Earth Day (April 22nd) is a great opportunity to combine STEM with environmental awareness! Today’s students will be entrusted with preserving our planet for future generations. Industrialization, population growth, oil spills and other dangers threaten the safety of our home. Learning the science of plant growth and other critical functions of life here on Earth provides the foundation for engineering and technology developments that may save our planet.
This Earth Day, we challenge you to join us in giving kids hands-on STEM challenges that allows them to plant, design, and rescue. Find a freebie at the end of this post for you and your kids to enjoy too!
Botany STEM Challenge
Our Botany Challenge product includes two activities to focus on the science of plant development and then an engineering design project.
Most students are familiar with planting seeds, but have they every watched the seedling sprout and grow without interference from dirt? We created mini-greenhouses that you can hang in a window. Students will “plant” a seed by putting it with a moist cottonball into a baggie and tape it to a window with a decorated greenhouse frame (included in product packet). Over the next several days, they will be able to observe and chart the growth of their little plants. A handout on plant and seed anatomy is also included as well as a mini-lesson on the pioneering STEMist in botany, Dr. Katherine Esau. After their seedling has grown, students will answer reflection and math extension questions relating to the activity. These include graphing, interpreting graphs, and rates.
While the seedlings are growing is a great time to do the Plant Transport Challenge. In this activity, students use the engineering design process to build a device to transport their little plants home. As with any engineering challenge, there are constraints that must be considered and testing that must be passed. Making a device that is sturdy enough to carry a heavy plant pot that also doesn’t leak from the watered soil presents lots of opportunities to learn from failure and celebrate success!
This activity also includes reflection questions as well as math extension questions. These questions include problems relating to perimeter, area, volume, and percentages. The product contains appropriate pages with both SI and metric units and is recommended for grades 1st through 7th and homeschoolers.
Oil Spill Activity
Have you tried our Oil Spill Challenge? This activity never fails to amaze kids on the impact an oil spill has on wildlife and how difficult it is to clean out of the ocean. For more on our product and completing the activity in your home or classroom, read our blog post [here].
This activity is fun for small children at home as well. I opened the lesson with my preschoolers by showing pictures and videos of the BP Oil Spill and the animals that were affected. My daughter was especially concerned about the well-being of the marine life. We discussed how it is up to people to protect the environment from harm and to clean up any messes we make. Then we got messy!
The set-up is the same for a classroom but on a smaller scale. I used colored feathers to make it more obvious and motivating to remove all of the oil.
Tips for the oil spill challenge with preschoolers and toddlers:
- Depending on the age and maturity of your child, I would recommend completing this activity outdoors
- This can get really messy and oil can stain, so be mindful of clothing and shoes
- Add the oil/cocoa powder mixture to the water in a very small amount so that it is easily seen as separate and more easily removed
- This makes for a great sensory activity by using spoons and other utensils to move around the oil blobs in the water and play with the feathers
- Create a certificate or prize for your little environmental engineer once they have cleaned up the oil spill! Talk to them about the real-life careers that deal with these environmental issues– Petroleum Engineers, Marine Biologists, and many more!
Earth Day Goodies and a FREE printable
I found these seed paper Earths on Amazon and knew they would make the perfect little gifts for students to get them pumped about Earth Day!
There are scores of tutorials I have seen on Pinterest (Check out the Vivify pinterest boards), but these Earths were just too easy and perfect to pass up. There are lots of other cute designs as well, like these hemp leaf shapes, smiley faces, or even these Earth shaped wildflower seed bomb bags. Checkout the freebie printable in our TpT store to make goodie-bags like mine below. Encourage your students or kids to plant them outside and make observations about the growth of their wildflowers!
We hope your kids and students are inspired by these Earth Day STEM Activities!
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