How To Organise a STEM Week

The idea for HowToSTEM was first planted in my mind back in 2018 when I decided to organise a STEM week at my primary school. Full of enthusiasm, I turned to the internet for inspiration, only to find… well, not a lot!

I wanted to share with my colleagues a selection of activities that were:

  • Quick
  • Easy-to-resource
  • Low budget
  • Suitable for both KS1 and KS2
  • Clearly explained the learning

Everything I found seemed to be entirely the opposite of that. With so much out there for the well-trodden maths or science weeks, surely someone must have organised a STEM week in their school?

With the dawning realisation that I was going to have to look beyond Google for inspiration I put my thinking cap on and created an overview of how I wanted our STEM week to look. One of the most important outcomes I wanted to achieve was for the students to see how the disciples of science, technology, engineering and maths combine together in the real-world to create exciting job opportunities. I also wanted them to see the diversity of those roles. These subjects open so many more doors than simply being a scientist or a mathematician. Video games designer, zoologist, pilot… the list goes on and on! Perhaps if we could inspire them with the breadth of opportunity we could help to keep them engaged for longer?

Choose a Theme

STEM covers such a broad range of areas that its impossible to do them all justice in a week. Picking a theme helps to focus the activities and allow you go to into greater depth. With a bit of forward planning you may even be able to coincide this theme with an annual event such as ‘World Space Week’ or ‘National Robotics Week’.

Here are just a few examples that I’ve used in the past:

If a whole school theme approach isn’t for you then an alternative is to allocate separate year group STEM themes. This allows you to represent a wide range of STEM areas, all in one week. You can choose whether to link each theme to what the children have been learning or go completely off curriculum.

From here you can then decide on the STEM activities you will do. There’s plenty of inspiration across ’15-Minute STEM’ Books 1 & 2 and each activity ticks the boxes of being quick, easy-to-resource, suitable for KS1/2 and clearly explaining the learning.

Have an End Goal

Consider the following:

  • How much of the weekly timetable will be set aside for STEM? The whole week? Every afternoon?
  • Will each year group be working on one big project or a series of smaller projects?
  • How will you share the learning with the school community?
  • How will you display the learning around the school?

Your STEM week will create quite a buzz throughout the school community. Make sure you plan in opportunities to celebrate the learning. This could be through an assembly at the end of the week. Or you could organise a STEM week exhibition where STEM activities are laid out for parents/carers and other classes to peruse. I recently heard of a school who held a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style event at the end of their STEM week. Each year group had been challenged to create a product linked to their whole school STEM theme and concluded the week by pitching it to the ‘dragons’ (a selection of governors!)

stem

You’ll find you have plenty of wonderful creations to decorate the school with. Liaise with colleagues in advance to make sure they keep a sample of the work for display. Think about the area/notice boards you will use for the display and whether you will need a size restriction. STEM creations that are too large for display and may need to be photographed instead..

Arrange workshops and visitors

Wherever you are based there are likely to be many people in your local community willing to work with your school during the week. When organising visiting speakers and workshops, consider reaching our to places such as relevant university departments, nearby zoos, local museums, and, of course, STEM ambassadors. If you’re not already aware of the STEM ambassadors scheme, they have over 30,000 ambassadors who volunteer their time and expertise to promote STEM to young people. Contact your nearest STEM ambassador hub to arrange a visit. My top tip would be to do so a few months in advance of your STEM week, detailing exactly the areas you will be focusing on. They can then include your school in their monthly email to ambassadors and will help to pair you up with the most relevant people to your topic. Aim to organise a visiting speaker or workshop per year group, as well as a STEM assembly or two. Our STEM week was launched with a fantastic assembly from the local university’s chemistry department, complete with explosions!

You can find lots of examples of STEM careers on our website. Check out the profiles and use these to help narrow down the kinds of careers that you would like to share with the children throughout the week.

It’s easy to think you need to spend lots of money booking workshops and visitors. I’ll let you in on a secret: the only cost incurred for our STEM week was the project resources (card, dowel etc, most of which were acquired cheaply from places like Scrapstore). Every single visitor and workshop was completely free! Granted, the school was well-located in a large city but with a bit of effort and a few emails, I hope you could achieve something similar almost anywhere in the country.

Make use of parents/carers

One of your most valuable resources is standing right outside your classroom door! You’d be amazed how many of the parents and carers within your school community have STEM experience. Spread the word about your week and you will most likely find volunteers willing to lead workshops or Q&A sessions linked to their career. During our STEM week we had all sorts of wonderful visitors including pilots, boat builders, wind farm engineers and firemen. Their knowledge and expertise brought a depth to the week that we as teachers would struggle to attain and made our lives much easier in the process!

Make sure that your introduce the children to a diverse representation of STEM people. This is a fantastic way to challenge STEM stereotypes that can become embedded from an early age. For example, inviting in female role models helps to challenge the misconception that STEM subjects are ‘male’.

Winter STEM Guide

Welcome to the Winter 2021/22 edition of our seasonal STEM guides! It contains:

  • STEM related winter events and themed days/weeks
  • Quick, easy website and activity suggestions for how to get involved (click on the pictures to find out more)
  • Wintery STEM resource recommendations

Diaries at the ready! The events listed below are a really good way to help theme your STEM activities and help children to make real-world links. From frosty starts to roaring fires, from festive feels to valentines joy, Winter is a time to get cosy and enjoy all the season has to offer. Make the most of it with these STEM events.

Computer Science Week (7-14th December 21)

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual call to action to inspire children to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field. This week is held in recognition of the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (9th Dec 1906) who coined the term “bug” (an error in a program) after removing an actual moth from a computer in 1947!

How to get involved…

Christmas (25th December)

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’

There are lots of Christmas activities that make great STEM links. Make the most of the darker, cosier evenings by curling up with a wintery STEM book. See below for our ‘seasonal STEM books’ recommendations. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for our STEM advent calendar! Behind each door is a quick, easy STEM activity that you can do with children.

How to get involved…

RSPB’s Big School’s Birdwatch (5th Jan- 22nd Feb 2022)

RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (28th-30th Jan 2022)

Big Garden Birdwatch: Be wowed by your local wildlife. Simply count the birds you see in your garden, from your balcony or in your local park for one hour between 28 and 30 January 2022.

Big School’s Birdwatch: If you’re a teacher, why not take part in the RSPB’s Big School’s Birdwatch. You can submit your results on the RSPB website from the 5th Jan-22nd Feb.

RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the reason it’s been going for so long is because it’s such valuable work. The results that schools submit to the RSPB are used by scientists to help create a picture of how birds are faring across the UK.

How to get involved…

NSPCC Numbers Day (4th February 2022)

Join schools across the UK on Friday 4 February 2022 for the NSPCC’s mega maths fundraising day.

Take part in Dress up for Digits and have a fun-filled day of maths activities and games, while raising money to support our services such as Childline.

The money you raise could help the NSPCC run its Speak out Stay safe programme to help children understand what abuse is and what to do if they’re scared or worried.

How to get involved…

Safer Internet Day (8th February 2022)

Safer Internet Day 2022 will be celebrated on 8th February with the theme ‘All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online’.

From gaming and chat, to streaming and video, young people are shaping the interactive entertainment spaces they are a part of. Safer Internet Day 2022 celebrates young people’s role in creating a safer internet, whether that is whilst gaming and creating content, or interacting with their friends and peers.

How to get involved…

Engineers Week (20-26th February 2022)

Founded by NSPE in 1951, Engineers Week (February 20–26, 2022) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.

Engineers Week celebrates the positive contributions that engineers have made to the quality of life. It’s also an opportunity to increase diversity within the workplace, reinforce good education, and increase interest and understanding of the trade.

Celebrating Engineers Week enables young people to be inspired and motivated to get involved in engineering, especially if teachers and parents contribute. Dedicating lesson time to engineering will help children to understand the basics, so they can decide if they want to pursue it as a career.

How to get involved…

Winter STEM Resource Recommendations

Here are a few of our ‘must have’ Winter STEM resources. We think you’ll come back to them year after year with your children! Click on each picture to view it on Amazon.

Have we missed off a winter STEM event or a ‘must have’ winter STEM resource? If so then add it to the comments below. (note: this is a UK based website so some events have a UK focus).

5 ways to get started with STEM education


STEM education… we hear those words a lot nowadays. We know that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will play a crucial role in shaping our futures. STEM education is a cross-discipline approach to teaching these subjects with problem solving at its heart. Great STEM education works through activities with real-world applications, helping children to understand how their learning is relevant and how they could use it in the future.

But how do we get started with it?

Here are 5 quick, easy to implement ways to help get you started.

Remember…

  • You don’t need to be an expert in STEM to deliver great STEM education.
  • You don’t need lots of spare time in your day to fit STEM education in.
  • You don’t need lots of expensive resources.

Start with these small steps and you’ll steadily see the STEM culture in your classroom grow!


 

STEM activities with a practical, real-world purpose are a really fun way to engage children with STEM education. Not only that but they’re a great way to get children working collaboratively – perfect for the start of the academic year!

I truly believe that it’s possible to slot high-quality STEM education into those spare 15 minutes in your day.

Take my 15-Minute STEM books. Each book contains 40 activities, each starting with a curiosity question to spark interest and excitement. They give you activity instructions and an explanation of the learning. There’s even suggestions for further investigation if you wish to take the activity further.

Or check out the free STEM activities on our website here. New activities are added regularly!


How to get started with simple STEM activities:


Our year is packed full of rich opportunities to set STEM education within a real-world context. From seasonal celebrations such as Halloween or Easter to special days/weeks such as National Space Week or Ada Lovelace Day.

It’s always good to be aware of whats coming up each month so you can plan opportunities to link your STEM learning to it. For example, Autumn is the perfect time to try out our free Frozen Fireworks activity.

We’ve put together a handy guide for each season so you can plan ahead. You can find these in our blog section. We also recommend you make links to local events going on in your community, as well as to global events going on in the news.


How to get started with celebrating STEM events:


When you think STEM education, what kind of equipment comes to mind? Robotics, Raspberry Pi, 3D printers… expensive stuff!

STEM education doesn’t need to break the budget. It can also be all of these things: cardboard boxes, lolly sticks, yoghurt pots and elastic bands. The kinds of things we have lying around our homes and classrooms.

Instead of throwing these things out, save them up, safe in the knowledge they will soon come in handy for a STEM activity! Over time you could build up a class or school ‘Makerspace’, an area to store creative materials. For now a box in your cupboard will do.


How to get started with saving STEM resources:


It’s easy to underestimate the influence of a book on a child’s understanding of the world. Stories help to shape children’s perspectives and form their understanding of cultural and gender roles. What better way to teach the importance of STEM skills than through a book?

There are lots of fantastic fiction books around that your class will love. See below for some of our suggestions, including seasonal STEM books and maths picture books.

STEM books are also a great way to address diversity and challenge stereotypes in STEM. They help to introduce positive role models and to raise the profile of influential people in STEM.


How to get started with reading STEM books:


What better way to bring STEM education to life than with STEM visitors. When we invite in people working in STEM careers we not only help to educate children a bit more about the world of work but also to introduce them to a range of positive role models.

Why not start with the school playground? Reach out to the parents in your school community to see if they would be willing to speak to the class about their jobs. You may well be surprised by the offers you get!

Additionally try approaching local companies and businesses. You will find they are often only too happy to help out and some really productive relationships can come about as a result of this.


How to get started with speaking to STEM visitors:


STEM education around the world

STEM education around the world

STEM education is a global endeavour to improve the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical skills of children and young people. Every country around the world has a different approach to implementing it: whilst some are embedding it within their educational policies, others are delivering it through external organisations

This got us thinking. How does STEM education differ between countries? Who is doing it ‘best’? We’ve done our research and these are the findings:

In 2015, all Australian education ministers agreed to the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026 which focuses on  developing mathematical, scientific and digital literacy; and promoting problem-solving, critical analysis and creative thinking skills. The strategy aims to deliver improvements to STEM education and has two main goals:

  1. Ensure all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills
  2. Ensure that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects

In 2017, the STEM Partnerships Forum was established as one of the key national collaborative actions under the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. The Forum brought together leaders from industry and education to facilitate a more strategic approach to school-based partnerships with businesses and industry across Australia in order to develop the engagement, aspiration, capability and attainment of students in STEM.

The Australian Government Department of Education commissioned the National STEM School Education Resources Toolkit in response to a STEM Partnerships Forum recommendation. The aim of the National STEM School Education Resources Toolkit is to assist schools and industry to establish new STEM initiatives, form school-industry partnerships, and evaluate existing and future STEM initiatives.

There are various organisations set up in the UK to support STEM education in schools. These include STEM Learning which delivers STEM CPD and a STEM ambassadors programme, and the British Science Association, a charity developing reports and resources for supporting STEM learning.

Scotland has a long tradition of expertise, innovation and achievement in STEM, viewing it as an  integral part of their future economic and social development. In 2017, the Scottish Government published the STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland. This set out a vision of Scotland as a STEM nation: with a highly-educated and skilled population equipped with the STEM skills, knowledge and capability required to adapt and thrive in the fast-paced, changing world and economy around us. The 2020 second annual report discusses how Scotland has build upon the progress made.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education and training publication sets out the Welsh Government’s strategic objectives for the provision of STEM for 3 to 19-year-olds in Wales. This includes guidance for making curriculum links to STEM education.

Meanwhile, Ireland has developed a STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026 which focusses on the many strengths in STEM education while providing a roadmap to address the areas for development.

The STEM Education Strategic PlanCharting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education, published in December 2018, sets out a federal strategy for the next five years based on a vision for a future where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment.

In December 2020, the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House issued the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan. This progress report describes ongoing efforts and implementation practices across the Federal Government as it works to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan.

The New Zealand government has recently been encouraging schools to promote STEM education in the hope that this will ease the STEM skills shortage. The Ministry of Education supports teacher training programs such as Teach First and Manaiakalani Digital Teachers Academy programme which help to place high performing STEM graduates and digitally confident teachers in education.

A national strategic plan, A Nation of Curious Minds, is a government initiative with a ten-year goal to promote the importance of science and technology in New Zealand. Since 2015 it has funded more than 175 projects in excess of $NZD 6 million.

India is the second most populous country in the world. In 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi launched the ‘Skill India‘ campaign, aimed at training over 400 million young people in different skills by 2022. One such skill is STEM education. One challenge the country faces in doing so is designing the infrastructure and curriculum to support this objective. Since the campaign began there has been a focus on developing innovation and manufacturing skills from a young age. The India STEM Foundation organisation works in partnership with India’s Department for Science and Technology to promote STEM education across the country.  Other organisations playing a pivotal role in developing STEM education in India include STEM Champ and EduTech.

After reviewing the government policy initiatives and third sector contributions in these countries, we think Australia may be slightly ahead of the game. But what do you think? Add your comments on this below.

4 things children should know about innovation



It is hard to ignore the global demand for innovation. Governments are dedicating departments to innovation, citing the acceleration of innovation as central to promoting prosperity and growth. Innovation centres are popping up at universities around the world to link academics with industry. Companies are placing innovation at the heart of their vision and mission statements.
 
Innovation is the key to creating a better future. Take some of the most pressing challenges facing our world at the moment: the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are ambitious and require an innovative response, drawing particularly on knowledge and expertise from the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
 
This poses a challenge for us as educators: that of how equip students with the relevant knowledge and skills necessary to be innovative thinkers, able to solve the complex problems of tomorrows world. Whilst we don’t know exactly what these problems will be, we do know that STEM projects provide meaningful ways for students to identify problems and come up with creative solutions. This is the very basis for innovation.

But what else should children know about innovation?
 
To start with, let’s get one thing clear:

Innovation is different from Invention.

  • Invention is the creation of something new. This is normally a tangible product or ‘thing’ (think Alexander Graham Bell with the telephone or Thomas Edison with the lightbulb). It is important to remember that not all inventions are useful. While some go on to become innovations, revolutionising the way we live, others are of little use and are quickly forgotten.
  • Innovation connects the dots between inventions. It happens when someone improves upon or make a significant contribution to something that has already been invented. Take the invention of Apple’s iPhone. It wasn’t the first phone to ever exist, nor was it the first device to have a touchscreen. However, it was innovative in the way that it blended phone and computer into a palm-sized device. Innovation creates a process or product that is useful, adds value to our lives and is commercially successful.

The two words are closely connected but they are not the same.

So what else should children know about innovation?

Innovation doesn’t always happen with sudden breakthroughs or ‘eureka’ moments. It’s often a gradual process that can take years, decades, even centuries to emerge. Innovations are evolutionary changes to existing processes, uses, or functions, which are made better by one (or several) contributing inventions.

Take the example of tidal turbines. They convert energy from tides into electricity. We tend to think of renewable energy as a future innovation but in fact, the basic idea of turning water movement into useful energy can be found much earlier, for example in the water wheels of Ancient Greece. The technological concepts behind the water wheel have gradually evolved over time into the engineering that we see today.

Teach children:

  • Don’t always expect sudden ‘eureka’ moments
  • Start with small steps, and build upon them over time
  • Take time to pause and reflect on your ideas

There’s a tendency to think of history in terms of the ‘Great Man Theory’. We think of influential individuals who have made a significant contribution to society. Think Tim Berners-Lee with the world wide web or Alexander Graham Bell with the telephone.
 
In reality it’s not as clear cut as that. Innovations are not created out of nowhere and they are rarely linked to just one person. Instead, they build upon the ideas of others. Tim Berners-Lee took an already existing invention of the internet and built upon it, adding hypertext (www. or .com for example) to link information.
 
Meanwhile, the invention of the telephone was the culmination of work done by many individuals. Bell may have been the first to obtain a successful patent for it but there were many other inventors including Elisha Gray and Antonio Meucci who also created a ‘talking telegraph’.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is an excellent metaphor we can use to remember that the creator stood on someone else’s shoulders. They took the understanding gained by major thinkers who had gone before in order to make creative progress.

Teach children:

  • Listen to and value the ideas of others
  • Start with something you already know and see if you can build upon it
  • Be open to sharing your work and ideas

How often do we get something right first time? This is exactly the same for innovation. Thomas Edison made 1000 iterations to the lightbulb. When asked by a reporter ‘how did it feel to fail 1000 times?’ he replied ‘I didn’t fail 1000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1000 steps.’

James Dyson is famed for his innovative bagless vacuum design of the Dyson hoover. However, it took him 5126 vacuum design attempts before he could get a properly working vacuum.
 
The Wright brothers repeatedly went back to the drawing board as they struggled to create a design of engine-powered plane that would be light enough to fly. They didn’t have a university degree or background in engineering, but they did have a determination to succeed. After many failed attempts at flying, they eventually created the world’s first successful motor-operated plane.
 
Innovation involves a great deal of perseverance as you overcome the inevitable mistakes and setbacks along the way. None of these inventors would have succeeded if they didn’t have the determination to keep going through the failures. In fact, it was these mistakes or failures that led to their greatest achievements.

Teach children:

  • Mistakes are an important part of the learning process
  • Persevere, keeping going when things don’t go to plan
  • Think of each error as a step closer to success

Sometimes, in setting out to do one thing we end up creating or discovering another. There are lots of examples of important discoveries that just weren’t planned. Alexander Fleming is one such accidental discover. He had been experimenting with bacteria in Petri dishes when he discovered that one had been contaminated by mould. On closer inspection he saw that the mould was killing the bacteria around it. This mould is now used as a medicine called penicillin which helps to destroy bacteria.

Other accidental discoveries include Play-Doh, Coca-Cola and the microwave oven. Such new creations can be more valuable than we ever could have imagined. Accidental discoveries are a surprisingly frequent part of the innovation process. We can’t plan what the future holds and sometimes creative ‘tinkering’ can stumble upon things that we didn’t know we even needed.

Teach children:

  • Be open-minded to new ideas
  • Try to find the value in an ‘accidental’ or unexpected outcome

Read more about ‘inspiring an innovation mindset’ in Emily Hunt’s article for STEM:ED magazine Issue 3 here:

https://issuu.com/stemedmagazine/docs/final_stem_ed_magazine_issue_3/28

Autumn STEM Guide

Welcome to the Autumn 2021 edition of our seasonal STEM guides! It contains:

  • STEM related autumn events and themed days/weeks
  • Quick, easy website and activity suggestions for how to get involved (click on the pictures to find out more)
  • Autumnal STEM resource recommendations

Diaries at the ready! The events listed below are a really good way to help theme your STEM activities and help children to make real-world links. From mild weather to frosty starts, from darker evenings to colourful trees, Autumn has it all! Make the most of this time of transition with these STEM events.

National Coding Week (14-20th September)

National Coding Week aims to build people’s confidence and digital skills through fun, engaging coding events. You can take part by learning to code. There are lots of great coding activities and games online to help you with this. Visit their website to get involved: https://codingweek.org/

How to get involved…

National Recycling Week (20-26th September)

National Recycling Week to bring a national focus to the environmental benefits of recycling. Each year Recycle Week attempts to change people’s recycling behaviours while gaining positive publicity. It’s a great chance to raise awareness of the importance of recycling to children.

How to get involved…

Biology Week (2-10th October 2021)

Biology Week showcases the important and amazing world of the biosciences, getting everyone from children to professional biologists involved in fun and interesting life science activities.

How to get involved…

World Space Week (4-10th October 2021)

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. World Space Week consists of space education and outreach events held by space agencies, aerospace companies, schools, planetariums, museums, and astronomy clubs around the world. Visit their website to find out more: https://www.worldspaceweek.org/

How to get involved…

International Archaeology Day (16th October)

International Archaeology Day (IAD) is a celebration of archaeology and its contributions to society. Every October the AIA and archaeological organisations around the world present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. 

How to get involved…

Chemistry Week (17-23rd October 2021)

National Chemistry Week (NCW) is a public awareness campaign that promotes the value of chemistry in everyday life. This years theme is ‘Sticking with Chemistry’. Visit their website for educational resources linked to this theme.

How to get involved…

Nuclear Science Week (18-22nd October 2021)

Nuclear Science Week is an international, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus local, www.ph-pdi.com/phentermine-weight-lose/ regional and international interest on all aspects of nuclear science. Nuclear Science week explores what it means to “Think Clean. Think Solutions. Think Nuclear.” Click here to view lesson plans and resources on their website.

How to get involved…

Big Wild Walk (25-31st October 2021)

It’s time to walk for wildlife and show you care about the nature and climate crisis with The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Walk, 25 October to 31 October. The Wildlife Trusts are asking nature-lovers to fundraise to help raise vital money for their 30 by 30 projects that will restore 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. Get fit, have fun and raise money for wildlife! Invite the family to join in, set up a remote relay with friends or take the challenge yourself. Visit their website to find out more: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/events/big-wild-walk-2021

Bonfire Night (5th November)

Try a bonfire night-themed STEM activity such as ‘Frozen Fireworks’. This activity explores the question ‘what happens when we mix fluids of different densities’. For full instructions click here.

Autumn STEM Resource Recommendations

Here are a few of our ‘must have’ Autumn STEM resources. We think you’ll come back to them year after year with your children! Click on each picture to view it on Amazon.

Have we missed off an autumn STEM event or a ‘must have’ autumn STEM resource? If so then add it to the comments below. (note: this is a UK based website so some events have a UK focus).

Moving Shadows

Moving Shadows

How do shadows change during the day?

  • A small toy
  • Paper
  • Coloured pencils
  • A clock

How to do it

Note: You will need to do this activity on a sunny day. You will need to return to it throughout the day.

  1. Begin the activity at the start of the morning. Find an open space in full sunlight and lay a piece of paper on the ground. Then place the toy in the middle of the piece of paper so that it stands up vertically.
  2. Take note of where the shadow of the toy falls by drawing around its outline using a coloured pencil. Label the outline with the time that you have drawn the shadow.
  3. Return each hour to check the position that the shadow from the toy has been cast in, drawing around it and labelling the drawing with the time. You could use a different coloured pencil for each shadow outline to help them stand out clearly.

What are we learning

Light travels in a straight line. When we place an object in its path, in this case a small toy, it blocks some of the light, creating a shadow. As the earth rotates, the position of the sun in the sky changes, which changes the length and position of shadows. In the morning the sun rises in the east, and the shadow is longer and cast west. By midday the sun is directly overhead, making the shadow short. In the afternoon the sun is setting in the west and the shadow grows longer again and cast east.

Investigate

A sundial is a device that uses the sun to tell the time. Find out more about how they have been used by many civilizations in history.

Careers associated with this activity

Measure Scavenger Hunt

 Measure Scavenger Hunt

What different sizes can we find in the natural environment? 

  • A measuring tape or ruler
  • Scavenger hunt list (see example in photo)
  • A pencil or pen
  • A timer
  • A camera (optional))

How to do it

Note: you will need to prepare the scavenger hunt list in advance. Younger children could measure items in cm’s while older children could have a mixture of cm’s and mm’s.

  1. Take a copy of the measure scavenger hunt list and decide on an outdoor area that your hunt will take place in (for example, a garden, park or woodland).
  2. You have 15 minutes to find and photograph an example of each item on the list. You will need to use the measuring tape carefully to make sure you have found an accurate example of each item on the list.
  3. When the time is up, review the findings and count how many items you photographed.

Optional: Make this into a competitive team challenge and see who can find the most items. Alternatively, try going to a different natural environment to see if you can beat your score.

What are we learning

Measuring tapes help us to accurately measure the length and width of different objects. We have been using the metric system, in which length is measured in millimetres (mm), centimetres (cm), metres (m) or kilometres (km). There are ten millimetres in each centimetre. The natural world is full of many different sizes and shapes. Leaves from the same tree or plant can vary in appearance and size. However, they will always roughly correspond to the same basic shape.

Investigate

Choose your favourite leaf or flower from the scavenger hunt and find out what species it is. You could use a nature book to identify it or use an app such as ‘PlantSnap’.

Careers associated with this activity

Tin Foil Cargo Boats

Tin Foil Cargo Boats

Create a boat using tin foil and explore which design can hold the most cargo (coins). Then find out about the forces involved including Archimedes’ principle.

This activity is taken from the book ’15-Minute STEM’.

Frozen Fireworks

Frozen Fireworks

What happens when we mix fluids of different densities? 

You will need

  • A clear glass or jar
  • Warm water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Food colouring
  • An ice cube tray
  • A pipette (optional)
  • Honey and milk (optional)

How to do it

Note: you will need to prepare the ice cubes in advance of the activity.

  1. Fill up an ice cube tray with water. Add a few drops of food colouring to each ice cube mould, either by squeezing them from the bottle or using a pipette. Then place the tray in the freezer for a few hours.
  2. Once the ice cubes are frozen, part-fill your jar with warm water, leaving space at the top.
  3. Then add a 2cm layer of vegetable oil. You will notice that the oil floats on top of the water.
  4. Place the ice cubes into the jar and watch them float in the oil layer.
  5. Watch as the ice melts and the coloured droplets sink down into the water and mix together, creating fireworks!

What are we learning

Density is the mass of an object divided by its volume. Put another way, it is the amount of ‘stuff’ that can fit in a given space. Some materials are very light for their size while others are very heavy. For example, a brick and a sponge might be a similar size but the sponge would be a lot lighter. This is because it is less dense. Oil is less dense than water so it floats to the top of the jar. The ice cubes are also less dense than the water, which is why they float in the oil layer. As the ice melts and turns into liquid, it becomes denser than the oil. This causes the food colouring droplets to sink into the water and diffuse (spread out), creating what looks like fireworks.

Investigate

Now try adding other fluids to your jar, such as honey or milk. How do their densities compare to water and vegetable oil?

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