Adapted but Still Awesome: 7 STEM Lesson Ideas for Kids with Different Learning Styles
Most K-12 educators can agree that getting kids engaged in STEM activities is more important than ever. Still up for debate is which teaching methods are best suited for STEM education.
As many teachers know, not every student learns in the same way. That’s why it’s critical for STEM teachers to adapt their STEM lessons to engage multiple types of learners.
If you want to get every type of learner excited about STEM, here are seven different lesson plans to engage them all:
1) Visual Learners
Have you ever tried explaining a STEM concept to students, only for it to go in one ear and out the other? Some students learn best when they can visualize STEM concepts as opposed to having it explained to them.
Whenever possible, engage your visual learners by using media, art and demos. Visual learners will grasp concepts more effectively when you show rather than tell.
Lesson Idea: AR/VR in the Classroom
Students don’t necessarily need to tinker with electronics to learn about their parts. As a visual learner, a student can harness the power of augmented reality (AR) to explore new planets, electrical systems, the human body and more through technology.
With AR, a student can see the electronics housed inside a plastic enclosure without ever taking it apart. Similarly, a student can learn about the vascular system by seeing blood carried through the body in a simulation.
2) Auditory Learners
STEM is commonly associated with “hands-on” activities, but this is far from the only way for students to learn complex subject matter.
Lesson Idea: STEM-related Field Trip
Both visual and auditory learners can benefit from a STEM-related field trip. Visiting a high-tech company, science museum or a water treatment plant can give students a real-world view of STEM and learn about the complex problems facing our society.
For instance, an auditory learner could greatly benefit from hearing how a water treatment plant process works and the latest technologies that are used to treat wastewater. You can also bring in a professional to talk with your students and answer their questions in detail.
3) Linguistic Learners
Linguistic learners are most engaged through speech and writing. They’re often great notetakers and may talk themselves through a process to better understand it.
Although they respond well to text, a boring textbook won’t always be effective for these students. Instead, try engaging them with role-playing and storytelling.
Lesson Idea: Role-Playing in STEM
For this lesson, split your students into groups and ask them to imagine themselves on a new planet. Hand out oobleck (a non-Newtonian fluid) and tell them that the planet is covered with this substance.
Get their curiosity going by asking them questions such as the following:
- What are the physical properties of the substance? Why is it interesting?
- What could the substance be useful for?
Have them write down their findings and don’t reveal any clues until the end. You might be surprised at some of the fascinating ideas they come up with.
- What problems could it present to future astronauts?
4) Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic learners are most commonly associated with STEM because they respond well to hands-on learning methods. Tinkering with electronics and building robots are extremely engaging for this type of learner.
Lesson Idea: Egg Drop Challenge
For the egg drop challenge, kids will need to use materials to protect a raw egg when it’s dropped from a specific height. Materials may include bubble wrap and recyclable items such as cardboard, tissue paper and more.
Set a timer and challenge them to create housing for the egg that will effectively protect it. To reduce some of the mess, consider putting the egg in a Ziploc bag first!
5) Logical Learners
Logical learners work best when they understand the reasons behind an activity and/or its importance. Fortunately, STEM is all about teaching kids to find solutions to real-world problems.
Lesson Idea: Oil Spill Simulation
In this lesson, you can teach kids about the human impact on our environment and the problems our future faces. The lesson (which can be found in more detail here) involves mixing cocoa powder with vegetable oil to mimic the appearance of crude oil. Kids must then clean up the oil from the water and feathers as best they can.
6) Solitary Learners
Working as part of a team is a crucial part of STEM learning. That being said, not everyone learns best in a group setting.
It’s also important to note that solitary learners can be auditory, visual, kinesthetic or linguistic learners as well. By giving them a solitary activity that suits their preferred learning style, you can ensure that they are effectively engaged.
Lesson Idea: CoderZ Coding Program
It’s not a coincidence that many solitary learners turn out to be coders, programmers and researchers. Why not foster their interest in STEM with a coding program?
CoderZ, an online robotics course, teaches 6th-12th grade kids how to code virtual 3D robots. While kids can work in pairs, this program can easily be adapted for solitary use.
In fact, the program is cloud-based, which allows kids to bring CoderZ anywhere with internet access. Best of all, it’s affordable, accessible and educator-friendly.
7) Social Learners
Social learners enjoy learning in a group setting and working through problems with their classmates. As with solitary learners, they can also learn best through visual demonstrations or hands-on activities.
Lesson Idea: Spaghetti Tower Marshmallow Challenge
In this lesson, students are divided into groups and given nothing but 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape and one marshmallow. The challenge is for each team to build the tallest free-standing tower possible that can support the marshmallow.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and let them think of creative ways to build their structure. This is a great team-building exercise that is both fun and which teaches kids to think outside the box.
For more on the marshmallow challenge, check out Tom Wujec’s insightful Ted Talk: Build a tower, build a team. Kids and adults alike can try this challenge and put their creativity to the test.
STEM lessons are far more than your typical science experiment or math equation. STEM prepares students for identifying real-world problems and finding creative solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.
Just because a student doesn’t respond to a specific learning approach doesn’t mean that they can’t grasp the concept being taught. By catering STEM lessons to different learning styles, you can engage more students and encourage deeper exploration of STEM topics.