Have you thought about STEM activities for this year and started thinking..

It’s going to be impossible. There’s no way in the world I could EVER do that safely. How will students collaborate at six feet away from each other? Do I have enough supplies so that each student can make their own [whatever they’re building]? Will I even be in school or trying to do this over Zoom?


ME TOO. I’ve had these same questions, concerns, and anxious feelings about trying to make STEM with social distancing happen this year.

But here’s the thing. 

  • STEM is about being innovative & teachers ARE THE BEST problem solvers.
  • Technology can be your BEST FRIEND (hey that’s hitting the T in STEM).
  • If in person engineering isn’t gonna happen, you have other options.


In fact, this new view of STEM demonstrates all the skills we want our students to acquire: perseverance, grit, & innovation

In this blog post, I’m breaking down one of the most fun, engaging AND simple STEM activities you can do at the beginning of the year to get your students excited for the year!

The best part?

-This project is filled with trauma informed practices for students who are having a hard time with the Coronavirus and adjusting to this new normal. 

-It doesn’t have to cost a thing! (But, I’ll give you a few things to buy if you want to spice it up a bit. And I’ll tell you where to get these items for free or cheap!)

-Your kids will be talking about this one for the whole YEAR. You’ll have lots of ideas for setting up your classroom too.

-You’ll get instant feedback for how students learn best and what would make them feel more comfortable while they’re at school -OR- a glimpse of normalcy during all of this if they’re still distance learning.


How does this STEM challenge connect to my curriculum? 


I’ve found so many teachers always do a “Welcome Back” unit during the first few weeks. (If you’re even in person this year and not still on distance learning status). It’s going to be more important than EVER to address student concerns with what school looks like now compared to previous years.


In this STEM activity, your students are going to build a classroom that they can call their own and feel safe in. They’ll act like construction workers and follow the engineering design process to create the classroom of their dreams. 

My classroom dream looks like the one below (pre-COVID) but now I’m rethinking everything!! If you’d like some more information about how I teach collaboration and argument check this out.


Before you panic and run away…


I know setting up your room with COVID restrictions has been on the forefront of your mind since you found out your school’s requirements. Hear me out… kids have great ideas and can contribute to their classroom environment. Here’s why I want STEM with social distancing in my room (even if it’s not the same as it was before)

But did you know what style *Stephen* learns best in? Had you considered how making small changes in your physical classroom may help a student feel safer (in let’s face it.. an unsafe environment).

There’s something really magical in letting your students take ownership over your classroom setup. Learning this at the beginning can make all the difference for the kids who need a safe place right now.

Ok…I’m convinced. Now what do I need to do?

The idea is to get your students involved in the planning process by learning about the requirements you had to use while setting up the classroom. They need to know how much thought has gone in to keeping them safe this year; sharing this with them will be helpful.

Then, you’ll want the kids to work to decide how to organize everything (desks/tables/storage/supplies) in a way that makes sense for them while still following your school’s guidelines. 

It can be REALLY fun to ask the kids to come up with their own classroom layout. You won’t believe what they think of!  

They loved designing the theme, arranging the furniture, and making safety a priority.

What do I need to set up this STEM with social distancing project?

Next to NOTHING! I’ve got you covered. You can print and go by getting the downloadable unit OR take a few minutes to upload all the Slides into your Google Classroom. It’s all prepped and ready for you to use immediately!



To really kick this classroom design up a notch…you can bring in the Fixer Upper theme. 

I have this all done for you in my Trauma Informed STEM/SEL product called Design a Classroom. Simply print off the packets and/or add the activities to your Google Classroom! Each child will combat the COVID guidelines to design a room that makes them feel secure and ready to learn. 

Classroom Design Activities Include:

  • Reading mentor texts to prepare students for a builder’s mindset
  • Brainstorming what their ideal classroom would be like (restrictions and all)
  • Planning the design elements and picking materials that will work for each individual student
  • Checking in on student emotional health through a series of questions that makes them reflect
  • And of course… building their classroom with the typical STEM materials
    • But hey, if that’s not your thing OR you’re unable to do that this year… I’ve got you. We have resources to do this all digitally so no materials need be touched! 
  • Guiding students through discussing outcomes and sharing with others (Love this SEL tactic!!)

Want to grab this all encompassing Back to School Unit? Click here to get your copy for just $8.50

It comes with: 

  • Mentor Text Lists with Links to online versions
  • Signs & Talking Points
  • Templates for brainstorming, designing, planning, and building
  • Google Ready copies for digital learning
  • Printable copies for in person or packet making
  • Detailed instructions for teachers AND parents
  • A list of extension activities to make this a week long thematic unit  

For a SIMPLE STEM with distancing lesson:

Download the FREEBIE here. You can jump start the activity with the planning pages.


  1. Introduce the topic of designing the classroom to your students. Read a book about building/designing and talking about how COVID has changed your classroom.
  2. Let students plan (using the blueprint in the freebie) how they would want the room set up. Talk about what they can (criteria) and cannot (constraints) do!
  3. If able, let students build their classrooms using various materials either in school or at home (again all depends on your school’s guidelines)
  4. Reflect with your students and ask for their input on your shared classroom. How could you set it up to make them feel safer or more at ease while in school?

For an in depth week long unit: Grab it here.

You’ll have CHOICE and options for your students. If you need differentiated levels to meet the needs of everyone in your class OR you teach multiple grade levels, we’ve got you covered.

You have options: The resource is separated into 3 sections, each with similar but scaffolded templates and lesson plans to meet the needs of all learners. PLUS you get access to each one (which means you can adjust as needed!!) 

K-1 digital and print

1-3 digital and print

4-6 digital and print

And hey… if this year you need print to send for packets but next year you’re all in for digital learning, you have both to choose from.

A project that your kids will love…and it’s CHEAP…and it’s EASY…and it makes your classroom more ORGANIZED?! I know, I know. I’m ready to get designing already!


If you’re still worried about giving the kids control of supplies in our COVID world, I get it. I was nervous too. There are options for you to avoid this by using technology or sending letters to get parental support at home.

I can’t wait to see what your students do with this project. Make sure to tag me or send me the pics!!

Got questions? I’m here for you. Email me at meg@brownesbunchofstem.com


%d bloggers like this: