STEM @ Home

STEM @ Home

The STEM Center is committed to providing science, technology, engineering, and math activities to learners in southern Illinois whether you can reach us or not! Our STEM @ Home series is written for K-12 students in the St. Louis Metro East area but these links and activities can be used by anyone who wants to learn. Each week we have a particular theme with activity options for different age groups, as well as multimedia resources to facilitate the type of learning that engages students. If you want to contribute a picture to our series or send questions to our educators, you can post to our Facebook page.

You can also connect with us on Instagram @stem.siue and on Twitter @siuestem

STEM @ Home activities are adapted from research-based curricula, so you can be sure you’re providing high quality STEM education for your child that is also fun and engaging. Designed to be done at home, materials needed for these activities are things that you likely have in your home already. You and your child can do each week’s lessons as independent activities, or they can be done throughout the week as continuous learning for an ongoing project. All of the activities need someone to help guide or get your child started, often children can work on the activities on their own without direct supervision. These activities are similar to cooking recipes; the activity may be an hour, but only 20 minutes might be “active” cooking time. As with all great learning, the majority of the effort and time should be on the student, not you, the teacher.

Learning about Weather Patterns

This week’s activities celebrate the beginning of spring by helping kids explore changing weather patterns! Set up your own personal at-home weather monitoring station and prepare to have an everyday learning activity while you social distance and learning more about the world.

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

Temperature and Solar Stills: In this activity, kids will learn to track weather and outdoor temperatures. They’ll use this knowledge to learn about precipitation, condensation, and build a passive water purification system.

Under Pressure: In this activity, kids learn about air pressure and how it affects the weather. Kids will make their own barometer, track air pressure data, and then forecast the weather by both reading weather charts and using their barometer. Kids also learn how clouds are formed and make clouds.

Measuring the Wind: In this activity, kids build their own weathervanes and a tool to measure wind speed, called an anemometer. Kids will also explore engineering design skills and add to their home weather monitoring station.

Learning about Eggs!

This week’s activities explore the wonders of eggs! Using eggs and household items, learn about diffusion, chemical concentrations, engineering, crystalline structures, and make bioplastics! After what feels like an eternity at home, spice up those eggs sitting in your fridge and learn along the way.

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

Egg Shell Experimenting: In this activity, kids use eggshells to learn about how foods can affect your teeth. After emptying an egg of its contents without breaking it, kids test the strength of the eggshell, then use egg shells to grow crystals from cleaning supplies.

Protect Your Eggs: In this activity, kids develop ways to protect hard boiled eggs. Using items found around the kitchen, kids will design and build engineered devices to protect their eggs for an “egg drop.” Alternatively, they can build a bioplastic helmet to protect their eggs when they roll them down a ramp. After putting their engineered designs to the test, kids learn where their egg cracked by dyeing them.

Learning about Backyard Ecology

This week’s activities explore backyard ecology! Learn about the biological community of plants and animals living all around you while staying at home. These activities place students in the shoes of naturalists and botanists as they observe, record, draw, and investigate the plants, animals, and fungi living all around them. Take part in citizen science with the iNaturalist app and start an ongoing game of real world Pokemon Go as you collect all the living things you share your ecosystem with!

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

The Backyard Naturalist: In this activity, kids train their eyes to see nature’s details. Kids draw the details of the plants and animals that they see around them just as Charles Darwin did. After drawing plants and animals as a whole, kids dissect plants and/or flowers to get a detailed look at the inner workings and complex mechanisms of plants.

Backyard Bioblitz: In this activity, families explore the biological community around their homes, either from their yard or indoors. Every day we see plants and animals all around us, often without even noticing them. Observing the first robin of the year or a surprise lily can be exciting, but many other species play important roles in our ecosystems. Using identification resources and a citizen science app, track the community of plants and animals all around you!

Learning about Earth Day

This week, on April 22, we celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day! Earth Day is a unified response to environmental crises in the world, and this years theme is “Climate Action”. To commemorate Earth Day and Climate Action, this week’s activities explore the wonders of Earth and what you can do to help protect and sustain our environment!

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

From Trash To Soil: In this activity, learn how to build a worm composting bin. These compost bins can be constructed with mostly cheap supplies around the house with minimal tools, and they do a great job of created high quality compost relatively quickly. After building the bin, go on a hunt to find food appropriate to feed your worms.

Food Webs: Food webs are diagrams that show what organisms in an ecosystem eat. This shows the flow of energy, starting with plants then to the plant-eaters and finally predators. In this activity, you will create your own food web that reflects what’s going on in your backyard.

Biodiversity Barriers: Biodiversity is an important part of the global ecosystem but threats like habitat destruction, fragmentation, and edge effects reduce populations of sensitive species. In this activity you will create a model of a habitat that borders areas of human activity and figure out how to reduce human impacts.

 

Learning about Lego Coding

It’s not hard to see how important computer coding is, but they can be intimidating if you’ve never tried any coding. It might seem like the sort of thing that only experts can do but with a little help you can get started writing computer codes today! It’s just a different way of writing the ideas you already have so join us in learning the basics of coding using fun items you have around your house.

Make a Meme: Have you ever seen a funny photo with a caption on it that really resonated with you? This is a meme – an image created to express a point of view or generate a reaction out of the viewer. The key to an image becoming a meme as opposed to just an image is the ability of the meme to go viral – that is, to spread digitally across users and platforms. In this activity you will design a meme using pseudocode based on Java, one of many computer languages.

Lego Coding: In this activity, use any LEGO set to tie in concepts of code design and pique student’s interest, creativity, and use computational thinking. Each child has five minutes to create a figure for a video game. This character can be unique to each child. After creating their character, pass out the code block list. If you have children who are visually impaired, shape can be used instead of color. Each block has an action or task associated with it. Give the children 5 minutes to create a program that their character can execute. After creating the program, children can demonstrate to their parent or caregiver. If time, have them exchange codes and try someone else’s program on their character.

Card Sorting – Think Like a Computer: When you ask Google or another search engine a question, you are given items back in a sorted list. Google determines which item is most likely the answer you are looking for, although there are ways those answers can be assigned values based on the user and the search. In this activity you are the search engine and you are limited to serial processing – that is, processing based on one decision at a time. The challenge for this activity is to identify a procedure (or algorithm) to efficiently sort a suit of cards from lowest to highest value.

Learn about Space

This week we’re going to space! Well, not really, but we are learning all about the science of space. It’s a big place and it might be hard to get to, but after this week’s activities you’ll be a little more prepared when the events of Star Wars become reality. Of course, that’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away so we’ll also have to figure out time travel as well as space travel. One thing at a time!

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

Paper Rockets: Learners will construct paper rockets from a pattern to experiment with thrust. They will then measure the distance the rocket traveled, recorded that distance, and calculate averages. For those who like to compete, the persons with the farthest launch and the best average distance will be rewarded.

Solar System Model: “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” This quote from Douglas Adams really sums up the first important thing to learn about the solar system. In this activity, learners will see how vast our solar system is by constructing a scale model of the orbits in a long hallway or across their yard.

Lunar Phases Snacktivity: If you look at the moon daily, you will notice that the view of the moon changes. The changes are called “moon phases” and have been observed and recorded by humans for as long as we have been making calendars. When you complete this activity, you will have your own edible lunar calendar!

Learning about Genetics

This week’s activities explore the fascinating study of inherited traits that affect us all, Genetics. If you thought you already knew everything about your family members by staying at home with them for weeks on end, guess again. After this week’s activities, you will know each other on a genetic level!

Online Videos:Use these links to educate and entertain!

Create a Creature: Animals have a set of characteristics that helps it survive and succeed in an environment. This set of characteristics is called adaptations and include traits like body parts, body coverings, and behaviors. In this activity, you will use some of your favorite snacks to create a creature with adaptations that helps it thrive and pass along its genetic code to the next generation in one of the environments described.

Genetics with RebopsIn this activity, kids learn about the relationship between genes and inherited traits. Kids learn how genetic information is passed from one generation to the next by creating pretend creatures called Rebops.

Genetics Week – DNA: In this activity, kids first learn about how complicated information can be encoded using binary code and then the four DNA bases and use them to send and receive coded messages using DNA. They then extract DNA from cells in a form that they can see. Finally, explore the prediction of genetic traits using Punnett Squares in the final activity.

For additional resources, check out our new STEM @ Home page!

Learning about Chemistry

These days, many of us are spending more time in our kitchens cooking. Did you know that many of the things we do to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner involve chemistry? This week’s activities are designed to teach students more about the chemistry we encounter every day in the kitchen and elsewhere around the home. From acids and bases to dissolving solutions, kids can learn about chemistry just using everyday items in and around the kitchen.

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

Activities:

Which Will Rust? In this activity, kids will learn the chemical change that takes place when iron unites with oxygen to form iron oxide or rust. After making predictions for various household items, the student will determine that a steel nail (which contains iron) will rust more rapidly compared to other household metal objects.

Will It Dissolve? In this experiment, kids will discover that some substances dissolve in water and some do not. They’ll make predictions about what type of common cooking ingredients dissolve in water and how the temperature of the water impacts the amount of ingredient that can dissolve and the rate at which it dissolves.

Quick Bread Chemistry! In this activity, kids investigate how chemical leavening agents work by examining a quick bread recipe and experimenting with the quick bread leavening ingredients. Quick breads provide a very relevant application of acid-base chemistry to the production of food, and this is demonstrated by “baking” a quick bread using a lidded, nonstick skillet, and a hotplate or stove.

Learning about Sustainability

Everyone you knew, know, and will know lives on Earth: our home. One of the reasons we are staying home these days is to protect the people we know. But how do we protect the home we all share? In this week’s activities students will open their eyes and minds to observe a small area of our world; find out how they might reduce, reuse, and recycle our trash; and use experiments to find ways to keep soil from contaminating the waterways. These activities will help kids understand sustainability and how they might make a difference in preserving our world.

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!

Activities:

Micro-Habitat Study! Kids and their parents will take a close look at nature by examining what they can see within a selected area of the ground, both living and non-living.

Rethink Trash! In this activity, kids will investigate ways they can reduce, reuse, and recycle trash that their family generates while making dinner throughout the course of a week. Much of the trash we generate can be reduced, reused, and recycled after we identify and quantify the types of items we throw away.

Rip Rap: Controlling Run Off! In this experiment, kids will design their own landscape and erosion control to try and contain the most topsoil and prevent it from entering waterways.  If soil enters the waterways at a large volume it not only washes away habitat, but it also creates turbid and cloudy water for animals living downstream. One of the most common forms of erosion control is rip rap, which is large rocks set on the shoreline of lakes, rivers, and streams.

For additional resources, check out our new STEM @ Home page!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Nature Walk Videos

We are also producing nature walk videos with things to find during your trips outside. Check out these short videos as easy prompts of things to watch out for during your walks.

Additional Resources

The STEM Center also has other resources that you could enjoy with your child:

  • Our curriculum page hosts M.A.S.H. kits that can be done as independent activities. These kits are separated by age group, and the topics focus on:
    • Bodily senses
    • Chemistry of colors
    • Dinosaurs and fossils
    • Exploring aquatic environments
    • Gardening
    • Static Electricity
  • Our teaching with primary sources page has sample curriculum that parents could use to teach their children about the following subjects:
    • The Dust Bowl
    • Maps
    • STEM Notebooks

 

Staff Picks

The STEM Center staff also approved resources from other sources that you could do with your child:

  • Codecademy is free for the rest of the year, and a great tool to learn how to code. Some of the coding languages taught through Codecademy are Python, JavaScript, HTML, and CMD Line. Users are able to choose what they want to learn, learn by doing, receive instant feedback, and put learning into practice.
  • Code.org is another free coding resource, leading the efforts to get Computer Science in lower education classrooms. Students in grades K-12 can use Code.org for self-led projects at home.
  • Khan Academy is providing daily schedules for children ages 2-18. Students can utilize Khan Acadmey to study Math, by subject and grade; Science & Engineering, Arts & Humanities, Computing, Economics & Finance, Test Prep, and more. There’s also a Khan Kids app to teach students ages 2-7 about Math, Reading, and Social skills, and emotional learning.
  • SciStarter is a resource that provides Citizen Science projects that students can do at home. With over 1300 projects, you and your child can search their website to find any range of Citizen Science project to get started on.
  • The Library of Congress provides access to millions of historical documents, photos, videos, and audio recordings. Access primary source items from history and learn about various topics and events from artifact collections.