Each school year brings with it the ability to try new things and have new experiences. Last year, we brought you a new STEM experiment every month centered around specific themes. To kick start this year, we felt it’d only be fitting to start out with a few STEM experiments you could use to start science off the right way!
Flip a Rainbow
Since summer weather often includes rain in many parts of the country, you may have had the pleasure of observing a rainbow in the sky at various times over the summer months. For this experiment, however, you’ll be creating the rainbow on your own and then flipping it. To do so, you’ll need white drawing paper, markers in assorted colors, a glass and some water. Have the kids sketch a rainbow design on the paper (using the usual ROY G BIV order for colors). Then, tape the paper to a white wall or board. Fill a glass with water and place it on the table near the drawing. Looking through the glass, your kids will notice that the rainbow has “flipped” and the colors are in the reverse order. Cool, huh?
This STEM experiment demonstrates the properties of light, namely refraction (bending of light) and reflection. To explore this experiment, you could try varying some of the materials and results. For instance, they could try different liquids to see if it only works with water (or clear liquids) or glasses of different shapes to see if the reflection results are the same.
Fidget Spinner STEM Project
As with any toy-related item, fidget spinners gained popularity amongst children and teens for a couple of years. They’re so popular that there are even different varieties of spinners (though ultimately they all do the same thing). Erin at Erin Integration has taken this trendy toy for a new “spin” by creating a STEM project for your students. Based on the scientific method, this project has students collecting data and thinking critically about what that data means.
For this project, students will perform various tasks for their fidget spinners such as observing their spinners in action and even developing a spinning technique. They’ll explore and record the length of time their fidget spinners stay in motion and record the average length of time after several spins. They’ll graph the data and even create a visual (like a slideshow) to report all of their findings. To get the most out of the project, this would definitely be the time for your students to pull out all of their different fidget spinners to see how they compare to one another. In the end, students will take everything they learned and design their own fidget spinner!
High school students can get into the spirit of back to school STEM projects with a challenging project that requires they build a car that will propel without touch. To build the car, they’ll need about five straws, an index card, four round mint candies (such as Lifesavers), about 20 paper clips, a few paper cups, a plastic bag, several rubber bands, a ruler, scissors, a sheet of paper, tape, and string. They’ll also need a small electric fan for wind.
The index card is the main body for the car, straws will serve as wheel axles, and the mint candies will be wheels. Students will use tape to hold the wheels on. However, students may wish to brainstorm ideas for how they can build a car that will move faster and add this modification to their car.
To test how well their car moves, students can now attach a load. To create the load, they’ll use the string to tie together 10 paper clips. Then, they can tape the free end of the string to the back of the car so the paperclips trail behind the car by a couple of inches. Now, it’s time to test their design! The electric fan will provide the wind, and students should see how long it takes their car to reach a spot two feet away both with and without the load. It’s possible the load will weigh it down so much that it won’t go, but that’s part of the challenge in their design!
Getting back into the swing of things following summer break sometimes takes a few weeks. Ease into it slowly and don’t put too much pressure on anyone. Kick off your back to school season with a STEM activity (or two) and you’ll be off to a fantastic start in science!
Don’t forget to grab our STEM/STEAM handout to record your findings! Perfect for notebooking and portfolios!
Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.