Table of Contents
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Disclaimer: I have personally used all products listed below. Whenever possible, I use an affiliate or referral link*, for which the ESSTEAM Lab will receive a small compensation when you purchase from my links, at no extra cost to you (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases).
5 minute Brain Breaks
Brain breaks, activities for early finishers or early arrivals, students staying late, or students who need a little extra challenge.
An ongoing, growing resource. Check it out now and later for more!
Brainteasers: Using common at home objects
With 7 nails, one hammered into something, can you balance the other 6 on top of the 7th’s head? Without using any other supplies or letting the 6 loose nails touch anything else?
To be fair, this is probably more than a 5 minute brain break. But it’s fun!
Given the setup pictured below, can you figure out how to separate the shackles without ever taking any hands out of the loops?
For safety reasons, and because it is not necessary to solve the challenge, students should not climb through/under/over the rope, nor should it wrap anywhere close to their head. They may adjust the loops around their hands as needed, but can do this without taking their hands out of the loops.
KEVA Plank Puzzles
I can’t take any credit for these, since they are not my creation, but check them out! Here’s just one example below. Students doing distance learning could use extra pens/pencils, chopsticks, toothpicks, straws, etc; whatever has a long shape that they have multiples of laying around their house.
Riddles, Minute Mysteries and More
Again, I can’t take credit for these, but sharing this here allows you to have multiple resources in one spot.
Example riddle: A man builds a house rectangular in shape. All sides have southern exposure. A big bear walks by, what color is the bear? Why?
STEM and Makerspace Materials
Materials that are great to add to your collection. This includes tools, safety equipment, robotics, and more.
Circuits and Electricity
Circuit cubes are an affordable snap-together, magnetic, and Lego-compatible circuit building blocks. The STEM kit includes a battery, motor, and light, plus Lego accessories.
Chibitronics has a lot of great resources, including white and colored light stickers. I like to use these on some of the paper circuits projects, especially with younger students or on designs like a card where a flat light makes a better product.
Whenever I introduce circuits or conductivity, I use this ball. It lights up and makes a sound when conductive material completes the circuit.
Did you know playdough is conductive? Add a power source (several AA’s or a 9V) and LEDs and you can build squishy circuits. You can also make your own conductive dough.
Copper tape is a must-have for doing paper circuits and building circuits on other objects (popsicle stick flashlight anyone?). This is a brand I like and trust.
I like these jumbo LEDs for projects like squishy circuits and popsicle stick flashlights. These are well priced and come in a variety of colors, including color changing!
Makerspaces: Tools and Materials
Robotics and Technology
If you’re looking to incorporate robotics and coding into your program, here are my recommendations. I’ve personally used all the recommendations below, and these were specifically chosen for their low-entry, high ceiling, and versatility of use.
As a fairly non-technical STEM teacher, I’ll admit the mere thought of this was initially intimidating. However, it quickly became one of my FAVORITE tools because of it’s versatility. It’s simple enough for students as young as 3rd grade to use, yet provides opportunities for high schoolers and beyond. What is it? It’s a tiny programmable computer, with an LED matrix display, motion detector, programmable buttons, 5 pin connections, radio signal, bluetooth, and more.
Hexbugs. Technically, they are not robots, but I like to use these to teach the difference between a machine and a robot. They could be classified as a vibro-bot, using eccentric motion from a weighted motor to move. I consider them a makerspace essential because of the interactive building potentia- students can build mazes for the hexbugs, including vertical options with the nitro. They are also low cost!
Makey Makey– the invention kit for everyone. This connects conductive objects with your computer, and allows the user to interact with them in new ways. Probably the most famous use of the Makey Makey is turning bananas into a piano, but there is so much more to do with this. I like to use it for interactive displays and to teach about conductivity.
The Root Robot is fantastic! It has so many capabilities and a coding system that grows with the student (much like Lego WeDo). There’s also a community of sharing resources with Root to make it useful beyond coding lessons, such as using it as a classroom volume monitor. The one drawback is that it currently requires an iPad or iPhone with iOS 10 or later to operate.
Programs I use
Scratch: I use this all the time in our programs. We use it for demos and interactive displays, as well as teaching students how to code. It works well with Makey Makey. It is a free program.
Noun Project: This is a great database of icons and simple graphics for doing anything with presentations, laser cutting designs, and vinyl art. With over 1 million icons, royalty free licenses, SVG/PNG file options, it is well worth the price of $20/year for educators.
National Science Teacher Association (NSTA)*: As an NSTA member, you will become part of our growing community advocating for improving science education. You will receive our top-notch professional learning resources, grade level-specific journals, discounts on face-to-face conference opportunities, online learning, and publications that enhance your content knowledge. NSTA works to support science teachers and the profession.
To join NSTA, go to the membership form: https://www.nsta.org/membership/membership.aspx
On the form, enter my Membership ID to receive your discount: 2355310
You can become a member of NSTA at $10 off the regular price. Additionally, once you join, I will receive an e-gift certificate for $10 as a thank you. We both benefit!
Tailwind*: This is a post scheduler and manager for Pinterest and Instagram. As a military spouse and soon-to-be-mama, it saves me time by allowing me to batch work my social media. It costs $15/monthly after the free trial.