Earth Day Activities For Kids To Really Get Them Engaged

April is one of the best months of the year because there is so much to celebrate! It’s the arrival of spring which usually means the sun is coming back out, we get to celebrate Easter, and we get to celebrate Earth Day! 

Earth Day stem activities pin image

This year, Earth Day is on Friday, April, 22. Earth Day is the anniversary of the environmental movement in 1970. We have come a long way with technological advancements but that means we have also learned a lot about what is harming our environment. Earth Day is a great opportunity to teach our students the importance of conservation efforts, the things we do that can harm the environment, and how we can make a difference. 

This is the time of year that teachers pull out those fun Earth Day crafts or Earth Day projects so that we can make sure students understand why it is such an important day. 

If you are looking for Earth Day activities for kids, you’re in the right place. I absolutely love stem activities because of the hands-on and creative aspects. So, I created some activities that would be perfect Earth Day stem activities! 

Check out my favorite Earth Day activities for elementary

Wind Car STEM Activity 

Based on the book If I Built A Car by Chris Van Dusen, I created this activity to get students engaged in creating their very own (environmentally friendly!) wind car. 

This is a fun team-building activity that gets students thinking critically as they design and build a car after reading the book. STEM Wind Car Lab is an activity that engages students in thinking through the Engineering Next Generation Science Standards. It can be used any time of the year or used as an Earth Day or spring challenge! 

Students plan and construct a wind car using only a few productive resources. Economics is integrated into the lab through discussions and understanding of scarcity, human, natural, and capital resources. Students collect the data on the distance their cars traveled. Through this experience, students will learn many concepts as they are engaged in a fun activity! 

This makes the perfect Earth Day activity for schools because students will have to think critically about the materials they are using and how they will impact the environment. It’s so fun to see what students come up with when they really put their minds to it. 

Another activity that is perfect for this time of year is my Kite STEM Challenge. 

This is another great activity connected to a book. You can do this activity after reading Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo or it can be a stand-alone STEM Challenge. This challenge will engage your students as they learn about kites, design, and test their kites. Students will construct kites after they research them. It takes them through the Engineering Process as they build and test their kites using various materials to construct them.

earth day stem activities: kite stem challenge preview

I hope you love these STEM activities as much as I do! What are your favorite Earth Day activities for kids? Let me know in the comments!

For more Earth Day activities for elementary, check out my post here!

How To Get Your Students Motivated To Take Tests

Standardized testing is a normal part of education. It’s important for us so that we can properly assess where a student falls in their knowledge and if they will be meeting the standards they need to. Opinions on standardized testing seem to be a mix but it does give us a good read on our students’ skills and abilities so that we can properly determine how best to help them reach their educational goals. 

While test-taking is essential, most students don’t exactly love it. For many of them, it’s a nerve-wracking experience and that combined with any external pressures they may be feeling can cause them to lose focus and negatively impact their performance and outcome. Naturally, this is something we need to avoid as much as possible so that we can get the most accurate results, but how do we do that? 

We get them excited for test-taking!

I know what you may be thinking- that’s impossible! While I know they will never be as excited to take a test as they are to say, go to recess, it is something that we can increase motivation for and, in turn, improve their overall educational outcomes. 

Test-taking doesn’t have to be scary. We must start by explaining to students that it doesn’t determine their worth. Taking a test is only a tool to help us understand the bigger picture going forward and is, therefore, nothing to fear. 

Here are some tips for getting students excited for test-taking

Tap Into Student Interests

When preparing for tests, try to use prep materials related to your students’ interests. For instance, if your students love Minecraft, try to use it in your practice questions. Just the small act of using their interests can drastically increase engagement in test prep. 

Student Autonomy

Give your students a little say in how you practice. Choose a couple of options for review and let students determine what they prefer to do. Giving them a choice goes a long way in how they feel about the process. 

Offer a Class Reward

You can come up with a challenging but attainable goal for your students and if they reach it, they get a fun reward. This can be a pizza or cookie party, or you can even just hand out some candy. This will inspire students to work towards a goal that they are interested in and increase motivation to do well. 

Offer Lots of Praise

Remember that this is a very stressful situation for them. Offer a lot of praise when you notice that a student does well on something. This is especially helpful for students who are struggling with the concept that you notice that they are working hard. 

Offer Brain Breaks

Remember to take a break from test prep for a little funYou can get on YouTube to find some fun brain breaks for kids or you can even just turn on some fun music and have them dance it out for 5 minutes. These little breaks are not only fun but improve the motivation to keep going. 

Use Inspirational Posters

Generally, when administering tests, all of our classroom decor and helpful posters have to be removed from the walls. Replace them with some motivational posters! 

Offer Treats on Testing Day

Everyone loves a yummy treat, and our students definitely deserve them after all of their hard work. When they hand in their tests, offer a treat of some sort. This can be candy, a cookie, a Rice Krispie treat, etc. Just remember to check for allergies first. If you aren’t allowed to hand out food, you can offer small goodies like erasers, slinkies, fidget toys, etc. These can generally be found for a low price in bulk on places like Amazon. (Like these bendable pencils)

Testing time is hard for teachers and students alike, but it doesn’t have to be scary. We can properly prepare our students for the tests while also having fun and getting excited to prove how much they have learned. 

I hope these tips help you this testing season! What are your favorite ways to get students motivated to take tests? Let me know in the comments! 

Looking for more teaching tips for upper elementary? Check out my post for helping students write a research paper here!

Spring STEM Activities for Elementary That Students Will Love

Spring is a time for new beginnings. Flowers and trees start to bloom again and we can soak up more sunshine than we have in months. It’s like a breath of fresh air! As a teacher, you can bring the excitement of the new season into your classroom with spring-inspired activities that will get your upper elementary students thinking critically while celebrating the arrival of warmer weather. 

Today, I wanted to share some of my absolute favorite activities for spring. These are resources I created that are inspired by spending time in the sunshine, and what kid doesn’t love that? You can cover multiple subjects with these activities, so your in-demand classroom time is spent well. 

My STEM Kite Challenge is perfect for this time of year! 

If you know me, you’ll know that I love to connect my lessons to literature, and this activity is no different. This STEM activity for kids can be connected to the book Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo. This way, you can stretch out your reading lessons and get a better understanding of if your students are comprehending what they are reading while also engaging in STEM thinking. 

This challenge will engage your students as they learn all about kites. They’ll research kites and how they work and then design and create their very own using various materials! Afterward, you can take them outside to get some fresh air and test out their kites. This activity is perfect if you want to get your students engaged in the Engineering Process. 

My Wind Car STEM Activity is also great for spring

Just like the STEM kite activity, this STEM challenge also connects to literature. If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen is a fantastic book about a young inventor who comes up with his dream car. Use this story to inspire your students to do the same with this STEM activity! 

Designing a Wind Car gives students the opportunity to design and create a wind car of their very own. It is a fun team-building activity that gets students thinking critically as they design and build their dream car after reading the book.  

Economics is integrated into the lab through discussions and understanding scarcity, human, natural, and capital resources. Students collect the data of the distance their cars traveled. Through this experience, students will learn many concepts as they are engaged in a fun activity!

This activity engages students in thinking through the Engineering Next Generation Science Standards. You can use it for spring, or even an Earth Day celebration activity.  If you are looking for a digital option, don’t worry. I included Google Slides so that you can easily adapt this activity to fit your needs.

These STEM activities for kids are great for getting elementary students interested, engaged, and excited about learning. I love that you can cover multiple subjects with these lessons! 

Looking for even more fun spring STEM activities?

Check out my daily STEM challenges for April! You’ll get a new STEM activity for every day of the month. 

You can also check out this blog post for more spring activities for elementary!

What are your favorite spring activities for kids in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!

March Daily STEM Activities

It is a hard time of year, as most are getting ready for testing and parent/teacher conferences. The weather is starting to get nice and Spring Fever is about to hit! But the good thing is, March is full of great days to learn!! Some of these days you know but I bet there are a few holidays you haven’t heard about. Use these days to keep your students engaged! And remember to think outside the box and change them up to work best for you.

Download Free March Calendar

Some of my favorite days in March are:

March 1st: PIG DAY: Get a few cheap piggy banks and fill them with plastic coins. Younger students can identify each coin while older students can count all the money. Also a great day to read Charlotte’s Web.

March 2nd: Dr. Seuss Day: I love all the activities in my Wacky Wednesday STEM Challenges.

Wacky Wednesday STEM

March 9th: Get Over It Day: Build bridges, to help get over things. 🙂 

March 18th: Awkward Moments Day: Great day to talk about the awkward moments you have had and connect a little more with your students.

March 28th: Weed Appreciation Day: Are there some flower beds or areas of your school that students could weed?

March Daily STEM Activities

Keep Students Reading This Summer

It is that time of year when we start planning for our Summer Library Reading program to avoid the summer slide! We all want to a keep our students reading and stay engaged throughout the summer, but how? We have tried several different ways and have found some keys to make a summer reading program more successful. 

But first, let’s talk about what didn’t work. The first year we tried a summer reading program, we opened our school library to students and parents one day a week. We set a time and let everyone know we were open to come check out books. We sent home flyers and posted it on social media. We were so excited to see students and help them find that “just right” book.

Tips for summer reading success

And I think we had 6 students… ALL SUMMER!! The students who came were readers, they would have been reading no matter what. But what about the students who are not readers?

We realized it was going to take more than just a good book to get them in the library. So, we started planning. We picked a theme and decided to add STEM activities to go along with it. Our first theme was Genres. We picked a different genre each week to showcase.

Social Media

We made an invitation that let parents know what we had planned for each week and posted it on social media. We thought outside the box and had decorations, like tents set up for students to read in during Adventure Week. And we set up at least 3 different stations each week with activities and directions that students and parents could do together. We asked that an adult stay with the students, so that helped keep everyone focused and on task. And it was a HIT!! With parents and students!!

We have grown our Summer Library program each year ever since! Some of our themes have been

Booking Across the USA, Score Big with Books, and I Survived the Summer Reading Challenge

Sports Bundle STEM

And then in 2020, COVID!! Our school had shut down and we knew we weren’t going to be able to have parents and students in our library over the summer, so again we had to get creative! We had already decided on our theme, Making a Great Summer, but had to change the way we implemented it. We had written several grants and had gotten enough Who Is, What Is, Where Is books for students to pick one each week to take home and keep. We wanted them to learn about a person or place and then make something to show what they had learned. So, each week we set up tables in the front of our school with the books and Bags of Wonder, which were bags of supplies that students could use to make with. Parents just had to drive up and their child could get out and pick a book to take home. The items in the bags changed each week, and included items like tape, styrofoam,  pom poms, etc. Students didn’t have to use the supplies, but it helped give them some options. We were blown away by what they made.

Inside each book was a brochure that students filled out about the book they chose to read. The following week they would bring their completed brochure back when they came to pick another book and we had a drawing for prizes. This was a great way to get them to do a little more work and we could see what they were doing.  

For the summer of 2021, our theme was The Book is Better! We chose books that were also movies and had movie night outside every two weeks for our families. At each movie night students were able to pick up the next book. A few of the books we had were The One and Only Ivan, Ferdinand and Charlotte’s Web. We alternated between chapter books, which parents could read to their child if needed, and picture books which everyone loves!

A few helpful tips that we have learned….

  • Have parents or an adult stay with their kids. The parents will love it! It is a great time for them to work with the child and have fun!
  • Ask teachers to stop by. They don’t have to come every week, but most of our teachers will come to at least one and the kids LOVE seeing them during the summer.
  • HOW DO WE GET THE MONEY??? We write grants every year!! Some years are more successful than others, but we always try. Donors Choose is great!! We also do things during the year and set that money aside for our summer program. Some of the things we do are take Santa pictures and Kindergarten Graduation pictures. Parents want these pictures and will buy them. We don’t charge a lot but every little bit helps. And our PTA is always willing to help. They provided all our snacks, popcorn, drinks, popsicles etc, at our Family Movie nights,
  • Have a snack of some kind. If you feed them they will come! 🙂 
  • Take pictures and post them on social media.  Let people see what they are missing
  • Ask and borrow! It never hurts to ask. When we needed tents we asked our teachers and borrowed several to set up for students to read in. 
  • Ask for help! Don’t get me wrong, this is work… during summer!! We have a team who take on different  jobs so that no one is doing it all. 

Everyone, students, parents and staff, looks forward to our Summer Library program every year. It has become a staple that we hope will continue because we have seen the rewards. Our students are reading, making and learning during their summers. 

Valentine Party Fun with STEM Challenges!

Valentine STEM Challenges  : Are you looking for activities for your Valentine’s Day Party? Here are some tried and true activities that I have used in my upper elementary classroom! Love when learning and fun can merge!

Candy Heart Stations:

  • Candy Tower Challenge
  • Candy Heart Experiments
  • Candy Heart Slingshot
  • Cupid Challenges
  • Candy Catapult

Valentine Maker Space Station

 Station Supplies:

  • Construction Paper (red, white, purple, pink) in various sizes – scraps!
  • Glue – Scissors – Stapler – Markers
  • Pipecleaners
  • Cardboard Scraps
  • Beads

Valentine Holder Contest – This is always a favorite for our grade level. We create a rubric to inspire our students’ innovative thinking as they create the “device” that will hold their Valentines. Each of the Valentine holders are lined up in the hallway for students to vote on their top picks! 

Other tried and true Valentine Party Station ideas my students always love:

  • Candy/Toothpick Tower Building
  • Maker Space Table 
  • Tinkering Table (All things red!) 
  • Friendship Bracelet Making

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