'Fall' in Love with STEM
Calling all curious, creative and inquisitive students! STEM Day is November 8th this year! You can embrace this fun topic both at school and home. Mix in some fall weather and objects to make this an even more seasonal experience. STEM allows students to ignite their problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills while engaging in hands-on experiments. As with any educational experience, make sure you set the scene correctly. Ask guiding questions, prompt your student to predict the outcomes and challenge them to change the procedures/materials to find an alternative result.
While many elementary classrooms take the opportunity to instill STEM skills in their science lessons, middle school and high school students can also show off their love of all things science. We are going to break down our myriad of activities by school to make it more manageable for your scrolling fingers.
Dancing Popcorn - Snag a clear mason jar, gather some corn kernels, 2 cups vinegar and a dash of baking soda for this joyous activity. First pour the vinegar into the jar, add the kernels and sprinkle in the baking soda. As the chemical reaction begins, your corn kernels will jump for joy!
Apple/Gourd Volcanoes - Apples are abundant this time of year! Grab a couple of apples, baking soda, vinegar, dish soap and food coloring. Parents cut out the top inch of the core. Next, sprinkle in about a teaspoon of baking soda. Add a drop of dish soap and a few drops of food coloring. Slowly squirt your vinegar into the mixture and watch it explode! Check our PA Virtual video on apple volcanoes for more tips.
Pumpkin Crystals - What exactly are you going to do with all of those mini pumpkins around the house? Bidazzle them. Boil some water and add enough salt that there is a film at the top of the mixture. Remove from heat and pour the salt water on top of the pumpkins, plopping some of the remaining, undissolved, salt on top of the pumpkins. Let it dry and watch the “crystals” grow. Shake it up with some food coloring for an extra pop.
Pumpkin Density Experiment - Compare the density of pumpkin parts using layers of liquids! First, in a large jar, layer corn syrup, water and vegetable oil. Take a part a pumpkin and separate the seeds, flesh and stem. Place these pieces in the layered liquids and compare their positions. Did you think these parts were more or less dense?
Pumpkin Battery - Can a pumpkin be a battery? Let’s find out! Place a galvinized screw and a piece of copper into two pumpkins. Connect the galvinized screw in one pumpkin to the copper in the second pumpkin using a wire and clamp. Connect a muli meter to the pumpkins by attaching one wire from the meter to the screw, and another wire from the meter to the copper.
Leaf Chromatography Experiment- Who loves to see those fall colors in the trees? You can pull your own fall colors from leaves using a few simple steps. Snag some beautiful leaves from your home or park. Crush the leaves using a mortar and pestle or a large spoon. If you are using different leaves, the remains of each leaf will be placed in their own jar. Pour rubbing alcohol over the bits. After about 30 minutes, place one end of a strip of coffee filter into the rubbing alcohol and pull it out. What do you see?
Mint Myth Buster - Whether it’s from a family meal or some trick or treating, you will probably have a mint in the near future. Does mint make your mouth cold? Let’s test it! Grab two glasses of water and two mints. Use a thermometer to ensure the water in each glass is the same temperature. Place a mint in one beaker and keep your second beaker as the control variable. Every 30 seconds record the temperature in each beaker. Do this for about 4 minutes and evaluate your results. What did you find?
Edible Stained Glass with Fall Colors - Wow the family this holiday season with some of your own edible art. You’ll need granulated sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar, food coloring and flavor extracts (optional). On low heat, mix the water, corn syrup, sugar and cream of tartar. Prepare a silicone mat or foil liner on a cookie sheet. Place a few drops of food coloring and any flavor extracts into the warm mixture. Pour it on our cookie sheet and let sit for 1-2 hours.
DIY Thanksgiving Composting Bin - Between the leaves in the yard and food scraps from family meals, you will have a lot of compost material. This compost will support your garden beds come spring. First, find a plastic bucket that will fit the quantity of materials. Next, gather your compostable supplies. You can include materials such as leaves, grass clippings, egg shells, kitchen food scraps, animal manure and hair clippings. Use a drill to make holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage. Lay small twigs or sticks on the bottom to assist with the drainage. Layer your brown material, including leaves and dried grass. The next layer is your kitchen scraps and any hair or animal manure. Feel free to research more elaborate ways to build composts that involve sturdier structures and more room. Make sure you place a small bucket with a lid by the kitchen sink to collect any other food scraps this holiday season.
Pumpkin/Apple Paper Tower Challenge - Can paper hold up the weight of apples? Pumpkins? When formed correctly, you can create paper towers that can hold a sizable weight. Find 30 pieces of paper and masking tape. Study some famous structures, such as the eiffel tower, to gather information on beams, supports and vertices. Draw or create a plan relating to your structure. Begin building! As you test out your structure using apples or pumpkins, problem solve and generate ways to assist your beams and supports. Create a score to beat using the following equation:
Total Score = (distance to the bottom of the object ex. pumpkin) - 2 x number of pieces of paper
Any age and ability level can engage in STEM activities. By encouraging your children to embark on these activities you are enhancing their collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. For more fun STEM ideas, check out our recordings of the PA Virtual Summer Camp Series and teacher led STEM experiments. Don't forget that PA Virtual Charter School is also celebrating STEM day November 3rd at several locations:
- Pittsburgh Carnegie Science Center
- Harrisburg Whitaker Center
- Allentown Davinci Science Center
- Ambler Temple University
- Philadelphia Wissahickon Valley Park
Log into your school Blackboard account to find out more!
Happy Stem Day Everyone!