Pencil STEM Activities for Kids for Back to School

Back to school and pencils just go together. But those handy little writing utensils can to so much more than just take notes. Make your pencil stash transform into amazing pencil STEM activities for kids! I’m not sure what it is about a new set of pencils, but it just makes me happy! I used to have an impressive collection as a kid and always loved finding new ways to use them for learning.

Have fun with STEM and STEAM at back to school time with these pencil STEAM activities! Kids will have fun building bridges, making circuits, firing catapults, and doing science experiments, all with pencils.
Have fun with STEM and STEAM at back to school time with these pencil STEAM activities! Kids will have fun building bridges, making circuits, firing catapults, and doing science experiments, all with pencils.

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How are Pencils Made

Pencils are definitely something that I have taken for granted. But there’s actually some pretty cool innovation, technology, and engineering behind your favorite No. 2 pencil. Watch this video to see how they are made. Pencil lead isn’t really lead at all! It’s a mixture of graphite and clay. It’s then housed in a wood casing that’s soft enough to sharpen but hard enough to prevent breakage.

Pencil STEM Activities for Kids for Back to School

Now it’s time to move on to the activities! First, grab plenty of pencils then check out this collection of awesome STEAM activities all using that little pencil you can never go to school without.

Graphite Circuits:

The first project is one of my absolute faves. Did you know that you can draw circuits with pencils? Grab a graphite pencil (#2’s won’t work). You’ll also need some clear tape, LEDs, and a 9V battery, too. Then start drawing! A couple of hints for your drawing:

  1. Draw a nice heavy line to make sure your lights have enough power.⠀
  2. The drawing needs to be a complete circuit once you add your LEDs and battery.⠀
  3. Leave a gap in the drawing just as wide as the battery terminals.⠀
  4. Leave a gap in the drawing for each LED wide enough that the leads don’t touch each other.⠀
  5. Tape the LED leads down making sure you have the positive (long) and negative (short) leads in the same order as the battery terminals.⠀
  6. Push your battery down on the drawing. Not shining? Check that everything is headed the right direction. (positive to negative to positive to negative, etc.) Then watch your drawings shine! 🌟⚡️💡

What makes pencils conduct electricity? It’s the spare atoms in the carbon in the graphite that allow the electricity to flow. No. 2 pencils don’t have quite enough graphite in the lead mixture to make the lights shine.

Pencil Da Vinci Bridge: Da Vinci bridges are those mind-blowingly strong structures that you can build with just a few sticks. Put a school supply spin on it with this pencil version.

Unpoppable Bubbles: We have done a ton of experiments with bubbles, but never one like this. Make your own unpoppable bubble solution then test it’s durability with the end of a sharp pencil.

DIY Zoetrope Animation STEAM Project: This is the STEAM project to do with kids. Zoetropes are the perfect meld of all things science, art, math, and engineering, Start by making your own series of simple figures. Then build the spinnable container using a pencil as the axis. Watch your figure become animated as you spin!

Head Back to School in Style with STEAM

Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that you can use right now? Instant gratification style? Try STEAM Explorers, the coolest creative activity subscription for kids filled with hands-on projects, printables, recipes, and more every month. Get a brand new theme every month!

Floating Rice – Simple Friction Experiment: This simple friction experiment is perfect for your little learners! Use a container of rice and favorite number 2 pencil to test how friction works.

The Leakproof Bag: The leak proof bag is a classic pencil experiment. How does it work? Polymer! Your plastic bag is made of little molecules that spread apart easily, but then seal around a pencil as it is pushed through the bag. This is a must try for your STEAM kids!

Pencil Sundial: Making a sundial has never been so easy! Use a ball of clay and your favorite pencil as a mast. Then mark the hours with stones as the day goes along. At the end of the day you will have your very own, homemade sundial.

Number 2 Pencil Catapult Back to School STEM Activity: Every kid needs their own catapult for back to school! Grab a box of number 2 pencils and follow the instructions on how to make yours today. This is a great engineering project for kids with tons of room for creativity.

More Back to School STEM Activities with Pencils

Magnetic Levitation: Wow the kids with this one! Use a pencil and opposing magnetic forces to create a levitating pencil. Grown-ups are going to love this too so grab a couple extra sets of materials. This post also gives printable instructions to share with your friends!

Check out these fun STEAM-Filled Drawing Activities too! We love these budget-friendly activity ideas using pencils, paper, and markers too.

How to Make a Spark – Weather Science for Kids: Make lightning in your house! This is such a great project for the changing of the season. Use your pencil and aluminum tray to show kids how to make their own electricity!

Pulley’ing Your Own Weight: Pulleys are one of the easiest activities to do with kids. This pulley system is made from a wooden spool and your trusty pencil. Study how pulleys work and how they have been used over the course of history in engineering projects all over the world!

And then there’s this amazing pencil sharpener build!

Aren’t pencils awesome? There’s no reason you can’t take normal, everyday materials and make them amazing STEAM materials. Explore your house for other materials you can use along with these pencil STEAM activites for kids!

More Back to School STEM Activities for Kids

Get the year rolling with these Ice Breaker Building Cards. They’re a fun way to get conversations started in the classroom.

More STEAM activities you can do with just a pencil and a piece of paper. 

Looking for some fun activities with paper? This ebook is packed with 18 amazing activities perfect for home or school. The kids will love fun stuff like transforming paper stars, drawing impossible triangles, building and testing paper bridges, plus tons of drawing challenges and games. Designed for kids 5-12. 

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