STEM Activities for Each Season
STEM projects are all the rage these days, and for good reason. Not only do these hands-on activities provide children a gateway into learning about science, engineering, technology, and math, but help with developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. Fortunately, there are a number of fun, entertaining, and educational activities you can do all year to spark curiosity in little minds.
Build an insect habitat
Fun fact: insects outnumber humansat a ratio of 2,000,000:1, according to the University of California. Many, including bees, wasps, and butterflies, are vital to our local ecosystems. With a few simple tools and items your students likely already have around their homes, you can create a functional bee box. Start with an empty wooden box or open-front birdhouse. Fill the opening with varying sizes of hollowed out branches and wood blocks cut to depth. Gaps may be filled in with bamboo, twigs, cardboard, or balled up newspaper. Allow room for air to circulate. Inhabitat.com offers more in-depth instructions here
Students should keep a journal over the summer with their observations. Have them watch for the type and number of insects that move in, along with which materials or wood type attracts the most inhabitants. Modify this project for early elementary by building model boxes out of cardboard tubes and shoe boxes.
Let them play with Legos
The “E” in STEM is a great subject off which to springboard lessons on a number of subjects. Using Legos or other building bricks or blocks, have children build symbols of the season. Younger students can learn about shapes, colors, and agriculture by designing pumpkins, apples, corn and other fall vegetation. Higher grades should be tasked with more challenging projects. 9- and 10-year-olds (up through high school) can design and build “working” tractors, bug catchers, or candy carriers using Legos and other common classroom materials. By mixing play and learning, your students will retain more information and be able to apply their knowledge to everyday situations.
Add an extra degree of difficulty and fun by having children build simple objects while blindfolded.
Design a house to withstand winter weather
Sustainable housing is the wave of the future, especially in areas where weather extremes are common. Middle and high school students can harness their collective ideas to design and build a model home, complete with features that save energy while keeping things comfortable. Have students discuss not only green energy options, but also ways the design may affect a home’s indoor ambiance. If possible, gather common building materials for students to compare so they can decide which is best for their design. Create a checklist with important aspects each design must take into account: water, electricity, comfort, and sustainability to start. click here for a sample curriculum for the lesson Green Tiny House Challenge from NC State University.
Once the designs are complete, students may discuss how their homes would fit into the terrain and economies of several major cities. Check out Redfin for a few additional real estate-based STEM lessons that also teach social studies and English
Spring into action with a fun weather project
They say April showers bring…well, you know what they say! Spring is the perfect time to discuss weather since rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine are all par for the course as Mother Nature wakes up for season. Get students excited about missing recess by making their own cloud in a jar. This simple activity requires a mason jar, tape, ice cubes, black construction paper, hot water, and a match.
Before you begin, ask your students what they think will happen when you drop a lighted match into the jar of hot water and cover with a bag of ice cubes. Record their responses and compare predictions to actual results. What should happen is the rapid temperature change creates a light mist, which is a very small-scale cloud.
These are all fun activities that teach vital academic lessons but don’t rely on electronics. They are almost guaranteed to get your students excited and engaged in their world no matter the season.