5 STEM Activities for Fall & Halloween

Fall is here in the USA and we are excited to share with you some of our favorite STEM activities for the season! Whether you are teaching in the classroom, homeschooling, or just enjoying play time at home with your kids, the following activities are sure to excite and engage any age. 

 

Watch out for spiders with parachutes! Learn about this amazing ability and make your own ballooning spiderling.

Watch out for spiders with parachutes! Learn about this amazing ability and make your own ballooning spiderling.

1. Spider Parachutes

Spiderlings of some spider species make parachutes out of their silk in order to disperse—a process called ballooning. In doing this, spiders have traveled from a few meters to hundreds of kilometers!  Soon after hatching, the spiderlings stand on their tippy-toes and release a few strands of silk. These strands automatically form a triangular shaped parachute that catches the breeze and lifts them in the air!

Your mission: Make a spiderling parachute that will carry your spider as far as possible!

Supplies:

  • Coffee filter
  • String
  • Plastic spider
  • Box fan (optional)

Create your parachute out of the coffee filter, cutting it into different shapes to experiment if desired. Attach your spider to the parachute from the strings then drop it to see if the parachute slows its descent. Once the parachute configuration is how you want it, use the box fan to blow the spiderling parachute. Try pointing the fan at different angles upwards from the horizontal to see what helps the spiderling go the farthest distance. Measure the distance of each trial and record your results!

 

Explore the science of chromatography and create some festive crafts!

Explore the science of chromatography and create some festive crafts!

2. Chromatography

Explore chromatography – the separation of a mixture where the parts move at different rates—and create some festive fall decoration!

Your mission: Discover what goes into a black marker!

Supplies:

  • Scissors
  • Coffee Filter
  • Non-permanent black marker
  • Water

Draw a black spot in the center of the coffee filter. Place the coffee filter on a plate or tray to prevent creating a mess. Drop a few drops of water onto the black spot. After a few minutes, rings of color will travel out from the center of the circle towards the edges!  Most non-permanent markers are made of many colors of pigments. When the water is added, these pigments travel with the water at different rates depending on the size of the pigment molecules and how much they are attracted to the filter paper. Doing this, you can discover what pigments make up the black marker! For the littlest STEMists, use many different colored markers on the coffee filters then watch how the water spreads the colors like tie dye.

Hang your coffee filter to dry, then cut out fall leaf shapes to display! You can also make your chromatography coffee filters into monsters using googly eyes.

Career Connection:

Biochemists use chromatography to separate mixtures and determine their composition. For example, they can decipher what creates a particular flavor in a food or a specific scent from a plant.

 

Make the phases of the moon out of Oreos and explore the facinating characteristics of the Harvest Moon.

Make the phases of the moon out of Oreos and explore the facinating characteristics of the Harvest Moon.

3. Harvest Moon

Do you know your moon phases? Do you know about the special moon-Sun-Earth relationship that happens in the fall? The Harvest Moon is happening soon and we have a freebie for you to learn about it in a delicious way!

We did the classic (and yummy!) Oreo lesson on moon phases. This time, however, we added in some Harvest Moon science! Check out this FREEBIE to make your own moon phase Oreos and learn the science behind the harvest moon that occurs around the autumn equinox.

 

Get kids designing with the candy grabber STEM challenge this Halloween!

Get kids designing with the candy grabber STEM challenge this Halloween!

4. Candy Grabber

The local candy factory has had a major spill! We need your young engineers to help clean it up. This challenge is designed for the classroom or homeschool group where students go through the engineering design process in teams. Each team creates a device to grab candy from a given distance. Successfully pass the test by picking up candy with your device, and save Halloween! *Note: optional pages are included that omit the word “Halloween” if desired.

This challenge includes:

  • Detailed teachers guide with links to resources 
  • Grading Rubric
  • Handout teaching the concept of levers
  • Student handouts to guide them through the engineering design process
  • Student recording sheet for each step of the process
  •  Math connection problems including areas, percentages, and graphing (With an answer key) in both American customary and metric units
  • Related STEM career connection
     
Challenge your students with the STEM Candy Grabber Challenge this Halloween!

Challenge your students with the STEM Candy Grabber Challenge this Halloween!

If you are looking for candy ideas for this challenge that will be safe for kids with allergies, check out this helpful website

Make a pumpkin volcano and design safe shelters to survive a volcanic eruption with this exciting activity!

Make a pumpkin volcano and design safe shelters to survive a volcanic eruption with this exciting activity!

5. Pumpkin Volcano

Grab your volcano supplies (baking soda + vinegar + dish soap), but this time make your fall décor erupt!

At Home:

Here’s what you do:

  1. Carve out a small pumpkin then add the baking soda.
  2. Since I did this with just my two kids, I gave each one a small container of vinegar then added a few drops of a different food coloring in each. This way we talked about what they thought would happen when the two colors mix inside the pumpkin. What color eruption will we see?
  3. Carefully pour in the vinegar all at the same time and watch the excitement when the frothy science happens!

What is happening?

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, meaning thateach molecule of baking soda contains a sodium atom, a hydrogen atom, an oxygen atom, and a carbon dioxide molecule.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, each molecule of which contains a hydrogen atom, and an acetate ion.

When combined, the hydrogen atom in the acetic acid mixes with the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the baking soda to form a molecule of water! The acetate ion grabs onto the sodium atom and forms a salt called sodium acetate. The carbon dioxide molecule, free of its other chemical bonds, now escapes as a gas by creating frothy bubbles.

In the Classroom:

Make it a memorable engineering design challenge! Your students will have a blast working in teams to build a shelter that can survive a volcanic eruption from a pumpkin! This activity guides your students through the engineering design process and connects math topics to real-world applications. Our students have loved this activity, and we know yours will too! 

This engaging, student-driven activity includes an optional simulated volcanic eruption, to test the students' shelter designs, using baking soda, vinegar, dish soap and a pumpkin. This makes for an exciting and educational experience they will remember! 

Included in this product:

  • Detailed teachers guide with links to resources 
  • Volcano information sheet
  • Grading Rubric
  • Student handouts to guide them through the engineering design process
  • Student recording sheet for each step of the process
  • Reflection questions to ensure concepts are understood
  • Math connection problems including surface area and unit conversion (answer key included) in American customary and metric units

 

For more fun Fall STEM activities, read our post from last year!

Have a Happy Fall!