Online STEM Resources and Activities for Teens
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of jobs in the cluster known as “STEM”—science, technology, engineering, and math—to jump by 1 million jobs to reach 9 million between 2012 and 2022.
Data from the Department of Education break the trend down further, reporting that the predicted number of software developer jobs is set to increase by 32 percent between 2010 and 2020; the number of medical scientist jobs by 36 percent; and the number of biomedical engineer jobs by a staggering 62 percent.
For a chance to reap some of the benefits of the booming opportunity in STEM fields, students need their teachers and parents to start preparing them for the transforming job landscape early. Research has revealed that early skills development informs future success; one study found that 62 percent of kindergarteners with low levels of general knowledge struggled with science in third grade, and 54 percent still did in eighth grade.
But equipping students with specialized skills to meet a changing world can be nearly impossible for educators and parents who are struggling to stay abreast of new developments in science, tech, engineering, and math. Fortunately, a wide array of high-quality resources are available online to help address this problem. This guide will point you in the direction of the very best ones.
Online STEM Resources and Activities for School and Afterschool Programs
A fast-growing number of resources exist to help educators keep STEM lessons engaging, substantive, and even gamified. Whether teachers are looking for jumping-off points for lesson planning in their own classrooms or are eager to advocate for a STEM-related afterschool program or summer enrichment course, the sites below will have them covered.
Partnerships, Programs, and Resources to Help Bring STEM Into the Classroom
The Project for STEM Competitiveness helps teachers develop community partnerships to bring the rich world of STEM into the classroom. The organization links students and classes with mentors, experiences, and hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math.
STEM Jobs’ educator portal exists to help teachers who are struggling to make STEM come alive in the classroom. The portal offers lesson plans and examples of STEM jobs to get students thinking about the future.
NASA Resources for Educators is a collection of lesson plans and teaching materials searchable by subject and grade level.
A Compendium of Best Practice K-12 STEM Education Programs is a richly detailed report meant to highlight STEM programs that inspire students to develop an interest in STEM, introduce students to STEM careers, and familiarize students with real people working in those careers.
Project Noah helps teachers enlist their students as “citizen scientists.” Students experience wildlife, record their observations, and collaborate on real Project Noah missions.
STEMfinity is a repository for free educational resources across STEM subjects, including lesson plans, webinars, and a host of digital tools.
PBS Learning Media features a database of over 4,000 resources to help educators enhance their classroom lessons on STEM. Teachers will find lesson plans, videos, and various interactive resources to get them started.
CodeAdvantage partners with public and private schools to institute afterschool programs offering high-quality coding lessons.
Capital One Coders offers a 10-week course in which middle school students develop their own Android apps and work with mentors to learn about the basics of software development.
Afterschool Alliance: STEM Learning helps educators get afterschool programs off the ground by providing curricula, tips to getting program funding, professional development resources, and helpful research on STEM afterschool programs.
Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments) partners with schools to help put on a wide variety of programs in the STEM realm. Past programs have focused on circuit design, smart technology, wearable electronics, and more.
Afterschool STEM Hub specifically assists those advocating for afterschool programs in STEM learning.
Computer Mentors, based in Tampa Bay, Florida, pairs students with mentors to help increase their confidence in budding STEM skills.
STEM Resources and Activities for Home
Research indicates that the home and other out-of-school environments are crucial places to spark interest in STEM subjects, further develop ideas and interests picked up in school, extend STEM learning to new applications, and adopt one or many STEM areas as a personal hobby. Parents and guardians can help build these out-of-school bonds to STEM by drawing from the resources below.
Activities to Foster STEM Skills at Home
The Bedtime Math app presents parents and young learners with a daily math problem or a surprise problem that they can work on together. The app is available in both English and Spanish.
Codecademy’s platform offers coding classes in 12 programming languages, including Java, Ruby, and SQL. The classes can be accessed for free (with the option of paying for enhanced services).
Khan Academy is a learning platform offering classes on a wide variety of topics, but parents scrolling through will find plenty in the STEM cluster. The platform features topics in physics, cosmology and astronomy, organic chemistry, electrical engineering, computer programming, and more.
IMACS (Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science) offers online lessons in computer programming for kids in grades 3-9. Specifically, IMACS’ Computer Programming and Virtual Robotics course aims to snare the interest of young project-minded learners.
The National STEM Video Game Challenge solicited submissions of playable games made by young people that tackled a social issue. Keep an eye out for the return of the challenge.
Iridescent, an education nonprofit, trains parents to offer a high-quality education to their children—especially girls. Iridescent’s two flagship programs are Curiosity Machine and Technovation.
Resources and Activities Just for Girls
Women are dramatically underrepresented in the vast majority of STEM-related careers, and the problem doesn’t seem to be improving.
Despite the fact that there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled computer-related jobs by 2026, the National Center for Women and Information Technology reports that fewer women are studying computer science now than three decades ago. In 2016, 18 percent of recipients of computer science bachelor’s degrees were women, whereas that figure was 37 percent in 1985.
When young girls look around and consider whether they might pursue a STEM subject, they see very few women role models. As they grow, very few of their teachers or professors in STEM subjects will be women. These issues compound the problem.
The resources below offer correctives for some of the barriers facing women and girls in STEM fields.
STEM Programs, Lessons, and Games for Girls
Girls Who Code offers afterschool clubs, specialized summer courses, and a longer summer immersion program for girls to works to close the gender disparity in tech.
PBS’ SciGirls is an interactive website for girls to get excited about science and meet others who share their interest. It offers a kit to start a SciGirls club, videos, games, and more.
EngineerGirl is a website built to highlight the ways that engineering can lead to fulfilling career opportunities for girls and women.
ProjectCSGirls is a nonprofit organization that hosts the country’s largest computer science competition for middle school girls.
Technovation, hosted by the previously mentioned nonprofit Iridescent, asks girls to identify a problem in their communities and learn the tech skills they need to lead the call for a solution. They work in teams to build mobile apps and business plans to back them.
GirlStart designs and presents programs meant to help girls fall in love with STEM. The nonprofit offers afterschool programs, a summer camp, the Girls in STEM Conference, and more.
The AAUW Tech Trek is a one-week summer camp that helps girls picture a career in STEM while having fun. It’s targeted to girls in middle school—an age when girls’ participation in STEM subjects tends to fall off.