5 Ways to Celebrate National STEM/STEAM Day

Science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) continue to influence and shape the world we live in. It is no surprise, then, that STEAM concepts are a critical part of every child’s education. Teaching these concepts in engaging, creative ways not only makes learning more fun, it can generate student thirst for more STEAM! Today, November 8, is National STEM/STEAM Day and it gives us, as a community, the opportunity to celebrate and come together to promote STEAM education.

STEAM education can best prepare students for the future when using a curriculum with an interdisciplinary and applied approach, focusing, where possible, on real-world problems and pushing for innovative student-led solutions. Frequently, this type of creativity can be found, or is best staged, outside a classic classroom environment. Some of my favorite student memories were practical, real-world projects. I had no need to get bogged down in the theoretical math, science and engineering behind my attempt to assure my raw egg did not break when dropped from a great height. I just had to figure out how I could make sure it didn’t break. The activity and exploration – the practical – led the theoretical.

If you’re thinking that you’d like to give STEAM a shot, these five activities can be a great way to dip your toes in the water while giving your students a fun new learning experience:

  1. The Egg Drop Challenge: A classic school project, seen on TV shows like Modern Family, Veronica Mars and Shake It Up. Challenge students to build a contraption that will protect a raw egg from varying heights. Students can be encouraged to be creative in the look of their contraptions, turning this into the ultimate art project.
  2. Marshmallow Engineering: Using marshmallows challenge kids to build a structure like a house or bridge, practicing their engineering skills. You can start with 2-D than work up to 3-D structures. Students can use their creativity to build innovative structures tapping into art. Afterwards, you can celebrate with a cup of Hot Chocolate.
  3. Create a Water Bottle Rocket: Another childhood favorite. Three different ways to make a bottle rocket that can engage and delight both child and adult. The rocket can encourage an interest in science and space.
  4. DIY Lava Lamp: Teach kids about how liquid density works while reliving the seventies with just a few simple supplies.
  5. Make Your Own Rock Candy Sticks: What kid doesn’t like candy? This activity will allow kids to make a tasty treat while engaging in a STEM activity. Kids can learn how chemistry can be fun and tasty.

These activities are ones I grew up with, and they are what first got me engaged in STEM subjects. Some of them I tried at home with my family, others I was introduced to in the classroom. But regardless of where I experienced them, I was engaged in my own education. I couldn’t wait to try a new activity, not even realizing that I was practicing science, engineering or math. Activities like this bring fun and learning together so that we can imagine a future driven by our own innovations.

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