As summer is winding to a close, it is time to turn our minds and energy towards back to school. Whether you are a parent, teacher, educator or student, this is an exciting, and sometimes stressful, time of year. Don’t worry, we have your back! We have compiled lots of resources and activity ideas to make it the perfect kick off to a great year!
Activities and Resource Ideas for Back to School
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Back to School STEM Challenges
STEM Challenges are a fantastic way to kick off the school year. Not only are they fun and engaging, but these hands-on STEM challenges require teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, setting the tone for active learning throughout the year.
We have gathered up some fun ideas for you here, but when selecting back-to-school STEM challenges, consider the grade level of your students and choose activities that align with their developmental stage and interests. That way they will make fantastic icebreakers to ease those first-day jitters and start building welcoming a classroom community.
Team Building Challenges
These challenges should not only be fun but also help set a positive tone for the school year by promoting collaboration, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. This is team building classroom style and should help students make connections and friendships with each other, for a positive classroom environment.
Can You Fit Through An Index Card?
This is a fantastic no prep paper STEM project. Group the kids into small teams, then challenge them to see if they can figure out what they need to do to fit through an index card.
Want more budget friendly, no prep paper STEM challenges? Check out our resource to find more challenges including tower building, bridge building and more.
Marshmallow Tower Challenge
This Marshmallow Tower Challenge is a great team building challenge. Put the kids in groups of two. Give each pair a pile of toothpicks and marshmallows. Set a timer, then give the teams one minute to build the tallest tower they can.
Escape Room Break Out Boxes
I am sure you have heard of these from your kids or maybe even your friends. Escape rooms are popular for a reason, they are so much fun! Escape Room Break Out Boxes are a great puzzle challenge that promotes communication, problem-solving, and cooperation among students.
Friendship Bridge Challenge
Break out the paper, craft sticks, and recycled cardboard, then challenge students to build a bridge that connects two tables. See who can build the longest bridge, the most stable bridge, the strongest bridge and the most innovative bridge. This challenge promotes teamwork, engineering design, and problem-solving. For bridge building inspiration check out our Rainbow Bridge STEM Challenge, No Prep Paper STEM and da Vinci Bridge Challenge.
Create a Classroom Virtual Tour
It’s time to embrace that inner Youtuber and create some videos! In this challenge, kids work in teams to create and film a virtual tour of their new classroom and school that they can share with their parents. This project builds skills in script writing, organization, planning, plus technology as students film and edit their creations. You can do this using simply phones and tablets, or if you have the tools, use real cameras and editing suites.
Have students work in teams and go on a scavenger hunt. This is a great activity for students that are just starting at a new school and need to learn their way around. Provide each team of students with a map of the school. Teach them how to use the map so they can start developing navigation and mapping skills. Then set up a scavenger hunt to find different places or things around the school.
Turn it into a “Get to Know Your Teachers” scavenger hunt and have them find different people around the school so students can start to recognize their educators. They could find the librarian, janitor, principal, plus all the teachers in their classrooms.
Welcome Back Independent STEM Challenges
These projects are great for kids to do independently when starting back to school. It allows them to get creative and hands on with projects that will help ease their anxiety and help them show off some of their skills.
Mystery Bag Engineering
Place a variety of materials in sealed mystery bags (paper bags stapled closed are perfect). The supplies could be anything you have kicking around. Some ideas: popsicle sticks, rubber bands, paper clips, stickers, markers, crayons, craft paper, recycled cardboard tubes, or anything else you have available. Invite students to pick a random bag, then challenge them to build something using the materials. You can provide a theme, ask them to make something that represents them, or just let them be creative. When they are done, have them share the story behind their creation. This challenge encourages creative problem-solving and resourcefulness.
All About Me Robot
Provide the students with access to various supplies and materials. Then have students create a “robot” that represents themselves. Encourage them to include at least one thing with the robot that represents something that is special to them (examples might be a pet, a favourite sport, a type of food, etc.). This challenge combines creativity with basic engineering concepts.
STEAM Self Portraits
These STEAM Self Portraits are a fantastic way to bring a little arts to your back to school routine as kids make self portraits on egg or fruit trays. This project combines a little bit of math with art, and pairs beautifully with an “about me” activity.
Math About Me
Have students create a “Math About Me” poster where they use numbers to represent different aspects of themselves, such as their age, number of siblings, favorite number, etc. This integrates math and personal expression.
All About Me Templates
Want a quick All About Me Printable? We have a fun Science inspired one you can use with your students. Simply enter your email into the form to unlock the printable and use it in your lessons.
Chain Mail Goal Setting
Make a chain of goals for the year! Have students write their goals on a strip of coloured paper, then add it to the classroom chain. Hang it to decorate the classroom. Throughout the year, the chain can work as a reminder of their goals and help inspire students. At the end of the summer, bring down the chain and see if goals were achieved.
Make Stamped Tags
We all know how items always seem to go missing! Well, let’s start this year off right by having kids make stamped metal tags that they can attach to their bags so everyone knows it is their bag. This metal stamping project is perfect for upper elementary, middle school and even high school students will enjoy hammering out their creations.
Classroom Resources for Back To School
We all know how important it is as the leader of the classroom to set the tone for a great year. Those first weeks of school are so important. Whether you are teaching elementary school, middle schoolers or high school, setting expectations, building relationships and welcoming new students is so important during that first week and beyond. Here are a few resources to help teachers with everything from mindset to anxiety.
Growth vs Fixed Mindset – How to promote a successful mindset in the classroom
Smart Tips for Helping Students Cope with Back to School Anxiety
Plus breathing tips for social emotional learning (SEL) and to help promote relaxation and focus.
Build a No Prep Teacher Toolkit so you are ready for anything!
I Wish My Teacher Knew… and other powerful writing exercises for students (including a free printable).
Fostering strong, positive relationships in the classroom.
Do you have a truly inclusive classroom? We have some tips on ensuring your classroom is inclusive and welcoming for all students.
Finally, Dr. Jen has some great tips for parents and teachers on how to start the new school year strong.
Most of all, make connections, make a difference, and have fun learning and growing this year!