What STEM activities to try
The acronym STEM stands for an educational concept that aims to stimulate children’s interest in science. Incorporate it into your curriculum and who knows, your class might just be the future scientific aces.
The future holds a number of complex challenges. To tackle them, we will need experts in mathematics, design and innovative technologies. It is high time to get children excited about science. Ideally right from kindergarten.
Benefits of STEM activities
The primary purpose of STEM is purely pragmatic; to build a positive relationship with science and technology in children through play. And since play is an important means of healthy development for children in the preschool period, STEM activities additionally support development in these areas:
- Cognitive development:
children are inquisitive, they want to try everything out for themselves. Offer them interesting STEM activities. They will play and you will know they are learning at the same time. They’ll be exposed to the basics of science while still developing creativity and critical thinking skills.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment:
The great thing about STEM activities is that they give room to experiment. Children have the opportunity to explore and try new things. And because they care more about the process than the perfect outcome, they don’t have to be afraid to make mistakes. If something goes wrong, they just try again.
- Socio-emotional development:
to complete some tasks, children have to make some effort and show perseverance. And when they work in groups, they learn to cooperate, take turns, communicate and resolve disagreements.
- Physical development:
STEM activities require active engagement; a worksheet and pencil are not enough. Children have the opportunity to feel everything in practice while training fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Ideas for STEM activities
While it is offered, you don’t have to buy new, expensive construction kits and programmable smart toys for STEM education. What you already have in your classroom, what’s available in every supermarket, or what you find on a walk outside will do. All you need is an idea of how to elevate these ordinary things into material for all sorts of experiments. And since we’re not short of ideas, we’re happy to share them with you:
- Meter of Lego
Let children measure the length and width of different toys using Lego blocks. Simply stack the same sized Lego blocks in a line along a laid toy and count them at the end.
- Shadow building
Place paper on the ground and build a jagged building with several blocks on the edge of the paper. Shine a flashlight on the building so that it casts a shadow on the paper and trace around it. Then demolish the building and invite the children to try to rebuild it according to the drawing.
- Bridge over the river
Put a long strip of blue paper on the ground, this will be the river. Invite the children to build a bridge across the river using Lego bricks or perhaps paper cups and wooden spatulas. Then you can work together to see if the bridge is stable enough to hold the small figures, or how many can fit on the bridge.
- Rain cloud in a jar
Mix some water with blue food coloring and set aside for now. Fill the jar ¾ full with clean water and spray a large mound of shaving foam on the surface as a cloud. Let the children scoop the blue water into a pipette and slowly drip it onto the cloud of foam. After a few minutes, the cloud will begin to release blue raindrops.
- A walking rainbow
Line up 7 clear glasses in a row. Fill the first, third, fifth and seventh glass with water. Mix a teaspoon of red food coloring in the first and seventh jars, a teaspoon of yellow food coloring in the third jar, and a teaspoon of blue food coloring in the fifth jar. Tear off 6 paper towels from the roll and fold each of the longer sides into a strip. Fold the strips in half and, if necessary, shorten them so that they extend from one glass to the other, nicely all the way to the bottom but just over the rim at the top. Connect the jars with the paper strips and watch as the empty jars fill with water and the colors mix until a whole rainbow is formed.
- Anatomy of plants
In the garden or on a walk, collect different plants, ideally with roots. Then break them down into flowers, leaves, stems and roots. Give the children a magnifying glass so they can look at everything in detail.
- An erupting volcano
Pour a handful of baking soda and some food coloring into an empty plastic bottle, fill it about 1/3 full with water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid for extra effect. Screw for now and build a sand volcano around the bottle. Then unscrew the cap, pour a cup of vinegar into the bottle and step back. Watch as the chemical reaction causes the volcano to erupt and spew lava.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to aspire to be a scientist right away. Simply practice pre-math ideas with your children in a playful way, show them a few chemical reactions, introduce them to the basic laws of physics or simply observe the nature around you. It all counts.
17. 5. 2023 | Martina Zatloukalová