STEM Activities that promote and teach a growth mindset to students

STEAM and STEM Activities that Promote a Growth Mindset

Science, technology, engineering, art, and math, also known as STE(A)M, is all about learning through experimentation and creativity. It also requires that students embrace mistakes, believe in their own ability to problem solve, and most of all, have a growth mindset. There are so many opportunities for students to explore and learn through STEM activities, but it’s the ones that develop a growth mindset that are the most valuable in fostering lifelong success in learning. Help your kids develop an “I can” attitude in the face of struggle with these STEM activities that foster a growth mindset.

STEM ACTIVITIES AND A GROWTH MINDSET

A paper airplane with a shadow of a rocket - STEM activities to promote a growth mindset

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WHAT IS A GROWTH MINDSET?

Growth Mindset is a concept that was originally developed by a psychologist named Dr. Carol Dweck. According to Dweck’s research in Growth Mindset, “This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Through development of this mindset, students come to believe that they can become smarter through hard work, resilience and perseverance and that failures are truly opportunities for growth.

It is no secret that there is a push to reduce stereotypes and bring more minorities and women into STEM. Growth Mindset can help students overcome those obstacles.

USING GROWTH MINDSET TO REDUCE STEREOTYPES

Too many people have a fixed mindset that sets them up for bias when working with others. They believe that people are born smart, are naturally talented, or are geniuses. This goes completely against the work done in neuroplasticity and growth mindset. In fact, thinking about intelligence as changeable and malleable, rather than stable and fixed, reduces the impact of stereotypes.

Students who adopt a growth mindset as their learning philosophy are less likely to conform to societal stereotypes that associate aptitude and intelligence with gender, race, nationality or even education.

When we shed these biases and stereotypes, not only do we help ourselves, but we also help those around us.

TEACHING STUDENTS ABOUT GROWTH MINDSET

One of our favourite tools for helping to develop a Growth Mindset is the Big Life Journal. They have two journals, one for elementary and one for teens. This is a fantastic tool to work through with your children to build a solid understanding of growth mindset.

But there are also some fun ways to build growth mindset through kids activities. Nothing builds grit and resilience better than some fantastic challenges. At times they may make your students want to quit, so make sure you are there to help them reframe and build those growth mindset skills.

BIONIC – BELIEVE IT OR NOT I CAN

One of my new favourite terms is BIONIC. It stands for Believe It Or Not I Can. When my kids are feeling BIONIC, they are unstoppable! It helps them understand that no matter what, with a bit of hard work and never giving up, they can achieve anything. It also empowers them with the concept of “I may not have mastered it yet, but I will”. Being BIONIC is our new favourite teaching tool.

What kid doesn’t want to be BIONIC?

Ready to tackle some projects to help build a growth mindset and help your kids become BIONIC? Here are a few of our favourites.

STEM Activities that promote and teach a growth mindset to students

GROWTH MINDSET STEM ACTIVITIES

DO A RESEARCH PROJECT

Having a growth mindset is about understanding neuroplasticity, that intelligence is not fixed, and how we can grow our minds. Have your students research these concepts and create a presentation explaining how neural pathways are created and how our brain grows as we learn. This presentation could include a slideshow, building a diorama or interactive display, or creating a video.

Some starting points for your student research:
Dr. Dweck’s TED Talk on Growth Mindset
An Educational Video on Neuroplasticity
Khan Academy lesson on Growing Your Mind
The Power of Belief

Create a Personal Story Silhouette

This art project is perfect for all ages, but I love using it with teens and tweens. Have your students use lights (or the sun) to cast a shadow of their head on a piece of paper. You might want to adjust the angle of the light to make their heads bigger so they have more room with this project. This involves a bit of science. Next trace the shadow of their head, then fill it with images and words that describe themselves. They may include where they are from, their goals, hopes and dreams, favorite books, and more. Ask them what makes them feel BIONIC and share words or images that embrace those ideas. Focusing on who they are as an individual will help your students think about what steps they are taking in their journey, a true way to foster a growth mindset. Add a technology element by digitizing this activity on Google Slides, or have your students blog about their silhouettes, or have your kids create a video exploring their silhouettes.

Explore STEM Careers THAT DON’t EXIST YET

So many careers in STEM fields may not even exist yet for your students! I am amazed at the new jobs that come up every year. The field of robotics, for example, is entirely different than it was even five years ago. Have your students explore STEM career fields such as robotics through innovative videos, readings, and projects. You can also explore the lives of people who have embraced STEM throughout history and how they embraced the principles of a growth mindset.

Now challenge your students to think of some of a big problem. Something like climate change, light pollution, sanitation in third world countries, or maybe something local, like a graffiti epidemic. Now see if they can come up with careers that will be needed to help address these issues. Help them get out of the box and be creative with the career ideas to solve these problems. In today’s world, we have unprecedented ability to create our own career paths.

Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a project where students get at least one hour a week to explore their own passion projects. This innovative project-based learning unit allows students to utilize technology, elements of art, research, and many cross-curricular applications as they study and learn about what makes them most excited. Students will encounter obstacles and failures throughout Genius Hour. The goal is not the grade but the growth. Genius Hour is a powerful tool to use at any grade level and differentiate instruction for all learners.

STEM CHALLENGES TO PRACTICE GROWTH MINDSET

So what is one way to develop a growth mindset that will help you persevere in the face of adversity and challenge? Face adversity and challenges. Then do it again, and again. The more we do this, the better our skills and stronger our growth mindset becomes.

With children, it helps them to have a supportive adult to help the child learn how to frame and approach challenges in a positive way. If they haven’t had growth mindset principles modeled for them in the past, the concept will be foreign, and they will need help.

Let your kids see you make mistakes and model growth mindset. But also let kids make mistakes, struggle and fail. So often we lay out all the steps, correct kids along the way, and guide their decisions. What if we let them just do it themselves, no matter the outcome?

Some ways you can do this is to set up a Tinkerspace or Makerspace. Now give kids a challenge (you can do these challenges too!)! Here are some STEM Challenges you can give the kids that they can solve using their creativity, imaginations, and the tinker supplies:

Egg Drop Challenge
Lego Rescue
Make It Move Races
Balloon Races
Or check out some of our STEM Activities and find the perfect one for you. Even a simple Walking Rainbow Activity can turn into a Growth Mindset exercise. Like it did for us!

A boy doing STEM activities learning about the power of growth mindset

Breakout Boxes LEARNING CENTERS

One of my favorite STEM activities is breakout boxes! Breakout Boxes are “puzzles” that students have to solve in order to unlock a series of locks that keep prizes and clues inside a box. These boxes can be made physically or digitally and are one of the most powerful ways to help your students develop a growth mindset. Students work in teams to break the codes. This helps them learn and grow with their peers. Watching them decipher and plan is so empowering. You’ll love what Breakout Boxes can do for your classroom learning environment.

Some other puzzle type activities you can do include Code Breaking. We have lots of different code breaking options for all ages that can be used as part of a Breakout Box Center or on their own.

STEM lessons are so powerful when it comes to working with students at all different levels. Regardless of ability, curricular area, or grade level, fostering a growth mindset is so important for students. When your students never learn to fail or grow up with the mentality of “I can’t” so “I won’t”, it can add to anxiety and loss of hope when they first encounter a major failure. Knowing how to deal with obstacles and changing “I can’t” to “I can when” or “I can’t yet, but I will when” can help students reach their career goals and learn more in the STEM fields. Try these STEM activities that foster growth mindset with your own learners today!

STEAM Activities that teach students about growth mindset

MORE STEM EDUCATION

This Heart STEM activity to build a functioning heart model uses all 4 STEM pillars - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Kids will spend some time learning about their own heart rates, then how blood flows through the body. For the exciting conclusion engineer and build a functioning model of a beating heart.
creativity and imagination in tinker spaces and STEM
Our Top picks for STEM activities for elementary students

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