The STEM Kits created and produced by the Natural Sciences Education & Outreach Center in collaboration with CSU faculty, National Parks and citizen science programs are designed specifically to teach Scientific Inquiry and the Nature of Science. Think of them in terms of those side bars in textbooks – really cool extensions to the main goal of the chapter! Each kit is meant to be used by no more than 2 students at a time and contains just about all of the materials needed (minus things like water and paper towels) to explore some really interesting scientific research topics and focus on scientific process, scientific illustration, data collection and analysis, and communication of results. For this reason, they are useful in a wide range of grade levels.

The STEM Kits are designed to be student-centered, guided inquiry explorations. Paired students work at their own pace, while the teacher takes on the role of facilitator and guide. The students become the scientists, and utilize a science notebook for recording observations and reasoning. Student pairs may proceed at different rates. The teacher can monitor slower groups to help them streamline some of their work habits if needed, or encourage fast groups to slow down and do more thorough journaling. Not all groups finish all of the activities, but given the level of engagement that the kits foster, we believe that learning objectives will be met if the teacher brings the class together at the end of the session for a group discussion and summary. Thus, it is our hope that teachers use our STEM Kits to promote an environment that stimulates self-motivated student learning – the ultimate outcome of a student-centered approach.

The NSEOC has a growing inventory of STEM educational materials available for loan to educators. Each kit listed below is ranked by level of instructor help needed by students and does not refer to the difficulty level of the kit content. More information about each kit (standards, tutorials, resources) are available on each kit’s web page. In order for an educator to borrow a classroom set of our kits, they must complete a Request Application AND a Feedback Survey (after returning the kits to the NSEOC). Teachers are responsible for making sure the kits are returned to the NSEOC in good working order.

Beginner Level Kits:

These kits require little to no student-teacher interaction and can be checked out by any educator.

  • Plankton to Plastic Pollution STEM KitPlastic is everywhere! In our daily lives, we rely on plastic more than we think. Students learn about pollution to be part of the solution. (4th through 12th grades)
  • Really Ancient Fossils STEM Kit: Learn how paleontologists uncover past events that led to the fossilization of a community of sea creatures millions of years ago. Students will excavate a model rock formation, make a map, record their observations in a science notebook, and compare their observations to reference materials. (6th through 12th grades)
  • Soil Carbon STEM Kit: Explore how carbon moves through the environment by analyzing three soil samples from different areas of the 2012 High Park Fire. Students will develop real lab skills to determine which of the samples was intensely burned, moderately burned, or unburned. (6th through 12th grades)

Intermediate Level Kits:

These kits require some student-teacher interaction and can be checked out by educators who have 1) attended a STEM Friday with their students; 2) attended an EOC Key Note featuring a STEM kit OR 3) successfully borrowed and returned (in good shape) kits in the past and completed feedback surveys for each one.

  • Anchialine Pools STEM Kit: Anchialine pools are unique coastal brackish water pools that occur on the islands of Hawaiʻi. Over use of groundwater has led to the depletion of the aquifers that keep these pools in balance. Students will build physical models to learn how the hidden groundwater is vital to the survival of these culturally significant pools. (4th through 12th grades)
  • Get Critical! STEM Kit: How does information get from one place to another so quickly? In this research experience, experiments will be done with optical fibers to learn about reflection, refraction, critical angles, and diffraction. Students even get a chance to send text messages between groups! (6th through 12th grade)
  • Get Energized! STEM Kit: Learn what it takes to develop a new, more efficient battery and solar panel. Students will test different materials and use their own data to help them construct a working rechargeable battery and solar cell using skills and techniques straight out of a CSU research laboratory. (4th through 12th grades)
  • Solar Cars STEM Kit: Using raw materials such as gears, propellers, motors, solar cells, wood, and math, students learn about engineering design principals and iterative prototyping as they design the most efficient car possible. (4th through 12th grades)

Advanced Level Kits:

These kits require quite a bit of student-teacher interaction and vigilance by the instructor in order for all students to have success. They can be checked out only with EOC staff approval.

  • High Tech Rocks! STEM Kit: Learn the science behind the technology in your electronic devices! Students become solid-state chemists as they manipulate natural materials (like minerals) to produce useful physical properties (like magnets). (6th through 12th grades)
  • Secrets of the Hibernators STEM Kit: Marmots, ground squirrels, and bears are fascinating animals who hold answers to many health problems that humans face, such as obesity and bone loss. Students will collect and analyze data using hands-on experiments to learn about how metabolism is moderated seasonally in hibernating animals and what challenges climate change will bring. (6th through 12th grades)
  • Vital Ice STEM Kit: Looking for ways to get real scientific data into the hands of your students? Students will explore data collected from Denali National Park using model ice cores and will look at permafrost in a new, unique way. (6th through 12th grades)
  • Hominid Skull Set: By measuring different skull parameters, students see similarities and differences between seven hominid relatives and infer evolutionary advances: Proconsul africanus, Pan troglodytes, Australopithecus africanus, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens neander-thalensis, Cro-Magnon, and Homo sapiens.  A pre-lab activity where students reconstruct broken pottery gives younger students a better understanding of how paleontologists reconstruct fossils. (6th through 12th grades)
  • Small Fish – Big Questions STEM Kit*: Guppies from the pet store come in a wide variety of colors and fin shapes. In this research experience, students will compare pet store guppies to wild guppies from high and low predation environments in Trinidad. Through careful observation they will get a feel for how biological changes over time occur. *These kits can only be borrowed and used in a school with the help of a graduate student from CSU’s Biology Department as they use live guppies. (6th through 12th grades)
  • GetWET Water Education**: The GetWET Observatory is one of two outdoor hands-on groundwater education facilities in the Rocky Mountain Region. Located on CSU property along Spring Creek is a groundwater well field that allows students to study the interaction between the creek and the groundwater. **These can only be borrowed by teachers trained to use the GetWet backpacks. (6th through 12th grades)

Coming Soon:

These kits are in production and will be available for loaning at one of the above levels soon!

  • Bees Please! STEM Kit: Bees are one of the most important pollinators of our food crops. Students will build a flower model to gain a better understanding of pollination. Students will study their bees (each kit has a different species) and then exchange data and information with others in the class to explore bee biodiversity and behavior. Data in this kit comes from an on-going citizen science project that started as a CSU research project. (4th through 12th grades)
  • Going Viral STEM Kit: Now more than ever is the time to learn about what viruses are and how the human immune system fights against them.  Students will explore epidemiological modeling with and without vaccinations and herd immunity. (6th through 12 grades)
  • Pico Pong STEM Kit: Explore the interaction between the virtual and physical worlds with this unique kit. Students will learn how to code a simple game (Pong) in the Scratch programming environment and then use a sensor board to collect a variety of sensor data: light, pressure, flex, sound, and position. They will then use these data to control the game paddles. (4th through 12th grades)
  • Regenerate! STEM Kit: Description coming soon. (6th through 12th grades)

Loan Application Forms

Return loan application forms to Courtney Butler via email ( or fax (970-491-7716).

Feedback Survey

  • Teacher Feedback Survey – after using a STEM kit, teachers must provide the EOC with feedback in order to request another kit.

Scientific inquiry is more complex than popular conceptions would have it. It is, for instance, a more subtle and demanding process than the naive idea of “making a great many careful observations and then organizing them.” It is far more flexible than the rigid sequence of steps commonly depicted in textbooks as “the scientific method.” It is much more than just “doing experiments,” and it is not confined to laboratories. More imagination and inventiveness are involved in scientific inquiry than many people realize, yet sooner or later strict logic and empirical evidence must have their day. Individual investigators working alone sometimes make great discoveries, but the steady advancement of science depends on the enterprise as a whole.

– Benchmarks for Science Literacy