Brian, a 10-year old Boston middle school student, puts down a clear glass jar on the table. He fills the bottom with yellow corn syrup, followed by green dish soap and then water with blue food coloring. Each layer rests on top of the last, making a colorful liquid rainbow. “Whoa,” Brian says in amazement. “How does it do that?” His science teacher doesn’t answer him because this density experiment isn’t performed at school – it’s done in Brian’s kitchen with his mom.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is gaining momentum across the nation and it’s no wonder: at the current rate of STEM job growth, our nation will need one million more STEM professionals than it can produce within the next decade. We need to start educating our kids today for jobs in the future.
You can help prepare your children for the future by encouraging them to participate in hands-on STEM activities to learn essential 21st century skills that are necessary for school success and beyond. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a STEM guru or even purchase expensive gadgets. In fact, most do-it-yourself STEM activities require minimal material, which you probably already have at home. Start by finding out what interests your child. Below are some easy, but impactful, ideas.
Science: Get your Slime on
Colored slime, glow in the dark slime, glitter slime – the creations are limitless. Slime is a great example of how to make STEM enjoyable and interesting while learning about scientific principles that can be applied inside and outside of the home. Here’s a basic recipe for slime to get goo-ing.
Technology: Make a video
Technology is an amazing thing, and most of us can’t imagine life without television, smartphones, or the internet. Tap into the technology interests of your child. If he’s really into animation or videos, focus on do-it-yourself STEM activities that are easily relatable and enjoyable, such as working with animation apps or software (tip: many libraries have multimedia centers that are loaded with software programs and other resources).
Engineering: take the bridge building challenge
Have your child design a bridge and then construct it using popsicle sticks, toothpicks, glue, paper towel rolls, cardboard, and any other material you have on hand. Test how much weight the bridge can withstand and then think of different designs to make it even stronger. Check out Busy Kids, Happy Mom for more instructions about this activity.
Math: Get Baking!
Baking is one of the best ways to teach children about math and science. As you follow a recipe, your child will learn basic math vocabulary and measurement skills. Use this opportunity to explore measurement conversions and other math computations, including fractions, while you roll out pizza dough or bake chocolate chip cookies. If your child enjoys science, mix in facts about chemical and physical reactions that occur during baking, like using yeast to make bread dough rise or using heat to melt butter. Try some of these delicious recipes from the CitySprouts 2017 Cookbook.
For more information about do-it-yourself STEM activities, do a search online, ask your child’s teacher, check out books from the library, or get creative and come up with your own ideas – the possibilities are endless and the rewards are long-lasting.
Also, read more about the future of STEM in Greater Boston and local programs that are making great strides in educating our region’s youth.