3 Free or Low-Cost STEM Kits I Just Invented

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STEM isn’t just “hot” anymore it is here to stay. The newly passed ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ by congress this year is littered with STEM-focused initiatives, even including computer science as a core subject area. It is easy to see how the influx of STEM education is sweeping through American education. For instance, take a look at Amazon’s ‘STEM Toys & Games’ section. It has over 1000+ toys! Combine these 1000+ toys with the 1000+ STEM-focused schools President Obama called for in 2010 and STEM mania has arrived.

Unfortunately, many of these “STEM” kits and toys are nothing more than the low-cost, poorly designed chemistry sets of the past. This post is not to talk about the best and worst STEM kits though, that is for another blog post. Another post where we may or may not announce an awesome month long giveaway where we raffle off some STEM toys to our readers. ( But FYI, big shout outs to some real cool STEM toys; Makey Makey, Scratch, Osmo, and littlebits).

Getting to the real point of this post is that your kids don’t need an expensive kit to get STEM-y this summer! So here I present 3 totally free or low-cost STEM kits and activities that your kid can get playing with today. What could be a better way for a kid to spend their summer break than exploring the world around them?

The Insect Detector

  • Supplies Needed: Old tupperware containers, a little garden shovel, dirt where bugs live (Optional: butterfly net, research on the internet for common bugs in your region of the United States, rain…it’s always easy to find worms after it rains)
  • Age Level: 3 to ???
  • Instructions: Get your supplies and try to catch some bugs! Good places to look are in gardens, under rocks, and any wooded or foresty areas around your house. When you find some bugs don’t be afraid! Just grab them and toss them in one of your containers, just make sure to poke holes in the top so they can breathe!
  • Notes: Not worrying about staying clean and getting some dirt on your hands will make you a much better Insect Detector.

Chemically Reactive Construction

  • Supplies Needed: Modeling clay (or some other cylinder type of container), baking soda, vinegar, (optional supplies: food dye, paints, fun things to decorate your soon to explode contraption.
  • Age Level: 4 to ???
  • Instructions: Make with clay or find something that can hold baking soda and vinegar. A popular classic to make is a volcano. Decorate or really do whatever you want! Then pour that vinegar in there and add baking soda. I won’t tell you what happens, but have some paper towels on hand!
  • Notes: Don’t buy expensive pre-made clay, make your own! Follow this link to see how.

The Worst Handyman

  • Supplies: Screwdriver and various other basic tools that are probably laying around the garage (make sure to put dad’s tools back when you are done!), any old electronic devices around the house (dvd players, RC cars, radios, or whatever else mom let’s you have!)
  • Age Level: 6 to ???
  • Instructions: Get those tools and start hacking away. Get those old electronics open. Inspect how different parts work. Look for parts that could be fun to use to create something cool (lots of electronics use motors that could power all sorts of projects). Don’t worry about having to put the things back together, we are just trying to get them open! And if nothing cool is in there, ask your parent if you can smash them with a hammer (wear protective eye wear…probably for an older demographic)!
  • Notes: Garage sales are a great places to find cool electronics to rip open and see what’s inside! Make sure you have a box that you can put in any electronics you find that look cool when you open things up, you could build something with them later! For inspiration and to see about an awesome program called Toy Take Apart visit the San Francisco Museum of Science’s Exploritorium website.

So there you go. Three STEM activities and kits that cost zero to just a handful of dollars that will teach your kids about the world around them and maybe discover something that they enjoy doing.

Tony Landek, our Product Manager at Woobo, authored this post. He recently earned his Master’s in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education in Technology, Innovation, and Education. Before working at Woobo, he was a high school counselor and oversaw the STEM program at Corliss Early College STEM High School in Chicago, IL. He loves taking things apart, accidentally breaking them, and trying to put them back together again.

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