If you’re like me, this morning you woke up in a cold sweat… not about what gift(s) still need to be purchased or whether my neighbor will appreciate the obnoxious light display that we constructed this year; no, it just dawned on me that in a few short days, a two-year-old and a six-year-old will be running roughshod over the house during their two plus week winter hiatus from school. As with most years, the beginning of the break will be fine; the novelty of waking up later than normal, heading out to play with friends, potentially a slightly later than usual bedtime, and the anticipation of a visit from the man in the red coat will all be welcomed.
It won’t likely be until December 26th when the novelty wears off and the boredom sets in. To combat the challenge, we’re introducing the 12 days of STEM(mas)! Designed to provide 12 short, novel projects that can occupy say… sixty 60 precious minutes of time, should cost less than $5, and break up the monotony of having two 2 commitment free weeks without school. You never know, perhaps someday someone will even make a song about it?! On the first day of STEM(mas), my parents gave to me…
- One shiny penny – well… perhaps they’ll need more than one. Provide your ‘students’ one hundred pennies, a bag of popsicle sticks, and some Elmer’s glue; ask them to construct for you their best rendition of Abraham Lincoln’s log home. Spatial orientation, architectural design, and materials usage all come into play here.
- Two electric eels – try this interesting take on chemistry/chemical reactions; while most appropriate for the younger (K-5) student, you can add depth by asking older siblings to either teach the exercise or generate a hypothesis on what will occur when these items are mixed as described. Enjoy!
- Three bottles freezing – Ok, this one takes more than 60 minutes and does require your youngster to open the freezer at points in time. It’s well worth it to discuss the change of matter between liquid and solid; something that occurs instantly before you eyes!
- Four fireworks! These come in a jar, don’t require actual fire, and have little chance of resulting in loss of finger or limb. This is an interesting way to discuss everything from the mixing of colors to the various densities of liquids. Even the most skeptical youngster will be tempted to ask how this happens!
- Five iron chefs! When I think back to my childhood and reflect on the holidays, very few memories exist that don’t involve food! What’s better than eating it? How about teaching your kids how to make it and then eating it! While not necessarily traditional holiday fare, teach your kids food science and the art of flavor combinations by allowing them to ‘make their own pizzas’! You never know, perhaps yours will become the next Papa John.
- Six colors shining! Here’s another really cool chemistry experiment to get your student excited about reactions and also let them flex their creative muscles. Using all household items, this is sure to brighten any gloomy winter day.
- Seven kids a bathing. Use this one about halfway through the break – trust me you don’t want to have the ‘stinky’ kid. Creating fizz dough, along with the shapes and structures you can create with fizz dough, really flexes students’ imaginations while giving them permission to be a kid (it can be a bit messy) while getting them clean, and letting them watch a science experiment take place before their very eyes.
- Eight fractals fracking. Do you want to build a snowman? Or ride our bikes around the halls?!... sing it with me! Rather than making snow, teach your student the science of baking and make up some peppermint rock candy. Great for again demonstrating phase change.
- Nine geodes geoding? Who like sparkly rocks? The better question - who doesn’t! show your student how to create their own geode and in the process teach them about rock formations and geology in general.
- Ten potatoes glowing! Probably the coolest lab of the bunch. Students learn about components of food, how to distill off impurities, and get to play with edible slime!
- Eleven lamps a lavaing. Guessing the lava lamp you had in college was purchased and not made. Why not provide your student an exercise in the density of liquids and give them something (that they made) to hang on the bookshelf.
- Twelve magnets charging. Magnets cool, slime cool… magnetic slime? Seriously?! Teach some basic materials phases, the ability to attract metal to magnet, and the ability to magnetize a second set of materials by association with the primary magnet.
Hope these give you some inspiration over the holidays and allow you to spend some quality time doing some really fun things with your kids.