Many people do not realize that STEM education can take place outside of the home or the school. STEM learning can literally happen anywhere, at any time, with any resources that are available. Yes, STEM learning can even take place on your scheduled summer vacation with the family. If you are currently planning a trip and would like to work in a few fun STEM activities, consider scheduling in the activities listed below.
Playing with Your Food Is a Great Learning Opportunity
Many children are drawn to playing with their food. This prompts parents and loved ones to constantly feel a need to ask their children to not play with their food or to eat their food quickly. This type of scolding could accidentally teach children to overeat, eat too quickly, or pout to get their own way. Instead of instinctively asking or telling children to stop playing with their food, ask them to build something with it. This type of action will get children thinking about how to use the space on their plate efficiently, how to creatively manage their food with the materials that they have, and will give children the creative outlet for their excess energy that parents and loved ones so desperately need.
Be A Creative Story-Telling Tour Guide
You have likely been in a situation where you have gone on some sort of tour and gotten bored out of your mind simply by reading placards and signs with details that you do not understand or relate to. Why not take your children on a hike and come up with your own unique tour? You could talk about how the trees in the forest grow, why the sky is blue, what kind of fish live in the river, and a little about whatever attractions you may see along the way.
Play STEM Bingo in The Car
Not all STEM learning has to be done in a hands-on activity. You could create different cards with different STEM-related topics and put them into an ever-popular game of Bingo. Hand each child or family member, not the driver of course, their own unique card or have them make their own with your guidance. You could include such things as “electric car”, “bridge”, and “garden (or farm)”. Once someone yells “Bingo”, reward them with a creative STEM-related gift of your choice and play again.
The “Mystery Bag” Challenge
Have you ever wondered what children would do with a simple bag of random objects? This could be your opportunity to find out. Simply gather a bunch of random objects around the house: paper clips, rubber bands, pencils, string, pipe cleaners, beads, and whatever other objects you would like to include. Put these items in an opaque bag and pack them for your vacation. When the children start to get rowdy or have a little more energy than you can deal with, pull out the bag and ask them to create something with the contents inside. You can include the same items in each bag if you have multiple children, or include two completely different sets of items and encourage them to be creative.
Build Cup Structures
Like many families, if you are packing items to go camping, to the beach, or for a picnic, you’re likely going to have cups and silverware to help you eat. This is the perfect time to let the children play with the cups, their unique building properties, and their weaknesses under certain conditions. The best part about this is that the cups can still be used once they have had a quick rinsing and you did not have to pack any sort of building blocks or toys to create extra clutter in your already packed vehicle.
Build Sand Castles
What child, or adult for that matter, doesn’t love to build a good sand castle at the beach? There is a reason that they picture sand castles on sunblock packages, on television commercials, and on beach towels. Sand castles are fun to build. If you love sand castles too, then you’ll love teaching why the sand sticks to itself when you add water to it. How to build castles with intricate structures so that they don’t naturally fall, or sand’s unique properties to get stronger when a small amount of water is added and weaker when a lot of water is added.
Talk About What Lives Where and Why
This is an activity that you can do in your own backyard, at the beach, at a campground, or in the middle of a lake, river, or ocean. Truly, you can do this activity in any location at any time of year. You could talk about the fish, the birds, the insects, and the reptiles that live at the beach for example, and how each of those living organisms interact with each other to live in a place that humans might find difficult. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about the food chain and cause and effect scenarios.
Make A Solar-Powered Charger
Solar-powered energy sources are renewable and have no negative impact on the environment while in use. Use history of solar-powered energy to teach why solar power is important, how it was discovered, and how it can be used by anyone. You can do a simple internet search on “how to build a solar-powered charger” for phones, tablets, lights, or other devices and create a device of your very own. If budgeting, you could even do this for a very little amount of money. Not only will children find this fun, they will also be able to use the devices that they create- you can even challenge them to make the solar-powered charger well by telling them that they cannot bring their normal chargers.
Learn A New Survival Technique
If you are the type of family that loves to enjoy nature during the summer, then you have plenty of opportunities to teach multi-purposeful survival techniques. You can teach children the importance of taking water from ponds, rivers, and lakes and boiling it to make it safe and drinkable- teach them that harmful things that they can’t see live in the water and could make them sick if they don’t boil the water first. You can teach children how to use science to make a campfire either with flint or with friction if they need to ever make their own fire. You could even teach your children to track animals, forage for edible plants, or make tools that they could use in camp.
Summer vacations is a wonderful opportunity for families to go out and explore the world from a different perspective. Most people partake in many of the activities listed above without realizing that they teach or solidify STEM concepts. Making yourself, your children, or your loved ones aware of these ways in which they can enrich their learning in fun ways helps to teach that learning can always be a fun and exciting part of life. So, go ahead and indulge in your family vacation filled with incredibly exciting STEM education related activities.