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STEM Spot

STEM Spot

What is STEM?

STEM stands for SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, and MATH.

The preschool years are the perfect time to start building a foundation of STEM-related thinking skills. The more children are exposed to STEM concepts before they go to school, the easier it will be for them to understand those ideas when they start school.

During Story Time, we highlight different activities you can try at home to incorporate STEM in your child’s day.

Energy Experiment

Energy Experiment Instructions

Printable Instructions

You will Need:

  • A table
  • Two ramps: one short and one tall
  • A toy to slide down the ramps

Set Up:

  • Leave one section of the table clear.
  • Next to the blank space, set up the low ramp.
  • Next to the low ramp, set up the tall ramp.

What to Do:

  1. Put the toy on the flat surface. Notice whether or not it moves. The toy should remain still since it has no stored energy.
  2. Have the toy “climb” up the short side of the short ramp and stop at the top of the slide. The toy now has stored energy.
  3. Let go of the toy. Notice whether or not it moves. When it moves, it is using the stored energy. Stored energy has become used energy.
  4. Have the toy “climb” up the short side of the tall ramp and stop at the top of the slide. The toy now has stored energy.
  5. Let go of the toy. Notice whether or not it moves. When it moves, it is using the stored energy.

Observations:

  • The toy on the flat surface did not “climb”. It had no stored energy to use.
  • The toy on the low ramp “climbed” a short distance. It had a small amount of stored energy which it changed into used energy on its way down the ramp.
  • The toy on the steep ramp “climbed” a high distance. It had a lot of stored energy which it changed into used energy on its way down the ramp.

Extension:

  • Next time you go to a park try going down slides that are different heights. Do you store and use more energy on the tall slides or the short slides?
  • Make your own ramps using blocks, pillows, or odds & ends. You can make ramps from cutting boards on shoeboxes, baking trays on blocks, or even big books leaned on pillows. Experiment with different angles and different objects. Higher ramps let objects store more energy. The more potential energy an object has, the greater its kinetic energy.

Baking Soda Experiment

Baking Soda Experiment Instructions

Printable Instructions

You will Need:

  • Muffin tin or plastic cups
  • Baking soda (the fresher, the better!)
  • Bowls
  • Eye dropper
  • White Vinegar
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic spoon
  • Food coloring (optional)

What to Do:

1. Fill the muffin tin or plastic cups about ½ way with baking soda.
2. Pour vinegar into bowl (s.)
3. Add food coloring to the vinegar if desired.
4. Using an eye dropper, add vinegar solution to the baking soda.
5. Watch the fizzing and bubbling chemical reaction.
6. For a dramatic end, make a big reaction by dumping vinegar into a larger bowl of baking soda.

Extension:

1. Eye droppers make for great fine motor skills practice and they are fun to use!
2. Encourage exploration and problem-solving skills by allowing them to choose how to experiment with the activity. Let them dump and mix!
3. Baking soda science is terrific for talking about the senses. You can hear, smell, feel and touch the reaction!

Blubber Gloves

Blubber Gloves Instructions

Printable Instructions

You will Need:

  • Two large zipper lock bags (your hand should be able to fit inside)
  • Shortening
  • Spoon
  • Duct tape
  • Water
  • Ice (crushed/cubes)
  • Bucket

What to Do:

  1. Fill a zipper lock bag (make sure the bag is big enough to fit your whole hand inside) with three or four heaping spoons full of shortening. Seriously… get at it!
  2. Put your hand inside a second zipper lock bag of the same size and push it into the shortening-filled zipper lock bag.
  3. Spread the shortening around the zipper lock bags until the inner bag is mostly covered.
  4. Fold the top of the inner zipper lock bag over the top of the outer zipper lock bag, keeping the shortening between the two. Duct tape the fold in place so that the shortening may never escape (just like blubber, because whales and polar bears can’t use a treadmill).
  5. Now you have a blubber-filled glove, ready to test the frigid waters of the bucket in your kitchen. Stick your hand in the glove and dip your blubber-gloved hand into the icy water. Crazy… your hand doesn’t get cold in the water!

Make It an Experiment:

To make this a true experiment, you can try this:

  1. Compare a hand inside the Blubber Glove to a hand stuck in the water without the glove. What do you experience?
  2. Write your prediction of how long you think you will be able to submerge your bare hand in the ice water. Dip your bare hand in the ice water and record the amount of time your hand was submerged. Are the results what you expected?

Extension:

Try using other materials in the same fashion to find out which insulator works best. Try butter, margarine, cotton balls, packing peanuts, dirt or sand…pretty much anything that you can fit between two zipper lock bags.