10 Virtual Maker and STEM Resources for Students

Help smooth the path from in-person to online making.

While teaching online, embedding a maker mindset and using making as a pedagogical foundation is not as unwieldy as it may seem. It’s both delightful and reassuring to see students get up during Zoom sessions and start working with their hands—exploring, chatting, asking questions, and learning. These resources will help smooth the path from in-person to online making.

Resources for activity ideas

CoBuild At Home The CoBuild website and Facebook group offers a wealth of online maker activities. Even better, they include concepts from luminaries in the making world including Adam Maltese, Erin Riley, Joel Bruns, and compile work from the Amazeum, the Tech Collective, and other sources. All ages.

The Community Science Workshop Network This resource is low in technology, but high in engagement and reliability. All the projects can be made with low cost or recycled materials. The bagpipe is particularly fun, as is the unique take on the spaghetti/ gumball project that involves balance. Check out the project library for STEM-rich ideas. Upper elementary through middle school.

Exploratorium The well-organized site from San Francisco’s Exploratorium investigates everything from skateboard engineering to cookie subduction (i.e., using an Oreo cookie to demonstrate what happens when continental and oceanic plates shift). It is heavily science focused and follows the scientific method closely. Upper elementary and up.

Science Friday The maker challenge archive from Science Friday is extremely robust. Everything from “The Many Types of Mucus” to a “Fossilize Me” card game is available here. Key vocabulary words are bolded, and the clear instructions are written with students in mind. Upper elementary and up.

MakerEd MakerEd has compiled an archive of activities with a robust pedagogical and curricular foundation. It is easy to search and use, but dense with academic language. Elementary teachers and parents.

READ: Let Teens Take Charge of STEM Learning

Online making

MakeCode Microsoft’s MakeCode program includes both physical computing with the Micro Bit and virtual coding and app development. Easy to use with limitless possibilities, it’s a great block coding interface. It even has Minecraft coding! Upper elementary through middle school.

Scratch No list would be complete without this perennial favorite. Now in partnership with Harvard Graduate School of Education, the site includes an archive of activities for Scratch that includes 323 math activities, 302 visual arts ones, plus examples and stories to help build classroom community and support curricular content. Elementary through middle school.

Algodoo While not technically a web tool, this free download allows students to create, alter, and run engineering simulations. Students can change gravity, add gears, planes, ropes, and wheels to see how they will interact —even add drag and friction! This is a very fun tool all around, but especially when thinking about simple machines. It would fit really well with adventure or chain reaction novels. Middle school and up.

READ: The Epic eBook of Web Tools and Apps: a crowd-sourced manual for back-to-school and beyond

BlocksCAD This simple block coding program uses code to make 3-D objects. With standards aligned lessons, this is an amazing resource for teaching math concepts. The lessons are included in a premium membership, but the tool is free. All files also export as an SVG, so printing them out on the 3-D printer is a breeze. Middle school and up.

Google Experiments This archive of experiments is a rabbit hole of awesome fun things. Curated into collections, the experiments are easy to use and share, require little to no equipment, and are deeply entertaining with a firm curricular foundation. I particularly recommend the Arts and Culture collection. Middle school and up.

Moving making online doesn’t make it less engaging. Rather, it brings joy, whimsy, and the spirit of experimentation to the table in a new and innovative way—and get students up and using their hands for a lot more than typing.

IdaMae Craddock is the librarian at the Albemarle (VA) Lab Schools.

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