Want to see my STEM Bin setup up close and personal? Click the following video!
***This post contains an affiliate link for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using this link, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.***
“I’m finished! What do I do now?”
How many times during our teaching day do we hear these words from our students? Oftentimes, it is much too often, and students are provided a handful of the same options to keep them busy until our next transition. Sometimes students are instructed to read, sometimes to write in journals, and others are given yet another worksheet to complete. Lately, I’ve been considering a way to change up our game, and I’ve thought to myself:
Instead of giving our kids MORE work, let’s give them more MEANINGFUL work.
For elementary students, meaningful work should be hands-on, engaging, and open ended. Why?! Because children have a natural drive to play, explore, and engineer whenever possible.
Enter STEM BINS!
STEM Bins are plastic school boxes filled with an engineering manipulative of your choice, such as Legos, pattern blocks, base ten blocks, unifix cubes, toothpicks and playdough, or popsicle sticks with velcro on the ends. The boxes also contain small sets of task cards on metal rings that picture a variety of basic engineering structures. STEM Bins can be placed on an easily accessible shelf in the classroom or inside a classroom Maker Space area. When students’ regular classwork is complete, they can take one STEM Bin at a time, either to their seat or a more quiet carpet area so as not to distract other students who are working, and get a quiet moment to engineer. They use the materials in the box to construct as many different structures on the cards as they can. And instead of being just “busy,” students are engaged in creative, complex tasks and are encouraged to think like inventors. Kinesthetic learners, spatial learners, and logical learners will love exploring the different possibilities for the building materials as they try to construct more challenging structures.
Even better? The prep and management on the teacher’s part is minimal! The task cards are interchangeable with any building material and include real world photos to encourage students to visualize more realistic structures.
Upper Grade teachers, STEM Bins will even work for you! I’ve added task cards with no photo cues and written response sheets that are just right for big kids:
Most of the suggested materials for the boxes are math manipulatives or inexpensive crafting materials that you likely already have in your classroom or can pick up at the dollar store.
Click below to purchase a set of 12 school boxes through my Amazon Affiliate Link:
Since every classroom has a variety of manipulatives, I’ve also included editable box covers and task cards so you can customize them to your needs. Some of my favorite places to find engineering materials are Target Dollar Spot and the Dollar Store.
STEM Bins aren’t just ideal for early finishers! Here are some ways you can use them elsewhere during your day:
You can also take students’ engineering a step further by adding a written component. The youngest students in Pre K and Kinder can can draw pictures of their different structures. First and Second Graders can “Build, Draw, and Write” with descriptive sentences or imaginative stories about their structures. If you’d like to save copies, simply place any of the templates inside plastic page protectors and students can use dry erase markers to write and wipe drawings and responses.
Click below to see my answers to Frequently Asked Questions about STEM Bins:
Looking to keep your STEM Bins fresh and exciting throughout the year? Check out my brand new mini growing bundle of seasonal task cards that are sure to spark imaginations and keep your students engaged!
I hope you will consider giving your students a hands-on alternative to busy work with STEM Bins in your classroom!
***Fonts by KG Fonts and Styled Image by Jen Jones of Hello Literacy.***
***This post contain an affiliate link for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using this link, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.***