Top Quality STEM Resources Science Teachers Need to Engage Students

Looking for you next great classroom lesson or activity? Check out these bestselling STEM resources from 2016 in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You'll want them all too!

#1: Cells CSI Investigation
This is HANDS DOWN one of my favorite activities to do during our unit on cells. My students have a great time acting like Crime Scene Investigation Agents as they try to determine which cells found at the location of an imaginary burglary are plant cells and which are animal cells. My favorite part of the activity is that there is not a straightforward answer. It challenges students to look at "evidence" that is not as simple as the diagrams they have been taught with in science class.
Students are given actual images of plant and animal cells to work with. I have found that more often than not, students have the misconception that a plant cell is rectangular and an animal cell is a circle. They fail to look at the specific organelles. Also, most students have only had experience with drawings and/or diagrams of cells, so seeing actual images taken by an electron microscope forces them to apply their understanding in a different situation.

Comments from buyers:
This was extremely motivating. The students loved the activities. The complexity of the cells was a great learning experience for them, understanding that the diagrams that we learn from are very easy compared to using real images. I chose this as a lesson that my administrator observed- it went well! 
My students LOVED this activity! It was so much fun watching them take on the role as a detective. They worked with a partner and received a manila folder with all of the necessary information. I like how it had the students review the key differences between plant and animal cells before determining if their cell was a plant or animal cell. Thank you! 

#2: Brain Breaks for Bigger Kids

Every teacher recognizes that students aren't able to focus on content learning every second of every day. Even as an adult, I find my mind wandering and my attention drifting during especially long meetings. Research has shown that movement increases brain function. Using physical activity breaks in the classroom helps students get ready to learn and remember information better. Physical movement increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the brain and leads to improved concentration.

I use the activities in this set to get my students up and moving. To refocus them. To encourage them to think in a different way. To reward them for good behavior. I will even leave the cards for a substitute teacher as "filler activities". (My students LOVE that if they complete the assignment given by the sub they can have a brain break at the end of class!)
Some of the ideas are simple (or even common), but I find that by having a set of ready-to-go brain breaks on a ring I am more likely to flip through the cards and actually USE them on a daily basis. And that's the point, right?

Comments from buyers:
My 6th, 7th & 8th graders love these Brain Breaks! It is a nice way for us to take a quick "break" and get our thinking refocused! Each class asks for at least one "brain break" a day because they enjoy them so much.  
Fun filler and great when everyone needs a boost.
Love, love, love these brain breaks! It is challenging to find fun activities for older students to do. Thank you for offering these! 

#3: Blank Plant and Animal Cell Diagrams
When I teach this unit, I have students work in small groups to brainstorm everything they can remember about plant and animal cells (since this is a concept taught in fourth grade in my district).
Then we complete the notes as a class by color coding the organelles in the diagrams to match the notes inside of the foldable.

Students can complete the cell diagrams for note taking, additional practice, or as an assessment. I have students add copies of the cell diagrams to their interactive notebooks as another way to practice labeling the organelles.
Comments from buyers:
My 5th graders loved this visual! We were able to color and label them as a class!
This concept is hard for my fifth graders to understand so thank you for making a nice comparison resource for them to use.
This was PERFECT for my students. Thank you for creating different variations of the same resource. I laminated the blank copies with the letter labels and had students label the models every morning as a warm up with a dry erase marker. 

#4: Creature Features
Oh. My. Goodness.
I can't even TELL you how much my kiddos love this activity. I've shared it with so many teachers in my district and everyone tells me it's a hit! The directions are simple and straightforward enough that they can even be done with a substitute teacher (which actually because necessary last school year when my daughter woke up throwing up at 4:00 am). The materials are minimal and the student page takes the kids through each step of "flipping for traits".
One of the best parts of this activity is seeing the many different monsters that are drawn by students and discussing how despite having the same set of traits (same mom and dad) they each ended up with a different set of traits. We talk a lot about how we look similar to our parents but not exactly like them. We also talk about how our siblings are not exactly like us physically.

What's convenient for me is that each year my genetic traits unit falls near the end of October, so "making monster babies" is a great Halloween-related activity without being too focused on the holiday.

Comments from buyers:
I loved seeing all the little monsters my kids made, so much more fun than the typical baby assignment most teachers do. 
I have used this resource for three years now. The kids love it and you should see some of their work!
I had bought two different activities (this being one of them) to teach dominant and recessive traits. Liked this version better, mainly because the directions were easier to understand and thorough.

#5: Engineering Design Process Steps Classroom Poster Pack
This set includes posters illustrating the steps of the Engineering Design Process. These posters are geared toward upper elementary and middle school students. Each poster includes a colorful image (clip art by one of my favorite artists, Ron Leishman) and a brief statement reminding students what happens during that step of the design process.
Also included in this kit is a 1-page Engineering Design Process graphic organizer printable. I use this printable for students to record what they did or thought about during each step of the Engineering Design Process as they work on their STEM Projects. It's simple enough that even younger students are able to record their thinking.
I find it especially useful when doing general teamwork challenge exercises as the focus of these activities is using the Engineering Design Process as a group to solve a problem.

Comments from buyers:
These colorful, and attention grabbing materials have been a hit with my fourth and fifth grade students this year. The template makes it easy for the students to follow the design process and document the different steps involved in the challenge.
This is great! I love completing STEM projects with my class and these posters will help remind them of the Engineering Process.
Best explanation of the process that I've found!
Holy cow! Even though I created each of these resources, going through them and reflecting on how I use them with my students has reminded me of some great lessons and activities from 2016. Which one will YOU try in YOUR classroom in 2017?

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