Featured Choice Chart: Eight STEM projects you can do with any journal

What scientific or mathematical wonders can you do with just a printed newspaper and a few simple materials? In this lesson, we’ve got you covered, with our pick chart of eight STEM-related activities, including a DIY roller coaster, seeds in biodegradable jars, a math puzzle with origami cubes, and more.

All of these projects are taken from At Home, a special section of The New York Times that aired at the start of the pandemic to help readers cope during the lockdown. Each edition of At Home featured an activity that challenged readers to get something out of their printed newspaper. We’ve collected eight such projects that help students explore STEM concepts like air resistance, geometry, design thinking, and Newton’s First Law of Motion. For most of these activities, all you will need is a printed newspaper, a pair of scissors, and masking tape.

What are you going to create? Choose an activity from the choice board, follow the instructions to assemble it, test it, then reflect on what you’ve learned using the Take It Further prompts below.

Note to teachers: Join our live webinar on February 10 to discover even more ways to teach STEM with the New York Times.

Alone, with a partner or in a small group, choose one of the STEM projects from the choice board.

Option 1: Reflect on what you learned from your project.

After your project is complete, take a few minutes to reflect on what you learned using the following prompts:

  • How was the process of building your project? Did you find it difficult or easy? How well did your creation work?

  • Did you make any adjustments to your piece along the way? If yes, what did you change and why? What effect have these changes had?

  • In the end, would you say that your project was successful? Why do you think it worked or not? What changes would you make or what reinforcements would you add to improve it if you could?

  • What scientific or mathematical principles were at work in your project? What did you learn about them through this activity? What else did you learn?

Option 2: Study the scientific and mathematical principles at work.

While setting up your project, you may have asked yourself: “OK, but How? ‘Or’ What Does it work?”

Go further by researching the scientific and mathematical principles at play in your activity, such as the concept of air resistance in the parachute, the Soma cube problem in the origami puzzle or Newton’s first law of motion in the roller coaster DIY. What is this principle? How does it apply to the project?

Then see if you can make connections to the real world. Where do you see this concept popping up in your life or in the world around you? You can create a slideshow of things that use or rely on this principle. How has building the diary project helped you better understand how these things work in the real world? What questions do you still have?

Option 3: Create your own newspaper STEM project.

Have an idea for a journal activity related to science, technology, engineering, or math? Design a project that anyone could do using just the printed newspaper and a few simple materials. For inspiration, read this Times Insider article on how editors came up with and tested newspaper activities for the At Home section week after week.

If you want to take it a step further, write your own At Home article that includes: a short introduction explaining the activity and the scientific or mathematical principles involved; a list of materials; step-by-step instructions with words and pictures; and a catchy title. Then share it with your class or other people in your life and see what they can do!