Hooray for STEM (and STEAM) day! Although it technically stands for science, technology, engineering and math (plus arts in STEAM), it’s much more than just disparate subjects, but a point of view. Through the lens of STEM, kids learn how to think critically, solve problems, work together and question everything, not only in math or science, but in any subject — and even in life! It’s worth mentioning that with the right tools and an open mind, this approach to learning is suitable for kids of any age. With that in mind, here are five different ways to get curious — and geeky! — with STEM all year, not just on Nov. 8.
1. Be a Citizen Scientist
Did you know that little old you can actually help scientists conduct research? Yes! Anyone can be a citizen scientist. You can actually start helping out the folks at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) right now by just poking around your neighborhood and being curious. All you really need to do is keep your eyes open and record what you see. Right now, NHMLAC is asking for help in studying local spiders, bats, reptiles and amphibians. Get the lowdown on how to get started exploring from NHMLAC’s manager of Community Science, Miguel Ordeñana.
2. Make Your Own Gear to Blast Off to the Moon
In this out of this world activity from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the dream of visiting the Moon can be a reality! Using household items like paper bags, plastic bottles and aluminum foil, kids can make their own astronaut gear including a helmet and air pack. Once they’re all suited up, count down from 10 together and blast off from an imaginary rocket made from a cardboard box. Making the lunar surface is easy: just drape a sheet over some pillows or cushions and let kids explore, trying to imitate how astronauts might move on the Moon (the activity suggests more complicated setup, but keeping it simple at home is completely okay and if you don’t have the exact materials, getting creative is part of the fun). Feeling extra enterprising? Make Moon rocks with pieces of foam or crumpled paper to scatter around and examine them together. You can also sing “Goin’ on a Moon Walk” as you roam.
3. Make Giant Bubbles!
You’ve never seen bubbles this big before. Using a few simple household items like a tray, yarn and a wire hanger with these instructions from the Exploratorium, you can make gigantic bubbles that will blow your mind. Talk about the shape of the bubble as you blow it versus when you free it from the hoop. Not to burst your bubble, but it’s probably a good idea to do this activity outside, unless you want your living room covered in suds.
4. Visit — and Color! — Radio Telescopes Around the World
Feeling a little down? These coloring sheets from the Green Bank Observatory featuring famous radio telescopes from around the world will have things looking up in a flash. As you color, consider looking up each telescope and learning more about what it does, where it’s located and why you think it’s there. Hint: They help us explore stars, black holes and even other galaxies!
5. Program Your Own Stories and Games
Coding may sound advanced, but thanks to a few smarties at the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab and the Playful Invention Company, it’s easy enough for a 5-year-old to learn. With ScratchJr, kids can program their own stories and games as well as learn how to design projects. Kids also have the option to play around and do their own thing or follow any of these activities. There is also another version for older kids, Scratch. Please note that ScratchJr is only available for tablets and Chromebooks for now.
These activities were curated from resources shared by the National Science Foundation. Find more stories about transforming the world through science on Science Matters.
Frances Zazueta contributed to this article.