By Teachers, For Teachers
STEM is education for students that concentrates on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It has even evolved to STEAM, which includes art education. This approach to education combines multiple disciplines and is applied in its nature. STEM activities provide students with opportunities for critical and design thinking, as well as helps to develop observation skills. Additionally, it helps students to develop coping skills as they must follow the engineering design process, and when one design fails, they must create a new one. With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, here are some easy STEM activities you can try in your class.
St. Patrick’s Day activities can be fun and educational. For this activity, students can use basic chemistry to create a rainbow pot full of fizzing color. Simply use a small black pot (you can probably find this at the Dollar Store), and fill it with baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring for a fun, rainbow explosion! If you are really daring, you can add glitter into the mixture or even put a gold coin in it for a surprise!
Students can use a few simple ingredients to create rainbow or shamrock crystals. To create a rainbow crystal, students can use pipe cleaners to create a rainbow and then put the rainbow in a container of boiling water and Borax mixture. Leave the pipe cleaner rainbow in the mixture for twenty-four hours and the crystals will form around the rainbow. You can do something similar for a shamrock crystal, but you may even find a plastic Shamrock cutout and use that to create a shamrock crystal.
You can use water, food coloring, salt or sugar, a dropper, and a thin tube or straw to complete this activity. In various plastic cups you can make different salt/sugar water solutions with different densities. Use the same amount of water in each cup, but make one cup with no salt/sugar, one with 2 scoops of salt/sugar, one with 5 scoops, and one with 8 scoops. Stir until the solute is fully dissolved and add food coloring. Use a dropper to layer the solutions in a straw with the densest solution on the bottom.
To add another twist, create the solutions for the students and have them determine the densities of the solutions by layering them properly. Students can keep track on a data sheet to determine the correct order to make a rainbow with colors separated and solutions layered according to density.
Another simple STEM activity is to create a solution of water and green food coloring in a jar and place a white carnation into the jar. As the carnation naturally absorbs water from the jar through its stem, the white petals will turn green and be a pretty gift for students to bring home and show off their STEM skills!
A favorite among the children! In order to make this, you need the following ingredients: half a teaspoon of baking soda, green food coloring, 3 cups of shaving cream foam, half a cup of white PVA glue, 1 tablespoon of saline solution, glitter, a mixing spoon, and a large bowl to mix it in!
Put the shaving cream, glue, and food coloring in first and stir; then stir in the baking soda; finally, mix in the saline solution until the slime pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You should continue to knead the slime to create the right consistency, and this is where you can add in glitter to jazz it up! The more food coloring you add in step one, the greener your slime will be!
You will need dull and old pennies, white vinegar, salt, two bowls, and paper towels. You need to fill one bowl with ¼ cup of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt and the other with water. Place pennies in the vinegar solution and let sit for about 15-20 seconds. When you remove these pennies, rinse them off in the second bowl full of water, and then lay them on a paper towel to dry.
Take a second set of pennies and place them in the vinegar solution, and remove them and place immediately on a separate paper towel. You will see that the unrinsed pennies will develop a blue-green film as the copper atoms from the penny combine with the chlorine from the salt and oxygen from the air to form malachite. This is what makes the Statue of Liberty have its “green” color. It creates a teachable moment and allows you to integrate some social studies into your lesson, too!
You can use popsicle sticks, rubber bands, bottle caps, and glue to create catapults to launch the gold coins at the end of the rainbow! Students can work to create the catapult that will launch the coins the farthest. Coins are loaded into the bottle cap and launched off the popsicle stick and rubber band catapult you create. You can then incorporate measurement into your lesson to see whose catapult has the most power and launches the coins the farthest.
STEM activities require students to use critical thinking skills, problem solve, and think outside-of-the-box. The activities are hands-on and require students to use inquiry skills. Many of the activities mentioned above are simple and require little set-up. There are many great resources online to find STEM activities. All the activities mentioned above are projects that I or a fellow educator have tried in combination with ideas found on Little Bins for Little Hands.
Also, the STEM activities align with many of the new NGSS standards. As Albert Einstein stated, “If you’ve never failed, then you’ve never tried anything new.” STEM requires students to design and redesign different ideas. A design that is a failure is one step closer to the solution.
Jessica is a 5th grade teacher and holds an MA in Administration and Leadership from Georgian Court University, NJ.