National STEM Day on Nov. 8 — also known as STEAM Day — offers endless opportunities to explore creativity and learning. The acronym STEAM adds art to the well-known disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Art exists in virtually every subject, even if it doesn’t appear in its traditional forms. Many would be surprised at how well the studies combine in fields like architecture, cosmetology and animation.
Teach your children to appreciate the role STEM plays in everything around them. Engineering feats, math equations and technological devices surround you daily — it can be easy to take these things for granted, but a quick refresher never hurts. Here are seven kid-friendly ways to indulge in the festivities of National STEM Day.
1. Make Rain Clouds
Create a miniature rainstorm with food coloring, shaving cream and water. Fill a clear container like a Mason jar or a drinking glass with water, and add a dollop of shaving cream on top to resemble cloud formation. Put a few drops of food coloring in the cream. It’ll soak in and enter the water in a way similar to rain falling from clouds. You can use blue food coloring, but don’t hesitate to liven it up with different colors.
Supplement the activity by explaining how clouds form and how they deposit rain and snow. You can initiate an informative conversation about the weather patterns in your local region.
2. Learn About Oxidation
Use apples and other fruits to teach younger kids about oxidation. Gather some apples and use the scientific method to have your child guess what will happen to the fruit once you cut it open. Observe the fruit’s external properties — and once you cut it, the internal characteristics — and have your child draw pictures of what it looks like. Test your child’s hypothesis by covering one apple slice in lemon juice and leaving the other bare.
Have them draw their new observations once the uncovered slice turns brown. Then, explain how the lemon juice works to keep the apple from changing colors. Lemons contain ascorbic acid, which prevents enzymes in the fruit from reacting with oxygen and browning.
3. Visit a Museum
Embark on a historic journey by visiting a STEM museum and remembering the achievements of past scientists. Seeing authoritative figures excel in their fields can encourage your child to pursue an education in STEM. The world needs advanced minds to generate solutions for societal issues like access to digital tech, global warming and more.
If no such museums exist near you, educate your kids about the field’s history through interactive presentations and activities. For example, present a lesson about the Wright Brothers by letting your child build an airplane with an age-appropriate kit and send their creation to the skies.
4. Take a Field Trip
Take your kids to a local aquarium, planetarium or nature center to get up close and personal with STEM. These educational centers are chock-full of unique learning opportunities — hop on a guided tour or explore on your own. If you have a variety of learning centers nearby, you can turn the event into an all-day field trip by visiting several of them.
If you can’t make it to one, try virtual reality alternatives. Your children can travel around the world and discover amazing sights without leaving the house. Many VR programs now come on smartphone and tablet apps for widespread accessibility.
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5. Engage in an Hour of Code
The Hour of Code event began as a way to introduce adolescents to computer science and show them how exciting it is. Some students shy away from computer science because it seems like a tricky subject, and women are vastly underrepresented in this discipline. This event aims to break down the barriers around coding and software creation and instill a love for computer programming.
The Computer Science Education Week Advisory and Review committees created this concept, along with partners like the College Board and Microsoft. The website for Hour of Code offers hundreds of free coding activities for your kids to try. Many of the lessons require no previous coding knowledge, and your child can do them alone or with help.
6. Build a Water Bottle Rocket
Create a rocket with your kids if you’re not afraid to make a little mess. Fill an empty bottle with water, but not all the way — leave some air inside. Place the bottle upside down and use a stopper to keep the water in. You’ll need a launchpad to make your ascent successful — buy one or make one of your own. Once the body and launchpad are in place, slowly increase the air pressure inside the bottle using a bicycle pump.
When you remove the stopper, the water will zoom out, propelling your spacecraft high into the air. Decorate the rocket before launch by using markers, colored paper or paint. Don’t forget to add a nose cone and fins for optimal flight — these keep the rocket stable and upright.
7. Go Stargazing
Introduce your kids to astronomy by heading to a grassy space and taking an hour or two to stargaze. You don’t need a telescope if you don’t have one, but it’ll help bring those glowing bodies into clearer focus. Aim for a location where there’s little light pollution from city lights.
You and your child can brush up on your interplanetary knowledge before the trip by researching constellations and moon phases. Bring along familiar comforts like blankets and pillows, and pack a few space-inspired snacks like galaxy cupcakes.
Celebrate National STEM Day With Innovative Learning
Try some of these fun activities with your kids and introduce them to the world of STEM. Whether they’re novices to the discipline or experienced learners, they’re bound to find something thrilling and new. Educating children educates the world — keep the ball rolling long after National STEM Day ends.