STEM Activities for Out of School Time

With technology-addiction gnawing away on attention-spans, it can be a challenge to come up with activity ideas that are exciting enough to capture the children’s fleeting attention. Including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities in your after-school activity line-up is a great way to combine learning with fun, and channel their energy into projects that pique their curiosity and reel in their attention.

For our activity roundup this week, we have scoured the internet for five fun STEM activities suitable for different age groups.

1. Elephant’s Toothpaste

The ever-popular elephant’s toothpaste is the perfect activity if you are looking to stir in chemistry with a spot of art and craft. Here’s how you can make some massive tubes of (erm, fake!) toothpaste fit for gianormous elephant teeth.

 

Things you will need:

1l soda bottles

Funnel

40% Hydrogen Peroxide -120 ml

Washing-up liquid

Food colouring

Dry Yeast

Craft Paper

Felt pens/ crayons

Glue

Safety glasses

Rubber gloves

 

How to go about it:

The first step is to make the toothpaste tube. This is where you can get the kids to unleash their creativity and design their own covers using craft paper and felt pens.

Once the covers are ready, you are all set to move on to the actual experiment. Make sure the children have their gloves and safety glasses on. Take the soda bottles and carefully pour in the hydrogen peroxide. Add a squirt of washing up liquid and a few drops of food colouring. Give the bottle a swirl to mix the contents.

Now, wrap the toothpaste covers around each bottle cover and fold the paper at the bottom to make them look like toothpaste tubes. Make sure you help the children with this step to avoid any spills or accidents.

The next step is to make a catalyst with the dry yeast. Mix the dry yeast with 4-5 tablespoons of warm water in a cup and give it a good stir. Pour the mixture into the tube and stand back to see the toothpaste squirt out of the tube.

You can check out stevespanglerscience for a detailed step-by-step guide and some great photos and videos to take you through each step.

 

2. Edible DNA

Moving on from Chemistry to Biology, this cool DNA from Carnegie Stem Girls is the perfect way to introduce 10 to 13-year-olds to the double helical structure of DNA and the concept of nucleotide base pairing.

 

Things you will need:

Coloured mini-marshmallows ( 9 each in 4 different colours)

Strawberry twisters

Toothpicks

 

How to go about it:

The strawberry twisters will form the backbones of the DNA while the marshmallows will act as the chemical bases. Assign a colour for each of the bases. For instance:

Adenine – White

Thymine –  Pink

Guanine – Green marshmallow

Cytosine – Yellow

 

Choose a random DNA sequence to follow (e.g., GAACCAATCTGG). Give the children 12 toothpicks and get them to stick one marshmallow each on each of the toothpicks following the sequence. Get them to pierce the toothpicks with the marshmallow on to a strawberry twister to make one half of the DNA.

To make the other half, get them to choose marshmallows of complementary colours to stick on the other end of the toothpicks. Remind them that A always pairs with T and G with C.  Get them to finish the sequence and finish the ladder by piercing the ends to another strawberry twister,  laid parallel to the first one.  Give the ladder a twist to form the DNA double helix.

 

3. Engineering Adventures

Engineering Adventures is a fascinating new set of activities we stumbled upon recently. This project developed by the Boston Museum of Science (in collaboration with NASA), consists of a set of exciting STEM challenges designed for out-of-school time projects and ideal for the age group of 8-11. You can find a group of ten engineering adventure challenges on their Engineering in Elementary (EiE) website.

What we love about these activities is, it takes a creative story-telling approach featuring a fictional brother-sister duo – Jacob and India – who try to solve real-world problems using engineering solutions.

For instance, the activity’ A slippery slope’ is about the duo exploring the Andes mountain and designing barriers and catches to protect a town in danger of a potential avalanche. The other modules cover a variety of similar exciting activities ranging from designing earthquake-resistant homes to creating a bubble bonanza stage show using bubble wands made from different materials.

Although the activities and instructions are available for free download, you will need to buy their material kits from their online store. You can check out the EiE website for more details.

 

4. Screen-Free Coding

Coding is all about breaking up a task into steps that are simple enough for the computer to follow. Now, the interesting part is, you don’t actually need a computer to create the logic. Lego, playing cards, monster trucks, you can use just about any materials to introduce children as young as four years old to the fascinating world of coding.

Teachyourkidscode has some great activity ideas to help you get started.

 

5. Lava Lamps

This is a simple but exciting experiment to introduce children to density and molecular polarity.

Things you will need:

1 l soda bottle

Water -3/4 cup

Vegetable Oil

Fizzing tablets (Alka Seltzer tablets)

Food colour

Measuring cup

 

How to go about it:

Pour the water into the soda bottle. Using a measuring cup, pour the oil into the bottle until it is almost full. Wait a few minutes for the oil and water to separate. Add about 10 drops of food colour into the bottle and watch the drops pass through the layer of oil to the water below. Break a fizzing tablet and drop into the bottle and observe the lava lamp effect unveil. Check out this video from sciencebob to see the amazing lamps in action.

 

You Might Also Like:

4 Easy Science Experiments for Preschoolers 

Is Sensory Play Really Worth the Mess?

 

 

 

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