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100+ Hands-On Activities for Middle School and High School


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Hands-on learning is the best kind of learning. Sadly, as kids get older, the ideas for hands-on projects seem to dwindle. If you stop to think about it, though, almost anything can be educational: acting in a play, running a lawn-care business, creating pieces of art, cooking and baking, and even babysitting!

But sometimes it’s nice to start with a list to get your own ideas flowing. That’s why I’m sharing this list of more than 100 hands-on activities for middle school and high school students! I do want to include one caveat – not all of these activities are specifically geared toward older students. But often activities for younger kids are beneficial to older students. And most can be easily adapted. You could turn all of the planning and execution of the project over to the student (as opposed to a parent helping) in order to make the project more educational. Or you can require more detail. There are lots of ways to adapt lessons to make them more challenging and educational for older students.

I hope you find this list helpful! Be sure to bookmark it so you can return to it later when you need more ideas and inspiration! And be sure to leave a comment if you have more ideas for me to add to this article. 

This post contains affiliate links. See full disclosure policy for more details.

NOTE ABOUT GIVEAWAY FOR GIFT CARD TO RAINBOW RESOURCE CENTER: Many of us are preparing to get back to school this fall (even though some homeschool year-round). We want to help bless some families with a Rainbow Resource gift card, so keep reading to the bottom of this article to see how you can enter for your chance to win!

Art

Andy Warhol Art Project – A Warhol-inspired project using a template or your own photo.

Mary Cassatt Hats – Make paper mache hats as you learn about American artist, Mary Cassatt.

Zentangle Dragonfly – Stretch the imagination and create Zentangle Dragonfly Art

Marbled Clay Ring Dish – Beautiful clay dishes you can make at home.

Shibori Dyeing Technique – Create art you can wear with this Japanese tie-dyeing technique using indigo dye.

Mary Cassatt Hats

Aluminum Foil Stained Glass Art – Recreate any picture using aluminum foil and Sharpie markers.

Free Art Lessons and Tutorials – An entire Pinterest page of art tutorials.

Paper Jungle – A paper art project inspired by the works of Henri Rousseau.

Self Portrait Collage – Some an art projects should require endurance… one that will have to be completed in several steps over time.

Getting Started in Chalk Pastel – A free e-book full of art tutorials using chalk pastels.

Jackson Pollock Inspired Abstract Art – Experiment with splatter and drip painting.

Science

Biology

How to Make an Edible Cell Model – This was probably one of the most fun projects we’ve ever done. It’s definitely one of the most popular on the blog. We did an animal cell, but it could easily be adapted to a plant cell.

Hands-on Genetics Study for Kids – An excellent resource for studying Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics. This site includes a free, printable download and activity and resource suggestions.

Build a DNA Model – Use Twizzlers and gumdrops for a tasty, hands-on experiment with DNA.

Candy Math and Science – Create bar graphs and practice taxonomy with candy.

Human Body Systems – Hands-on activities for studying human anatomy.

Bean Classification – Who says taxonomy has to be boring?

Edible Skin Layers Cake – Make a model of human skin using some sweet treats.

Articulated Hand – Make a model of the hand that actually moves like a human hand.

Functioning Heart Model – This is a cool project that uses household items to make a functioning heart model.

Anatomy of the Eye – Study the anatomy of the eyeball with a cake pop.

Another Edible Cell – Prefer cookies over cake? Try this edible cell!

Extracting DNA From Strawberries Experiment – This one looks almost as much fun as that time the kids and I extracted our own DNA.

Project Based Learning: Microbes – Bacteria – I love this tutorial for building a model of a bacteria cell.

The Lab Report – Flower Dissection – Includes video, resource links, and a free download.

Earth Science

Ocean Zones in a Jar – Learn about ocean zones and liquid density with this project.

How-to-Make-a-Paper-Mache-Earth1

Metamorphic Edible Rocks– This hands-on metamorphic rock activity will have you learning about earth science with food.

Make a Lava Lap – A simple tutorial for making a lava lamp with information on why it works.

The Lab Report – Enzyme Experiment – See enzymes in action and discover an experiment challenge for you to do on your own.

Let’s Make A Mold Terrarium! – Because, really, who doesn’t want to grow mold?

Learning Summer Constellations – Do you and your kids love constellations as much as I do? Capitalize on that with these great study tips and activity ideas.

Baking Soda Stalactites & Stalagmites – Watch crystals grow each day.

Volcano in a Cup – There are many great hands-on volcano activities other than the traditional baking-soda-and-vinegar stand-by. (Although that one never gets old!). So, check out this idea for a change of pace.

Charcoal Water Purifying Experiment – Can charcoal purify water? Experiment and find out!

Using Clouds To Predict The Weather – Turn your kids into weather forecasters! Teach them to recognize the types of clouds and what they tell us about the weather.

Compost Cups Science Projects – Learn about decomposition and composting.

The Lab Report – Air Pressure – Learn about air pressure in this video presented by the student herself.

Chemistry

Acid or Base Experiment – Simple, but effective experiments that illustrate the acidity of household products.

Red Cabbage Litmus Experiment – Use red cabbage to determine which foods and beverages are acids and bases.

Periodic Table of Elements Cookies – Learn the elements and their chemical symbols by making and decorating cookies.

Testing The Properties Of Water – Experiments for learning about surface tension and cohesion.

Oxygen and Fire Experiment – Test the relationship between oxygen and fire with this simple, but fun experiment, and learn why the experiment works.

Atomic Cookie Skillet Model – The best hands-on activities for kids are the edible ones and this atom model is no exception!

STEM and More

Steel Wool and a 9-Volt Battery Experiment – You shouldn’t play with fire – unless, of course, it’s this really cool experiment. Check out the video!

Polishing Pennies Experiment – Learn about oxidation. Includes a free printable.

Squishy Science Experiment With Warblettes – What are Warblettes, you ask? They are nifty little water-absorbing polymers.

BioFilm Experiment – Make the study of microbiology a bit more interesting with this experiment. Includes free printable.

How to Make Plastic – Make your own gelatin bioplastic.

10 Hands-On Science Activities for Kids – These 10 generic activity ideas are easily adaptable for a wide variety of projects and age-ranges.

Circuit Bugs – Use circuits and batteries to bring these bugs to life.

Invisible Ink – Unlock the secrets of invisible ink with this activity.

Pumpkin School – Bookmark this one for next fall so you’ll be ready to learn about pumpkin pi. (Do you see what I did there?)

How to Record an Experiment – It’s crucial that middle and high school students know how to properly record science experiments.

How to Make a Paper Mache Earth Model – Another one of our all-time favorite hands-on projects, this model is suitable for middle school. It is easily adaptable for high school.

History

World

Make an Ancient Egyptian dress – Sew an ancient Egyptian dress for an 18″ doll.

How to Mummify a chicken – Is it possible to study ancient Egypt without mummifying a chicken?

Middle Ages Unit Study for Middle School – Living book suggestions along with resources and activity ideas.

Greek Mythology Character Cubes – Illustrate Greek myths with this 3-D display.

U.S.

Slavery and Civil War Unit Study – A literature- and project-based unit study.

History Quest: Civil War Uniforms – A tutorial for creating an authentic-looking Civil War uniform.

Art in History Kits – If you don’t want to put together your own hands-on projects, consider these quality kits, perfect for middle and high school students.

George Washington’s Camp – Recreate George Washington’s camp out of paper.

Settling the New World: Colonial History Unit Study – A unit study for upper-elementary and middle school ages.

Timeline Accordion Book – Record any time period with this accordion book.

Underground Railroad Quilt Code Game – Learn more about the Underground Railroad with this game.

How to Make Berry Ink – Step back in time and make your own ink.

13 Colonies Map Puzzle Activity – You’ll find the directions for making your own 13 Colonies puzzle map at the end of this post.

Maple Syrup Snow Candy – If you’re studying pioneer life, this is a yummy treat to make in the winter.

Ben Franklin & Electricity – Ben Franklin had many roles that included statesman, writer, scientist, and inventor. Explore static electricity with this experiment. You can also try your hand at replicating some of his inventions with the resource, Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself.

10 Hands-On History and Geography Activities for Kids – A list of generic, versatile ideas for all ages.

Create a Biographical Trailer – Use iMovie or another tool to create a trailer about a historical biography.

Geography

Paper Art Landforms – Make learning about landforms fun with this paper art project.

Making an Edible Map – This edible map tutorial uses cookie dough as the base with icing to represent lakes. Adding other candies to represent other landforms would expand this project easily for older students.

Making a Paper Mache Map – Tutorial for making a topographical map from paper mache.

How to Make a Salt Dough Map – Salt dough maps are a family favorite and easily adaptable to a wide student age-range.

How-to-Make-a-Salt-Dough-Map

How to Make a Compass – A tutorial for making a homemade compass and determining magnetic north using the completed project.

Plate Tectonics – A tasty way to learn about continental drift and plate tectonics.

Model of the Earth’s Layers in a Jar – A simple, but fun and effective way to represent the layers of the Earth in a colorful spice jar!

Karst Cave Model – Make an edible karst cave to understand how karst landscapes are formed.

Soil Layers with LEGO – Use LEGO brick to build a model representing the soil layers of the Earth.

U.S Geography Scavenger Hunt – Make learning to use an atlas fun with these ideas. Includes a free printable.

Math

Paper Airplane Math – Practice graphing the fun way – with paper airplanes!

100+ Living Math Activities & Link-Up – Activities are broken down by grade level and include those for middle school and high school.

Graphing Facebook Birthdays – If paper airplanes aren’t your style, try your hand at graphing your Facebook friends’ birthdays instead.

MM-Math

M&M Math – M&Ms are more than just counters for young children learning basic math. Older kids can practice fractions; mean, median, and mode; and graphing.

Cost of a Pumpkin Algebra Lesson – Bring algebraic equations to life with this activity.

Hands-on Geometry – Math is always more meaningful when kids can see real-life applications, so try these hands-on geometry ideas.

Gumdrop Structures Engineering Challenge – A fantastic STEM activity that can be made more or less difficult based on the parameters you decide to set.

Pythagorean Theorem Lego Proof – Help students visualize the Pythagorean Theorem using LEGO bricks.

Interactive Notebook Entry: Graphing Using Slope-Intercept Form – Templates and instructions for creating an interactive notebooking page for graphing using slope-intercept.

Language Arts

The Phantom Tollbooth Activities – Journey through The Phantom Tollbooth with these activities.

Calpurnia Tate Book Activities – Get hands-on with the popular book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and its sequel, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.

The Secret Garden Activities – These fun learning activities will help bring The Secret Garden to life.

Around the World in 80 Days Activities – These free printables are geared to younger students, but there are lots of great activities to do with tweens and teens.

5 Ways to Bring Any Book to Life – These are some of our favorite ways to bring books to life for children of all ages.

Shakespeare Activities – Thirty hands-on activities for a variety of the Bard’s works.

Library Scavenger Hunt – Teach your student about literary genres with this scavenger hunt.

Fun Activities for Subject-Verb Agreement in High School Classes – This is intended for a classroom, but could be adapted for homeschool use.

Electives

A Nature Study Photography Project for Any Age – Photography makes a fantastic high school elective, so use these tips to combine it with nature study.

Home Economics: Budgeting – No homeschooled student should graduate without learning this vital life skill.

Beginner Sewing Projects & Project Resources – This would make a great addition to a home ec course.

Experimenting with Flexibility – Add this resource to your health class notes.

How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool – Current events can provide a springboard for some great hands-on learning.

Stop Action: {Easy} Movie Making with LEGOs – If you’ve got a LEGO lover, stop-action movie making could be a great digital technology course.

Enter the Rainbow Resource Center Giveaway!

For many of us, we’re preparing to begin another homeschool year this fall. (Although some homeschool year-round too!) It can be hard to stick to a tight budget, and we want to help! We’ve joined a great group of homeschool bloggers to give three homeschool families a $200 gift card to Rainbow Resource Center!!

We know homeschooling can put financial strain on families – whether it’s from living on one income or buying curriculum for multiple children – the financial aspect of it can be stressful.  Our hope is that we can bless a few homeschool families (although we wish we could bless many more) so they can buy curriculum, books, games, puzzles, or whatever educational supplies they might need, with a little less stress.

To enter for your chance to win, simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.  I know this is quite a few entries, but each of these bloggers has generously chipped in their own money to make this giveaway possible, so I hope you will take the time to do all of the entries.  And hey, the more entries you do, the better your odds are of winning!

Giveaway ends July 30, 2021 at 11:59pm ET.  Must be at least 18 years of age.  Must be a resident of U.S. or Canada to enter.  Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn.  By entering this giveaway, you agree to be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers (see the Terms & Conditions on the Rafflecopter form for the complete list).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Author profile

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 29 years ago, and they live in the South with their three children. Hannah, age 25, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 24, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 18, is the remaining homeschool student. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you for the chance to win and for blessing homeschool families! And thanks for sharing these hands-on ideas for older students!

  2. I forget to offer hands-on activities for my big children. And they need the time to do these things too. Bookmarking this list.

  3. Excited to use some of these, even though my kids are 4th and 5th grades this year, but many of these are adaptable, and others I’ll tuck away in my digital “treasure room” for future use! The DIY Berry Ink, Secret Garden activities, salt dough relief maps, and predicting the weather with clouds stand out as ones we’ll definitely investigate and attempt this fall. Thank you!

  4. After 20 years of homeschooling and graduating three students, I am down to just one this year. She will be starting high school and I want it to be fun for her. She still enjoys the fun and simple things mentioned in this post.

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