If there is one thing I like more than a good STEM challenge, it’s a STEM challenge in nature!
In school I have used the penny boat challenge but in this beautiful weather no one wanted to be inside. So, I said to my two boys, “Let’s get outside and play!”
As I am currently supporting learning at home with my Kindergarten students, I also put this challenge out to them, to see what they have explored and learned.
What is a STEM Challenge?
STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Math. You may also hear of STEAM, which is Science Technology Engineering Art and Math. Both are super valuable to children’s learning as they involve planning, creating, assessing, recreating, and sharing learning. A lot of critical thinking is used and it is AMAZING what our little ones come up with and the critical thinking and planning skills they develop through this. And….it is fun!
What We Did
My sons and I took a walk through a nature path near our home and collected materials we thought would be great for making a boat. This brought out some great conversations on what items might sink or float and why, as well as, how materials have different purposes for our boat. Wow, I could see those dendrites firing! I just love hearing my children come up with exciting new learning.
Design and Create
After we collected the items we thought we may use, we started to design and create. This is the fun and messy part. Some things we thought would work didn’t and some things we didn’t think of became a key part of our design.
Does our boat float?
We were happy to see it floated if we set it carefully on the water. If it hadn’t worked, that would be awesome, too. This gives us a chance to celebrate our failure, what we have learned from it, and try again with our new learning. Aren’t those such valuable life lessons? This is yet another reason why I love STEM challenges.
So, we decided to take our challenge one step further and asked the question, “How many pebbles from the rock garden will our boat hold? We learned it could hold 17 pebbles. In the future, we could take our challenge further and explore ways for our boat to hold more pebbles. The learning could go on for a long time with this one challenge depending on the level of interest your children maintain.
I hope you enjoy this activity as much as we did! And… just maybe you have caught the STEM challenge bug with me!
Popular Mechanics for Kids also has a large selection of STEM Challenges for you and your children to enjoy
Belinda is a mama to two little boys and an experienced Kindergarten teacher. She has a love of using nature and technology to enhance and motivate children’s learning. She values the use and training of growth mindset at home with her family and while teaching. You can follow Belinda on Pinterest.
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