“School’s out for summer
School’s out forever”
– Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper’s rock anthem, “Schools out” has been a refrain for students for generations but just because school’s out for a few months doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. We think summer is actually the prime time for learning to really start. The less-structured, longer days of summer create a ripe environment for kids to explore the world around them, cultivate wonder and curiosity in topics of their interest and develop the intrinsic motivation to become lifelong learners. STEM activities are a great way to get that journey started. One of our goals here with the Youth Entrepreneurship team in the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at Arizona State University is to bring STEM education opportunities to youth and summer is a great time to do it.
What is STEM education?
According to LiveScience.com, “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.”
What is the benefit of STEM education?
The hands-on, real world focus of STEM activities build critical thinking and problem solving skills. It cultivates adaptation, innovation, creativity, patience, perseverance and sets the foundation for higher learning in the future. STEM education develops future inventors and entrepreneurs. Most of all, STEM activities are fun! Kids forget they are working and find they love learning.
Summer of STEM
To help you, and the young people in your life, enjoy your summer of STEM, we’ve curated resources for five weeks of STEM-filled fun. Most of the activities can be completed with items around the house or easily purchased at the grocery store. Although the activities are geared toward upper elementary and middle school aged students to explore independently, with parent, guardian or teacher support, kids as young as preschool can enjoy the fun too. From digging in the dirt to exploring outer space from the comfort of your living room, there’s something for everyone.
Let the fun begin!
Week 1: Science
- Build a solar oven out of a pizza box
- Make a cloud in a jar
- Observe and record the adventures with roly poly bugs
- Make magnetic slime
- Extract DNA from a strawberry
- Make ice cream in a bag
- Turn milk into plastic
- Build a bird’s nest
- Make a milk rainbow
Week 2: Technology
- Make a battery out of dirt
- Send the kids on a photo scavenger hunt
- Design a real life video game
- Explore outer space with NASA’s free app
- Make a stop motion animation film
- Learn to code for free with Scratch
- Use binary code to code a secret message into a beaded bracelet
- Build AR environments with a free CoSpaces account
Week 3: Engineering
- Build a simple toy zipline
- Try out these engineering challenges using cups, craft sticks and cubes
- Build a catapult using popsicle sticks
- Design a building using toothpicks and jelly beans or pretzels and marshmallows
- Find out how much weight aluminum foil boats can float
- Build a hand crank winch using recycled materials
- Design a roller coaster out of paper
- Explore why folds and flaps matter when building paper airplanes
Week 4: Math
- Code a LEGO Maze
- Explore perimeter with a magic triangle
- Play “What are the Chances’ to learn about probability
- Graph paper airplane statistics or Facebook friends birthdays
- Try out this Pythagorean Theorem Lego Proof
- Use colorful candy to explore a range of math concepts
- Play Math Football
- Miacademy: search by grade level and identify activities
Week 5 Bonus: Art!
Why not make it a STEAM-y summer? The arts naturally align with STEM learning. They spark imagination, foster creative problem solving and both the analytical and creative sides of the brain, helping to develop the best thinkers of tomorrow.
- 3D print with sand
- Learn about symmetry with a nature collage
- Make a crystal sun catcher
- Design a flip book
- Create LEGO sun prints
- Build a pantograph to scale your drawings
- Make stained glass windows using flowers
- Write a ‘choose your own adventure’ story using Inklewriter
Other STEM activity resources
Public Libraries: Many public libraries offer free in-library STEAM workshops and take-home packets filled with STEAM activities for kids.
Science and Children’s museums: Check with local museum(s) in your area to find out what kind of STEAM programs they offer, both virtual and in-person. These programs are often free and/or offer scholarships and reduced tuition to those in need.
STEM Summer Camps: Many colleges and universities around the country offer STEM focused summer programs. Most offer scholarships and reduced tuition to those in need and check out this article on The Root featuring the top 10 Stem summer camps for students of color.
Toward the end of July, the newness of summer often begins to wear off and the days can sometimes feel relentlessly long. Before streaming the next movie or allowing your kids to default to passive screen time, we encourage you to consider one of these STEM activities.
Then, as summer turns to fall and kids return to school, don’t let the STEAM-y fun stop. These activities can be great ways for parents and kids to stoke the fire of curiosity and problem solving and learn together on weekends, during school breaks and with siblings and friends. We are confident that it will be time well spent and that you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.