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Autumn STEM Guide

Welcome to the Autumn 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.

How to get involved…

Biology Week (3-11th October)

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)

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.

How to get involved…

International Archaeology Day (17th 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 (18-24th October)

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 (19-23rd October)

Nuclear Science Week is an international, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus local, 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…

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.

National Recycling Week (11-17th November)

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…

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).

A-Z of STEM Resources

When you think STEM education, what kind of resources come to mind? The chances are it’s this kind of equipment…

Expensive stuff basically! Granted, this kind of kit is amazing and you can do some fantastic STEM activities with it. But don’t be disheartened if you don’t have access to these kinds of resources.

STEM doesn’t have to blow the budget.

It can also look like this…

The kind of stuff we have lying around our homes and classrooms. The kind of stuff that fills up our recycle bins and the kind of stuff that we’re turning to particularly at the moment, when it’s harder to get to the shops.

So here’s my A-Z of everyday ‘must-have’ STEM resources, along with some tips and activity suggestions for each!

A4 paper

From recording your observations to creating the longest paper chain you can from just one piece of A4 paper, this is a staple resource for most STEM activities.

Why not try:

No matter how good you are at re-using carrier bags, it’s hard to avoid having a few single-use bags lurking around. Re-use them for egg parachutes or create a kite or a windsock.

Why not try:

This is my absolute top recommendation. Cardboard has so much play potential! Don’t believe me? Check out the book ‘Not A Box’ for inspiration. You never know when a few flat-packed boxes will come in handy!

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Wooden dowel or sticks collected from the natural environment can become valuable building tools. For example, they could form the mast of a boat or the chassis of a car.

Why not try:

  • Recycled Boats

Elastic bands are a useful way to create flexible joins between materials. A great example is a lolly stick catapult. Safety note: this resource requires supervision.

Why not try:

…because you’ve got to make your STEM project look good! Beyond the aesthetics, felt tips are an important resource for chromatography based STEM activities.

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Give them a wash and these jars can be transformed into all sorts of exciting STEM projects. Safety note: this resource requires supervision.

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Place an outdoor hula hoop on the ground outside and use a magnifying glass to explore the minibeasts within the hoop. Or use string to turn your hula hoop into a spiders web!

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Ice cubes are a very cheap resource that can be used for a range of activities. Use them to explore properties of materials or to test thermal insulators.

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Not only is this resource a lot of fun, you can use it to explore some important real-world scenarios. For example, ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 2 contains a jelly based activity called ‘Earthquake-Proof Structures’.

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(Computer) keyboards are central to developing technology skills in young people. We can use them to code, research, create design simulations… so many options!

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Lolly sticks form a great building material for lots of different projects. For example, you could use them to build bridges, create catapults or to design a marble maze.

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This is one of my ‘must-have’ resources for outdoor, nature based activities. It’s fascinating to take a closer look at the world around us and the plants and creatures within it.

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From paper mache volcanoes to newspaper towers, this cheap, easy-to-source resource is worth having in abundance. For more details about the ‘newspaper towers’ activity, see ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 1.

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Adding olive oil to water creates some interesting results which can be used as a starting point to exploring density. Drop in an alka-seltzer tablet and you’ve got yourself a lava lamp effect!

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 I don’t know about you but these kinds of things often scream ‘stem potential’ to me. For example, a plastic tub lends itself brilliantly to becoming a plastic recycled boat. Note: re-use plastic rather than buying it specifically for an activity.

Why not try:

  • Recycled Boats

Can you tell I was struggling with the letter ‘q’?! Quarters (or coins) can be used in a variety of ways. Explore chemical reactions by adding acidic liquids to dirty coins. Or use coins as weights in a tin foil cargo boat.

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Natural materials such as rocks are fun to collect and can be used in a variety of ways. See how many different ways you can sort them or use them as the hour markers on a homemade sundial.

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This simple ingredient makes a great building material. You can use it to create structures such as towers or pyramids. Use marshmallows, plasticine or gummy sweets to create the joins between the spaghetti strands.

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A measuring tape comes in handy for most STEM activities and is a great way to develop some measuring skills.

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Utensils: measuring jugs, cups, bowls, spoons etc. These kinds of household items come in handy again and again for STEM activities.

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This acidic substance creates interesting chemical reactions when added to a base such as baking soda. See an example of this in the ‘Volcanic Eruptions’ activity in ’15-Minute STEM’ Book 2

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A staple household item, adding a squirt of washing liquid to another liquid such as milk or water breaks the surface tension and creates some interesting results.

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Again, can you tell I was struggling with this one?! Forgive me the slightly tenuous link to electrical circuits… Having a simple electrical kit of lightbulbs, crocodile clip wires and a battery is a useful basis for many STEM projects.

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From the ‘speakers’ of a string telephone to the container of a salt pendulum, yoghurt pots can take on many different creative forms.

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And finally we’ve made it to the letter ‘Z’. Zips can be sewn or glued into your STEM creations to add interest and functionality.

Why not try:

STEM education around the world

STEM education around the world

As a UK-based website, the global readership of our STEM resources is a constant source of fascination for us. At present our top 5 countries of access are:

1) Australia
2) United Kingdom
3) United States
4) New Zealand
5) India

This got us thinking. How does STEM education differ between these 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

The Australian government also funds several early learning and school-based initiatives. This includes a $AUD 6 million investment in the ‘Early Learning STEM Education’ scheme (ELSA, a play-based digital STEM learning platform for preschool children). They will invest $AUD 4 million in the ‘Little Scientists‘ STEM professional development programme for early childhood educators and teachers. The ‘STEM professionals in schools‘ programme facilitates partnerships between schools and industry to bring real-world STEM into the classroom.

A 2016 report, entitled UK STEM education landscape conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering highlighted that the UK needs better coordinated STEM education from a young age in order to have a long-term impact. This includes changing negative stereotypes associated with STEM careers and providing better professional development for teachers to help them apply learning within a real-life context. The UK government recognises the importance of encouraging students from an early age to have an appreciation and growing understanding of science. There are a wide range of public, private and third sector initiatives aiming to support STEM engagement for young people. These include STEM Learning and WISE Campaign. These organisations can approach the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) for funding, an independent charity which funds innovative educational approaches  that have the potential to raise attainment and improve outcomes.

The United States recognises the need for investment in STEM education in order for young people to be competitive in the jobs market. In September 2017 President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum to expand access to high-quality STEM education for young people. It will put STEM education, particularly computer science, at the forefront of the Department of Education’s priorities. It also aims to devote at least $200 million a year in grant funds towards this area.

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 five countries, we think Australia may be slightly ahead of the game. But what do you think? Add your comments on this below.

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