I realize it may sound like a contradiction – but hear me out – putting together a quick “no prep stem” toolkit and keeping it in your classroom means that you can be ready at a moment’s notice for quick, easy and inexpensive STEM projects with your class! So whether the assembly gets canceled, the internet goes down or the kids are just restless you will be prepared to jump right into a fun and engaging STEM project! This is the perfect teacher toolkit to add to your classroom.
No Prep Teacher Toolkit for STEM
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When putting together this toolkit, the focus was on readily accessible and budget friendly items. Things you can find at the dollar store. Because face it, we have all been there. Suddenly we need to find some quick projects to keep the students busy. Whether it is a quick whole class project, or setting up a center for students to use when they have free time, having a no prep STEM toolkit is going to make your days easier! Plus, your students are going to love all the cool STEM challenges and activities they get to do in your class.
No Prep STEM Toolkit Supplies
First, what do we need in a No Prep STEM Toolkit? Here are some ideas. Use this list as a guide to get you started, then feel free to get creative and add even more items to your tool kit!
Yarn or String
Clear Plastic Cups
Recycled cardboard, boxes, tubes, etc.
Helpful things you probably have!
Low Temp Hot Glue Gun
Water (a spray bottle works great)
I have picked up every item on my list at the local dollar store so it truly is an inexpensive no prep STEM kit that will help save your sanity and your budget!
You may also want to add some printables (we have LOTS here at STEAM Powered Family) with project ideas, or create a list of prompts and project ideas to keep with your toolkit. This way you can just pull it out and be ready to STEM instantly!
PRO TIP! I recommend storing your No Prep STEM Toolkit in a box or bin away from the regular supplies. This way it will be always fully stocked and ready to go when you need it.
STEM TOOLKIT PROJECT IDEAS
So how can we use this STEM tool kit in the classroom – or at home? Here are some simple low to no prep STEM challenges to get you started!
Catapult competitions are a fun way to learn about physics. The physics behind a catapult are simple, pulling back on the arm creates stored or potential energy and when you release the arm it converts that energy to motion and flings your object through the air. All you need to build a simple catapult is craft sticks, rubber bands and plastic spoons. Check out how to build a simple catapult in this design challenge.
Want more ideas for using Craft Sticks? Check out our STEM ideas using Craft Sticks!
Bridge Building Challenges
Another easy project with craft sticks or with wooden chopsticks is bridge building – you can make this one as simple or as in depth as you want. Bridge building looks at forces as well, in this case compression and tension. Check out my rainbow bridge challenge here!
Another amazing project that kids love is a DaVinci Bridge – it is a really amazing design! This bridge is self supporting – meaning the only thing that holds it together is its own materials and some pretty cool forces at work! You can use craft sticks, pencils or like I did – inexpensive wooden chopsticks!
Paper and Index Cards Challenges
You can create stem challenges using only paper (maybe some scissors and tape) and some ingenuity! I love the paper chain challenge – all you do is hand each student, or group of students a single piece of paper and scissors and tape. The challenge: how do you make the longest chain that can support itself (not rip) with just the materials you have?
Another wow project – all you need is scissors and an index card – As your students – can you fit through an index card? Then – amaze them with the fact that changing the card by cuttinging a specific way allows you to step through the card without ripping it. It’s a big ooooooo and ahhhh kind of project. You can find both the paper chains and the index card project here!
Another easy paper and tape challenge is the Möbius Strip! If you don’t know what a Möbius Strip is: In mathematics, a Möbius band, strip, or loop, is a single-sided surface with no boundaries. If you take a pencil and start drawing a line you will end up touching all surfaces of the Möbius strip without lifting the pencil and end up right back where you started.
Coffee Filter Chromatography
With only coffee filters, markers and a little water you can illustrate the concept of chromatography – and then you can use it to make some fun seasonal projects!
Chromatography is a really cool process where you can look at the components of a mixture as they are separated from each other by passing them through another substance. In our case, we are going to look at how different dyes can make up a single marker color by coloring on a coffee filter and then adding water to the filter. Here are some fun chromatography projects for Earth Day, and Springtime!
This fun project can be done in a variety of ways – you can use paper, paper plates, straws, craft sticks and some tape or glue and of course some marbles. Have your students plan out their maze. Explain what a maze is or give them some pen and paper mazes to try. For the marble maze they will need to think about edges (so it won’t roll off) as well as height and weight of their walls – a marble will roll beautifully but can be a little heavy. Once the mazes are planned out – have the students build and test their models! Check out our own Marble Maze Project. So much fun!
Cotton Swabs can be used for all sorts of projects from building to measuring to art! We recently used them to illustrate symmetry in snowflakes! Check out this and some other low prep ideas in Snow Day Stem!
Cup Tower Challenge
Cup Stacking may seem like a time waster, maybe a good minute to win it kind of activity but don’t dismiss the importance of simple cup stacking develops hand – eye coordination, bilateral coordination, concentration and reasoning skills. Plus it is a lot of fun!
Pipe Cleaner Constellations
Take your STEM challenges to outer space by having students make models of different constellations out of pipe cleaners. Need some prompts, we have a printable card set showing different constellations for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere that you can add to your kit.
Toolkit Power Ups!
Want to take your toolkit to the next level for your older students? Why not add some circuit building supplies. These can be purchased quite reasonably in bulk and provide your students with lots of opportunities to light up their STEM skills!
For a simple electric circuit toolkit upgrade you will need:
Batteries including double AAs for battery packs and Coin Batteries
Toolkit Electric Circuit Project Ideas
One of the first electric circuit projects we did was making Circuit Bugs. This is a fun project that allows for a lot of creativity.
Another fun idea is to make Circuit Owls or other creatures using cardboard tubes.
Students can also make a Wiggle Bot or a Paint Bot.
Finally, bring some magic to your toolkit explorations with a Harry Potter inspired Circuit Wand.
Want more ideas? Check out even more Circuit Project Ideas for Students.
There are countless simple projects that you can be ready for at a moment’s notice with a Simple STEM Tool Kit! I hope you’ll take a little time and put one together for yourself. Don’t forget to check out the SIMPLE STEM projects I have linked in the article so you are armed with ideas for the next time you break out your toolkit. The possibilities are really endless!