These activities will be great additions to units you may be teaching at school, or could be used to follow your children's interests at home. They would also be great to use in your library sponsored STEM club, summer camp or after school program. There is something here for everyone, from preschool through early middle school!
In addition to this post, you should check out my video resource on how to use just about any picture book for a STEM activity! Find the "Using Picture Books to Teach Elementary STEM" video here.
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STEM Books and Activities for Early Childhood and Elementary
CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton is a cute picture book that follows the thought process of a little one building with blocks. I love it because it is something that most children can relate to as they have experimented with blocks themselves. A great introduction to early math concepts like shapes, the area of surfaces, and nonstandard units of measurement.
Activity ideas for CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale:
- Challenge kids to see how many blocks it takes to build a tower their height. Ask them to make a prediction before they begin!
- Nonstandard units of measure: Use blocks of different size to measure various items (i.e. How many long blocks does it take to go from one side of the room to another?)
Bee & Me by Alison Jay is a sweet and fanciful wordless story about a girl who befriends and helps raise a bee in the city. The bee misses flowers, so they go collect seeds in the country and spread them around the city. This story introduces the importance of bees in a gentle, kid-friendly way. It very quickly became a favorite book at our house!
Activity ideas for Bee & Me:
- Plant a bee-friendly flower garden. You'll find ideas for a pollinator garden here.
- Learn about pollination.
- Design a bee hotel! There is an easy project in the STEAM Kids book.
- Try a bee citizen science project.
Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root and illustrated by G. Brian Karas is a fun story illustrating the idea that you can grow food just about anywhere. It also hammers home the needs of seeds and plants.
Activity ideas for Anywhere Farm:
- Design a creative container garden!
- Build a germination jar and watch plants grow
- Investigate where our food comes from
- Measure and graph plant growth
- Sort seeds
- Monitor the light your plant is getting with a light meter or the water in a pot with a moisture meter to add in some technology.
The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley is another wonderful story of triumph over adversity in the "Amazing Scientists" series. It follows Raye Montague's path to becoming the first to create a computer generated design of a U.S. Naval ship. With rhyming, kid-friendly text the story of this remarkable engineer is accessible for the elementary crowd.
Activities for The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague:
- Explore Computer Assisted Design (CAD) with Tinkercad
- Design a to-scale blueprint or model
- Learn about amazing women in STEM with this biography project
STEM Books for Upper Elementary and Middle School
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins is another of his beautifully illustrated book featuring animals. Each page shares an infographic containing fascinating facts like the number of wingbeats per second for various flying animals, or how many hours a day different animals sleep. Lots of great information presented in a visually stunning way!
Activity ideas for Animals by the Numbers:
- Research an animal and create an infographic poster
- Research an animal and create a digital infographic
- Design a fictitious social media profile for a researched animal or animal group
Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Clover Robin is the true story of the inception of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and how citizen science really got started.
Activity ideas for Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends:
- Participate in an Audubon bird count
- Keep track of birds at a feeder, collect data about the species and number and then graph it.
- Log in to eBird and contribute your bird observation data to scientific research.
- Use an app to learn bird calls and a field guide to learn bird identification.
- Install a wildlife camera and photograph birds at a feeding station, analyze their behavior
Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motem is a fun look at the "life story" of one of the Mars rovers. Really understandable and informative text paired with engaging illustrations.
Activities for Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover :
- Give an engineering design challenge of any sort
- Jump start a unit on space exploration and the solar system
- Build robots
- Try some coding
- Research a planet and decide what criteria a rover or space probe would have to meet to travel and work there
Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson is a book teeming with information, photos and inspiration about space and sea research and exploration. Although it is not meant to be a read-aloud book, kids who love the ocean and outer space will pour over the pages chock-full of images and information.
- You'll find several hands-on activities sprinkled throughout the book
- Train like an astronaut with NASA
- Check out this review and activity ideas on Growing With Science.
This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn is literally jam-packed with images and information. Sometimes the most disgusting is the most interesting to kids, and this explores all aspects of the real-world issue of waste!
Activity ideas for This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash:
- Recycling challenge- supply some recyclables and challenge students to think of how many ways they could reuse and repurpose them
- Explore upcycling with Terracycle
- Build a model landfill and see what happens to the garbage
- Build a worm composting bin
- Set up a mini-makerspace with recyclables as the supplies to work with
- Study materials science and trace an item back to its beginning
More Book Linked STEM Activities!
- Here Comes the Garbage Barge -landfill model
- The Dandelion Seed -Seed engineering design challenge
- Zoey and Sassafras: Monsters and Mold -Apple experiment
- Surviving Like a Shark -Food Pyramid game
- Women in STEM Biography Project