Quick STEM Activities for 5th Grade Students

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Have you been looking for quick STEM activities for 5th grade students, but haven’t found something that will really be a hit with your students? I know how that goes. The old fashioned baking soda volcano doesn’t get the play it used to when we were kids. 

STEM activities have really changed over the years. As technology advances and things become more common, it’s inspiring to see that even kids in elementary can explore coding and other projects that would have been just a dream years ago. 

It’s really surprising how easy STEM activities for elementary students can be put together. Some just require a few apples and you are good to go! The sky’s the limit when it comes to school activities involving STEM. And remember, you can always fine-tune different activities according to your classroom and students. If you would just bring creativity to your classroom, your students will surely follow suit. 

STEM activities can liven up any classroom and there are countless activities to choose from.

Related post: STEM Activities for Middle School Math

Apple Oxidation Experiment

STEM experiment apple oxidation

This one is a classic that doesn’t get enough attention. Thankfully, the process is very simple and the required materials are affordable and common. For this activity, all you need is an apple and lemon juice for each student along with a notebook and something to write with. 

The basics of the activity go something like this: Cut an apple in half for each student. Have them apply lemon juice to the cut side of one of the pieces and leave the other untouched. Set both pieces aside overnight. The next morning, one half will be browned and the other will not! 

This experiment can be incorporated into a variety of lesson plans. Whether you’re talking about plant life, chemistry, or food, the Apple Oxidation Experiment is a great way for your students to get hands-on with STEM learning

Time to Take Flight!

This is another activity that can be flexible based on your needs in the classroom. This time, your students are required to build their very own airplanes. As an educator myself, that sounds a little nerve-wracking, but don’t worry! These airplanes are much more low key than the real thing. 

This STEM activity breaks down into two parts.

First, have your students research doable designs for airplanes. Have them either look up some ideas online or flip through some books and journals about airplane designs. 

After that, each student should design their own airplanes based on what they’ve learned. Your students can make their aircraft by drawing them, making mixed media models, or by adapting classic paper airplanes.

This lesson can be about technology or flight and can even incorporate arts into your design lesson! 

The Oil Spill Activity

water with oil STEM activity

It’s important for our children to learn about the impact of everything we do to the environment. One of the biggest STEM challenges today is how we can better manage our natural resources. Even our youngest learners can get in on the action with this little experiment known as the ‘Oil Spill Activity’. 

All you’ll need for this fun activity is a large container of water and cooking oil. Fill the container partway with water, then add some oil. Give your students the important job of finding a way to remove the oil from the water without removing too much water in the process. Sponges, straws, paper towels, and spoons are good tools to pass out to the class. 

This lesson lends itself to environmental lesson plans, but it’s not that far off from chemistry and science.

Build a Rain Shelter

This one will test how brave you are as an educator since every student would have their own spray bottle full of water! 😊

If you can manage this herculean supervisory task, it can be incredibly rewarding. This is one of the most adaptive activities on our list.

For this activity, students will be required to build a mini rain shelter which they will then test using their spray bottles. Inside the ‘rain shelter’ can be a small toy or a piece of sponge to test for any leaks. 

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This is a great activity to teach kids about the basics of building since you can ask them questions like “what makes a watertight structure?” or “Which materials worked better than others?” while they’re checking the sturdiness of their work.

Magic Floating Stick Figure

Your students might already think you’re good at ‘magic’ but after this STEM activity, they might think that you’re actually a magician disguised as their teacher!

All you need for this activity is a plate and a dry erase marker.

On a medium-sized plate, draw a stick figure using your dry erase marker. Next, pour some water onto the plate and wait for your student’s adorable reactions when the stick figure floats. You can even drag it around the plate for more giggles! 

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You can then explain that the ink of a dry-erase marker is both less dense than water and also insoluble, which can naturally separate the ink from the plate when mixed with water. This can be a great time to bring up why things float to blow your student’s minds even further.

Make sure to share the fun by letting them get a chance to float their own stick figures! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Teacher searching online for STEM activities for 5th grade students

How do you make STEM fun for 5th graders?

Let your 5th-grade students get hands-on with these projects. Children have an innate sense of exploration and STEM projects can give them a way to grow that curiosity. Allowing students to work in teams is another great way to break things up. When in doubt, make it feel like a field trip. Your students in grade 5 will pick up on the change of pace—even if you’re still in the classroom!

How do you start a STEM challenge?

A STEM challenge lets your students really experience the fun of STEM. Basically, they will get to design, test, and repeat some kind of scientific experiment. Let your imagination take you away with this one. This can be anything from learning the basics of the volume of water to making aerodynamic paper airplanes. Remember that the key is to let them redesign and experiment with the project. 

Why is STEM important for 5th graders?

Our world is becoming more and more technological every year. STEM is at the forefront of this advancement. STEM doesn’t have to be dry, textbook math. It can be a fun way to tap into the unique curiosity that every 5th grader shares. Not only does STEM let them explore and have fun, but it also instills a lifelong appreciation of science and math that will give them a strong foundation no matter where they go in life!

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD MRACI CChem
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