STEM activities using pencils are easy to prep and implement for back to school and end of the year challenges. This post will share three of my favorite stem activities with pencils, including free printables to help you execute these activities in your classroom.
Pencil Stem Challenges- Materials
These are the materials needed for all of the STEM activities shared on this post.
- Number 2 pencils
- Pipe cleaners
- Craft stick
- Clear jar
- Optional Free Printables
Balancing Pencil STEM Challenge
This challenge is a little tricky, but once you get it, the students will have fun balancing their pencils everywhere!
Here are the basic directions (included in the free printable download):
- Tape your craft stick so that it’s half on a flat surface and half off.
- Challenge the students to balance a pencil on the stick. Challenge them to do it with a sharpened pencil and with an unsharpened pencil.
- After trying for a while, let the students experiment with the clothespins and pipe cleaners. Each student will need 2 clothespins and 1 pipe cleaner.
- Eventually, you can model the process by attaching the center of the pipe cleaner around the pencil and attach a clothespin to each loose end of the pipe cleaner. The balanced weight will hold the pencil up, both sharpened and unsharpened.
Click on the image below to download free printables to use with this pencil stem challenge.
Pencil Tower STEM Activity
Challenge the students to build towers using pencils. Based on the materials you have and your students, create a set of rules that the students must follow, such as:
- Limit the number of pencils
- Don’t allow any binding agents
- Tower must be XX high
Students love this challenge because it allows them to flex their creativity while still using STEM thinking. I am always surprised at how creative the students’ designs are!
Click on the image below to download free printables to use with this pencil stem challenge (the printables for this activity begin on page 3).
Light Refraction Pencil Science Activity
This next activity is a quick science demonstration that can be implemented with or without the student exploration part (but I always love incorporating that because the students love a good challenge that makes them think.)
- Fill a jar halfway with water. Ask the students, “Can you break a pencil without touching it?”
- Let the students experiment with trying to break their pencils using the jar, water, and pencils. Some of the students might find the answer without help, but others won’t.
- If the students can’t figure it out, show them how to place the pencil in the water and tilt the pencil and jar so that the pencil appears broken when you look at it from the side.
- The pencil looks broken thanks to light refraction. Light refraction happens when something causes the light waves to bend. Illustrate this principle by having your students run their hands through the air. It’s easy! But running their hands through water is harder. Light travels faster through the air than water, just like your hand, which can cause image distortion and “breaks” the pencil.
- Read the included reading passage or more background on the science behind this pencil activity.
Click on the image below to downoad a FREE reading passage that helps explain this science concept (begins on page 6).
Want more STEM Activities with FREE Printables?
Click on the links below to check out more STEM activities to implement in your classroom.
Fall Engineering STEM Activities
Christmas Gum Drop STEM Challenge
Valentine’s Day Cupid Bow and Arrow STEM Activity
Jelly Bean Engineering Challenges
Linda L. says
I’m a librarian at a public library. We are working virtually at this time and I am asking permission to link to your documents for a few of the challenges.