Get access to all Printables for just $9.99/mo with Premium!

How to Simplify your STEM Challenges

September 27, 2018 by Emily

If you have ever been hesitant on teaching the engineering design process along with the stem challenges you do in your classroom, you need this.

You need this because you have not yet made the decision to truly immerse your classroom in the engineering design process, but you like the idea. You just don’t have the time to wrap this concept around your head so you are fluent in teaching it.

Stem Challenges

It’s like learning a reading program, but with Engineering Design, the components never change.

So here’s what you have: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, and Improve. With every STEM Challenge, these will be the one thing that is constant. Got it? Good!

Next I am going to show you how you can implement these into every one of your Stem Challenges.


Let’s just say you are working on our FREE Paper Airplane Stem Story Challenge.

You will introduce the story, and that is exactly where you will ask your question.

***If you are not using a paired story, just think of the solution to the problem you pose to your students.

In our case, we are asking, “Can you make an airplane using only tape and paper? Try to make it fly!”

See? Not complicated…don’t make it more complex than it really is.

While you or your students are asking the question, point to the “Ask” Poster letting them know that is where you are in the Engineering Design Process.

Imagine & Plan

Because I know you work with elementary students, I don’t want you to overcomplicate things. I combine imagine and plan because, let’s be honest, elementary students don’t have the attention spans, and it’s really not necessary to drag every step out.


This is where you ask your kids to close their eyes and imagine how they would answer the question/solve the problem. They can also brainstorm with their group to dream up a model that will fly. This step is very simple. You could think out loud and model how you would answer the question so your kids can see the process of how we imagine. I like to call it a mind movie. After they imagine, point to the imagine poster and let them know where they are in the process.


This would be the time when you send your kids back to their seats to make a plan in their journals. If you are using “Once Upon a STEM” they can make their plan in the easy-print journal we have provided for each lesson. After they are done planning, point out the plan step on your posters. Let them know that some students/groups/partnerships may still be planning. Let them know that this is okay and not to rush. 


This is the fun one:) Once your students are ready to create, point out the step on the create poster. Encourage them to stick with their plan. Let your students know that not all models will look the same. 


Like most steps in the Engineering Design Process, not all students will be on this step at the same time. Point to the test poster when you feel like most are finishing up their models. Remind them that they don’t all have to be there at this time. Allow them a space to test their model.


I usually do the improve step the next day, but if time does not allow, you could mention it during your lesson. I would point to the improve poster and say, “Does anybody already have ideas for a better model?” If you do, this would be part of the improve step of the engineering design process. 

Now that wasn’t bad was it!?

That’s all, folks! It’s as easy as that! You just went through a STEM Challenge without losing your mind!

[shop_this_post id=”12036″]

If you liked the idea of having stem stories and journals along with the challenges, we offer the airplane challenge for free so you can try it out!

[Click here to get your FREE Stem Story Challenge!]

Now that you are ready to start implementing STEM Challenges in your classroom, you’re on your way to becoming a more efficient teacher! 

At Education to the Core, we provide done-for-you curriculum that is simple, fun, and effective! We want you to be the very best teacher you can be, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In order to be an effective educator, you have to take care of you first!

We strive to make a healthy work-life balance a reality for you each and every day.If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to join my email list to get exclusive FREEBIES, exclusive content, updates, deals!