Easy STEM Activity Build a Boat Challenge


We all make mistakes. Hopefully everyday. When we make mistakes, we can learn and grow from them. Teaching children that making mistakes is part of learning and is a great chance to try different things. STEM activities provide the opportunity for children learn through trial and error and develop a growth mindset. This easy STEM activity uses simple materials to create something fun!

I’ve been doing STEM activities in my classroom for many years. These hands-on activities are always engaging and well received by my students. At home, my own children often ask for a STEM challenge that they can work on. There is so much learning that takes places during these activities. For more STEM activities check out my popular collection of 45 STEM Building Challenges.

STEM challenges are activities that mix Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The more of these subjects incorporated into the activity, the better. These are important subject areas that are gaining in focus in schools.

The easy STEM activity below allows children freedom in their learning by leaving the challenge open ended. Each child can build and create their own structure based on their understanding of the challenge and their imagination is their only limit.

easy stem activity shows a pinterest pin.

Easy STEM Activity Materials

The materials are supplies that I had at home. This is one of the great things about STEM challenges. You can use things you have on hand in a whole new way.

For this easy STEM activity, you will need:

  • Foam Pool Noodles
  • Toothpicks
  • Paper
  • Foam Paper
  • Straws
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Container Filled with Water
  • Activity Card
stem challenge for kids shows a collection of building materials.

Many of the materials are optional. If you don’t have straws, foam paper or string, you can still do the challenge. The main material you do need are the pool noodles. The other materials are simply supplies that I had at home and had available to use.

Like most STEM challenges, part of the challenge is being able to get creative and use the materials provided, but you can give children any assortment you have available. Keep it inexpensive.

For another STEM activity to try at home using just disposable cups and jumbo popsicle sticks, check out, STEM Challenge that kids will love!

Activity Card

STEM challenges make great activity bags. Put the materials needed into a bag along with the activity card for children to take home to create.

The activity card for this easy STEM activity is included for free. More information is available at the end of this activity description.

easy STEM challenge activity card that says "use the materials to create a boat that will float on the water."

Print the activity card to place to use in classroom centers or for children at home. If your kids love this challenge, make sure to visit 10 STEM Challenges using 50 Materials, each with activity cards.

Easy STEM Activity Set Up

There is not a lot of prep work involved in this, or most, STEM activities. Simply provide the materials.

Pool noodles can often be purchased at a dollar store throughout the summer, but they tend to not last very long. We had some noodles left from the summer, that I reused for this activity.

Have an adult prepare the pool noodles by cutting them into different shapes and sizes. Cut small circles and cut some pieces lengthwise.

easy stem activity shows six groups of cut out pool noodles.

I did this activity with a large group of kindergarten children, so I prepared enough supplies for six group (of 4 kids).

Set out all of the supplies for children to use and they can take what they need to create their own boat.

stem challenge shows a child building with stem materials.

Since I did this easy STEM activity with young children, I wanted to set it up in a way that I knew children would be successful. The goal of creating the boat is not to make it will float. The pool noodles ensure that the boat will float. The challenge is creating a boat that will stay upright and not tip over.

Creating the Boat

As children create, they can test their boat by setting it in the container of water in the room. Being able to test is an important part of this STEM challenge.

Being able to test how their boat sits on the water gives kids the chance to make mistakes. They learn that their first attempt is not their final product. If their boat tips over, they can go back and change their design, and test again.

This challenges children to look at their design and decide what they think is working, and what is not. It encourages them to ask questions, such as:

Why did it fall over?

What can I change so that it doesn’t fall over again?

What else should I change to make it better?

This reflection is one of the most important skills that comes out of a STEM activity. It encourages children to make mistakes, but reflect on them and try something new.

Once children have an idea and know the challenge, give them lots of time to build.

stem activities shows a child putting together a boat from foam pieces and toothpicks.

Once kids have a design that they are happy with, they can place it in the water and test their creation.

easy stem activity shows a boat made from pool noodles and foam pieces.

Easy STEM Activity – Extra Challenge

On the activity card, a few extra challenges are listed. If you are doing this activity with older children, these additional challenges are a great way to add to the activity.

easy stem challenge shows a DIY boat on a fabric sheet.

Try adding a small figure to the boat. Challenge children to create their boat in a way that the figure will not fall off. Can they find a way to secure it?

stem building challenge shows a boat in water.

You can also challenge children to use a straw and blow their boat across the water. Often the boats will float and stay upright when set in the water, but will it stay upright when it moves?

building challenge for kids shows a child blowing on a boat that has been set in water.

If you are doing this activity in a classroom, once all of the boats are built and have been tested, it is a lot of fun to test the final creations together in the water. Children can tell about what they changed as they tested their boat and what they love about it. They can also tell what else they would change or what the need to alter in their design.

stem activity shows a boat sitting in water.

Free Activity Card

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More Hands-On Teaching Ideas

Looking for more Hands-On Teaching Ideas? Check out a few popular STEM activities for children, at home, or in the classroom. Bringing STEM into your child’s learning has never been easier, or more fun!

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