Building, crashing, building, balancing, building, failure, and building success. Combining construction and STEM materials in your classroom can build more than towers and tall monuments, it also builds problem solving skills and perseverance as they analyze techniques and develop strategies that can apply to other activities.
Supplying your students with various types of building toys and kits can help them learn some of the fundamentals of construction. They can then apply this knowledge to the various engineering challenges they will meet in your STEM classroom.
These materials are great for students to have available in makerspaces and for indoor recess. Consider making them an available choice for early finishers and any other times that your schedule permits.
Building Materials for Construction and STEM
Here are some of our favorite toys and kits that we feel should be in every classroom:
Cori Create: The kits offered by Cori Create are unlike most of the kits on the market. The building materials in each kit are 12” long, perforated cardboard that the students fold to create planks. Then, students cut the planks into the size needed by clamping the plank into a small miter that is included, and use a razor saw. The item is then assembled using the connectors and other items included in the kits, Students learn real construction skills as they measure and cut.There are a variety of kits that you can order to build such things as a windmill, a sail car or a catapult.
Keva Planks: Keva planks are one of our absolute favorite building toys. Students can build literally anything using these precision cut blocks. They are very stable so that students are able to build tall buildings with ease. Your students will be learning about balance, leverage, geometry and physics principles while they create. They are available in large bins of planks or in themed kits.
Lincoln Logs : Lincoln Logs are a timeless classic that are made from real maple wood logs. The indentations in the logs makes it easy for students to build stable structures. Each set comes with step by step directions to build three different cabins; however your students will love creating their own designs.
K’nex K’nex is a building system of interlocking plastic rods, connectors, block, gears, wheels and other components. The wide variety of pieces allows students to build an amazing variety of machines, models and structures. One of our favorite kits is the Intro to Structures where students can build a variety of bridges. This is a must have for your classroom.
Magformers : Magformers are clear plastic tiles with magnetic edges allowing your students to build an infinite number of 2D and 3D designs. Best of all, it is very easy to add more tiles to whatever kit you first purchase.
Legos : The Lego block system is a classic building toy in every sense of the word. The wide range of sizes of the bricks as well as additional gears, wheels and other structures allows students of any age and ability to build whatever they want. Although there are kits with bricks to build specific structures such as castles and pirate ships, we love the Classic Creative Brick Box in our classroom, that allows the students to dream it and build it.
Support Materials for Construction and STEM
Two of our favorite construction reference books explore not only various construction skills but also the many jobs that are involved in constructing a building.
Whether using construction materials for a maker space, a free time center, or as part of an engineering challenge, providing students with quality building materials is an important part of a STEM classroom. We suggest that you keep your eye out for garage sales and store special promotions for good deals on these materials. Also check out a company's website to see if they have special offers for educators. Adding these items on a Donors Choose request or a grant inventory is a wise decision as well. And finally, letting parents know that you would love any building materials donations when they do spring cleaning may provide some great additions to your classroom supply!
We hope you Get Caught Engineering® with construction and STEM!
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Wendy came to Bellevue Arts Museum to co-lead our Full STEAM Ahead! Summer Camp in August 2014. This camp was a huge success thanks to her expertise, experience, and warmth working with the campers throughout the week…
Educational Outreach Director, The Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington