STEM a la Carte

The Outreach@IMSA Educator Development team shares short, easy-to-implement activities to engage students in STEM learning. Each lesson includes a digital download with student learn objectives, associated standards, background information, and an implementation guide. Upon purchasing, educators may select to add on a materials kit that conveniently includes items used in the lesson at a discounted cost from the retail price. For more information or assistance with purchasing, contact

Off the Charts

Grade: 3rd

Students are introduced to two basic data representations, bar graphs, and pie charts, through a story called Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert. Then, students design a survey to collect data and use manipulatives to construct a bar graph and pie chart to represent their data.


For the class:

  • Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert Book* (purchased separately)

For each partner team:

  • 20 stacking counters *
  • 20 pony beads*
  • Post-it notes*
Not Included:
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Markers

A littleBit® of a Challenge

Grade: 3rd – 5th

Digital-aged students are often interested and adept at exploring new technological tools. littleBits, made of colorful modular pieces that snap together to perform functions, are an appropriate item for young students to learn through open-ended exploration and play. In this activity, students are invited to participate in a series of challenges to understand the capabilities of each littleBit, how the sequence of the pieces impacts the function, and how initial discoveries can lead to new investigations.

  • LittleBits® set
  • 1 pack of Challenge Cards per littleBits® set
  • 1 littleBits® Identifier Sheet per set (optional)

Earth’s Systems

Grade: 5th

What do the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere have in common? These are the major systems of the Earth. Students will explore the interactions among the spheres, as well as engineer and test methods of controlling the influences they have on one another.

  • Mini-Stream Table
  • Spoon
Not Included:
  • 2 pounds Potting Soil or Playground Sand
  • Small Cup (approx 3 oz)
  • 2-3 Hand Lenses
  • Water
  • Sprinkles
  • Paper Towels for Cleanup
  • Per class: Toothpicks, Cloth, Clay

Biology and Geometry: A Telling Image

Grade: 5th

The field of biotechnology provides learners a unique opportunity to study mathematics inherent in science. In this activity, students will use a hands-on approach to investigate mathematical concepts and laboratory techniques involved in micro pipetting. This will include the study of metric volume (i.e., microliter), a coordinate grid system, and the application of STEM content inherent in this field of science.

  • Student Pages (1 per student)
  • 5 Small cups per small group, filled with color solutions (see Advanced Preparation)
  • Fixed Volume Micropipettes or Disposable Pipettes
  • Micropipette Tips (if using micropipettes)
  • Well Microplate (96 wells) each with an adapted template (see Template Instructions)
  • Wax Paper Sample
  • Pattern Sheets (print)
Not Included:
  • Water
  • Glue Dots or Tape
  • Food Coloring (blue, green, yellow, and red)
  • Paper Towels and Cleaning Supplies

Stealing From Nature

Grade: 4th

Burs, maple seeds, shark skin, and geckos are just a few examples that have inspired the development of products. Developing products and ideas by mimicking traits of living organisms is biomimicry. Students will investigate traits of various bird beaks in a hands-on simulation, and use this experience as inspiration for developing a solution to a problem.

  • 8 Clip clothespins
  • 8 Binder clips
  • 8 Forceps
  • 8 Measuring spoons (½ tsp, 1 tsp, or 1Tbsp)
  • 1 Box of toothpicks
  • 1 Box of paper clips
  • 3 cups of pony/pop bead
  • 4 Yards of string or yarn
  • 24 8-9 oz cups
Not Included:
  • 24 Paper plates or trays
  • 24 Sheets of paper
  • 1 Timer
  • 12 Copies of beak choices
  • Art supplies (optional)

An Einstein Center for Your Classroom

Grade: 3rd

This set of activities allows students to explore how forces interact with motion and stability. Students investigate the properties of magnets and their interactions.

  • 15 copies of the Student Card for each of the three activities
  • 30 refrigerator-type magnets (disc, approx. 15mm thick)
  • 30 wooden circles, 1” in diameter, roughly 1/8” thick
  • Small compasses
  • 15 plastic rulers, with ¼” increments, no metal parts
  • Aluminum Foil
  • 5 “D” Size Batteries

Sunny Side Up

Grade: 4th

UV rays can be helpful, but too much exposure can be harmful. How do we know they exist since we can’t see them? How can we help prevent the harmful effects of UV light? Students will explore these questions and develop a solution to the problem.

  • 120 UV color changing beads
  • 16 Small plastic zipper bags
  • 8 Hand lens
  • 3 types of materials for testing:
    • Different types of fabric (Colors or Weave or Content)
    • Different types of paper (Colors or Weights or Types)
    • Food coverings: (Aluminum foil, Wax paper, Plastic Wrap)
Not Included:
  • Coloring pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Sunscreen (Brands or SPF Rating)