8 Great Tools to Bring STEM Into Any Classroom
These tools provide creative ways to integrate coding and digital literacy skills into classrooms across a variety of subjects and grade levels.
As technology evolves rapidly, many schools wonder how to prepare their students for the jobs of tomorrow. Many skills can be built through STEM, such as creativity, critical thinking, innovation, problem-solving, and teamwork, which will help students to be successful in the future. STEM also empowers students with new ways to create, innovate, iterate, and reflect, which are directly related to the skills students will need to be prepared.
STEM is not just about learning science, technology, engineering, and math content, but rather is a way to connect and support learning in all content areas. STEM-focused activities help promote digital literacy skills and provide students with learning experiences that will spark curiosity and prepare them for the fields that are in demand.
STEM resources for the classroom
1. Birdbrain Technologies: When I started to teach STEAM, my eighth-grade students learned how to code by using the Hummingbird Robot from Birdbrain. We focused on French and Spanish culture, and students created projects to represent something they learned. For example, students learned about foods and traditional customs in France and created a scene to represent what they had learned.
Birdbrain also offers the Finch Robot, which can also be used in any content area. With the Finch, students can explore AI and robotics using Google’s Teachable Machine. Students can write programs that enable the robot to recognize images, audio, or poses and respond. It enables students to take a more personalized dive into AI model creation. There are activities, lesson ideas, and materials available for use with students in grades K through college.
2. CODE.org: The popular website offers many resources to help students in grades K through 12 to learn about coding and STEM-related fields like computer science. Code.org says that 67 percent of new STEM jobs are in computing, and as of today, only 54 percent of schools offer computer science courses to students.
They offer app, game, and web labs for students to learn how to code and study important topics related to sustainability. Courses are available for each grade band, and some are offered in multiple languages. Students can participate in the hour of code and design an app for their class or one based on a project topic, for example.
3. CSFirst from Google: Here you’ll find many resources that can help educators get started with teaching computer science and are aligned to the CSTA and ISTE Standards. Some of the options include animation, art, pitching an idea and being an entrepreneur, and storytelling, in addition to other free materials for computer science and ELA courses.
I have used some of the lessons to explore ideas for my classroom and had students use the CS First Unplugged to explore how computer science is used in the world and where we see it. Some of the lessons are available in Spanish. Teachers can participate in distance training and download the lessons and other ready-to-use materials. The variety of options available make it easy for teachers to find a topic that meets student interests and boosts engagement in learning to code.
4. Elementari: This is a platform that can be used for storytelling and coding together. Students can create a book and learn about coding by creating interactive stories. There are example stories that can be remixed. Elementari is great for use in classes to help students narrate an experience, help them collaborate on a project, or boost creativity.
It also helps students to build coding skills in addition to essential STEM skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as social and emotional learning skills. Whether students are in elementary school or high school, Elementari can be used in all content areas.
5. GoldieBlox: GoldieBlox offers materials for girls to become more involved in STEAM and also has activities and DIY materials for use at home. They recently started the “Code Along” initiative with other STEM organizations, such as Black Girls CODE, with the goal of bridging the opportunity gap for underrepresented communities in STEM fields such as computer science.
6. Ozobot: Ozobot is a one-inch robot that can be used in any classroom and has lessons and ideas available for subjects including English language arts and math. There are two different ways to code using Ozobots. The screen-free coding is done by using markers and color codes to draw mazes. There is also computer-based coding for students to program their Ozobot.
One unique idea is to have students illustrate a book summary by using the Ozobot. Students program the Ozobot to move around and stop at each point in the timeline to retell the story.
7. Marty the Robot: My students were thrilled when I brought Marty in for class. Marty is a humanoid that offers multiple ways to learn about coding. With infrared sensors on his feet, he responds to color cards, providing screen-free coding. The app has block- and text-based coding, and students can quickly create a program to have Marty walk, dance, and talk.
There are many activities available for classes such as algebra, creative writing, earth and space science, math, physical science, robotics, and more. Each lesson has objectives, materials needed, descriptions, and extension activities for students. Teachers can request a free trial of Marty for their classroom.
8. Scratch: Scratch and Scratch Jr. are free resources for students ages 8 through 16. They can explore activities for art, games, music, stories, and more. In any content area, Scratch can be used to have students tell a story, create a game, and learn about animation, and to have them connect their program to the specific content. More than 70 languages are available, which helps promote accessibility, and because Scratch is free, it also promotes equity in learning.
With STEM, we provide opportunities for students to drive their own learning. The knowledge gained and skills developed through STEM experiences will enable students to adapt to a changing world of education and work.