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Fun & Engaging STEM activities for Kids

With an estimated 75% of jobs over the next decade predicted to demand skills linked to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), it’s more important than ever for educators to inspire and engage a love for these often challenging subjects. Check out these fun and engaging STEM activities that are simple to put into practice in the classroom.

Living things and their diversity

A fun and interactive activity is to determine the diversity of different species in your local environment. From this you can explain the importance of biodiversity, food chains and help them understand the importance of keeping records and how to make observations – both essential science skills.

Requiring only stationary to make records, this activity from the American Museum of Natural History will help students calculate the biodiversity index using their results with a simple formula.

Take a Closer Look

Allow your students to get some real hands on experience with laboratory equipment, while putting theory into practice. Microscopes are a fantastic tool to achieve this; they can even collect their own specimens from rocks, bugs and insects found outside, to everyday items such as fabrics, buttons and even hair; a commonly used sample is a piece of onion as the cells are quite clear to see and have a defined, repeating structure.

To carry out this practical experiment you will require a basic light microscope, slides and some worthy specimens. This guide from MicroscopeSpot will show you how to set up the microscope, handle specimens and provide guidance on how to get the most out of your experiments.

Photosynthesis Experiments 

The process of photosynthesis is one of the foundation principles in biology, so seeing it in action and testing what can impact the process can really help students understand the concept. There are a variety of lesson plans that can incorporate photosynthesis, including testing the effects of different colors and light exposure on plant growth.

Requiring only small plants and pots and a few colored plastic cups, these activities authored by Flora Richards-Gustafson make explaining this routine process fun and interactive.

Osmosis in action

Osmosis is the process by which a low concentration of solvent moving through a semipermeable membrane to an area with a higher concentration of solute. This can be a challenging concept to get students to grasp, so by providing a visual queue in the form of a potato going through the process can be a valuable learning tool.

For this straightforward experiment you will need a bag of potatoes and other very basic equipment. This experiment from Udemy is simple to follow and provides full instructions to make an engaging demonstration.

Demonstrate How Charged Particles Work

Electricity can be a hard concept for many kids to understand, so, demonstrate how negative and positive charged particles interact using the simple balloon experiment. Rubbing a balloon over your hair creates static – this involves hair becoming negatively charged as a result of electrons being taken from the hair, leaving them, positively charged.

To carry out this experiment requires inflated balloons and the hair on their head, check out this comprehensive lesson plan by Science Kids. But, be warned, a static shock may result, but don’t be too concerned, it’s just the electrons that have accumulated on the body being released.

The Nature of Light

Learning about the electromagnetic spectrum and the characteristics of visible light are two very important foundation principles in physics. The theory’s can become quite complex, but believe it or not, the basics can be taught at a very young age, which will ultimately help them all throughout their academic life.

Simple experiments such as creating an artificial rainbow using a prism allows them to see a part of the electromagnetic spectrum; while refraction and reflection can be taught using simple demonstrations involving water and mirrors. This guide details some simple yet effective light science exercises for kids.

Engineer a Rocket 

An inexpensive and effective way to inspire your students to become engineers and see their own creation come to life, is the pressure propelled water rocket project. This can incorporate some major principles of engineering – aerodynamic design, pressure and friction. While designing their rocket, they will be challenged to think about aerodynamics in order to make a rocket that travels through the air effectively.They will then see the final product in action, powered by the principle of air pressure and friction.

This experiment is very simple to execute, requiring only basic materials such as a plastic bottle, a rubber bung and a regular bike valve. This guide by The Naked Scientists provides a more in-depth look on the underpinning theories and how to construct and propel the rocket.

Practical Math

Just like electricity, math as a concept can be quite divisive, children either take to it easily or they take a bit longer as it can seem quite abstract at first. To get kids enthusiastic and to maintain their interests, math needs to be made fun and interactive whilst showing its practical applications in everyday life.

Fortunately plenty of fun activates incorporate math and show children the importance of its use. For example cooking is the use of measurements and fractions to work out the amount of ingredients you need for certain portion sizes. A great recommendation is the use of cupcakes as they are simple to make, you can upscale and downscale batches by using different amounts of ingredients and then when they’re baked it doubles up as a creative activity for them!

Kids also love to play shop, the value and use of money is such an incredibly important concept that is sure to impact their future. They can put math into practice by playing with pretend money and toy groceries taking it in turns to be shop keeper. You can even make it competitive and more group-orientated by asking the kids to give their answer on how much change should be given from the amount paid, and those with the correct answer could be rewarded with a healthy snack from the store!

Jude McLean

Education World Contributor