Mommy on a Shoestring: STEM fun for everyone

Make learning a family affair with these hands-on activities that incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Can an Orange Float?

Sometimes an orange is just an orange and sometimes, it’s buoy. Find out why with this simple experiment.

You need:

Large Bowl

2 oranges (one peeled, one unpeeled)

Magnifying Glass (optional)

Directions:

Fill bowl with water.

Ask family members to predict if they think the peeled orange will sink or float.

Place unpeeled orange in water.

Watch what happens.

Try the activity again with an unpeeled orange. What happens now?

If you have a magnifying glass on hand, give everyone a chance to examine the peel, looking for tiny pockets of air that keep the orange afloat (sort of like a life-jacket or water-wings).

Building Bridges

This activity is great fun because it shows kids (and adults) how bridges are engineered to be strong enough to hold cars and trucks, yet light enough to remain suspended in air.

You need:

Popsicle sticks (available at most craft stores)

Wood glue or glue gun

Optional embellishments (straws, toothpicks, rocks, string, etc.)

Directions:

There are a number of different ways to build a bridge and varies based on interest and taste. The best way to get started is to build a rectangular base with the Popsicle sticks and then fill-in the base with a row of sticks that are parallel to each other. To add strength, use triangles, as they are the strongest and most stable polygon. (In fact a fun follow-up activity is to take a walk with your kids and count how many triangles they see around the neighborhood).

Interested in building a suspension bridge? Check out the video, “How to Build Bridges with Popsicle Sticks” with step-by-step instructions at: http://bit.ly/1iEjbIC.

Dessert and Dice Game

I love this after-dinner game because it reinforces key math concepts with a roll of the dice and a few cookies.

You need:

• Dice (3 die per person)

• Mini cookies (chocolate candies such as M&M’s would work equally as well)

Directions:

• Players roll their dice at the same time., then players add up the sum of their dice.

• The person with the highest number “wins” the round and “wins” one cookie.

• If there is a tie, everyone rolls again. Continue game until cookies are gone

• To make this game less challenging, give each player fewer dice.

• To increase the challenge, add more dice or ask players to use multiplication rather than addition.

Write your name in Elements

The Periodic Table just got more interesting with this cool website that lets you “elementize” your name using the Periodic Table. Simply visit www.lmntology.com, type in your name and find out the unique elements that comprise your name. Does your name include a letter that’s not in the periodic table? Not to worry, the website includes and describes “fictional elements” when necessary to make sure every name is covered.

Girls and STEM

The statistics are staggering. According to a 2012 study released by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, only 14 percent of all engineers are women. When it comes to math and science professions, women comprise just 27 percent of the workforce. But there is hope! We can help close the gender gap by encouraging our girls to get involved in STEM related activities. To learn more, check out these programs and resources:

Digigirlz (Digigirlz.com) This program encourages high school girls to learn about careers in technology via workshops, online courses and mentoring programs.

National Girls Collaborative Project (ngcproject.org) Online clearinghouse listing organizations dedicated to encouraging girls to pursue STEM related careers.

Girlstart (girlstart.org): STEM education programs geared towards girls in grades K-12.

Purple and Nine (ganglysister.net): Online animated series features female characters who use technology to solve everyday problems.

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