After School STEAM Ideas

A few afternoons a week, I tutor students right after school. My older kids have homework to complete and are old enough to occupy themselves while I work. My third grader has a more difficult time finding engaging ways to play. I organized all his building blocks, Magnatiles, wooden peg people, loose parts on a low bookshelf so he could do some free play while I tutor, but the shelf remained unused. I wanted to encourage him to play freely but I needed to find a way to entice him to build and play independently.

STEAM Bins by Brooke Brown at Teach Outside the Box

For a little while now, I have been following Brooke Brown from Teach Outside the Box for her Maker Space ideas. I read more about her STEM/STEAM bins and realized I had most of the materials for the bins sitting on the shelf I organized for my kiddo. What was missing from my set-up was inspiration, ideas, and prompts to help him get started.

STEAM cart

We all need ideas and inspiration when we start a new project. I often go to Pinterest to collect ideas for lessons, learning invitations, hobbies and recipes. I find that once I have developed a familiarity for working with certain materials or concepts, it gets is easier to get create using my own ideas.

I purchased the DIY STEM Bins product to create my own bins and reorganized the materials into meal prep containers. I added the labels and task cards. It took a little bit of work to laminate and cut the cards and labels, but my son has really taken to the Steam Bins.

STEAM cart ~ original idea from @Princess_Leia_Teaches_2nd

Along the way, I came across a really cute STEAM cart put together by Vanessa @princess_leia_teaches_2nd. She has created a very inviting classroom for her students and put a STEAM cart together using the Kids Market Cart from Hearth and Handβ„’ with Magnolia from Target. I kept my eye out for this cart and purchased it when it went on clearance this summer.

The STEAM Bins stay stored in the play cart when not in use.

Using STEAM Bins as an after school activity has been very helpful. I can work with students while my son explores and creates with materials and learns playfully. I am pleased that while I am working, he’s screen free. He is also excited to tell me about what he created while I was working a student. He built the train pictured below with Keva Blocks and we had to leave it out until his dad came home from work.

Train built out of Keva blocks from a STEAM Bin task card.

I recently began using the STEAM Bins with the younger students I tutor. They are using “Story Boards” to develop stronger writing and language skills. Learning to write can be difficult for young students. By inviting a child to build a setting and choose characters, writing becomes more a more hands-on and accessible process. The opportunity to build with various materials provides fine motor practice. As the child builds, her story begins to develop. When it is time to write the story, the ideas are firm and the writing comes more easily.

Story Boards materials for creative writing.

The STEAM Bins have been such a hit in my house that I am hosting a little winter STEAM party as a fundraiser for our school. I am excited to create some STEAM challenges and offer some free build time with the bins. I think the kids are going to enjoy it!

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Maria Arana

Hi, I am Maria, a mom to three wonderful kiddos. My family and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. We love the beauty of the desert southwest. I am a former primary teacher and elementary math coach. I love to encourage my children to follow their interests and passions. At Guided Learning Studio, I offer private personalized lessons and enrichment classes. Tutoring services are best for families seeking long-term educational support over a semester or school-year.

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