Hands-On STEM Learning and Career Explorations for Middle School Students

It’s never too early to introduce students to the power of STEM and get them thinking about a future career in STEM. The STEM Careers Coalition, a first-of-its-kind STEM initiative working to address the STEM workforce and inspiration gap by connecting industry and classrooms at unprecedented scale, offers a number of resources to support real-world problem-solving and career exploration for students at every grade level.

Developed in conjunction with Coalition member API, there are a number of student activities specifically targeted to students in grades 6-8 that provide standards-aligned and diverse hands-on STEM experiences.

Farm to Table

In this activity, students will discover that petroleum is a part of their diet – directly and indirectly. Students will examine food labels to determine where each food was produced. Working in small groups, they will measure the distance on a map, calculate the amount of time and fuel it takes to get the food from where it was produced to their school. They will evaluate the data they collect and determine the most effective transportation option. They will summarize their findings by drawing a transportation map for each food item from place of production to their school.

Petroleum Hunt

This activity introduces oil as not just a source of energy but also something that can be processed to give us useful substances known as petrochemicals. They are used in an amazing range of products such as makeup, musical instruments, computer equipment, and school furniture! Students will work in small groups to research and find petrochemical products that could be found in an assigned area of their school or all around their home.

Sweet Petroleum Polymer

In this investigation, students will discover that petroleum-based polymers are very strong, and humans have discovered how to make and use them for many things, including gum! Students will begin the lesson by examining several different types of natural polymers at the molecular level and identify them. Students will then investigate the amount of synthetic polymer in chewing gum by calculating and comparing the percentage of polymer remaining after chewing different types of gum.

In addition, the STEM Careers Portal features student activations and easy-to-integrate career profiles, perfect for introducing middle school students to vast array of STEM professions for exploration.

The STEM Careers Coalition exists to ensure that ALL students have opportunities for access to quality resources to support STEM learning. Through resources like these and direct investment in schools around the country, the Coalition is uniting the private sector around the shared goal of accelerating the growth of the United States STEM pipeline.

Engage your students in new STEM experiences! Explore these resources and more at STEMCareersCoalition.org or on the STEM Careers Channel in Discovery Education’s K-12 learning platform.