Summer camp is a great opportunity for youth to grow and learn in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Kids can explore these concepts and the world around them as they participate in these hands-on activities, sharpen their skills in inquiry and hone their natural senses of curiosity.
1. Make Summer Messy!
Making different types of slime is a great way to explore the concept of polymers. Below is an activity that can easily be modified for youth of all ages, and one that really allows youth to get messy as they learn and play.
Oobleck is a great example of a non-Newtonian fluid. Non-Newtonian fluids have properties of both liquids and solids, which makes them REALLY fun to play with. When you apply pressure to Oobleck, it can feel very firm. Handling it more gently makes it feel very flexible. Making Oobleck is easy; here’s how you can make your own:
- 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch
- A small amount of food coloring (optional)
- Start with the water in a bowl and add the cornstarch a little bit at a time.
- Keep stirring until it has a gooey consistency. You may want to use your hands.
- When the Oobleck feels just right, slowly add food coloring.
- Have fun!
Connect STEM and literacy skills by reading: Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss and The Sticky, Stinky Science Book by Kris Hirschmann
Note: This post is not sponsored by Amazon.
2. Have an Invention Convention!
No expensive supplies needed here! Gather household materials like cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, rubber bands and recyclables, including cans and paper towel tubes, and pair them with a great challenge to get youth excited about creating something truly unique.
Here are some sample invention challenges to get you started:
- Space Case: Make something that you would need on Mars. Perhaps a space bed? A stellar house? Maybe even a special car to zip around the planet? There are no limits to the fun things that could be useful for life on the mysterious red planet.
- Creature Feature: What’s the strangest creature you can think of? Would it have fins, wings, big horns or scales? Would it fly, crawl or bounce? Does the creature live in a tree, or in the ocean? How about on a land that no one has ever thought of before? Encourage young minds to invent the craziest critters and their habitats. All ideas are welcome in this challenge!
Explore the excitement of invention by reading: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen, and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
3. Build it!
Building is a wonderful hands-on way to explore tools and engineering. With simple supplies, children can build fantasy or real-life objects, and can even build smaller models to test concepts for larger projects. Use household items or materials found in nature to explore the building process of design, planning and final construction.
Here are some building challenges to get you started:
- Toothpick bridge: Have youth create a bridge using toothpicks and mini marshmallows. See how long and how high their bridges can be, and test whether the bridges can hold weight.
- Make the tallest structure you can: Challenge youth to see how high they can build. Be sure they test different materials to see what works best!
- Egg drop challenge: Design a system that will protect an egg from cracking or breaking from a high fall. Have participants take some time to plan and draw their designs and then get to work building it. Challenge them to think about why their designs will protect the egg. Don’t forget to have them test their designs and head back to the drawing board to keep improving them!
Read more about design and engineering by reading: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty, The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay, and Awesome Science Experiments for Kids: 100 + Fun STEM/STEAM Projects and Why They Work by Crystal Chatterton