4 ways to STEM this summer
Summer is upon us! Alice Cooper has been blared, lockers and desks have been cleared out, and summer break has begun, but that doesn’t mean that learning must stop. The summer is a great time to do numerous STEM activities outside, so slather on some sunscreen and start learning outside with two activities that don’t require any products and another two activities centered around Pitsco products.
Build a Fort
The first activity is to build a fort out of sticks. You or your students can do this anywhere if you have enough supplies. The best location is a stand of trees with lots of fallen branches. Three main engineering points are used during this kind of activity: designing (the planning phase), constructing, and problem-solving.
When designing your fort, think about what kind of structure you want to build and what challenges or benefits you'll face with the available ground. Don’t be afraid to use parts of nature, such as a large rock, as a starting point for your structure so you can build one less wall.
When building the fort, try to round up sticks that are close to the same size and decide the best way to put them together. Do you want to use some kind of material to bind the sticks or do you want to build a LINCOLN LOG®-style fort? And finally, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box to solve your problems. Every problem you overcome is part of the overall design loop.
Test the Waters
The second activity is an easy one that can be done with any body of water, such as the nearest pond, lake, or even pool. Just tossing a rock into the water demonstrates a rippling effect similar to a sound wave. It's a simple activity but one that provides easy observation and discussion of energy and movement. Plus, it's fun! Consider tossing various sizes and weights of rocks so you can observe the variance in splash and ripple size. Try tossing underhand, overhand, and sideways. Bonus points if you do it on a rainy day so you can play in the rain puddles too.
Use Alternative Energy
Who could suggest outside summer activities without mentioning solar energy? Summer is a great time to build a solar car, and we have the perfect product for that with the Ray Catcher Sprint Kit. The Ray Catcher gives you a solar panel, gears, and a motor so you can build your own solar car.
You can easily follow the build instructions included, but crafty engineers can deviate from them by using the same materials to design a unique car. Using the engineering design process to create a solar car enables students to flex their engineering muscles.
My personal favorite for an outside activity is the AP Rocket Launcher II. You'll be hard-pressed to find a student (or adult) who doesn't enjoy shooting rockets into the sky; it's also a plus that launching rockets can be a superb example of energy transfer. With the rocket launcher, you can easily learn about velocity and potential and kinetic energy.
An easy activity to start off with is considering how to make the rocket fly the farthest. Predict what angle is the best and create data charts to test predictions. This is an introduction to trajectory. Afterward, you can take the experiment a little further.
Set up the rocket launcher in a large area and experiment with aiming the rocket to reach a set point. Place a marker off in the distance and fire the rockets to see which one lands closest to the mark. You’ll have to account for trajectory, wind speed, distance, air pressure, and more, so there are plenty of variables to test out.
These are only a few STEM activities perfect for outside during the summer. You can never go wrong with rockets, solar cars, water, and building structures, but there are countless other ways to learn STEM. If you have any suggestions, make sure to let us know in the comments!