If you’ve ever found yourself pressed for time, in need of no prep STEM activities perfect for sub plans, centers, bell ringers and more — or confused about how to help students develop creativity and imagination — you’ll love STEM Improv!
STEM Improv is a quick STEM activity to work on creativity, mental flexibility & the planning step of the Engineering Design Process (EDP).
Here’s how it works:
1. Students will randomly select from three categories:
(Click the green preview button under the cover image to see the set 1 lists.)
2. Students create a design plan & answer questions about their initial plan.
3. Sharing designs, discussions & extensions are optional.
With 8 options in each category, there are 336 unique combinations in this set that will keep your students flush with designs to challenge them!
*The materials lists include some unconventional building materials (like socks!) resulting in whimsical, often hilarious, designs!
What’s included in this STEM activity?
- A 3-minute video to introduce the activity to your students (an excerpt is shown in the video preview just below the product cover image)
- Print and paperless options
- The Google Slides™ version of the student handouts is editable
- Randomized printable cards & video spinners for Object, Material, and Function categories
- 336 possible design combinations! (8 options + free choice for each category)
- Student handouts/slides to describe plan their designs and answer questions to think through designs
- Teacher tips, notes, and troubleshooting
How to use STEM Improv:
STEM Improv is an exercise to help students build their creativity, problem-solving & flexibility muscles. Like its inspiration, comedic improv, what students design and create isn’t the focal point.
Expect flashes of brilliance, complete flops, and everything in between!
The objective here isn’t the end product – it’s the process of practicing to keep your brain moving and engaged in the effort of productive creation even if the brain objects, sends up roadblocks, or wants to shut down and give up.
Because students are planning but not actually build prototypes for their designs (unless you choose to extend), no materials are needed.
STEM Improv is not meant to be a substitute for the EDP; it is a supplement to focus in on a narrow piece to improve skills in short class periods.
This quick, ~10-15 minute activity is perfect for:
- Short class periods
- Bell ringers
- Sub plans
- Independent work
- Choice boards
- Must do / May do lists
What are teachers saying?
This is a newer resource, so it will take some time for teachers to leave comments here. For now, let me share two reviews I’ve received elsewhere:
“I did this activity with my 3rd and 4th grade Gifted and Talented classes! They loved it!! It was definitely a change for them in that “all” they were doing was designing, they are accustomed to creating. But this was really good for them to focus on the design. My students who struggle with being creative and seeing outside the norm definitely struggled with this. I liked your suggestion in the material to help a student think about just 2 components and that helped them start. I know I will use this over and over again. Thank you!”
– Kerry S. (Comment left in YouTube comments)
“I tried out STEM improv with one of my 4th grade classes today, and they loved it. They asked when then can do this again and if they can have sets of cards to take home. It was the perfect activity because I was missing about 1/3 of the students.”
– Rachel F. (Comment sent via email)
“This is a short but very effective STEAM activity. It gave my students a chance to use their thinking skills. I highly recommend it to STEAM activity lovers. There are over 300 combinations possible, so lots of activities from this one purchase. Kids love it!”