I was lucky to go to a senior school which focussed heavily on the sciences with more science than arts classes at A level, so I’m thrilled that the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) is getting more profile generally, particularly for girls. Thanks to our school, many of my female school friends are very successful doctors.
So I’m thrilled to have the amazing Suzie Olsen on my blog today. Suzie is a systems engineer in Phoenix, Arizona. She currently works on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard. She is also the author of Annie Aardvark, Mathematician and creator of the blog STEM Spark. Suzie’s spark is to encourage students, especially girls and minorities, to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She lives with her husband and child, performing STEM experiment after STEM experiment with her own kid. Please do check out her website – it’s fantastic.
I asked Suzie to pull together three easy STEM activities we can all try with our kids. Enjoy!
STEM Adventures are Everywhere
In my book, Annie Aardvark, Mathematician, the main character Annie loves math so much that she decides she’s going to have a math adventure while she forages! She finds different things to count as she hunts for her daily meal, ending with ten ants. Annie exclaims, “What a fun math adventure! I can’t wait until my next one!” And just like Annie, you and your children can have a fun STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) adventure anywhere you go! Below are a couple of different ideas for your STEM adventure.
Whether in the city or nature, there’s a couple of different ways to have an engineering adventure. The first is look for a problem to solve: is there an area in your neighborhood that needs improving or fixing? Is there an animal having an issue with collecting food? Is there human or animal congestion where you are at? Is trash gathering in one place on the ground? Try engaging your kids in an impromptu brainstorm on different ideas on how to fix the problem, and then decide which idea is the best one for fixing the issue. Give it a twist by qualifying during the brainstorm how the best idea will be judged (such as “What’s the most fun way to fix this problem?”) If possible, try building the solution, put it in the problem area and test it. Did it work? Did it reduce or eliminate the problem? (This process is called the engineering design process.) Another fun engineering adventure is to collect different materials from where you and your kids are, like trash, sticks, stones, forks, plates, and so on and try building a mini-house out of these materials. Can you get the house to stand alone? And if so, how long does the house stand?
Science Collection Adventure
A flower or leaf collection is a fun way to have a science adventure when you and your children are out and about. Your child could carry around a reusable bag and every time they see a leaf or flower they don’t have, they can gather it up and put it in their bag. Then once home, you and your child can dry the leaf and flower and glue it into a scrapbook. You can research online together the name of the flower or tree that the leaf came from and then label it in the scrapbook. Of course, be wary of poison leaves (like Poison Ivy) or flowers (like Oleanders) and make sure you have permission before plucking a flower or leaf off a tree (anything found on the ground is probably okay).
Math Counting Adventure
Whether taking a walk around your neighborhood or hiking a trail in the mountains, children can count the objects they come across, just like Annie did in her first math adventure. If it’s a familiar or frequent route, try creating a pre-made checklist going from 1 specific item up to 10 specific items they must count (or just impromptu count whatever they see). Items you can have your kids count while they’re on their walk include rocks, flowers, weeds, birds, lizards, other types of animals, insects, leaves, clouds, people, airplanes/vehicles, buildings, trees, and so on. There’s no limit of what kind of item they count, so as long as they’re having fun hunting for that item and counting it!
Wherever you and your children may be, I hope you have a fun time on your STEM adventure! Happy STEM’ing!