Useful activities to make STEM teaching fun!
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Useful activities to make STEM teaching fun!

17 February 2020 By Rachael Lythe - Category Buyer for Curriculum at YPO

balloon powered car

Science, technology, engineering and maths: STEM projects and activities are proving to be a great way to encourage teamwork, problem-solving and creative based learning in the classroom. We have put together some easy activities using recycled materials to help get you started.

Finding activities to incorporate the STEM subjects in an innovative way often seems impossible. But teaching pupils using activities and hands-on learning helps demonstrate important concepts from science, technology, engineering and maths.

Take education further than whiteboards and exercise books with these resourceful activities for you to try, giving you the chance to bring in an environmental theme by using recycled materials!

Balloon powered car


Children can learn about jet propulsion, Newton’s law of motion and friction, by creating this car.

Things you’ll need


• Juice box or equivalent size

Felt Fabric or Acrylic Paint (to decorate the box)

• Bottle tops x 4

• Wooden skewers x 2


White Artstraws

• Balloon x 1

White Clay or Stick Tack

• Colourful Scissors

• PVA Glue



Step 1 Wrap your juice box in your felt fabric and glue down or paint (optional and purely decorative).

Step 2 Add some clay to your cap wheels.

Step 3 Prepare your car axles. Cut two skewers longer than two straws so that they will extend over your box. Place your skewer inside the cut straw and attach to the wheel caps, pushing down the clay to hold the skewer in place.

Step 4 Use tape or PVA glue to place your axles and wheels on your juice car. They will still roll, the tape or glue holds the straws on, but the skewers will still move as the car moves.

Step 5 Take a straw and place your balloon over the bendable head part. Secure down with tape, leaving no gaps so you can use the straw to blow up the balloon.

Step 6 Use tape to place the straw with the balloon on top of your car.

All finished, blow up the balloon and watch your car go!


Crank winch


With this activity, children can learn about simple machines and mechanical advantage.

Things you’ll need


• Recycled Craft Rolls

• Straw or pencil

• Ribbon

• Tape

• Colourful Scissors

• Spool from ribbon

• White Cotton String



Step 1 Tape two cardboard tubes to a solid surface. Use your straw as a reference tool for how far apart they should be placed from each other.

Step 2 Make two cuts at the top of each cardboard tube just big enough for the straw or pencil to rest and be able to spin.

Step 3 Put your spool on the straw or pencil. If you don’t have a spool, simply secure your rope to the straw or pencil with a piece of tape. You still have a hand crank winch. If you do use a spool, make sure to secure it with tape to the straw or pencil. An unsecured spool will just spin around the straw. If you are using a straw, you can even thread another straw into it and use the bendy part to make a handle!

Step 4 Secure your rope, string or ribbon to the spool with a piece of tape (or to the straw directly if you don’t have a spool) and tie your object to the bottom of the string. You can use a quarter of a craft roll as the object if you choose


Did you find these activities useful? They all feature in Issue 7 of our Everything Curriculum magazine, which focuses on the environment. All our previous issues are also available too.

Categories: Education

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