If you’ve done any amount of online searching for STEM activities you know that these types of activities tend to be very age-specific. You’ve got toddler-friendly STEM activities like slime, volcanoes, and the like, and you’ve got teen-friendly STEM activities such as aquaponics systems or bows and arrows made out of PVC pipe. Unfortunately, there aren’t many STEM activities that are appropriate for the entire family – or are there? Is it really possible to enjoy one STEM activity for every age level?
The answer is a resounding yes! The good news is, it’s not as difficult as it sounds, although it does require a little bit of creative thinking. Prepare to forever change the way your homeschool enjoys hands-on STEM activities.
The Problem with Traditional STEM Activities
As homeschoolers, there are a few problems that we face when planning STEM activities to enjoy with our kids.
- When picking an activity the little kids are capable of doing, older kids are bored and unstimulated.
- When enjoying an activity that gives older kids what they need, younger kids are excluded and left to their own devices.
- Having to plan a different activity for every age level is time-consuming and mentally exhausting.
- Feeling like they’re leaving one or the other age level out of a STEM activity leaves moms and dads feeling overwhelmed or guilty.
The solution is simple. Plan one STEM activity that is easily doable by the littlest family member, and then provide older students with resources and projects that allow them to take the learning even further.
How to Adapt Your STEM Activities to Meet the Needs of Every Student
Let’s say you want to engage your little ones by having a paper airplane contest. Kids love paper airplanes and this activity is a great way to keep toddlers, preschoolers, and even elementary students engaged for hours.
Toddlers and preschoolers will naturally learn about force, motion, and gravity by merely throwing their paper airplanes around. Of course, they’ll also be working on their gross motor skills. As lower elementary students practice making their own paper airplanes, they’ll be improving their fine motor skills while also learning about physics.
How do you make a paper airplane activity educational for upper elementary students? Why not compare and contrast various paper airplane templates? Find a few different designs and have your kids make an airplane following each one. Then have them test each design to determine which one goes the fastest, which one goes the farthest, and which one does the most tricks or loop-de-loops.
Tell your students they need to keep track of each airplane’s stats so they can properly decide which airplane is the best in each area. Have them chart and graph each airplane’s results so the conclusion is more visual. Use these free paper airplane graphing worksheets to help guide their learning adventure.
Middle school students can learn about statistical analysis by taking the results of each airplane and applying mathematical formulas to determine things such as mean, median, mode, and so on. You can also dive into lessons that focus on why each airplane behaved the way it did. What made the fast airplane fly so fast? What made the trick airplane flip around so many times? Research the physical aspects of real airplanes that match these characteristics and enjoy a deeper lesson with your older students.
High school students can choose to dive even deeper into the characteristics of real airplanes. Have them complete a research paper about the world’s fastest jet, the world’s first trick plane, or something similar. High school students can even take their statistical analysis results from earlier and plug them into some kind of computer graphing program, such as Excel. Learning how to use computers to create charts and graphs such as these will serve them well for many years to come
See what you were able to accomplish with just a simple paper airplane? Your younger kids felt involved and included because they were! At the same, the educational needs of your older students were also met.
More Tips for Engaging, Whole Family STEM Activities
Hopefully, this paper airplane example helped show you how easy it can be to adapt a seemingly childish STEM activity to be appropriate for older students. However, just because this kind of adaptability comes easily for some families, other families still feel like they don’t know how to change or supplement a child-friendly STEM activity so their tweens and teens can also get the stimulation they need.
If this sounds like you, perhaps you should look into a homeschool STEM curriculum. A good homeschool STEM curriculum will not only walk you through some fun and engaging STEM activities, but it will also supply you with ideas and/or resources for including even your oldest students. You don’t have to worry about being creative or coming up with everything all on your own. All you have to do is supervise the research portions and encourage your kids to keep working hard.
Or if you’re committed to planning your own whole family STEM activities, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Start by picking out a simple STEM activity. It’s easier to build up than it is to back up.
- Plan STEM projects that focus on a certain topic or theme, such as the law of gravity, chemical reactions, weather, and so on. Once you’ve completed the simple version, you know what topics to research when considering applicable projects for older students.
- No matter your topic, be sure to include the scientific method. Even simply encouraging your kids to fill out some scientific method worksheets will increase their insights throughout the entire project.
- Don’t feel like you need to stick to science topics when looking at additional activities for your older students. You are welcome to branch into other educational topics including but not limited to computer applications, real-world applications, life skills, possible future careers, and so on.
- When all else fails, assign a research paper! Let your kids decide for themselves what direction they want to go when taking the learning further.
When it comes to STEM activities, the sky is quite literally the limit. There are millions of opportunities for enjoying these types of hands-on projects in your homeschool. The only limit is your imagination.
If you’re looking for inspiration, consider including some of these fun STEM activities in your homeschool.