By Gabriella Rowe
School isn’t the only place where learning happens — the most important classroom is right at home. We can teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) skills in unexpected ways outside of school hours, even when classes have resumed.
STEAM-based activities bring together many different disciplines of learning to explain how everyday objects and processes work. When teaching these skills, we want our children to focus on problem solving. Getting kids to question the world around them is the basis of STEAM education, and it’s easy to come up with learning activities at home.
Brainstorming Around the House
To get started, step back and think about tinkering around the house, or working on a project. Consider a household chore that you would typically do yourself, and break it down into small segments to teach your children how it works.
Take cutting the grass for example. You pull the lawnmower out of the garage and begin your normal chore. It’s easy to forget that it’s a complex machine, but this is a great time to work with your child and figure out how a lawnmower works. Talk through how it starts, how it cuts the grass, and what fuels the mower.
Exercises that take a look at the mechanics behind how household appliances function are a great way to get kids in a STEAM mindset.
Ideas to Try with Your Child
Here are some additional activities to tackle STEAM-based learning at home:
Bake cookies from scratch
This is a great activity because your child will read a recipe, gather ingredients, and understand how ingredients bond together. Kids will learn about the science of baking, and as you are studying this process, the cookies will come out of the oven and you’ll have a treat. It sparks a great discussion about how different substances react to elements such as heat.
Track the weather
Every morning before school, check the weather report with your child online or on TV. Place a bucket outside to measure rainfall, and keep a graph and chart to keep track of the rainfall over time.
Build Lego models
This activity can be done with any kind of Legos with kids of any age. Have your child follow a building guide that might come with the Lego set. Ask: Why is that the next step? Why do wheels go on either side of the car? What do you think this shape will turn into?
To understand the power of heat and energy, take a lens and place it on a piece of paper in the sunlight (make sure this is done outside or on a fireproof surface). When the piece of paper burns, ask your child if they expected the reaction. Take it further by then researching sunlight and where it comes from.
Make a solar system model
This is a great follow-up activity to magnifying sunlight. By making a physical model, children can visualize the distance and size difference between the planets and the sun. Afterwards, discuss why the sun might be hotter in the summer than in the winter, and why it would be able to burn a piece of paper from so far away.
Keep the Learning Process in Motion
Ensuring that your child is learning STEAM-related skills can be as easy as re-examining basic household chores, or taking time to build a model. Hands-on activities that show children how everyday objects and processes work are one of the basic elements of any STEAM curriculum — and they’re surprisingly simple to do, without even stepping out your front door.
Gabriella Rowe is Head of School at The Village School, a Nord Anglia Education school, in Houston (nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/houston/village-school).