Hands-on STEM Activities for Primary Students

There’s no better way to boost students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills than through hands-on STEM activities. These activities provide students with the opportunity to engage directly with scientific concepts, making learning both fun and meaningful. 

Primary school students are naturally curious, constantly exploring and questioning the world around them. By harnessing this innate curiosity through concrete STEM activities, parents can help ignite a lifelong passion for learning and innovation.

The following activities are not only educational but also easy to set up, requiring minimal resources while maximising engagement and learning outcomes. 

  • Create a Catapult

Creating their own catapult is an ideal activity to teach kids about basic STEM principles. Playing with a DIY catapult introduces them to the concepts of force, motion and kinetic energy. 

Observing the elastic potential energy in rubber bands transform into kinetic energy when the catapult is released allows students to directly witness the conversion of energy.

All you need to make this simple, yet highly educational gadget are some popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, rubber bands and a variety of projectiles. You can use anything for projectiles, from pebbles and paper balls to candy and marshmallows. They just need to be of different weights.

To add to the fun, ask kids to predict how far each projectile will travel and then measure the distance to see how close they were. 

  • Build a Mini-Trampoline

A mini-trampoline is an engaging way for kids to learn more about elasticity and the transfer of energy. The project involves making a frame to hold a piece of stretchy fabric which children can bounce things off. A pair of pantyhose will work just fine.    

For the frame, you’ll need a small crate box and some pieces of dowel. Cut both legs off the pantyhose and stretch the material to match the size of the crate. Stick a piece of dowel in each corner of the crate and take four small rubber bands and push them about 5cm down each dowel piece. Tie the corners of the fabric to the pieces of dowel and your mini trampoline is finished.

Now it’s time to try bouncing different objects on the trampoline to see how high they go! Ask your student why some objects had more bounce than others to get them thinking about STEM concepts. 

For a sturdier trampoline, parents can put some nails into a piece of wood and get kids to stretch rubber bands across the nails to make the mat. 

  • Nurture a Biosphere

A biosphere is basically a self-contained ecosystem housed within a glass container or jar. This is a STEM project that kids can embark on over many months. Acting as the custodian of their own miniature ecosystem will help them observe how plants interact with each other and the role of water in sustaining life. 

The initial project involves constructing the biosphere inside a mason jar terrarium. First kids need to line the bottom of the jar with pebbles for drainage then put in a layer of potting soil. Add some indoor plants and enough water to make the soil damp, pop the lid on the jar and place it in a spot where it will get direct sunlight. 

Kids need to closely monitor and nurture the plants, ensuring their flourishing within the enclosed environment. Ask them to note any changes and discuss what elements are needed for the plants to thrive. 

  • Construct a Popsicle Bridge

This is a fun way to teach kids about the principles of structural engineering. To begin, get your child to bend a popsicle stick to observe how easily it breaks. Explain that these seemingly fragile sticks are capable of bearing great weights when bonded together in certain ways.

Give students some popsicle sticks and ask them to glue the sticks together to make several types of bridges. Test the strength by placing different weights on each structure. 

Kids will quickly discover that different designs affect the strength and stability of each bridge. Through this hands-on activity, they gain insight into the role of physics in the design of weight-bearing structures.

  • Make a Thermometer 

This activity requires a little more preparation, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll need a glass bottle, rubbing alcohol, a straw, modelling clay, some food colouring and a bowl of warm and cold water. 

Begin by filling the glass bottle with equal parts tap water and rubbing alcohol until it’s two-thirds full. Add some drops of food colouring to enhance the visibility of the thermometer’s movements. Insert the straw into the bottle and seal it airtight with modelling clay.

Now that the thermometer is assembled, immerse it in the bowl of warm water for a few minutes, noting where the liquid reaches on the straw. Next, transfer the thermometer to the bowl of cold water, again observing and marking the liquid level on the straw after a few minutes. 

Through this activity, students can observe how temperature directly influences the movement of molecules.

The Tutor Doctor Difference

Hands-on STEM activities can transform the way young learners perceive and interact with the world around them. At Tutor Doctor, we’re passionate about creating engaging and enjoyable learning experiences that instil a love of learning in our students.

Our tutors are highly qualified in all areas of STEM and we will create a learning program tailored specifically to meet your student’s needs. 

Contact us for a free consultation today. 

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