Believe it or not, the first week of school will be here before you know it! As a middle school science teacher, you’re probably looking for some great first day of science class activities to welcome your new students! I’ve got you covered, friend!
First, let’s establish something important:
There are better ways to start the year than reading through your class syllabus.
There. I said it!
Don’t get me wrong, discussing class rules and classroom procedures is essential, and there will be time for all of your amazing Google Slides presentations. (Side note: if you need a good “Science Class Expectations” presentation, I’ve got one right here!) Over the course of the first few weeks of school, by all means, take time for goal setting and discussing your classroom management approach.
HOWEVER, I’m an unapologetically firm believer that the FIRST day of class should be fun! It’s a time for you to get to know your new groups of students and for them to get familiar with you as their teacher. As you begin to plan for the first day of school, here are a few of my favorite beginning-of-the-year science activities that will be sure to grab your students’ attention and start the upcoming year off in a good way!
Get Hands on!
1. Tower Building Challenge
Looking for a fun first day of school science icebreaker activity with minimal prep? Get your students laughing and thinking on the first day of school with this classic tower-building challenge.
This resource is great as an introduction to any engineering or science unit, or simply as a fun team-building activity. This activity offers three different versions to meet your grade level needs.
Students may build:
- Spaghetti and marshmallow towers
- Aluminum foil towers
- Index card towers
Whether you have students build all three types of towers or you choose one to focus on, I guarantee this fun science activity will be something your students are still talking about at the end of the year.
2. Have a Paper Airplane Competition
Whether you ended up with more time than you thought you’d have left at the end of the period or you just want kids to come home with something interesting to tell their parents, a simple paper airplane competition is always a winner! Students can compete for the longest flight, further distance, or most accurate.
3. Whale Bandaid Activity
Talk about a good time! This team building first day of science class activity is one of my all-time favorite ways to get my new group of students excited about science class!
Using the Whale Band-aid activity, students will be up out of their seats and moving around, communicating with one another (non-verbally!), and problem-solving from the very first day.
The premise is simple:
Break students into groups and then take turns having them stand as a team on top of a regular twin-sized bedsheet (bulletin board fabric works too!). The students must flip the fabric over without having anyone step off at any point and without speaking. Afterward, they’ll complete a quick reflection focused on how teams should best work together.
This simple activity is sure to get the whole class giggling and will definitely provide a unique answer to the question “What did you do at school today?”
4. Blind Building
This collaborative activity gives students practice with scientific observation, accuracy in reporting, and following directions closely. This activity will require students to be split into two groups. The first group will be given a toy made of Legos or any other material which can be broken down. With their partner out of the room, Partner A will disassemble the toy and write down instructions for how to build the toy. When everyone is done, the partners will switch. Now Partner B must reassemble the toy using only the written guide left for them by Partner A.
This activity is sure to grab your students attention and get a lot of laughs! It works well for groups of elementary students all the way up to high school students. Truly one of my favorite first day of science class activities.
5. The Extra Piece Activity
If you prefer a more “low-energy” activities, this tangram activity is the perfect way to get your students thinking critically on the first day of school. For this activity, students will be given tangram pieces to assemble as a square, and then reassemble using an additional piece they are given. This activity is an awesome way to start a discussion on the nature of science.
The lesson plan for this activity offers great extension ideas and ways to support students who might be struggling. Check it out!
6. What Is Science Cube Activity
Who says science and art don’t go together? This activity is equal parts scientific thinking and arts and crafts (my favorite combination!)
For this science art project, students will be given a flat copy of a “science cube.” They will need to describe in words and pictures what science looks like to them! Once they finished decorating their cube, they can cut and assemble their creations into a three-dimensional cube.
I love hanging these cubes from the ceiling! They make great classroom decorations.
7. Saving Fred
What do paperclips, gummy worms, and a capsized “boat” have in common? If you said “a super fun first day of science class activity” you’d be right!
For this partner activity, students will be asked to “save” Fred, a shipwrecked gummy worm using only four paperclips. Here’s the catch: they cannot touch Fred, his boat, or his life preserver directly with their hands.
This fun activity is an effective way to get your students talking with each other while practicing important science concepts such as the scientific method and documentation skills.
8. Teacher Inquiry Exploration
Want a great way to let your students truly get to know YOU?! Here’s your answer.
In this explorative activity, I allow students to explore our classroom. They are given free rein over the room (with the exception of my teacher’s desk). They can open cabinets, look at wall art, etc. Students are instructed to record their observations and any inferences they can make about me as their teacher and/or our science class.
Students love this activity and as a teacher, I know you’ll find their educated guesses about you interesting and, most likely, hilarious.
9. Inquiry Cubes
Here’s a real head-scratcher! As is true for all of science, in this activity, students will be asked to look for patterns of information. Using the information found on their cube, students will need to interpret patterns and use the evidence provided to defend their theories.
There are several ways that the information could be interpreted, and therefore, several “correct” answers. The object of this activity is for students to practice defending their observations with evidence-based claims and arguments.
10. Cup Stacking Collaborative Activity
Can you tell I like teamwork? In this cup stacking challenge, students will work together in small groups to think critically, persevere when faced with setbacks, and ultimately solve the challenge.
One of the things I love most about this lesson plan is the huge opportunity for post-activity reflection. Provided in the instructions is a long list of reflection questions that will truly get your students thinking and practicing self-assessment skills.
This activity is a great way to kick things off in your science classroom, even if you only have a short amount of time to work with.
Written Activities (less prep!)
11. What Is A Scientist?
Use this guided reading to emphasize the fact that anyone can be a scientist!!! Science is for everyone and can be done by everyone! This particular text is meant to spark the interest of your young scientists and remind them that the science curriculum actually can be fun.
The “What Is A Scientist?” guided reading text is part of a line of guided reading worksheets I created to help teachers, parents, and students by providing a detailed yet easy-to-read (avg. reading level: grades 6-8) reference on a variety of topics. The questions that accompany the text are designed to be rigorous and require students to predict, reflect, connect, and think critically about the information being presented.
As a hook to this activity, start by having students draw their idea of what a scientist looks like. You can point out stereotypes after completing the activity.
12. Problem Solving Activity
Looking for something you can do to break the ice on the first day without having to gather a ton of materials? This First Day of School Problem Solving Activity is a fun way to start the year with your new science classes!
This First Day of School Problem Solving Activity is great for team building, inquiry, or scientific method practice, this resource is sure to bring up some interesting discussion and definitely provides a lot of practice for students in perseverance in problem solving.
In this resource, students are given a simple riddle to solve and a set of manipulatives (print or digital) to experiment with various solutions. The solution isn’t as simple as it may seem, and students will likely be stumped and frustrated at first. Use this as an opportunity to have great conversations about “stuck points” and how we can move beyond them.
This text comes in both PDF and digital formats.
13. Start with an Interest survey
You can find tons of “about me” surveys for the first day of school that poll students about anything and everything from their learning styles to favorite music genres and more. These kinds of activities will help you get to know your students while also giving you a few minutes to organize your room on the first day while everything is chaotic and students may be showing up late.
14. Spark Discussion with a video
Show an inspirational video like these to get discussion flowing!
A TWIST ON THE USUAL
It’s not a crime to go over the syllabus and class rules on the first day of science class! We’re all (students and teachers) overwhelmed and trying to get an idea of what the class will be like. One way to avoid pontificating in front of the class about rules and procedures, though, is to break it up into stations! Your stations could include:
- Lab Safety
- About the Teacher
- Student Info Survey
- Supplies Scavenger Hunt
- Rules & Procedures
- A simple STEM Challenge
- Something artistic
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