Sub Prep for STEM

August 10, 2022


Prepping for a Sub


Does the thought of needing a substitute in your STEM classroom fill you with anxiety? You are not alone! STEM lessons typically mean a much more active classroom than most of the other subjects - many materials, student movement and discussion, and in some cases, bigger clean up.

We have some tried and true procedures and lessons that we have relied upon to share that will make preparing for a sub a snap. You can be confident that your students’ learning will continue while you are gone. 

Be Ready for Day One

There are many things that require your attention when you first go back into your classroom – classroom organization, staff meetings and lesson prep. Preparing for at least one day of a substitute teacher is something that should be on this to-do list to have ready when the students return. Many times, your absence is unexpected and unavoidable, so having one, STEM lesson ready to go will put your mind at ease.

Any classroom teacher typically leaves pertinent information for a substitute teacher - classroom rules and procedures, seating charts, and pertinent student information needed. 

Substitutes teaching STEM also need to relay:

  • The names of the students in each team
  • How materials are distributed
  • Clean up procedures
  • What to do with unfinished projects
  • Where to put leftover materials
  • Names of any students whose job it is that week to keep STEM materials tidy 
  • Whether or not your Maker Space is open and who can use it.

Lessons Perfect for Subs

Choose the lessons that you leave for your substitute very carefully. You may have someone in your classroom who has never facilitated a STEM lesson and you don’t want it to be chaotic.

Look for lessons that:

  • Use few materials
  • Need few instructions
  • Are designed so that the students won’t need a lot of direction or discussion
  • Materials are able to be packaged for each group ahead of time
  • Easy clean up and storage

Our Who Invented….? Lessons that investigate common materials, such as pencils, crayons, or paper clips, are perfect for a substitute teacher. Each lesson not only has detailed teacher notes and directions, but typically require few materials. Our suggestion is to begin the lesson as part of language arts since each lesson begins with a written description of how the invention of the object came about. The students can answer the comprehension questions individually, in the small group or as a whole group discussion. Then the students can move on to the engineering challenge part of the lesson.

Our STEM in a Bag activities  are also perfect for a sub. Each team is given a bag containing a few simple mystery materials. After analyzing the materials, students complete the engineering challenge on the task card.


A discounted Sub Plan Bundle is also available filled with the above activities and more. 

Explore Online

There are wonderful resources for students online and typically there is little time in the school day for your students to explore them. Having a sub is the perfect time to allow them to do that.

Here are a few websites that have great lessons and information for students:

We hope you Get Caught Engineering,

Wendy and Cheryl

What They Say


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