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A Look Back at 2019's STEM Teacher Successes

Millions of teachers and students use our free STEM resources each year. We are inspired by all of the successes shared in 2019!

At Science Buddies, our small team of scientists work on developing and improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities, projects, and NGSS-aligned lesson plans all year long. Ensuring access for all students to quality STEM resources is at the heart of our mission since our founding in 2001.

Thanks to generous support from corporate sponsors and individual donors, we continue to make our materials free to use for everyone.

Empowering Teachers and Students to Succeed with STEM

It is always exciting for us to hear from educators and students using our materials to teach and explore STEM. We enjoying sharing your stories to inspire others about K-12 science education. As more and more teachers and programs share their activities on social media, we are seeing your stories in new spaces and streams. We love seeing your pictures and videos of students getting hands-on with science and engineering! Your posts in social media show your students enjoying and succeeding with the scientific method and engineering design process in classrooms and programs around the world.

Your stories inspire us about the work we do at Science Buddies and underscore the value of having STEM resources freely available to support educators and students everywhere. Here are some of the exciting stories we saw in 2019 that highlight what an amazing job teachers are doing bringing hands-on learning opportunities to students.

Note: Many of these social media posts include videos, so be sure to click through to see these STEM explorations in action.

Paper Roller Coasters

Paper roller coasters were especially popular this year! In this activity, students can learn about potential and kinetic energy while designing and testing their own paper roller coaster. The activity is available both as an NGSS-aligned lesson plan and as a family-friendly activity version (also perfect for afterschool programs and camps). This activity highlights important principles like the conservation of energy in a way that is tactile, active, and lots of fun. Will the marble make it from start to finish?

These students in Mrs. Najarro's class at South Lake Elementary in Maryland worked on making and testing paper roller coasters: (See the video!)

These students from Kingsgrove PS also experimented with paper roller coasters:

Paper Rockets

Also very popular with STEM educators this year, the Paper Rockets lesson plan helps teachers introduce the steps of the scientific method with a hands-on activity. The lesson is available in versions NGSS-aligned for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8. The lesson plans help teachers walk students through steps of the scientific method using paper rockets as a sample science project. Given the importance of teaching students about the scientific method for doing science and science fair projects, we were thrilled to see paper rockets flying all over the place this year in social media!

These students from Ms. Blazevic's 8th grade at St. Edith Stein Catholic Elementary school in Mississauga, Ontario, learned about the scientific method with paper rockets:

So did these students in Ms. Bywalski's class:

And these students in Mrs. Manoff's 5th-grade class at Eminence Elementary School in KY:

And Britt Miller's students in Winchester, VA:

And Mrs. Hefelfinger's 4th- and 5th-grade students also made paper rockets:

(For a similar lesson that focuses on the engineering design process, see Defining an Engineering Design Problem with Paper Airplanes.)

The Value of Hands-on STEM

In Milpitas, CA, students at St. John the Baptist School used Science Buddies throughout the year, including for their first STEM fair. "When we begin study on topics/concepts in grades K-5, I go to Science Buddies first to find activities, projects, or experiments aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards," said Arlene Ang, STEM Lab Coordinator at St. John the Baptist School. "Science Buddies makes teaching science to multiple grades very manageable, fun, and less stressful."

Recently, 4th-grade students experimented with circuits using electric play dough:

These students made anemometers (part of our suite of weather science lessons):

And kindergarteners tested paper bridges:

Students in Jenni Domo's SCOPES program at Unioto Elementary School in Chillicothe, OH, also do lots of hands-on STEM. "Science Buddies is the STEM teacher's ace in the hole," said Jenni when we interviewed her about the SCOPES Academy. Here, some of her 4th-grade students were working on paper double helixes in celebration of DNA Day.

Inspiring Students About Their Future in STEM

In Cassie Nix's classes at Turner Middle School in Kansas City, KS, students learn about all kinds of career paths, but every Tuesday, they get exposure to STEM careers as part of Cassie's 10-minute #TechJobTuesday at the start of class. (Learn more about Cassie's innovative #hashtagBellwork system!)

STEM In and Out of the Classroom

Science Buddies knows that STEM learning can happen in a wide range of settings, including at home, in afterschool, out-of-school, and camp programs, and in community spaces like libraries and local makerspaces. We are proud to offer a range of resources to support hands-on STEM exploration in both formal and informal settings.

The annual Fluor Engineering Challenge is one of our most popular K-12 STEM events each year, and the fun engineering challenges can be used by teachers and students even after the competition ends. Past Fluor Challenges have included a ball launcher, marble sorting machine, volleyball machine, and balloon car.

During the official Fluor Challenge competition window (usually in February and March), we saw examples of volleyball machines (the 2019 Fluor Engineering Challenge) shared by lots of educators. Not only is it exciting to see the finished devices that students designed and built, but we really enjoy seeing students working on their devices, exploring the iterative engineering design process, and thinking like engineers!

Here are a few of the many 2019 #FluorChallenge posts that capture the excitement of this annual engineering challenge:

These students demonstrated Volleyball Machines during their Lights On 2019 event.

Cara Martin's students at Wolf Springs Elementary in Overland, KS made marble sorting machines (the 2016 Fluor Engineering Challenge):

STEM Next Year

We know that there are many sources for STEM materials online. Seeing your stories about using Science Buddies and our free materials reminds us each and every day how important our mission is and what a difference teachers can make in the lives of students and how they think about science, engineering, and STEM careers when they have quality materials to provide the scaffolding for hands-on learning. We appreciate the trust educators show in our resources, and we remain committed to developing quality materials that continue to serve teachers looking to meet curriculum and standards needs with engaging, high-interest STEM activities and explorations.

We can't wait to see what 2020 holds for students diving into hands-on STEM learning! If you share your projects, activities, lessons, and successes in social media, be sure and tag us so we can see!

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Free science fair projects.