Choosing Quality STEM Activities Back »

As we kick-off a new 4-H year, it is time to begin planning and preparing for new and exciting ways to engage youth during club meetings, afterschool programs, and camps. Many will choose to incorporate activities and lessons related to STEM disciplines. However, choosing a quality STEM activity can be a challenge. A quick Google search for ‘STEM activities for youth’ produces an overwhelming number of results, how do you know which are quality?

Quality Activities and Lessons

As you begin scanning activities, you will find that some are simply busy work, others are very exciting but provide no content, and others are loaded with content yet lack engaging elements. Quality STEM activities provide youth with opportunities to become engaged in science inquiry and the engineering design process as they explore various STEM concepts.

  • To determine if an activity or lesson is quality you can utilize the following questions:
  • Is the activity appropriate for the age group I am working with? (For information on age appropriateness, refer to the Ages and Stages of Youth Development).
  • Is the activity relevant or of interest to the youth I am working with?
  • Is the activity hands-on?
  • Is there additional background knowledge needed? Is it easy to locate?
  • Does the activity address education standards?
  • Are you providing youth with opportunities to improve their Science Abilities?
    Predict, Hypothesize, Evaluate, State a Problem, Research a Problem, Test, Problem Solve, Design Solutions, Measure, Collect Data, Draw/Design, Build/Construct, Use Tools, Observe, Communicate, Organize, Infer, Question, Plan Investigation, Summarize/Relate, Invent/Implement Solutions, Interpret/Analyze/Reason, Categorize/Order/Classify, Model/Graph/Use Numbers, Troubleshoot, Redesign, Optimize, Collaborate, Compare
  • Are you providing opportunities for youth to experience and improve in the essential elements?
  • Are activities led with an experiential approach to learning?
  • Are activities using inquiry to foster the natural creativity and curiosity of youth?

Where can you find quality STEM activities and lessons?

There are multitudes of locations that you can find quality STEM lessons or activities at a reasonable cost, but here are some of our favorites:

  • National 4-H Curriculum
    Youth activity guides and kits for a variety of STEM topics that build life skills as well as content knowledge.
  • Cornell University 4-H Science Toolkit
    Grab and go lessons that can be taught with items found around the home and will take 45-90 minutes to complete.
  • Design Squad Nation
    Activities, videos, games, and contests that give kids a stronger understanding of the design process and the connection between engineering and our lives.
  • Dicovere 
    Engineering based lessons and supplementary materials.
  • Engineering is Elementary
    Curriculum for in-school and afterschool programs, grades 1-8.
  • Grow For It 
    Resources and opportunities to connect youth and educators to issues in agriculture and natural resources in meaningful ways.
  • How to SMILE.ORG
    Learning activities, tools, and services designed especially for those who teach school-aged children in non-classroom settings.
  • NASA Education
    A-Z list of education opportunities, lessons, and activities for educators and youth.
  • NASA Summer of Innovation
    NASA-themed STEM activities and themed units that are great for camps.
  • Science Buddies
    Free project ideas and help in all areas of science from physics to food science and music to microbiology.
  • STEM Works
    Resource for teachers, mentors, parents, STEM professionals, volunteers, and everyone passionate about getting children eager to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.
  • Teach Engineering
    Standard aligned engineering lessons and hands-on activities.
  • Wisconsin Fast Plants
    Open education about plants and their roles as individuals, populations, in communities and in ecosystems.
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