Fun and Engaging STEM Activities for Kids
The majority of jobs over the approaching decades are predicted to rely heavily on skills linked to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), so it's more important than ever for parents and educators to keep kids engaged and passionate about these subjects that can often be testing to master. To help, we've compiled some fun and engaging STEM activities that are simple to execute at home or in the classroom.
Investigate the different types and numbers of microorganisms growing in the environment; this is a great way to put theory into practice. Simply collect swab samples from a variety of different locations and objects including chairs, soil, bins and windows and then grow them on nutrient rich agar plates This practical will require cotton buds, agar Petri dishes and newspaper, these instructions from Science Kids will help kids understand how to collect, grow and observe the resulting colonies.
Experiment with Light
The electromagnetic spectrum and the behaviour of visible light are two of the most important principles in physics. The laws governing these can be quite challenging to understand, yet still the fundamentals can be learnt from kindergarten onwards, which will provide a solid base that is sure to serve them throughout their education.
Easy and fun lessons include observing a small segment of the electromagnetic spectrum by simulating an artificial rainbow. This can be accomplished using a simple plastic or glass prism, while other key characteristics of light, such as refraction can be observed using mirrors and a simple glass of water. For a great overview, check out this article packed with fun and engaging light experiments.
The Microscopic WorldThe average light microscope is a relatively affordable piece of scientific equipment used on a regular basis in academia, research and industry, so by allowing students to use them you will be equipping them with some real practical and valuable experience using lab equipment.
Microscopy experiments are easy to set up and students can gather their very own specimens, including plants, bugs and stones found outdoors, to miscellaneous items such as pins, hair and even classroom erasers. A good theory based experiment involves observing the stages of mitosis in cells using onion skin, which are extremely easy to see and source.
In order to execute this investigation, you will need to have a standard light microscope, slides and decent specimens. This article from MicroscopeSpot.com details how to use a standard microscope, set up the specimen's and how to ensure you have a fruitful practical experiment.
Play with Plants
Photosynthesis is a fundamental and extremely important process in the natural world and biology, so by observing it as it happens and seeing what variables can have an effect on the process can really help students appreciate the theory. To demonstrate this, you can easily carry out a range of experiments that show how different levels of light and different colors can impact plant growth.
To carry out this experiment you will require a few potted plants, as well as some plastic cups in a variety of colors. These straightforward experiments by the Nuffield Foundation can help make the theory behind this important concept fun and engaging.
The Five Senses
We use our five senses everyday without giving it much thought, so take the time to stop and encourage your students to think about how they help them experience the world around them. Experiments that demonstrate sight, hearing, taste, feeling and smell help kids focus on a certain sense and understand how in combination they help us live our lives. As well as helping to understand biology, you can also easily tie in other key science principles including sound and light.
There are some really simple and fun experiments that can be done with the 5 senses, check out this article by Love My Science for inspiration and practical guidance.
Experience Charged Particles
Like many things in science, electricity can't be seen and so it can be difficult concept for kids to grasp. An easy and fun demonstration that shows an example of how charged particles cooperate is the balloon experiment. Passing an inflated balloon over a surface generates static electricity, for example, passing it over a student's hair will result in the hair becoming negatively charged since the electrons are being removed from the hair, resulting in the hair having a net positive charge.
In order to demonstrate this, you will require basic party balloons and of course - a full head of hair - see comprehensive instructions at Science Kids. Take note though, this experiment often results in a static shock that may "shock" some students, it's nothing to be concerned about though, it's simply the electrons being released from the body.
Build a Rocket
Get your students to become engineers for the day by building their own flying rockets that will be propelled by their understanding and application of key physics principles. They will have to apply the principles of aerodynamics during the design process to ensure their rocket flies well in the air. On launch, they will see the principles of friction and water pressure propelling their rocket in front of their very eyes.
This experiment may sound complicated, but it's incredibly simple requiring only basic materials such as an empty plastic bottle, bung and air pump. Check out this step-by-step guide that provides all the information you'll require for a fun and educational physics rocket experiment.
Everyday MathLike a lot of science concepts, math has many concepts that are quite abstract and as a result it can be quite difficult to keep young kids interested. A great way to maintain their focus and encourage them to start thinking is to apply math to real life scenarios in a fun and simple way.
For instance, playing shopkeeper with fake money and toy products is an effective way to tap into children's playful spirits and put math into use without them even realizing they're doing so. This is a fantastic way to teach basic arithmetic, budgeting and even the purpose of money in everyday life.
STEM subjects can often seem abstract and complex to many students, so it's easy to understand why so many find them difficult to grasp. The key to successful learning is to engage students with activities that demonstrate theories in a practical and fun way. Activities carried out in groups within the classroom or by parents at home also help by encouraging new ideas to be verbalised and expressed, further improving the learning process. After all, it's much easier to refer back to something that was a positive and memorable experience. br>
Jude McLean is a father of two homeschooled children. When he's not busy teaching or working, he can be found writing about education, learning and development.