There are so many reasons to love student contests and competitions. Knowing they could gain recognition or even a prize for winning can be incredibly motivating for students. Beyond that, though, contests give kids the opportunity to can gain experience, connect their interests to the real world, and do something fun! Here’s a list of amazing contests to engage every kind of student in your classroom.
Best Student Contests for STEM
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition invites teachers to lead a group of students in creating a STEM-centered (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) solution that addresses a need in their communities. As teams are selected to move through each phase, they are asked to provide more project details and are awarded prizes of increasing value. Teachers and students will compete to win a share of $2 million for their schools. The National Winner prize is $100,000 in technology and classroom materials.
Stossel in the Classroom wants to know what students think about entrepreneurship and innovation. With $20,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, kids can enter the essay contest or the video contest. There are bonus prizes for teachers, too!
Students can submit a short film inspired by, and using, actual footage from NASA’s digital archives for a chance to earn cash prizes, have their film screened by renowned director Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Dazed and Confused), and get programmed into the Houston Cinema Arts Festival this November.
Kids ages 13–18 can submit a big scientific idea in fundamental physics, life sciences, or mathematics in video form.
Your high school students can win up to $35,000 in scholarships and prizes for their smart ideas on topics like sustainability, food insecurity, the impact of technology, and more.
This contest challenges students in grades 6–8 to practice critical thinking supported by accurate computation.
Middle school students can experiment with plantology by entering the Plant Mash-Up Contest! To enter, students must combine two plants into a hybrid, draw it, and explain its properties.
Students ages 13–18 years old may enter an original digital short about the dangers of distracted driving for a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship and other prizes.
Students in third grade and up can create a poster for International Compost Awareness Week.
This website offers a variety of challenges, each tackling a unique and timely global issue. The results are always inspiring!
The Youth Design Challenge (YDC) is a free hands-on, project-based learning experience that provides classroom and informal educators with a new framework to introduce biomimicry and an interdisciplinary lens on science and environmental literacy.
Selected high schools will be challenged to design shoes around two themes. Additionally, they can also submit an Impact Document reflecting how their school, students, and community would be impacted by winning $75,000 for their art program.
Encourage friendly competition throughout your school or expressing creativity through writing and designing with a PepsiCo Recycle Rally contest. Choose from the Frequent Recycler Program or Recycling Advancement Plan!
Future City is a project-based learning program where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future.
Bebras is an international initiative designed to promote Computer Science and computational thinking among school students of all ages. Participants are usually supervised by teachers who may integrate the Bebras challenge in their teaching activities.
The annual Ocean Awareness Contest is a platform for young people to learn about environmental issues through art-making and creative communication, explore their relationship to a changing world, and become advocates for positive change. Students ages 11-18 from around the world are invited to participate.
Enter any idea for a new way to demonstrate an educational concept, an idea for a new product, or an improvement for an existing product or procedure.
To design and create a working invention/artwork that incorporates at least one rubber band.
picoCTF is a computer security game for middle and high school students. The game consists of a series of challenges centered around a unique storyline where participants must reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, or do whatever it takes to solve the challenge. The challenges are all set up with the intent of being hacked, making it an excellent, legal way to get hands-on experience.
CodeMonkey’s Code Rush is a nationwide competition for teams of students in 3rd to 8th grade. They’ll need to solve CodeMonkey challenges to earn a spot among the 20 teams who will win amazing prizes for their school.
Students in grades 5-8 create a 1-2 minute video describing a new, innovative solution that could solve an everyday problem. Ten finalists will be chosen for their passion for science, spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and effective communication skills.
#BUILTBYGIRLS invites girls to submit a new product concept, design, and/or working prototype for the chance to win $10,000. Finalists will get the trip of a lifetime to San Francisco to pitch in front of expert girl judges, tech moguls, and industry experts.
The Emperor Science Award program is a unique opportunity for 10th and 11th graders with a strong interest in science to work on a cancer research project with a mentoring scientist. One hundred students across the U.S. are selected.
The Invention Convention program is a project-based learning curriculum to help students learn to think critically by identifying problems in their world.
Best Student Contests for English Language Arts
Students ages 6–18 can submit fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to The Telling Room. They choose stories and poems that are creative and well-written.
This award requires a teacher to nominate eighth-grade students in the United States, Canada, Virgin Islands, and American Schools Abroad for a writing award.
The Academy of American Poets invites students in grades 9-12 living in the United States, U.S. Territories, or Tribal Nations to enter. Winning artwork is featured in the National Poetry Month poster.
This website highlights three Young Adult novels each month and allows students to upload a related project. While this is not a contest, it is a great learning experience!
An annual prize for an unpublished poem written for children aged 7–11, the Caterpillar Poetry Prize is open to anyone over 16.
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is an annual video contest. Young filmmakers create movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds.
Scope Magazine (published by Scholastic) features a wide variety of contests to excite students about writing. And they can win awesome prizes!
The Scholastic Writing Awards encourages student writers and artists in grades 7–12 to submit work in a variety of genres.
New Moon Girls publishes contributions from girls ages 8 to 14. The magazine publishes four times each year, and submissions are more likely to be published if they fit an upcoming editorial theme.
Letters About Literature is an annual, national reading and writing program organized by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To enter, students in grades 4–12 write a letter to the author (living or dead) of their favorite book, poem, or short story and describe how that book moved or changed them.
Create a video that spells out how you can kindle the love of reading, featuring three words that would be useful to know in a spelling bee.
Best Student Contests for Social-Emotional Learning
This project is designed for educators to engage their students in bullying prevention. Students will watch a video, followed by a handout review, and respond to the content in their own creative way through art, writing, graphics, or videos for the chance to win prizes for their school!
Three student winners from grades 7–8 and three from grades 9–12 will each receive a $1,000 grant and a new laptop to empower them as they enact community change. Teachers of the winning students will each receive a $500 gift card for use in their classroom!
The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes Discovery Award provides students in grades 4-12 a unique opportunity to research primary sources and develop outstanding projects that feature Unsung Heroes who can serve as role models and inspire others to create change.
Entrants submit 1,000 to 1,500 handwritten words expressing how they, or a student they know, work outside the classroom to benefit others. One student grant winner will earn $12,500 to further their education and/or continue their good works. The winner’s school receives $2,500 to help enhance efforts to foster student overachievement.
Students can create a short video–up to 60 seconds–about human population growth that highlights one of the following global challenges: Advancing Women and Girls, Feeding 10 Billion, or Preventing Pollution. All videos must include: a) how population growth impacts the issue b) at least one idea for a sustainable solution.
Best Student Contests for The Arts
The ArtEffect Project teaches middle and high school students their power to effect positive change through creative storytelling that celebrates Unsung Heroes from history. Students must submit high-quality creative art projects in the following mediums: visual arts, narrative film, theater, and creative nonfiction.
This contest is open to K-12 students attending public schools, home schools, and art studios. Kids and teachers can win prizes, classroom supplies, and more!
The Toyota Dream Car USA Art Contest inspires creativity in youth, ages 4-15, and helps them imagine the future of mobility.
The contest is open to all K-12 students attending public, private, parochial, and homeschools who are residents of the United States, and grades K-12 of U.S. military members stationed overseas.
Best Student Contests for Social Studies
National History Day (NHD) is an annual event for teachers and students in grades 6-12 that promotes critical thinking skills through project-based learning.
This national contest invites all middle school students (grades 6-8) and high school students (grades 9-12) to create a 5-7 minute documentary based on an annual theme.
We’d love to hear—what are your favorite student contests and competitions? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook, and we’ll keep adding to this list!