Grab your Free Guide - 3 sTEps to stem success

Collaboration in STEM- Summer Series Part 2

Can we talk about collaboration in STEM class?

As I finished the second full year of being a STEM Specialist my goal with this summer series was to convince you to try STEM. I tried to think of the things that might be scary and help you with those, but also the reasons STEM is so wonderful.  

So, join me as we tackle one of my favorite reasons you should try STEM!   It’s all about Collaboration.

Collaboration in STEM is a primary reason to try challenges- Check this post for more reasons!
Collaboration in STEM is a primary reason to try challenges- Check this post for tips about planning.


STEM is group work- collaboration. Every challenge (almost) I have ever tried had students working in groups of 3-4 and sometimes as many as 8. Let me just tell you this: It is AMAZING to watch students work together.

Here is my favorite part of Collaboration!   It’s the planning time! This has been a real learning curve. But I finally found a splendid way to get everyone involved. Take a look at the photo.

Every student has a lab sheet and on it every student must sketch the idea he or she has. The drawing must be labeled. Here’s the real gem of this process. After sketching the student must write reasons the idea is the best for the group. (In the photo above the student has written this reason his Zip Line idea is best: “Mine is safe because it has paper clips (on the sides) to protect it and two strings and metal washers and cardstock for the top and bottom.”)

Then, we stop and present ideas. Every team member must turn their paper around to the other kids, tell about their sketch, point out what is happening in the sketch, tell about the idea, and then talk about why it is the best for the group. The others may ask questions. Then the next student in the group does the same thing! After all of them have presented ideas the group discusses what to do. They must decide as a group and complete a final sketch of that decision and write why they made the choices. Oh my! Can I just tell you that inventing this plan is one of my genius moments?

It takes a little bit of time to do this, but it pays off in the end. The plan gives everyone a voice. Best of all, the students work through the ideas and come up with great combinations of ideas. Then they are ready to get busy building. It is truly a collaborative effort right from the beginning.

Collaboration in STEM is a primary reason to try challenges- Check this post for tips about using a budget.


One of our favorite things to add to a STEM challenge is the use of a budget. For some reason kids love it when the supplies have a “cost”. I assign a dollar value to each supply and part of the task involves deciding which supplies and how much will be needed. I LOVE watching the kids make these decisions. Just recently I had a group that spent a good five minutes with detailed examination of the supplies and then quite a bit of worry over the price of foam pieces. But, isn’t this real life?

In the meantime, it makes the kids work together to make decisions. And I often send them back to the “drawing board”. When I have a group that asks for a large amount of anything- regardless of its cost- I ask them to revisit their design plan and make sure they need 15 cups or foam pieces or whatever. That is also such an interesting conversation to eavesdrop on!

Collaboration in STEM is a primary reason to try challenges- Check this post for tips about teamwork.

Working Together

Speaking of working together!
STEM creates this! We have gone through quite a few discussions to help all students understand their duties to a group and how to work even when you don’t like your group. (That’s real life, too!) The great thing is this: The more STEM you do, the better it will get!
Here is one of my favorite moment!

This challenge has a little twist to it!

This is an activity in which two groups have to work together in a bridge/tower challenge. Each group receives the same supplies. But one group has to build a bridge and the other has to build a tower that will sit on the bridge.

WOW! This activity is electric! The energy in the room is just amazing. Each group did its own planning for the task, but here’s the kicker. The two partner groups have to work together! The bridge has to support the tower and the tower people have to make sure the tower will sit correctly on the bridge. It is the ultimate test of teamwork!

Students will amaze you with their creativity, their thinking, and the way they can work together. The collaboration in STEM class is real-life preparation for the future! Have I convinced you to try a STEM challenge yet?

Links for you to try:


  1. Alison Rose says

    YES!!!!! You've convinced me to try STEM. I WILL be doing it this year and I know any questions I have you will be happy to help me answer them because you are amazing and the STEM queen! Hope you have been resting up from your trip! xo
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'