers correct, they are earning their currency in the form of STEM materials. These are skills that students will carry into adulthood as they get their own jobs.
Using STEM Boxes for Time and Measurement
After students have earned their STEM materials during small group, we often play “Race Against The Clock.” I give students a set amount of time; sometimes it’s 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, and during that amount of time, students are challenged to build something with the STEM materials they have earned. This challenge helps students conceptualize time. How long is 1 minute in comparison to 5 minutes? How long are 5 minutes in comparison to 10? What unique creation can they build in a targeted amount of time?
Another way to use STEM boxes in math is to measure the creations. You can use student designs to measure height, width, and units and quickly compare them with a neighbor. Activities like this are easy and engaging!
2. STEM Boxes in Literacy
Using STEM Boxes in Grammar
We also love to use STEM boxes in literacy, and we use them in a variety of ways. One way that we use them is in conjunction with my Grammar Games resource. These games focus on the grammar skill we are focusing on each week. Like math, students receive STEM pieces based on answering questions correctly and later have a chance to create something.
Using STEM Boxes in Reading
One of my favorite ways to use STEM boxes in reading is with our read alouds. For example, I recently read aloud the Tomie dePaola book, “The Legend of the Poinsettia,” to my class. As an extension activity, students interacted with one of the themed task cards about poinsettias from a STEM box.
On each card, there is a STEM task and a QR code. For this particular card, students were challenged to design an object that looked like a poinsettia. Once students finished creating, they scanned the QR code and read a nonfiction passage about where poinsettias come from. The STEM task card helped extend student learning beyond the fiction text by giving them a hands-on activity and teaching them more about poinsettias.
Using STEM Boxes for Writing
My STEM resource also contains differentiated writing pages. We use these writing pages to practice expository writing (what did we learn about poinsettias?), informational writing (how did students build something?), and making lists (what materials do they need?). These writing sheets can be formatted for whichever writing task you assign your students related to their STEM activities. I have some prewritten writing prompts in my free writing pages resource.
STEM boxes are one of the best tools I’ve implemented in my class. I love them because they keep my students engaged across content areas while also helping me make meaningful connections for my kids.
If you’re looking to revamp your small groups and add engaging STEM activities for your students, you’re in luck. This STEM resource and the correlating seasonal task cards can help you make a significant change on a small budget.
Check out these seasonal task cards!
I hope you find this post helpful, and you can easily incorporate STEM into your math and literacy blocks with no stress! Let me know how it goes in the comments below.