The best kind of kindergarten STEM challenge is one that has children working together to find a solution to a fun, engaging problem using simple supplies that don't take lots of prep time. Enter The Floor is Lava STEM activity for kindergarteners. It's so simple, you can do it with preschoolers too!
Don't forget to download your free lesson plan pdf too, for easy access to this action-packed kindergarten STEM challenge.
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STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Sometimes you might see it as STEAM, in which the "a" stands for "and." In kindegarten, STEM challenges as kids to solve a problem in which there are multiple solutions and often children are required to build or make something with their hands. STEM challenges will require trial and error and combine elements of the 4 pillars: science, technology, engineering, math.
What's a better premise than The floor is lava? In this STEM challenge for kindergarteners, kids will work together to build a structure to save their bears (or any other small and numerous toy) from the lava.
Supplies you'll need:
My kids are already obsessed with this song, that could be used to really hook the kids into the premise.
Objective: kindergarten kids will work together to create a sturdy structure that holds as many bears as possible above the table top level using only the materials given to them.
Standards for math and science can be found below and are detailed in the free downloadable lesson plan.Download your STEM lesson plan now!
Many of us adults wonder why STEM education is now all the rage, and others have never even heard of a STEM challenge before! There are so many incredible benefits of STEM challenges for young kids including:
Another benefit that doesn't seem right to just include as a bullet point is the benefit doing kindergarten STEM challenges with girls! Many women today were often told they'd be good at subjects stereotypically more "suitable for girls," like history and literature.
Very few women I knew entered the fields of math, engineering, and science, and those that did, were often treated by many like they didn't belong.
When we introduce the STEM subjects at a young age, kids will have a sense of ownership and belonging in these fields. All the kids benefit from these skills, but it is vital that our little girls also view themselves as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers when these fields have been historically male-dominated. The future is in our hands!
So don't wait to begin your kids' STEM education. Start with this kindergarten STEM challenge, and watch how quickly kids begin to think of themselves as engineers.
When introducing the concept of measurement to children, we always start with non standard measurement.
At the ages of 4-6, children understand the concept of short, long, taller, etc but they usually have no understanding of centimeters and inches, making those standard units of measurements too abstract for them.
So in preschool and kindergarten we introduce units of measurement that kids can really wrap their minds around. Usually those are regular household objects and toys.
Measuring is a practical skill that kids use when pouring water, comparing who had more cookies, determining who is taller, etc. In this activity kids delve in deeper to understand measurement of length and height with non standard units!
Though measuring length is usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think of measurement, there are actually multiple types of things we measure. Here are some of the standard units we use for these measurements:
Adults are used to pulling out a ruler, measuring cup, or using a scale to measure things. Usually we can visualize something close to a foot or a cup, if we needed to estimate. But children do not have that awareness yet, so instead teach them to measure with non-standard measurement unit.
These non-standard units can be anything but are best when the child selects them and are of high interest: shoes, lego pieces, stickers, race cars, etc. The one thing that they MUST be is uniform in size.
A child cannot measure their height in legos and markers! Instead one unit needs to be used at a time and lined up end to end, just as we would do when measuring with a ruler.
In the United States, the common core standards introduce standard measurement in second grade.
Before then, kids are expected to understand the concepts of measuring objects without using standard measurement tools, like in this first grade standard:
Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end.
In each of these activities, kids use objects instead of rulers to measure length. There are a few rules for measuring precisely that kids should follow when lining up their nonstandard units:
To play "Measuring Me," you'll need blue tape and access to items around the home that are (mostly) uniform in length. Some ideas are shoes, blocks, markers, crayons, envelopes, etc.
While you have the blue tape out, check out TAPE SHAPES!
The non standard measurement unit for this activity is my favorite... snacks!
You can choose anything that is uniform in size, and I recommend items that are easy to line up end to end like pretzel sticks. Of course, a classic and fun snack to use is goldfish.
There may be opportunities to talk about halves or beginnings of fractions in case snacks don't line up exactly. You could also round up or round down...
Want another fun math snacktivity? You'll love PUNCH MATH!
This is one of my favorite math centers for the winter. Kids love to see the family of snowmen and compare their heights from shortest to tallest before measuring them in unifix cubes.
Student in this teacher's classroom measured and compared the lengths of different vegetables during a farming unit. Their teacher made them non standard bean rulers to practice measurement in a developmentally appropriate and fun fashion!
I love this simple yet genius measurement activity. Draw one straight line on a piece of paper and one crooked, anyway you choose. Have kids guess which is longer and then use paper clips to measure which one is longer.
Want a free week of hands-on learning activities that will wow your child? I'll send it right to you!
I think I traumatized one of my kindergarteners with my lesson plan on how to make a leprechaun trap.
Even 10 years later, his mother and I recount how she had to convince him leprechauns were not real, but he swore that they came to school and messed up our classroom. I'm so sorry, Dude! Just trying to do some engaging hands-on learning with the kiddos.
So be warned, that it might be a good idea to tell your child that maybe after all, it was you who tripped the trap after all.
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Before making the trap, you'll going to want to have a plan. What materials will you want to use? What object might lure a leprechaun into your trap?
This project involves so much learning from science to STEM to writing. In the first steps, kids will plan and prepare to build their leprechaun trap using my FREE How I'll Make My Leprechaun Trap printable.
Download the printable and you're ready to make an easy leprechaun trap in minutes. If you don't have all the supplies listed on the left hand side, tell your child/students what you do have. You might want to show them the materials but not let them use them just yet.
Using the printable, have them draw a plan of what their trap will look like. What will they use to lure the leprechaun into the trap? Hopefully, something shiny!
For older kids who can already write, have them label their leprechaun trap plans so that the reader will know what materials they plan to use for which parts.
Ask your child/students, how will the leprechaun know to come to the trap. Will there be any signage to entice them to come inside?
Now let's build it!
While watching the kids build their leprechaun traps you might feel inclined to jump in and say, "Oh what about this? It would be cool if we..." but I encourage you to stop yourself and let this experiment be completely child led.
In the planning stages, we have provided the questions to provoke problem solving and the materials to inspire. This is the kids' part to be the engineers! Giving our children full creative freedom is hard, but it means that what they create is 100% their own.
Whenever I feel the urge to place value on my children's creation or make suggestions, I try to use the technique called "Say what you see." I just narrate what is happening. So instead of saying, "I love that little door you made," I might say, "You made a door out of paper." Sometimes I just try to step away and see what they'll come up with completely on their own!
These easy to make leprechaun traps will surely bring some excitement to your home or classroom. So now what do you do with them on St. Patrick's day?
The day before St. Patrick's day, I have the kids lay their traps wherever they think the leprechauns will be searching for gold and shiny goods. I make sure that they have their lure inside the trap.
Once I'm alone, I go and snag the gold coins/lures out of each trap.
This is the kicker, the piece de resistance, that probably really made my little student frightened: the footprints. Are you unsure of how to make little leprechaun footprints around your trap?
Easy! Get some green paint. Make a fist and paint the bottom side of your fist before gently stamping it across the surface of your choosing. Then dip your pointing finger in the green paint and create little toes over the foot print. Tada, adorable leprechaun footprints, and they couldn't have been made by an adults large feet!
So yeah, it's a good prank, but if your child or students are iffy on the subject, show them how you did it!!!
The kids will flip when they see the leprechauns have sprung their traps without being caught. This is usually when I leave a little note from the leprechauns saying something like, "You almost got me!" or "Try again next year!" If you're looking for some more St. Patricks Day STEM activities, especially for the classroom, check out The Stem Laboratory!