How STEAM activities can nourish the soul, and ideas for you to try at home!
What are STEAM activities and why are they important? Megalosaurus footprints outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Hampton Court Palace Maze. The Enigma collection at Bletchley Park. They all have something in common – STEAM.
What are STEAM activities?
STEAM activities have long been recognised as being behind some of the world’s finest innovations. First comes the idea – putting a man on the moon – then comes the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.
Sometimes seen as separate subjects, each of these five fields of learning can blend together to produce creative, thoughtful solutions to an array of challenges. From everyday problems to those that seem like a pipe dream. Typical STEAM activities will utilise both logical and creative thinking. Where does it all start? With a love of learning and an enthusiasm for exploring and asking questions.
Why is STEAM important?
STEAM activities offer opportunities for us all, but especially children, to problem solve and work as part of a team. They also exercise curiosity whilst developing the creative and scientific minds of the future! Have you ever seen the Golden Gate Bridge or a photo of it and wondered how it withstands the elements? Working with materials such as paper and cardboard can demonstrate what makes, or doesn’t make, a strong structure. What about chemistry? Making slime shows not only how molecules can combine to create something new, but also that substances can’t always be returned to their original component parts.
Another quality of sharing STEAM activities is the concentration and in the moment focus that they encourage. When immersed with their exploratory learning, children are very engaged with what they are doing. Their awareness of what is happening is heightened as they watch for results and consider any necessary alterations.
We know from years of experience that children at GO GO Makers look forward to STEAM at camp! They get so excited to find out what they will be doing in the session, and we always try to mix it up so that there is variation each day. This is key, there are so many ideas that can be enjoyed.
Through our sessions we notice that STEAM activities have a fantastic impact. They allow children to be “hands on” and free to experiment. Thinking, problem solving, communicating and reflecting on what they have done, how they did it, what happened and the result, becomes a hot topic!
Activities to try at home
Whilst we love sharing STEAM activities with the children at camp, there are many opportunities for exploring these fields of learning at home as well. We know that sometimes it’s nice to have ideas for filling time on rainy days or quiet weekends, so we’re sharing some of our favourites below. If you try them out, please let us know how you get on!
STEAM activities to try with 4 to 7 year olds
This is so much fun and can be altered to suit you and your child. For example, you don’t need to use a marble, you could use a ping pong ball instead. Or size up and take your run outside using a tennis ball. The ball should be rolling in a downwards direction through what is effectively a maze. You can make use of a variety of tubs or cardboard rolls to produce an inexpensive marble run. Make a hole in the bottom of a plastic bottle and take the lid off, and that could be used as an element of the marble run too. Consider what makes the marble roll quickly, and how it could be slowed down without stopping it. What best holds the elements of the run together? Does the structure need any extra support? Let your child’s imagination run wild!
Bubble wands are often seen being used during the summer months in parks, with some really big bubbles being created! Making a wand at home is easy. You can start with something small, perhaps twist a pipe cleaner into a circle and have a bit leftover to use as a handle. Alternatively, cut the bottom off a plastic bottle. Dip the cut end into the bubble solution and blow through the lid end of the bottle to avoid sharp edges. Voila – bubbles! You could even make a bubble wand using twigs and twine. See which makes the best bubbles and consider the criteria for determining that!
Build a bridge with paper and cardboard
This is a classic STEAM activity for children. Using paper and cardboard, create a stable bridge. Remember to supervise younger children if using scissors. Try adding paperclips for weight at the bottom. You could encourage them to experiment with what their bridge can hold, from a small piece of paper through to a toy car.
The easiest way to make gloop is by mixing cornflour and water together at a ratio of 2:1. It’s not an exact science though, so you can have fun with adding more flour or more water and seeing what happens to your gloop. Get really messy by adding food colouring and experimenting with colour mixing at the same time. You might want to make sure that you use an old tablecloth and an apron for that bit though to protect surfaces and clothing.
STEAM activities really don’t have to cost much or be complicated and this one is a perfect example. All you need is some sparkling water, a few raisins and a glass. Fill the glass with the sparkling water and drop the raisins in. You will only need half a dozen raisins for this experiment. Watch as the bubbles start to gather around the raisins, eventually causing each one to rise up. As the bubbles of gas disperse, the raisins fall down again.
STEAM activities to try with 8 to 11 year olds
Code breaking is a lot of fun and can really help to exercise our logical, problem-solving thinking. Make up the code yourself and write simple sentences to be cracked by your child. Try using numbers in place of letters. Or perhaps morse code which will help your child to learn a new skill at the same time. Get them to make a code for you to crack too! If you get stuck for ideas, Twinkl normally have a few free sheets that you can take a look at.
Build a tower with spaghetti and marshmallows
This is much like the building a bridge suggestion above, except a little more tricky. Dried spaghetti is brittle and easily broken, so extra care needs to be taken when attaching it to the marshmallows. These become the corner stones of the structure, holding all the pieces of spaghetti together. How tall is each tower? What happens if you use a mix of marshmallow sizes, from giant ones to regular to mini?
Create a stop motion video
Have a look at the app store on your iPhone or Android device to find a free stop motion movie app. Creativity is at the heart of this activity, as well as needing a steady hand whilst the frames are being recorded. Your child can have a lot of fun not just making the film but imagining the story. Perhaps they could draw a story board out first, and encourage them to think about the environment that they are shooting in – is it on a desk or out in the garden? What props will they use and do they need to make any? What about sound effects?
Elastic band car
Elastic bands go back a long way – they were first created in the 1800s. Often used to hold multiple objects together, they can also be a source of kinetic energy. An elastic band car is a great way to demonstrate this. Try using cardboard or lolly pop sticks to make the car, with bottle tops as wheels. Wind the elastic band around the car’s axle, then let it go and watch as it is propelled forwards. The energy is stored in the band and released as it unwinds. It’s a great way to demonstrate physical forces whilst having fun.
Make a parachute using different materials
This is another STEAM activity which is simple to do whilst being good fun. Find a box or a tube, some string and something to use as a parachute. This could be a bin bag, a fat quarter, or even a piece of paper. Hang the box or tube from the material using your string and experiment with which material works best as a parachute. You could time how quickly each one descends, and see what happens with different weights attached.
There are opportunities to experiment with STEAM activities all around us. Trying out a new recipe, building with Lego, even playing Monopoly. I hope that the above ideas add to your catalogue of things to try and most importantly of all, that you have a lot of fun with them.