Listen, I’m sure we all agree that if we could, we would drop money left and right to provide our students with engaging lessons, activities, experiments, and the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, we know that is not a sustainable practice for our own wallets… but the desire is still there- to TRULY engage our students and position them for an enriching experience. We can still fulfill our teacher fantasies, but just doing so on a BUDGET! Yes you heard me! You can set your wallet down AND still have students that look like this in your classroom:
Tips For finding engaging resources on a budget
The first piece of advice is to literally look to your right and left. Turn to your neighbors! Look and and see what sort of companies, hospitals, local colleges, etc. around you would be willing to donate used materials and equipment that are still in good condition that would serve a great purpose in classroom labs, activities, etc. I’m sure it would surprise you how often people are upgrading their equipment, and would be more than happy to open up student accessibility to some of these materials that they don’t need anymore. Some possible ideas to start might be:
- Local Deli/ groceries many times have large plastic containers or tubs that they are looking to get rid of and that could be used for so many different science activities such as planting various plants!
- Local hospitals or colleges might be a great place to look to for all sorts of equipment from goggles to beakers to scales to recycled materials that could be repurposed…you never know unless you ask!
- Look from within your school. What sorts of things does your school do/ or already have that can be used in replace of something else… get creative here! Maybe you want to do a project that requires all students to have a jug or bottle, talk with people in your school’s cafeteria about setting those things aside for your classroom!
Check out this Pinterest Resource that I tweeted about below to see this AMAZING Pin on recycled STEM ideas! Not only does this pinned blog contain ideas that are eco-friendly, they are very cost-effective and provide a springboard to get creative and come up with more recycled STEM project ideas 🙂 Some of them are geared toward the younger kiddos, but others can certainly be used for our secondary students and often enhanced by adding critical thinking components or other thought-provoking aspects to the project.
Ideas for Engaging Students from the Start
- Quote / Picture – Teachers can start with a meaningful quote, or power image to get the wheels turning for students. Depending on what you go with, and what context you provide around it, this can connect to students lives, the course content of the day, or some significance you see fit. Here is an idea:
Start with an image like this. This could go in so many directions from learning about students prior lived experiences with being to this landmark maybe a student has visited, this could connect to a lesson on how certain factors like wind, pressure, time, and much more shape and have in impact on earths surface. Students could leverage their prediction skills to try and explain how a structure such as this might have been formed?
2. Music – Music is something I might be impartial to, but most people find music to be uplifting, calming, and just overall bring happiness. Teachers can leverage music to engage students prior to a lesson. Maybe a good idea might be to take topic that is a little bit more difficult to get creative with and kick off student engagement with some beats…this will be sure to get some smiles! Check out this example I found get student engagement…this video about bees could work cross multiple contexts and areas of study.
3. Games – Another way to spark engagement is to play fun, educational games where students utilize their critical thinking skills. There are many, many games to play from solving mystery situations, mini-escape rooms, team-challenges, and more. One team challenge that would be engaging would be to solve a mystery case of some sort and students work in teams to solve the case.
4. Brain Buster / “Science-y” Joke – A brain buster or some sort of joke that has a punchline is a great way to get the whole class in the same mental space. Everyone’s brain is tuned in to figuring this one thing out and students have to rely on communication and listening to keep building off one another.
5. Videos / Audiovisuals – Most of us like our fair share of Netflix shows or youtube videos, so leveraging that common interest into the classroom already adds a layer of engagement. Bonus points if that video is super thought-provoking as well. Here is a video I found on youtube that would be a great way to start a physics or physical science class by getting students excited about various phenomena in our world: (What I really like about this video is the phenomena aren’t explained, which leaves the door open for students to be curious and really wonder about how to account for these things).