Holiday STEM in the Science Classroom

Holiday STEM in the grade 4, 5, 6, 7 science classroom to boost social emotional learning and NGSS standards
The holidays can be a time that tests classroom management. Throughout my years, I have found that student engagement is the best way to keep students on task. An engaged student cannot get into trouble. But there are so many more reasons to try a STEM resource in your classroom. Aside from the NGSS connection, STEM can improve social-emotional learning skills (SEL). Read on to learn more about STEM projects and why I like to use them in my upper elementary and middle school science classes.  

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM resources have been created because these are areas that have been recognized as important skills that students need for the future. Many professionals feel that by immersing our students in these areas will allow them to develop a passion and eventually want to pursue a job in this field.
Many STEM projects also align with NGSS Engineering standards. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specific criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
  • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • MS-ETS-1-2: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. 
  • MS-ETS-1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
  • MS-ETS-1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.   
  • MS-ETS-1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.  
 This allows you to be guilt-free in including it in your curriculum. In addition to meeting your curriculum requirements, STEM provides your students with other benefits.

STEM helps students: 

  • Reinforce collaborative learning
  • Encourage and enhance tech use
  • Improve independence
  • Spark ingenuity
  • Build on inquiry thinking skills
  • Allow students to learn from failure points
  • Expand problem solving skills
  • Think of solutions to real-life problems

Why do I think it is important to incorporate STEM skills around the holidays?

When we were in college going through our standard history of education classes, how many times have we heard that young children learn through play? In pre-school, counseling, and with friends, our students learned so many valuable lessons while they were playing. Why would this suddenly stop? Yes, the “play objects” change, but students will STILL learn best through hands-on learning.
In addition to the preferred learning style, the holidays are not always a jolly time for our students. Just like in our own complex family dynamics, our students often come from heart-breaking family stories.  
I feel strongly that STEM ties into social-emotional learning. Students need to work and refine their cooperative learning skills as they work on the task. STEM learning helps them to set and achieve goals, establish and maintain positive relationships with their peers, and make responsible decisions. Students will also find this type of activity more therapeutic and stimulating than normal seatwork. Getting their mind off of other things and focusing on the project can greatly help some students mindsets. Remember what I said about the engaged student? 
Looking for premade lessons and activities to use with your students? Check them out here
incorporating STEM into your science classroom to help with social emotional learning

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