STEM

Family Stem Night

About to start planning our annual Family Stem Night at our elementary school. What are some activities that you have done at your school that the families enjoyed and all ages could participate in?

Ashleigh Duclos
Ashleigh Duclos
455 Activity Points

Sounds fun Ashleigh! I'll share a few things that seemed the most successful from our attempts, however, our events were a little more tailored to adding STEM/STEAM to a Science Night. Our examples are light in the way of authentic problem solving. Though to be honest, I'm not sure a one night event, especially including many ages and novice levels is really that conducive to fully exploring the STEM process from identifying an authentic problem to walking through the design process towards sollutions. 

Since it is nearly December, it could be great to hightlight the Hour of Code. You probably know that at Code.org there are many levels of coding, notablly for very young and early "coders" up to advanced learners. Along with computer use (sometimes done with screen projection so many people could collaberate at once), we also included offline coding activities. The classrooms at our school had 1-foot square tiles so we could have participants code each other's movement to targeted parts in a room (a "forward" command was one tile). Without tiles, markers or tape could be laid down in a grid pattern. Also in that activity room we had students learn binary and allowed them to make a name braclet--first letter of their name--using colored beads (one color for on, one color for off). For everyone who visited the room, we stressed the importance of problem solving and communication.

In another room, participants worked up to the activity of making tin foil boats. First, as they entered, participants were instructed to take part in the imagine stage and draw their boat design that they would later be able to make out of tin foil. Before they were able to make their design though, they had to complete two activities. The first activity was using a penny and a water dropper and guessing how many drops of water the penny can hold to learn about/review surface tension. The second activity was for participants to make a copper, water-strider by twisting three copper wires together in the middle and curving the legs. This was a little challenging for young students. Some of our older students designed paper sails for their metalic insects and raced each other using a plastic tub and a fan. Finally, participants were asked to review thier boat design and make any changes they wanted. They could then make tin foil boats and fill them to sinking points with penny weights. This activity area focused on desgin practices and making purposeful changes.

A third room explored potential and kinetic energy. Using rubber/sylicone exercise bands, students were able to draw their body or parts of their body against the band to feel the energy pushing against them. Particpants then went to a station that had a variety of athletic balls (golf ball, tennis ball, basketball) and could explore dropping them from various heights and recording the return bounce. After the bouncing measurments and discussions of increasing potential energy, students could explore rolling marbles down inclines. We wanted this to be designed by each participant using cut pool noodles but ended up having static courses for them to explore. (There was a branch off area for older students that included using action figures and rubber bands to "maximize the thrill" for Wonder Woman and Spider-Man as they bungee jumped as close to the floor as possible. Here the older students were also encouraged to work with measurements and equations provided to them.) Finally, students were given materials--rubberbands, popscicle sticks, tape, glue, and milk caps--to construct a catapult with the objective of launching miniture marshmallows towards targets. (Younger participants were given step-by-step instructions for building but encouraged to re-design / older students were given materials only--though they often looked at younger friends designs!). This area tried to focus on using materials to solve a specific problem (for the catapults, we created a story in which food supplies needed to be delivered from three varying distance points, or supply factories, to an island surrounded by pirate ships; this meant students had to vary the energy used to draw back their designed catapults and some students created multiple models based on the distance the supply needed to travel).

The final area was an expression of one teacher's love of Bernoulli! She wanted to have her area in the gymnasium not only because her activities needed a lot of space but also so that she could make sports connections throughout the participants' explorations. She began by having particpants demonstrate Bernoulli's Rule using sheets of paper (blow underneath, blow over the top, blow between two sheets; each time predicting what would happen before trying). Then she had students make the cup fliers: tape two plastic cups together bottom-to-bottom, then spin out with a rubberband string causing the air pressure

Erick McGinley
Erick McGinley
720 Activity Points

During stem nights I have participated with the local college, they have brought out an inflatiable observetory for the students to learn about astronomy which has been a big hit!

Madeleine Williams
Madeleine Williams
170 Activity Points

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