To many middle school students, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can be an intimidating area of study. Young people often believe that these subjects are only for the smart kids, and that you have to have some natural talent to do well in them.
This can put off lots of middle schoolers from developing a deeper interest in STEM, and wanting to study it further.
Projects, however, are a great way of engaging students in these areas as they offer a fun and hands-on approach to learning. By getting middle school students involved in them, they can see the real-world application of STEM theories and concepts from the get go.
So in this article, we have listed 20 STEM projects that are great for middle school.
Lava lamps are an eye catching way of demonstrating changes in density due to thermal expansion.
- sealable bottle
- food coloring
- vegetable oil
- a light
Rinse out an empty bottle, preferably one that holds at least 500ml. Then fill it to 3/4 full with vegetable oil. Next add a few drops (around 15) of food coloring.
Now add a big pinch of salt. Put the lid on the bottle and tip it back and forth. Then place your light source below and watch as the reaction takes place.
This fruity-fun experiment shows students chemical reactions involving baking soda and citric acid. It is really straight-forward and you will likely have all of the supplies you need lying around.
- 2 lemons
- Baking soda
- Food coloring
- Craft stick
- Dish soap
- Cup and spoons
Cut off the bottom of the first lemon. Now slice out the core through the hold you made by cutting the bottom off. Prepare lemon juice by slicing the other lemon in half and juicing it into a glass.
Now go back to the cored-lemon and use the craft tick to churn up the centre and get the juices flowing. Make sure the juices stay in the lemon. Put a few drops of food coloring in the centre of the lemon.
Finally, add a spoonful of baking soda to the centre of the lemon and watch it fizz and bubble. Your extra lemon juice can be used to keep the reaction going.
Teach students the process of mummification using hotdogs! This one takes a couple of weeks, but is a fun way to learn.
- Disposable gloves
- Paper towels
- Hot dog meat
- String (at least 10 cm)
- Weighing scaleAirtight plastic container big enough for hotdog
- Baking soda (enough to fill the airtight box 2 times)
Put your gloves on and a paper towel on your surface. Place the hotdog on the paper towel and measure it with the ruler. Note this in your notepad.
Now, with the string measure the hotdog’s thickness. mark the string and get the measurement using the ruler again. Note this too. Next, weigh your hotdog and write it down.
Using an unopened box of baking soda, pour a layer at least 2.5cm baking soda into the plastic container. Place the hotdog on top, and then completely cover it with baking soda.
Seal the container with the lid, and place it in a shady spot (indoors)and away from heating and cooling sources. Write down the date.
After a week, check the hotdog. Do this by removing it from the container and repeating the measuring steps. Note down all new measures.
Clean out the container and put in fresh baking soda. Put the hotdog back in the container and cover it again with baking soda. After another week remove it again and measure it.
Repeat these again one week later. At this final stage observe your hotdog. Note the changes you see and how it smells.
Now, using your data you can plot a graph of your hot dog’s mummification process.
Air Pressure Can Crusher
This fun experiment introduces middle school students to the concept of air pressure and how it affects objects.
- Empty drinks can
- Cold water
- Electric stove or hot plate
- Cooking tongs
Rinse out your can and remove all soda residues. Fill your bowl half way with cold water. Make sure that it is nice and cold. Now add a tablespoon of water to the empty can. It should be enough to cover the bottom of the can.
Place the can on the burner stove. Turn on the stove and boil the water in the can. After water vapour starts to rise, boil it for one minute more.
Now with the tongs grab the can. Get a good grip low down on the can. Turn the can upside down quickly and plunge it into the bowl of water.
If you do it right, the can will implode with a bang.
Now it is time to think about what is happening.
Children’s building toy producer LEGO promotes STEM learning with their range of kits.
By using these you can give middle school students a real world introduction to the digital world, and make things a little more life-like to begin with.
Engineering And Maths
Building a water clock will teach students engineering principles, timekeeping, and also some maths.
- Styrofoam cup
- Small bell
- Plastic lid
- Popsicle stick
- Glass jar
With the toothpick poke hole through the middle of the plastic lid and bottom of Styrofoam up.
Now measure the distance between the top of the cup and just above the bottom of the cup. Do this with the string, and give it a little more length so you have enough to tie on the bell and lid
Pull the string through hole in the lid. Now tie a knot or a bead in the string to stop it from coming out of the hole. On the other end tie the small bell.
Now check your string length again. It needs to be short enough to pull the bell off of the popsicle stick when the cup is empty.
Put the cup on top of the jar. Put a popsicle stick over the top of the cup. Balance the bell which you tied to the string, on the end of the popsicle stick as the lid is hanging down into the cup. Hold it there and fill the cup with water.
The lid should float while the bell stays in place on the popsicle stick.
You will see that the water starts to drip out of the cup through the hole which you made, and into the jar below. When the cup is empty, the bell will be pulled into the cup and it will ring.
Middle School STEM Projects
In today’s society, having an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can really pay off.
Projects like these will stimulate middle school kids to give STEM and chance, in turn giving themselves the best chance.
All of these projects can be set up cheaply, and carried out by children of all learning abilities. Just make sure to always have an adult present and ready to supervise.
We hope your middle school student(s) enjoy them as much as we think they will.