Author Topic: STEM topics for elementary grade kids  (Read 1420 times)

mousebandit

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STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« on: December 22, 2017, 03:39:39 PM »
For those of you in the STEM fields, what topics / subjects would you recommend for elementary-aged kids?  We homeschool our kids, and I want to start adding in some activities, among them things that will stimulate them for STEM.  We just started the Tinker/Kiwi Crates, which are pretty cool (once a month activity box).  In particular I am thinking for my 7yo and 9yo.  There's all these ads on facebook for different things, but I don't know what is hype and what is valuable.  We are starting to check out the options for in-person classes / activities in the next big town, but it will still be a while before we can commit to driving in there regularly, so for now I'm looking for online things, and kits that come in the mail.  Oh, the 7yo is a boy, loves legos, of course, if there's anything lego specific (that seems to be a big thing these days).  They watch some of the Design Squad shows on PBS Kids and love those.  And, being homeschooled, country kids, they are always building, inventing, and constructing stuff outside and inside.  But I guess I want to make sure they're not lacking when they get older and go up against public schooled kids for college applications, etc. 

THANK YOU!

Lichen

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2017, 05:46:21 PM »
A telescope and a microscope.

A 4.5 " Orion starblast on a dobsonian mount is a great first scope for a 7 year old -- its what my boy started with at 7. Easy to use, durable, lightweight. This and one of the free night sky apps is all that's needed to get started. There are also free observing programs they can do at the astronomical league website (The Sky Puppy program is made specifically for this age group.) Even a good set of binoculars is great!

You can go fancy with a microscope, but the pocket field scopes are better for this age group. I recommend the Carson Microbrite Plus 60-120x. It's less than $15 on amazon and really simple to use (and durable). Combine this with some of the Golden Book or Peterson First field guides for your area. Your 9 year old may better appreciate a regular field guide for your area.

If you are more of an engineering bent, do a online search for a "squishy circuits" recipe. This is cool stuff -- playdough that you can make electrical circuits with! Snap circuits are also amazing toys for engineering. Kids that like legos love snap circuits! There is even an educator's guide available that has lesson ideas you can use at home.

At this age, it is all about hands on and observation. Journaling/record keeping is also a good idea, and can help foster a life-long love for science. There are several nature journaling guides available. Astronomy observation sketching is also a thing, which a quick online search will give you countless tips.

soccerluvof4

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2017, 03:35:55 AM »
A telescope and a microscope.

A 4.5 " Orion starblast on a dobsonian mount is a great first scope for a 7 year old -- its what my boy started with at 7. Easy to use, durable, lightweight. This and one of the free night sky apps is all that's needed to get started. There are also free observing programs they can do at the astronomical league website (The Sky Puppy program is made specifically for this age group.) Even a good set of binoculars is great!

You can go fancy with a microscope, but the pocket field scopes are better for this age group. I recommend the Carson Microbrite Plus 60-120x. It's less than $15 on amazon and really simple to use (and durable). Combine this with some of the Golden Book or Peterson First field guides for your area. Your 9 year old may better appreciate a regular field guide for your area.

If you are more of an engineering bent, do a online search for a "squishy circuits" recipe. This is cool stuff -- playdough that you can make electrical circuits with! Snap circuits are also amazing toys for engineering. Kids that like legos love snap circuits! There is even an educator's guide available that has lesson ideas you can use at home.

At this age, it is all about hands on and observation. Journaling/record keeping is also a good idea, and can help foster a life-long love for science. There are several nature journaling guides available. Astronomy observation sketching is also a thing, which a quick online search will give you countless tips.


Last year my 7th grader was on the board as the historian so we got him a camera. Was awesome to see him want to go to every event and document things for the school. So we got him a nice starter camera that as life goes on he can always add lenses etc...
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me1

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2017, 06:47:23 AM »
I've often seen kids who grew up as tinkerers and had a lot of natural engineering talent (a lot more than me) get discouraged from doing engineering once they realized how much math underlies all of it when you get to college and then drop out of engineering, because it wasn't what they imagined it to be. And that's too bad... for them and for engineering, because those people are usually very creative. So I think actually liking math, and thinking it's fun goes a huuuuge way to having a solid background in STEM.

So I think making math fun, and a game (cause it is!) is essential to making sure they have the background to pursue any of the science or engineering fields later on. The way I do this with my son is to encourage him all the time to think mathematically, when he was very little using his stuffed animals to explain division, how many piles of 2 can you make, what about 3, etc, just integrating it in things we talk about daily. Not that he has to go into those fields as an adult. I am open to him finding what he likes, but its good to have options.

As far as legos, the next step we took was to get him the programmable legos. They are definitely pricey, but we got the grandparents to buy him those. They basically teach them a lot of the basics of coding and robotics, in a fun way. There are also a lot of those types of games they can get on the lego website, if it's too pricey. Our local library also has programs where you can play with those.

topshot

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2017, 09:57:27 AM »
First Lego League or Jr. Botball

We have a local FLL group made from homeschoolers that has been quite successful nationally. I think some are transitioning into middle school now.

My son (5th gr) is doing Jr. Botball. You can use the Lego controllers for this also but they also have their own customized ones.

FLL is more rounded, being scored on 4 different areas. Jr. Botball is mostly just problem solving and programming.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2017, 10:44:59 AM »
If they are outside a lot, how about starting a science journal? Great practice for observation and recording, two key science skills.

I really like the Private Eye book, it's very interdisciplinary and focused on science thinking. http://www.the-private-eye.com/index.html.

The Acorn Naturalists catalog is another great resource for natural science books and gear. We just ordered a bunch of rubber scat for programs where I work...it was quite a hit at our county fair booth! https://www.acornnaturalists.com/

9patch

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2018, 01:05:10 PM »
I'm an engineer, and I have an 8 year old boy. He likes learning coding on code.org. You can look up hour of code in google. Do you have a science museum near you? We go to ours every 2 weeks or so, we have a membership. We read lots, I buy books from Goodwill mostly, or go to the library. We used to watch magic school bus, but we haven't done that in a while.

Kmp2

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2018, 05:29:25 PM »
Lego has a simple machine set, with levers and gears... you can practice building machines to do work while giving you a mechanical advantage :)

My daughter received an experiment kit when she was 3! She loves doing the colour mixing, measuring, and of course the baking soda and vinegar reactions... this year she got a telescope (20x power) and we have already been out for a night time snowshoe to look at the stars and moon with it. We love stem activities :)








kaypinkHH

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2018, 05:57:39 AM »
Engineer here, but I also volunteered with a grade 5 class a few years back. Once a month I would go in and discuss STEM topics and do some activities.

Here is the program guide, starting on page 15 are pages of activities for you to take a look at! http://eir.ewb.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/EIR-Program-Guide-and-Activities.pdf

Some activities I worked on with the students that stand out to me:

Cookie Mine- Activity 9 (I focused more on the process of how to extract the "ore" vs the environment. I also used a video from a videogame opening to show the life cycle from ore to Car. We talked about minerals. I can send you the full presentation if you would like :).

Messy Science- General messy science experiments. Can't remember the specific ones we did, but Elephant Foam, Exploding Lunch Bag, and Non-Newtonian fluid were some of them. We happened to do these experiments outside in -15 deg C, and it really impacted the speed of reaction. This allowed us to discuss temperature and external factors for science experiments!

Environmental Assessment: I borrowed this from an actual environmental assessment class I took in university. I was a "developer" proposing building a new amusement park outside their school. At first the kids were really excited by this plan, and we talked about how awesome it would be to have a park near by. But then we looked at all the different stake holders- local businesses, aboriginal community nearby (this new park was going to be built on a historical site), the recreational land users, neighbors, city council, nature and wildlife groups etc. I had the students divide into groups representing each stakeholder to discuss the pros and cons for them, and then they got to question me in a town hall format. They had just finished learning about debating, and this group of 10 year olds DESTROYED me. This was the teacher's favorite activity because it got to pull from a lot of subjects (social studies/public speaking/teamwork etc.).

Structures: Did a presentation about structures and basic physics behind it, then did the spaghetti and marshmellow building challenge. Here is the presentation I created if you want to share it with your kids! (Sorry looks like one video link is not working!)
http://prezi.com/rmgmy7dj5s_r/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy.

I agree with me1, math is critical and often gets overlooked (note none of the above activities were about math), if I was still with the program I definitely would  have liked to do a math based session!

Hope this helps!


Better Change

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 12:24:59 PM »
Ooooh, fun!  I'm a chemist, and I volunteer in elementary schools.

Some of our favorites:

Marshmallow challenge (already mentioned): https://www.tomwujec.com/design-projects/marshmallow-challenge/

Milk rainbow: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/surfactant-science-make-a-milk-rainbow/

Crystal art: https://www.education.com/science-fair/article/grow-your-own-crystal/

Borax crystals: http://www.danslelakehouse.com/2015/01/diy-borax-crystals.html

Building catapults!  We use rubber bands, popsicle sticks, tape, etc.  Popular with the parents, too!

Slime: https://www.thoughtco.com/recipes-for-different-types-of-slime-608233

And the perennial favorite: Mentos geysers.  You can buy "launch tubes" off Amazon with lots of fun toppers that make different shaped geysers.

We've done these experiments with 20 K-5 students at a time. 

Cranky

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Re: STEM topics for elementary grade kids
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2018, 01:33:46 PM »
Do you have a library? Ours has a lego club, a girls’ coding club, 3D printer workshops for kids...