Virtual 6-9 Grade STEM Competition - August 2023


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STEM on a budget

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Darcie Pilon Darcie Pilon 490 Points

My name is Darcie Pilon and I am a third-year Elementary Education student at Wartburg College. In my recent field experience, kindergarten students were given the task of creating a home out of recyclable materials found around the common household. For instance, they used cardboard boxes, paper cups, rubberbands, plastic bottles, paper plates, and more. These are things that could be easily collected over a short period of time, some after initial use, thus saving some money.

The students seemed to really enjoy this activity and were sad to end it. I am curious what other lessons and activities can be done on a budget. Any examples or inspiration would be appreciated!

Ashley Aguilera Ashley Aguilera 305 Points

Hi Darcie, I think the use of technology in STEM would help to keep costs low after the initial money upfront to buy the device. There are so many simulations (like and labs that children could maniuplate and explore. Many programs have been created to help simulate high cost materials that are made possible for all students to use virtually. is another site that gives students the opportunity to be creative and come up with design ideas online. 

Maritza Lara Maritza Lara 440 Points

Darcie this sounds very fun and engaging for all ages! I truly think this is a unique activity that allows the child to find items at home to create their house and the fun part is that this activity can be turned into a family activity. 

I saw on a YouTube video an activity based on Recycling Stem project that will keep kids engaged, entertained, and at the same time learn. It is called Cardboard Marble Run and it requires simple materials, painter's tape, cardboard tubes of all sizes, and scissors. These cardboards can be taped into a wall or a table and allows the child to explore on this fun engineering project that is made for all ages. 

Felicia Freese FELICIA FREESE 525 Points

Hi Darcie,

Paper roller coasters are a great activity. We used paer from the recycle bin. We even used recyled posterboard from other projects. There are several videos you can watch for ideas. Mainly the students learn by doing. I use it when teaching the laws of motion.

Sandra Gonzalez Sandra Gonzalez 1111 Points

Hi, Felicia,

This is a great idea! I am definitely looking for the videos you mentioned and putting it on my list of future projects! 

Thank you!

Ashley Easterling Ashley 280 Points

That sounds like a fun activity for kids! Who doesn't love roller coasters!!  

Karen Ye Karen Ye 90 Points

Here are two resources that may be of interest. Both utilize easy to find, everyday materials. 

  • The Snack Box series is designed for teachers and parents to provide STEM focused lessons or activities by grade level band (K-12). These are free for download via DigitalCommons.
  • The new STEM a la Carte lessons are specific to grades K-5. 

Kaley Jackson Kaley Jackson 1145 Points

Thank you for sharing these resources!

Jessica Jones Jessica Jones 465 Points

 I really like this activity. This is a really good take home family project. I love sending home family projects with my students. I work with second grade students and for the month of November, my students had to complete the disguise a turkey project. The students really enjoyed the project and I got some really good disguised turkeys turned it. I will definitely use your idea and most likely make this my next take home family project for my students.

Rachel Schermerhorn Rachel Schermerhorn 275 Points

This is an amazing thread. Thank you for posting, I am also an elementary ed major and it is always great to have inexpensive ideas with our own classrooms just around the corner!

Emily O'Neill Emily O'Neill 455 Points

I agree that this is a great thread. I am always looking for low-budget ideas to do with my students. 

Esther Edelen Esther 10 Points

I like the idea. Thanks for the discussion, I found it very useful for me. I would also like to help you by sharing a link with you where you can easily find apps for quick loans and with the help of those apps, you can easily take a loan. I have also taken a loan with the help of one of those money loan apps.

Julia Salsido Julia Salsido 275 Points

Another STEM project that involves having the students bring in recycable materials from home is the 'egg drop' project. You can read more about it here: .Another great one that the students will love enganging in is building an earthquake proof structure and a shake table: . It's great when you can have the students bring in materials from home to make the STEM projects cost effective. Perhaps you can even remind the students to bring in recycable materials whenever they can and collect them for future projects to do with the students. You can send home a list to of common items that will be super useful like cardboard, newspaper, and toothpicks. Its also a great way to teach the students about recycling and reusing. You could even set it up like a scavenger hunt so the students have even more fun finding the materials. 

Sherry Crawford Sherry 103 Points

I am a director at Teakergeek ( and would love to help everyone looking to do STEM/STEAM on a budget. Send me an email to [email protected] with your schools Name, school address, your name and what you teach and I will send some kits your way.

Lauren Cramer Lauren Cramer 2025 Points

This is more of a middle school STEM lesson and above, but maybe it can inspire you to tailor it to your kids' needs or create something similar. 

I like to present the students with the problem of needing to take a water sample that does not include the surface/top layer because that layer does not give us a true water sample. I have the students create a device out of similar materials that will go under the water, collect a sample, and bring it back up without getting any of the top layer as a sample. They use water bottles, rocks, string, tape, etc. It is a fun one and they love it. Anytime you and present a problem and have them create a solution to it, it will be meaningful. 

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