What is a STEM Activity for Children?
STEM activities can take many forms, but let’s start by clarifying what STEM represents. It’s not just science projects – STEM is more than an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. It’s understanding how the world around us works. It helps develop critical thinking – something that is necessary to prepare students for the 21st century workforce and to be able to contribute to solving complex problems of today and the future.
A STEM activity helps foster the skills of creativity, inquiry, observation and problem solving. It also helps teach the difference between fact and opinion.
STEM educators create activities that work with problems, challenges and solutions that are based in the real world. This is crucial at a time when children’s minds are developing and they are intuitively exploring their world.
As an example, one of the STEM activities available through The Stem Laboratory is the very popular center called Toothpick STEM Structures.
This simple activity helps with the following:
Develop abstract thinking, design and build skills
2d and 3d shape recognition
Scientific recording of data
All that’s needed is a box of toothpicks and a container of playdough. You can also use jelly beans, marshmallows or gumdrops depending on the situation and preference for different materials, or to simply change it up if you’re repeating it with a twist.
After they build the requested shapes (or create some of their own) they can take their learning one step further and record the number of vertices and edges.
You can tie it into the real world by having photos of real life structures that they are “replicating” as far as the basic shape – a great first step for future engineers and architects!