Looking for more ways to keep the kids occupied during the circuit breaker? Keep 'em learning with these cool STEAM experiments.
What’s on every mum’s to-do list right now? Finding new ways to keep the kids busy during the circuit breaker, of course! Bonus points if the activity’s entertaining AND educational – and if it’ll keep the kids quiet, all the better! Well, today’s your lucky day. We spoke to some of the most brilliant minds from Singapore’s top international schools for awesome STEAM experiments for kids to try at home. Yep, not only will you get the kids thinking and busy, but they’ll be learning some cutting-edge STEAM skills that’ll put them ahead of the learning game. Ready? Here we go:
Activity #1: Everyday we’re STEAM-ing with Kara Stucky, Middle School Design Technology Teacher at ICS
One way to encourage your child in the STEAM fields is to help them see connections to these content areas in their everyday life. Promote wonder and curiosity in everything around you. Students can explore what makes a plane fly, how a tool was designed with the user in mind and so much more! Another way is to use the technology you already have at home to provide opportunities for your child to create new things. Too often our phones, tablets and laptops are used to consume content such as movies, books, media, etc. Encourage your child to film a movie, write their own story, code a robot or design a new invention. There are many free online resources and apps that students can use to explore their interests in the STEAM fields.
Why is it important for kids to learn about STEAM?
A STEAM program allows students to experience the content they would learn in their core courses through cross-curricular projects focused on real-world applications. Students are challenged to tackle problems, design solutions and work effectively in project teams. As students take on the role of problem-solver, they are using critical thinking and creativity to develop and test their prototypes. These cultivate soft skills that are crucial for our students’ future coursework and careers.
At ICS, we use STEAM-focused projects to help students develop a growth mindset. Students enjoy using their creativity to come up with unique and different solutions to a problem. We create a safe environment that allows students to test their ideas, with an underlying understanding that failure is part of the learning process. Students learn from their mistakes and use iterative design to continue improving their prototype until they reach a viable solution. It’s fun for students to keep trying until they experience the success of reaching their goals.
Activity #2: Build this with Olivia Davenport, Secondary Science teacher at EtonHouse International School, Orchard
Here are a few activities you could try:
- Build a rollercoaster/marble run/skyscraper out of junk at home (egg cartons, cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, string, anything!)
- Newspaper towers or bridges – which are the strongest shapes? What does the Eiffel Tower look like? How could the tower hold an egg?
- Rubber band cars – They are very simple to make using a few bottle tops, lollipop sticks and rubber bands. Kids can then make changes to their designs to see how to speed up their cars!
Don’t forget to ask them questions to help guide learning through the activity.
What are the advantages to learning STEAM?
It goes without saying that jobs of the future will be different from those in today’s society; with most likely a focus on computer-based tasks. However, no computer will be able to completely copy the traits of a human. The skillset our students develop through STEAM such as creativity, imagination and the ability to discover unique creations will still be essential to the jobs of the future. Who knows what an EtonHouse alumnus might one day invent!
Activity #3: Trash to treasure hunt with Edward Bailey, Digital Skills and Makerspace Coach at Nexus International School (Singapore)
You can start your STEAM adventure and help the environment by having a ‘trash to treasure’ hunt around your house finding long-lost elastic bands and paper clips. Collecting used water bottles to make rockets and old lollipop sticks to make catapults are not only great for the environment but are also wonderful science experiments that can be great fun for the whole family!
During the Circuit Breaker, we are encouraging learners to find ways to connect and share their scientific adventures with each other. A fantastic place to do that online is DIY.org, a specifically designed website for children to connect with each other about STEAM. It also provides inspiration for children to kickstart new projects and share their successes (and fun failures!) in exploring Science, Technology and Creative Design.
Why is it important for kids to start learning STEAM at a young age?
As young as Nursery and all the way to IB Diploma, STEAM skills are valuable across all disciplines and subjects. STEAM starts in Nursery at Nexus; as we follow the IB programme we integrate the Unit of Inquiry (UOI) across all subjects. For example, in our ‘Living Things’ UOI our littlest learners hatch chickens from eggs. STEAM is incorporated through their understanding about the biology of chickens (Science) and why they need heat lamps (Technology). Our learners even help design (Engineering) and build the chicken coup based on their guided research of best habitats for them. They create crafts featuring chickens as part of their Visual Art Lessons (Art) and work out food quantities (Maths).
It also teaches young children how to share responsibility and compromise by working on group projects that incorporate multiple disciplines. This is a useful and vital skill to have, especially as we enter into an age where jobs are more cross-functional and data-driven.
Activity #4: STEAM with the BBC with James Bleach, STEAM Coordinator at Tanglin Trust School
The BBC has some great resources that encourage skills and knowledge from STEAM subject areas. Its Big Life Fix features designers and engineers making products for people with particular fix, while How to Make sees the designer and engineer Zoe Laughlin analyse – and create new versions of – classic items such as headphones. The James Dyson Foundation’s website features downloadable challenge cards that families can ‘play’ together, such as setting up a balloon car race, while the UK’s National STEM centre has a home learning page on its website that includes suggestions for simple at-home STEAM activities for every age group.
Why is STEAM education useful?
STEAM is an idea of collaborating between subject areas; of drawing upon knowledge and skills from one or more disciplines in order to solve problems. In this sense it is not necessarily a standalone topic to learn about, more a way of thinking – of cross-curricular problem-solving. It is important for children to have empathy, to learn how to solve problems, and to be best informed and trained when doing so.
From an early age, students should see that all subjects, including those referred to as STEAM, share links with each other. Children need to see the integration of school subjects in order to comprehend the purpose and power of learning. One recent example is how Design & Technology departments, designers and other industry leaders have tackled the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) among healthcare workers during the Covid-19 crisis.