I try to challenge my students with different STEM (science Technology Engineering and Math) activities on a regular basis. I find these challenges encourage persistence, problem solving and critical thinking, but from a kids point of view they are simply hands-on fun!
For this activity, all you need are playdoh and glass stones. Since I teach kindergarten, I made up a tray full of the materials for each groups to use. For this challenge, I encouraged students to think of the glass stones as bricks and the playdoh as mortar. I then challenged them to create a structure or house using the ‘mortar’ and ‘bricks’. Their creations were amazing!
When I do STEM challenges, I try not to give too much direction as to how to solve the challenge. I really want to see what the children can independently come up with. I also encourage the idea that there is more than one solution to the problem.
Some students started creating a fence like structure right away. Others laid a layer of mortar and then stuck the bricks into it and added to it layer by layer.
It is always interesting to talk to students as they build, because they can often explain every part of their creation. They will happily tell each part of their structure and why they had made it the way they had.
I had a few students really create outside of the box. Instead of using the glass stones, they created their structure using only the playdoh. They formed bricks and then built their structure with the ‘bricks’ they had made.
I see the positive impact of these STEM challenges every time I do them with children. Children are keen to create and work very hard during our classes. If part of their creation doesn’t work, they work to solve it and try again. This is such a simple STEM challenge, but there is so much learning that comes from it.