How Do I Know if it's a Good STEM Activity?

The internet is full of “STEM Activities” that promise to stimulate youths’ curiosity, spark their interests, and teach them STEM. However, not all activities are created equal. I've compiled some of my own criteria to help you make every STEM learning opportunity top-notch.

  1. Is it edible? If youth are making something that they eventually eat, facilitators should pause before continuing. If youth need a snack, then have snack time. If youth don’t need a snack, a food-based project sends the wrong message, especially to the 17% of US kids who are food-insecure.
  2. Is it really related to what scientists do? If the activity doesn’t bear any resemblance to what scientists or engineers do in their daily work, you might need to reconsider. Some important STEM skills include:
    1. Asking scientific questions
    2. Designing investigations or solving problems
    3. Using math
    4. Constructing explanations
    5. Analyzing information
    6. Using models to explain phenomena
    7. Engaging in argument from evidence
    8. Communicating information
    If your activity includes these core practices, you’re probably on the right track.
  3. Does it pass our STEM Activity Quality checklist? See how your activity ranks and what you can do to improve it!

STEM Activity Quality Checklist

Rate the activity according to the following criteria.

  • 4: Examplary for this criterion
  • 3: Suitable
  • 2: Needs some adaptations
  • 1: Needs major adaptations before teaching
Rating To what extent does the activity:
  Relate to a STEM Career?
  Connect to the everyday lives of youth?
  Contain a strong, interesting hook?
  Contain time for reflection?
  Allow for group collaboration?
  Have informal checkpoints to make sure youth are "getting it"?
  Connect to STEM principles or "big ideas" that youth engage with?
  Get youth moving and actively involved with STEM?
  Include youth with disabilities?