Simple STEM with Plastic Cups

Plastic Cup STEM Challenges Your Kids will Love

Spoiler alert – there is no basic tower challenge in this list. Building towers is a great way to start off any cup STEM challenge, but I have a list of a few some fun and engaging challenges using primarily plastic cups. Some are oldies but goodies, and others you may not have seen or tried before.

Get Started with Plastic Cup STEM – Materials

Although you can use inexpensive plastic cups for these challenges, I recommend using a sturdy variety. You do not need to get the brand name, most expensive cups, though. I used my local grocery store’s version of a heavy duty brand name cup.

Create a Plastic Cup Telephone

A really easy challenge to get started with is a plastic cup telephone. Many kids will have done this before, however try to supply them with a variety of string and/or wire types for the line, and have them test out different versions to see which works best.

Make it easier for little ones: Have a variety of telephones already put together. Use different string types or different lengths of string and have them try to speak messages to each other. Make sure the line is pulled tight for best results.

Another Sound Challenge – Create a Plastic Cup Sound Amplifier (shown above, top)

Smartphone speakers just not loud enough to share your favorite jams with your students? Have them create a sound amplifier! Not only is this a really great hands-on STEM activity to explore sound principles, it is actually useful. The roller, also shown above is included in the plastic cup STEM challenge pack I have linked below. It is simple but includes a hands-on way to explore torque and friction.

Plastic Cup Anemometer

This one is a bit tricky but the result is absolutely worth it. Create your very own anemometer to measure wind speed. Use five cups, some towels, and tape or a push pin and you can create an anemometer!

Try These STEM Challenges with the Engineering Design Process

If you want to add more rigor to these challenges by following the engineering design process, please visit the following resource I put together to support these plastic cup STEM challenges. With this  guided STEM resource, students need to meet the design criteria specified to complete the challenge. Add it to your STEM Friday or Maker Monday rotation, or save it for a sub.

You can find Plastic Cup STEM Challenges here:

Pin these Plastic Cup STEM Ideas for Later:

Plastic cup STEM challenges that you may not have tried! | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

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How TpT for Schools Works

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    Easy access to resources you need, and it's so easy to join! How? Your administrator joins TpT for Schools (it's free).They invite you and your colleagues to join. You request resources you need for your students. Your administrator approves and purchases resources for you. The resources are automatically delivered to your TpT account. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

    STEM in the Classroom

    STEM in the Classroom

    STEM is based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.

    Why is STEM important?

    Not only are careers in STEM fields on the rise, having experience with hands-on problem solving while working well in a team offers benefits no matter what career the student eventually pursues.

    Benefits of STEM Activities in the Classroom

    There are many fantastic reasons to use STEM lessons in your classroom. Some of the main benefits of using STEM in your classroom are:

    • student engagement
    • collaborative and blended learning
    • naturally support a growth mindset
    • improvement of critical thinking skills

    Student Engagement with STEM

    One important one is student engagement. Kids are naturally curious and creative, and STEM lessons give them hands-on activities which allow them to tinker and do what kids do best, play. In playing with them, kids get a real and meaningful feel for how things work. STEM activities allow freedom to experiment and play, which is highly motivating for kids. Not only that, it can help keep them focused.

    Collaborative and Blended Learning with STEM

    STEM challenges work well as collaborative learning experiences while students work in small groups. What separates STEM from traditional science and math education is that it applies concepts learned in these classes. While students will still need to learn the scientific method as part of their science curriculum, using the engineering design process requires a different skill set.

    STEM and a Growth Mindset

    STEM challenges lend themselves well to a growth mindset, asking students to persevere until design criteria is met. Because there are often multiple solutions to a given STEM problem, students must work both creatively and diligently.

    STEM is 21st Century Learning

    Utilizing STEM in the classroom provides opportunities for all level of learners to master skills and content necessary to succeed in the the 21st century. Using a variety of activity-based learning models, students are provided opportunities to explore learning in a rigorous way. Use STEM to develop reasoning skills, critical thinking skills, creativity, and innovation through integrated and connected STEM curriculum. These experiences help provide equity among learners from diverse backgrounds. STEM has the potential to provide true mastery for all learners.

    Get Started with STEM

    I have numerous resources available for STEM learning, many of them are free for educators. Just join my newsletter list to gain access to my free resource library, or head to my Teachers pay Teachers shop to find both free and paid resources for K-8 STEM.