Incorporating STEM research projects into the middle school classroom can open up a world of opportunities for students to explore their creative sides and learn practical skills. Learn more about how these projects can benefit your students and discover some ideas here.
Short on time? Grab a ready-to-go STEM research project!
1. Explore student-generated questions and topics of interest in STEM
One of the challenges and exciting parts of being a STEM teacher is not always having all the answers. My students often ask me questions about STEM topics that I am not an expert on. Rather than avoiding the questions or leaving it at “I don’t know,” let’s encourage our students to research the answers! Research projects that center around a student’s own interests increase engagement and curiosity. Giving them control of their own learning helps make the process meaningful for them, encourages active participation, and helps develop the habits of a life-long learner.
2. Introduce real-world STEM careers
A great way to use STEM research projects in middle school classrooms is to connect them with real-world career paths. For example, when students research the safety of autonomous cars, they will also be learning about mechanical engineers, computer scientists, and robotics engineers. In doing so, students make meaningful connections to the STEM career paths available after high school. Through these projects, students become familiar with roles within particular industries which could lead them to consider these careers for their future.
3. Build background knowledge with STEM research projects
STEM research projects enable middle schoolers to learn more about important topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through their research explorations, students gain valuable knowledge about a particular topic that you can then continue to build on throughout your STEM course. Using your students’ research to supplement future lessons and class discussions supports a deeper understanding of the concepts that students are learning. For example, at the beginning of my computer science course, my students research why K-12 students are being taught to code. Then we connect back to their discoveries about the applications of computer science and the importance of learning to code throughout the course.
4. Develop 21st century STEM skills
Critical thinking and communication are two important 21st-century skills taught in STEM class. Research projects can play a significant role in developing these abilities. Through the research process, students are practicing scientific reading and writing. Designing research projects with Interesting prompts, engaging text, annotation guides, and graphic organizers support students with critical thinking, reading, and writing.
5. Teach about emerging technologies and their applications
STEM fields are constantly evolving as new discoveries are made and new inventions are created. This makes STEM an inherently interesting and engaging field. Our middle school students want to know about the newest technology and how to use it. Research projects give them a chance to explore these interests and make connections between what they are learning in the classroom and the real world.
6. Assign a cross-curricular ELA and STEM research project
Cross-curricular STEM and ELA research projects can be an effective way for students to integrate their skills and concepts. These projects can involve students in conducting research on a STEM topic and then writing about their findings in an essay. By combining science and ELA, students can develop their skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing. For example, students could research the impacts of robots on our society and then write an essay about whether robots will have a positive or negative impact on our future. This type of project not only promotes a deeper understanding of science and language concepts but also allows students to apply their knowledge in a real-world context.
7. Use STEM research projects for low-prep sub plans
Another great benefit to STEM research projects is their low-prep nature. If a teacher ever needs an emergency sub plan, instructions for a research project can be stored easily and pulled out when the need arises. Students can work independently or in small groups on projects that challenge them to think critically, apply knowledge and use critical thinking skills – all hands-off for the teacher!
Looking for a ready-to-go STEM research project?
For all the reasons listed above, I include STEM research projects in all of my semester and year-long STEM courses. My students love getting the opportunity to explore their interests, learn about new technologies, and engage in debate surrounding real-world topics. You can grab one of these low-prep, teacher-tested, and middle schooler-approved projects today!
Each project includes:
- Detailed teacher notes for easy facilitation
- Student assignment pages with video guides, annotation keys, and graphic organizers
- Printable PDF, Google, and Easel versions of the student assignemnt
- Embedded links to high-quality background research video clips and articles
- Easy-to-use grading rubrics and answer keys
- Suggestions for differentiation
Grab a STEM research project now to get back your nights and weekends while knowing your students will be developing their research and writing skills and learning about important topics in STEM!