Through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning, children build confidence as they learn about science through creative expression and hands-on experiences. Part of becoming confident adults, children should be encouraged to take on and solve problems. There are plenty of fun and stimulating activity ideas out there for children. But for them to experience the educational benefits of an impactful STEM activity, it should have several important elements. 

What makes a great STEM-based activity? Let’s dive in.

Children Engage With Activities That Challenge Them

STEM activities give children opportunities to learn and practice skills that help them solve problems now and as adults. An impactful STEM activity presents a challenge: something to be figured out or solved. 

The challenge can be as simple as determining how many pebbles you must tie to a balloon’s string so it won’t blow away, or exploring what chemical reactions occur in our Rainbow Reaction experiment.

The critical thinking and innovation that children practice as they attempt to solve or explore a STEM activity’s challenge are essential to their lifetime learning. Learning to investigate, test, and analyze will serve children well as they progress through school and take on the world’s problems when they grow up.

An Impactful STEM Activity Involves Teamwork

Learning how to work together to achieve a shared goal is a crucial benefit of STEM education for children. An impactful STEM activity will call for children to collaborate with others so they can learn how to think, function, and communicate as a team — essential skills for school, work, and life.

Of course, STEM-based classrooms are great for practicing teamwork. But if you’re doing a STEM activity at home, where there might not be other children around, you and your child can do the activity together. They’ll still benefit from working with you on an activity. And, it will be a rewarding process to have fun playing and discovering together.

STEM Activities Can Have Multiple Outcomes

An impactful STEM activity shows children that there is no right or wrong as they explore different outcomes. Instead, they can investigate why something is or isn’t working, or what they might want to do differently to achieve a different result. STEM activities should always foster multiple potential outcomes so that children can learn from what didn’t go well, reassess their approach, and try again. 

An open-ended STEM activity lets children enjoy discovering creative solutions and recognize that when one approach “fails,” it’s simply a step in the process of learning.

Take the pebble and balloon experiment we mentioned, for example. A child might expect it will take three pebbles to weigh down a balloon, and discover that three pebbles aren’t heavy enough. Instead of seeing that discovery as a failure, they can use it as an opportunity to test and explore how many more pebbles they need to accomplish their goal.

An Impactful STEM Activity Has Real-World Applications

Building confidence around how the world works is at the heart of our project-based STEM curriculum at STEMful. An impactful STEM activity doesn’t just entertain and educate children, but it helps them understand the world around them. These experiences prepare children to navigate life in and out of school. 

The STEM concepts that children learn through STEM activities can be seen in everyday life, from counting and language skills to geometric shapes and chemical reactions. Learning these concepts through a STEM-based activity lets children have fun while building an understanding of the world around them.

Put The Scientific Method to Work

Scientists in every discipline use the scientific method to make discoveries, learn new things, and solve problems. Your children do not have to be in an official scientific lab to experiment with impactful STEM activities. Regardless of their environment, they can learn valuable lessons and gain fun educational experiences when they apply the scientific method in STEM activities.

A great goal for any STEM activity is to help children move through each step of the process, no matter how simple or informal the activity might be:

  1. Question: Why is something the way it is? Or, how can we create an outcome we’d like to achieve?
  2. Observation: What are the circumstances, or what is the subject’s current state?
  3. Hypothesis: Based on the observations made, what do we think will happen?
  4. Experiment: Perform a series of tests to see if our hypothesis is correct, or if we arrive at a different or unexpected outcome.
  5. Conclusion: Analyze the experiments and their results, and explore what you can do differently with another approach.

Impactful STEM Activities Are Hands-On

Hands-on learning is at the center of the programs STEMful offers, and that’s because it allows for unparalleled creative expression and exploration. Memorizing formulas and concepts doesn’t help children learn the same way that practicing and playing do. An impactful STEM activity will teach children STEM concepts while letting them enjoy getting their hands dirty — figuratively or literally!

A great example of an exciting hands-on STEM activity for children is baking. When baking something, children can measure ingredients, count, and use fractions; observe how different ingredients interact and watch those reactions take place; and touch, taste, and smell as you go.