It has recently become more common to add the "A", or art, to STEM education to make it STEAM education. It is not only a popular trend in education, but it also makes a lot of sense! The world is not sectioned off into subject specific experiences! Learning all of these skills together engages the whole brain and develops skills that are transferable to many educational and career-related areas. For a stunning visual on teaching STEAM vs. STEM, visit this site.
I had a lot of fun planning family science nights for the school I was a science specialist for. The last one I planned and took part in celebrated STEAM. Each activity had some combination of science, technology, engineering, art and/or math. It was a big hit and I am excited to share the activities with you today.
This was an idea I had read about, but although it sounded very fun I, admittedly, was hesitant to do it, particularly as we would be inside due to frigid temperatures. Although I would highly recommend doing this outside instead, it was a great project. We provided popsicle sticks, spoons, rubber bands, masking tape and dixie cups. We printed a few pictures of catapults out and then left it up to families to determine how they would build their device. Cotton balls and washable tempera paint served as the ammunition.
This was not only an interesting engineering project, but also resulted in a modern art mural! If I were to do this with a smaller group of kids, or in a different situation, I would leave the catapult building open-ended, but guide the experimenting with some questions. What happens when you launch from the ground? How can you modify your catapult to make the cotton ball travel farther? What shape is the path of the cotton ball when it flies? If you use just a spoon as a catapult, where is the fulcrum? What else could we use to shoot paint besides cotton balls?
For some great catapult building designs for kids check out this post at Fun-a-day.com.
Recyclable Marble Runs
Building marble runs and marble roller coasters is always a popular activity with kids and adults alike. This is an excellent engineering project, as it involves design and trial and error, in addition to being a sculpture piece!
We collected recyclables from the school community in advance of our event. We had boxes, cardboard tubes, plastic tubs and more. We did not accept glass items. We provided dixie cups, tape (A LOT of TAPE!), and scissors in addition to the recyclables. I made a small sample marble run, but otherwise designs were left to the participants.
This is always great fun and a wonderful family project for all ages. I think an interesting challenge would be to try to connect all of the marble runs together to make a giant one!
One of my favorite activities was investigating symmetry and angles by making popsicle stick snowflakes. I give full credit to the blog Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational and the post: "Its Snowing Angles" for this great idea.
We provided popsicle sticks, some images of actual snowflakes, protractors, and floor space. The kids went to town and created some beautiful designs. Snowflakes may not be what you are thinking about this time of year, but it is a fun math exercise with lovely results!
I love bubble painting! There are so many math and science concepts inherent in the study of bubbles. Check out some of them here. From angles, to surface tension there is a lot to learn.
We used plastic wash basins for our bubble paint solution. Each kid or parent got a straw to blow bubbles in the solution and then place a piece of cardstock onto the bubbles. Flip it over, pop the bubbles and you have a beautiful picture! An FYI: The neon colored tempera paint I had purchased was not dark enough to make good images, so we added some darker colors. I also recommend making a bubble solution with some corn syrup in it for stronger, stickier bubbles. There are lots of links to bubble recipes on my post Bubble Fun! For a more detailed explanation of bubble painting visit this Education.com page or Google "Bubble painting" and you will find lots of options.
DNA Extraction and Double Helix Model
Our biology students helped one of my science teaching colleagues demonstrate fruit DNA extraction and families created a huge double helix model made from fuzzy craft sticks (aka pipe cleaners...although I guess it's not ok to call them that anymore...). The model made it from the floor to the ceiling!
If you are a science educator who'd like to host a Family Science Night at your school, I'd be happy to field questions about our event. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org We are fortunate to have the support of our administration, lots of volunteer help from fellow teachers the night of the event and an interested and engaged community to participate in order to make these events a success.
This post was originally part of a series: Children's STEAM Festival.