ASK AN EDUCATOR! “How do you teach STEM concepts to kindergartners and 1st/2nd graders?”

Chris asks:

What is the best way to begin introducing elementary students (K,1,2) to STEM concepts? Specifically the basics of electronics- how do you explain voltage/current or the operation or a basic LED lighting up?

What do you think about an approach that is based heavily on observation without emphasis on explaining why things happen?

I absolutely agree with using a primarily hands on approach. Especially because of their short attention spans, and honestly it isn’t much different for older :-). When working with concepts like voltage and current, I would find projects that illustrate the concepts and are simple enough for the kids to complete themselves. The end product should be something that both physically and visually displays the concepts, as it gives the kids a good sense of accomplishment and the desire to explore even more.

With regards to projects, I have dug up some links that offer some good avenues:

Squishy Circuits – the site has a ton of information regarding making conductive and insulate dough, which can be used in lieu of wires. They also have a Classroom Guide that illustrates its uses in school.

How to Make a Battery – a few years ago I put together a few videos with that show how to make batteries out of simple components. All of the projects are doable in your age bracket, although the film canister battery can be a bit tricky.

Super Teacher Worksheets – has a ton of curriculum for the elementary school level and their page on electricity seems pretty decent.

APS Physics – has a bunch of coloring books related to electricity……and who doesn’t like a coloring book?

I hope this has helped and good luck with your kids…..just try not to get too messy!

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“Ask an Educator” questions are answered by Adam Kemp, a high school teacher who has been teaching courses in Energy Systems, Systems Engineering, Robotics and Prototyping since 2005.

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  1. The teacher at my child’s school teaches electronics to third graders. He teaches how to make sounds with transistors and resistors.

    Teaching must be simple, quick and reward based to keep the attention of children which means having projects that yield quick results.

  2. K-2nd grade students are (in an educational psychology sense) making the transition from pre-operational to concrete operations. Activities should concentrate on recognizing and predicting patterns, creating rules from data, testing rules with examples, etc. Ya’ll should read about “Cognitive Acceleration,” an educational approach from the UK which stimulates the development of reasoning ability. See or the UNESCO review article

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