How to Spice Up STEM Bins

Here we are, over halfway through the school year, and your kiddos have been movin’ and groovin’ with STEM Bins all year long!  Your students love them, and they’re fitting seamlessly into your daily routine. Maybe you’ve tried incorporating them as Morning Work, or as a choice for early finishers. Maybe you’ve started using them during centers, during indoor recess, or as a behavioral incentive for specific students.  Read more about the basics of STEM Bins at the post below:

STEM Bins: Hands-on Solutions for Early Finishers

It’s no secret that kids of all ages and abilities are big fans of STEM Bins, and it’s not hard to see why. They get to work with their hands, challenge themselves, and express creativity through engineering design.  And teachers are loving them almost as much as their kids as they watch their students’ engagement, motivation, and problem solving skills soar.

Just like any other procedure or “system” that is consistently used in your classroom, it’s important to keep student interest levels high and keep their curiosity peaked.  STEM Bins have to be kept fresh so that they remain effective and engaging for the entire school year.

Here are 4 surefire ways to respark that motivation and creativity among your students:

Something about pulling out holiday themed task cards in December opened up a whole new world of exciting challenges for my little ones.  They loved attempting to build brand new familiar structures such as sleighs, chimneys, and trees, and as soon as January hit, they couldn’t wait to construct igloos and snowmen.  I usually throw in 6 new task cards each month, and it’s a simple and low prep way to boost their motivation and interest levels.

Grab my growing mini bundle of seasonal and thematic task cards for STEM Bins at the link below. I’m always adding fun and fresh structures to this pack!


Another easy way to boost STEM Bins engagement (that’s also sure to result in squeals of excitement from your kiddos) is to add new materials to your STEM Bins. New manipulatives don’t have to be fancy or expensive.  In fact, many I just happen to come across at the dollar store or a garage sale.  Since releasing my original STEM Bins pack in August, I’ve added six new material covers to the pack that you might want to consider adding to your collection. Make sure to redownload the pack from TpT because I’m always adding more goodies!

The wooden planks are similar to Jenga blocks, and they’ve been known to be found in the Target Dollar Spot on occasion too. My favorite brand of wooden planks is Keva Planks (affiliate link), and you can find tons of variety packs on Amazon.  There are also many varieties of magnetic blocks on the market, but hands down, my kids’ favorite is Magformers (affiliate link). They are a little pricier, but are extremely high quality and will hold up for daily use.

I also LOVE these sparkly foam balls from Hobby Lobby.  They come in tons of colors and work beautifully for building structures with toothpicks. They’re always one of my students’ first choices for materials.

If you’re ready to deepen your students’ STEM Bins experience and integrate literacy and math, my new Quick Writes are the perfect extension.  Leveled for lower grades and upper grades, students can grab a Quick Write along with their STEM Bin and write sentences, record steps of construction, measure the dimensions of their structure, and more. This is also a great way to integrate STEM Bins into your literacy and math centers.  You can store Quick Writes in a hanging file near your STEM Bins or even in a hanging pocket chart.

And finally, another way to spice up your STEM Bins is by allowing students to combine materials and collaborate with others, especially if they typically work independently.  While this can get louder and messier, it works great as a whole class reward and fits best in a more unstructured time of your day.

I let my Kindergartners combine materials on Election Day to construct a White House together, and this is how amazing their creation turned out:

I hope your students are loving STEM Bins as much as mine are, and I hope these suggestions and supplements will help keep them fresh and exciting all year long!

***This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.  By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.***