STEM BINS/Morning Tubs

We all know the importance of play in the classroom, and one way we can bring more play into our classroom is with our STEM BINS.

stem bins in the classroom


Yep. Kids need to play. Yep. Many of us teach in districts where this isn’t allowed. Yep. Many of us know we should be doing more play-based learning, but we’re bound by district rules, mandates, and curricula. Yep. We know we can be creative and make curriculums play-based, but it’s hard when you’re being watched daily by district people and checking that you’re on the right lesson on the right day. I share that to say this: don’t assume it’s the teacher not wanting to have play in the classroom. It’s probably more of being stopped by district rules. That said, now we have more PLAY in our classroom with our morning bins! I actually say each morning: “After your journal, you may read or play!” And let me tell you, that feels amazing!

ideas for STEM BINS

Morning Tubs/STEM BINS Set Up

When I decided to bring morning tubs into the classroom, I wanted a simple system that could be managed by the kids. I had these photo storage boxes from Michaels that I bought on sale a few years ago but never used, so I knew those would be perfect for our bins. They’re small and don’t take up room. They’re the perfect size to hold the materials and the perfect size for kid hands. And really, the rainbow colors are everything!

play in the classroom stem bins

Each box contains different objects for the kids to use to play.

We have also been using the shoebox storage containers from The Container Store.

STEM BIN organization ideas

So, what’s in the bins? Here are some examples: Squigz, pattern blocks, linking chains, and building blocks are from Lakeshore. Snap Cubes and fish are from Oriental Trading. Target mini-erasers. These are all items that the kids can use to build, stack, sort, connect, and play with. They’re small enough to fit in the boxes, and there are multiple boxes with the same items. For example, there are 3 or 4 boxes of snap cubes, etc. I’m always looking for things to use in our STEM BINS. I already have Legos, dominos, plastic tiles, and A BILLION mini-erasers to use!

We also use our Build It Up! resource in our STEM bins. Kids love these!

How Do The Kids Use STEM BINS

Here’s how our morning arrival works: (For details on morning work and morning arrival, visit the blog post at the end of this post)

  1. Put away your backpack.
  2. Greet your teacher
  3. Eat breakfast if you want.
  4. Journal (or name-writing practice if you haven’t earned your journal)
  5. Read OR PLAY!

The beloved journals have not gone away. Students must still do their journals, and then they can play! So they can read or play after doing their morning work, which is their journal. These pictures illustrate this very well: you see students reading, playing, writing in their journals, and working on the names! And you should also know there is A LOT OF TALKING! And that’s what we want. Conversations are a MUST for student learning.

There are no task cards or required activities for them. They are simply playing and exploring. They are building fine motor skills, building critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills. And they’re having FUN!

NOTE: Because we have no tables and desks, students are taught to write lying on their stomachs, which is good for handwriting. Since this picture was taken on the third day of school, we are still working on expectations and routines.

STEM BINS in the classroom

Students choose one box to play with. They play as long as they want, clean up, and get another box. They can also read books, play alone or with friends, or sit wherever they want to read and play! It’s all about choices!

Clean Up And Storage

When the clean-up song comes in, students clean up their materials and place the boxes back into the case. A student returns the cases to the shelf.

classroom stem bin ideas
morning bins and stem bins for kids
stem bins for the classroom

Here’s a video of our morning bins/morning work in action:

For more details on morning work, journals, flexible seating, the trampoline, and classroom management, visit these posts:

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