STEM Fridays: Ending the Week with Engagement


STEM Fridays are very quickly gaining momentum among elementary teachers, and it’s not hard to see why.  As STEM continues to grow and become a critical part of elementary curriculum, the need to find a good “fit” in the instructional day is becoming more and more important.  I surveyed my fantastic social media followers who are currently implementing STEM Fridays, ranging all they way from Kindergarten to sixth grade, and gathered their best tips and tricks that are sure to turn your “Friday” into “FriYAY!” Thank you so much to all the teachers who took time to respond and share expertise!


Many teachers that I surveyed are just beginning to get their feet wet, while others have been doing STEM Fridays for multiple years.  Sarah Aldridge shared that one of the reasons STEM Challenges are different than traditional instruction is that she gets to be a part of the learning, and “gets to learn with and through her students.”  Not surprisingly, teachers love to watch their kids’ enthusiasm, excitement, and “aha” light bulb moments that are so characteristic of STEM challenges.  It is one of the few times of the week that we can step back and truly empower students. The creativity, engagement, and collaboration as students work together to solve a problem is natural, and as Tiffany S. shared, “The kids get to be kids” as they learn through play and discovery.


{Special thanks to Chloe from A Buckeye Teacher for sharing her STEM Fridays in action!}

Why else do teachers love it?  STEM Challenges hit multiple standards at once, while appealing to a huge variety of abilities and learning styles.  Corey shared that her students “find their voice during STEM” that they might not otherwise get a chance to show.  Often, students that you might not expect get a unique chance to shine and demonstrate their strengths. Diane Fowler shared that, “Very often, we find our lowest kids are our strongest thinkers during STEM.” Sydney Sims shared that since implementing STEM Fridays,

“every child goes home for the weekend feeling successful and accomplished.”


Truthfully, you will experience most of those advantages to STEM Challenges any day of the week, but there’s just something special about Fridays that makes for a “perfect fit” in so many elementary classrooms.

For one thing, many teachers take a break from traditional literacy and math lessons on Fridays and their schedule is more flexible, allowing them more time to shake things up for STEM Challenges. Andrea Reppa shared that it serves as a “great reward for a long week” and provides something that students consistently look forward to. Many teachers also give their students assessments to review and wrap up that week’s learning,  and STEM Challenges provide a more student-friendly follow up activity.

Many teachers shared that STEM Fridays are something that students look forward to all week long and are even a motivator to increase attendance.  Even though energy levels are typically higher on Fridays, behavior problems are typically minimized during challenges due to such high levels of engagement.  (Talk about a breath of fresh air and happier end to everyone’s week!)  Maggie even shared that no students ever ask to use the bathroom during STEM Fridays!


Ready to jump in and get started?! Here are some tips and tricks that will make your STEM Fridays as successful as possible!


As Christy Bryant shared, “know your expectations before you start.”  A set of weekly norms for basic expectations and procedures will keep STEM Fridays consistent and smooth-sailing. Assigning group roles to students (recorder, equipment manager, etc.)  also keeps them focused on specific tasks.


Plan ahead for challenges and have everything ready to go in easily accessible containers or rotating STEM carts for students. This will make both setup and cleanup much more streamlined.   If possible, have a parent volunteer help you organize and prep materials. You can display materials earlier in the week to build excitement and get kids’ wheels turning!  You can also organize ideas according to month or season, then gather all the materials for each month at once.


{Special thanks to Chloe from A Buckeye Teacher for sharing her STEM Fridays in action!}


One first grade teacher introduces materials in a more guided format, which is especially beneficial for younger students. She then “releases control once students know expectations and time constraints.” Many teachers recommend allowing students plenty of time for planning, brainstorming, and designing.  You can even do this earlier in the week to allow more time for creating and testing on Fridays.


If your teaching partner or teammates are doing the same weekly challenges on Fridays, take turns gathering and prepping materials.  Or better yet, set up a rotation for your classes like Karen Sasso, and each of you is responsible for planning and prepping one challenge.

Again, thank you so much to all the teachers who took time to contribute to this post!

Looking for some STEM Challenge ideas to incorporate into your STEM Fridays? Check out my All Year Bundle below!