I recently had a great chat with a homeschool friend. She heard that I love mixing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities into my homeschool curriculum and wondered how it was going. I told her that it’s been awesome! My kids love the challenging lessons because they’re fun and they keep my kiddos interested in learning. Between us, I don’t think she believed me at first, I mean, how can engineering and math be fun?
I don’t blame her for being skeptical. When I first started thinking about STEM activities, I was intimidated. My daughter was going into middle school and my son into his freshman year. How on Earth was I, a mediocre math student at best, going to teach them this new-fangled curriculum. But once I did some investigating, I found that many STEM activities for older kids are automated, just like the online courses that my kids use for their main homeschool lessons.
This may be new to you — just like it was to my good friend. No worries though; after all the searching and digging I did, I saved some options for each grade band (elementary, middle school, and high school). Now, as we homeschoolers know, every child is different. What worked for my kids may not work for your kids, so I included many different options. With this list, you’ll gain some knowledge about STEM lessons and have a starting point as you incorporate them into your own curriculum.
Elementary STEM Activities
In today’s information age, technological advances occur at a rapid pace. Innovation is the name of the game, and many top career opportunities reflect that sentiment. Unfortunately, in the U.S., many kids aren’t prepared for STEM careers. That’s why there has been a huge push for STEM activities starting as early as the elementary years. The cool thing is, these activities are a blast! You’ll even have fun while helping your kids out. Sure, some can get a little messy, but that’s just a day in the life of a homeschooler.
- Popsicle stick bridge: This activity incorporates engineering and all you need is some glue, popsicle sticks or craft sticks, parchment paper, and a ruler. Once you’re finished, you can see how much weight your bridge will hold.
- Oil spill activity: First, mix some oil, water, and a few feathers. Then, pass around either paper towels, a sponge or a teaspoon, and see how much oil you can separate from the water. The feather shows the damage an oil spill has on the environment.
- Science4Us: This is a standards-based program which gives K-5th grade students a head start in STEM. It introduces concepts and builds a strong science foundation. It is only available through Time4Learning.
Activities for Middle School Students
Research has revealed that kids start losing interest in STEM courses once they reach middle school. Well, we’re here to buck that trend by using these fun activities that will boost our children’s knowledge and keep their interest in technology intact. Some activities only require ordinary items, while others require kits that vary in cost. It’s really your choice. A quick Google search will reveal a STEM treasure trove.
- Science of baseball: My son loves baseball. He always wondered how great pitchers could throw curve balls, sliders, and screw balls. his website shows you how, and explains the science that takes place during a pitch.
- Codakid: This is very cool. Your kids will interact with professional software engineers and coders as they learn how to create their own video games, apps, websites, and more. It’s a computer lovers dream. Package prices vary.
- Littlebits: This company offers “Kid-Friendly Resources for Parent-Free Play.” They have a wide variety of kits that are designed to teach kids about technology. The kits vary in price but there is an awesome selection.
High School STEM Activities
As your kids grow older, many will become more independent learners. My son became much less dependent on me and I was okay with that! To match his learning preferences, I found STEM projects that promoted independent learning. Your child may be different, and that’s okay. There are many options available.
- Teach Engineering: This site offers so many different and cool activities — and they’re free! According to their website, “TeachEngineering is a digital library comprised of standards-based engineering curricula for K-12 educators to make applied science and math come alive through engineering design.”
- Math Pickle: I haven’t used this yet, but I’m planning on introducing it. This statement on the site sold me: “Its visually compelling puzzles and games engage students in tough problem solving.” I think learning how to problem solve is a huge plus, and this one is also free!
- Eureka Crate: A monthly subscription to Eureka Crate is around $30. The site says you can cancel at anytime. I haven’t subscribed yet, but I may during my son’s high school years. It depends on my budget. The projects look amazing.
Just one last thing, STEM careers aren’t only for rocket scientists, nuclear engineers, and computer programmers. Carpenters use these skills too. And just think about what automotive mechanics must learn — I mean, have you looked under the hood of your car lately? That is not our grandparent’s engine; those things are so technologically advanced that changing your own oil is very complicated.
With that in mind, STEM has basically invaded every part of our lives, and as our children grow older, STEM developments will grow with them. Maybe keeping up with that growth is a scary thought, or maybe it’s just another challenge we homeschoolers must face. Lucky for us, we have the tools to face it!