STEM Challenges with Classroom Buddies

Have you ever considered starting a buddy program? I did and I loved it! Older students act as mentors to younger students and both groups gain from the experience. Younger students get the opportunity to learn and grow with an older peer model while older students develop important skills like patience and understanding. Watching the learning that happens when buddies work together is amazing. 

STEM Buddies
A colleague and I had been discussing a STEM challenge that my students had done. She commented that it would be fun to do something similar with her kindergarten students, but that she would need some extra hands to make it work. This is where the idea for STEM buddies originated. 
STEM challenge
How it Works
Choose a grade level to buddy up with and plan to meet once or twice per month. Carefully and deliberately partner up the students. The goal is to have the students work with the same partner all year to help foster a bond. 

The beauty of using STEM activities when the buddies get together is that the activities can be done in groups of four. The partners stay together, but the pairs work with different students each time.


Each activity starts with a picture book, video, or another type of mini-lesson. Next, we quickly review the steps of the engineering design process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. 
The students are reminded that they will plan a prototype, test it, make improvements, and test it again. Then the challenge is introduced, the STEM sheets are passed out, and the groups get to work. 

The STEM sheets can be copied for every student or one per partnership. If you decide to have one copy per partnership you may want to photocopy the pages when finished so that each student can have a set. At the end of the challenge, each student fills out a reflection sheet. I like to have each student fill one out.

First Meeting
I start STEM buddies at the end of September. I set aside two days for the first meeting. The first time the students get together is set up as a meet and greet. We introduce the pairs and complete some getting to know you activities. We meet again the next day to start the Bucket Filler STEM challenge. Fill out the form below to grab the Bucket Filler challenge and a bonus challenge for your class. 

We start by reading a book about bucket fillers. Then the students are challenged to create a freestanding bucket holder that can hold the most compliments. At the end of the activity, students are asked to share something that their partner did well. The discussion is lively and the positive spin promotes the theme of the book. 

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    My fifth graders LOVE working with their buddies. I love watching the connections between the students grow stronger throughout the school year. 



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