While single aspects of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) can be fun and educational; when we connect these fields children make more sense of them all.
When I plan a week of related projects I try to have several books on hand to read every day with a mix of fiction as well as age-appropriate nonfiction books. I look for books with easy to understand facts and high-quality illustrations and photographs.
Volcanoes and Geysers:
There are hundreds of books available for this topic I have found several at libraries as well as, Amazon.
Science for this theme is fun. Think about making things erupt. A fun experiment to do with children is the Diet Coke Mentos Geyser. You can purchase geyser tube which can be reused many times and make the experiment easier with younger children. Buy any cheap diet soda in 2-liter bottles (usually more than 1 because you will hear “can we do it again,”) and a pack of 6 rolls of Mentos. This needs to be outside because the geysers can go as high as 18+ feet. Ask them what they think will happen? Place the Mentos in the geyser tube, screw the geyser tube to the top of the bottle, tell kids to wait until you are ready, step back, prepare to record, give them the sign to drop the Mentos then enjoy their reaction.
Another project is to have the children build a volcano out of Duplo blocks; leaving a space in the middle for a large cup. Take outside and fill the cup with warm water, dish soap, food coloring, and distilled white vinegar. You can bring out a bowl with clean medicine cups for the baking soda (again, make sure you have extra). I put the baking soda in the bowl and let them scoop it up with the medicine cups to pour into the center cup. I usually try to take a video the first time, as their reactions are usually great.
Another fun project to do with vinegar and baking soda is called Wizards Brew. I take a plastic bowl outside to which I add warm water, food coloring, vinegar, and dish soap. Another bowl with medicine cups for the baking soda and let them have fun adding the baking soda. I then keep adding new colors to see how they mix. Eventually, most kids will put their hands into the brew to see what it feels like so this is a great project to do in old clothes on bath day. Just warn parents that kids will have wildly colorful hands for a day or so.
Technology is an important part of STEAM because we are living in an age of technology. Many of us struggle with bringing tech to young children; we want them to have more organic childhoods spent outside playing. This is our opportunity to show children the benefits of technology and how to use it in moderation. Show them how to look for things online. Look for videos of the Mentos geysers, or volcanoes erupting. Go to the Yellowstone website and look at videos and pictures of Old Faithful erupting. I also let the kids help me find contact info on my phone for their parents to text them pictures and videos.
Engineering, this one can be scary to some of us. Unpack that thought. Nothing we help them build has to last. Building the volcano for the eruption can be the engineering project for this theme. Try it in several different ways and let the children figure out how to make it work.
Art. Encourage your children to draw volcanoes and geysers. Make crayon volcanoes and geysers. Use toothpicks, marshmallows, gumdrops, and pipe cleaners to make sculptures of volcanoes. Inspire children to have fun with it by doing it alongside them.
Math. Ask them to guesstimate how many times you can make the volcano erupt with the baking soda in the bowl. Try setting up a yardstick and measure how high the volcano erupts. Ask the children to estimate how high it may go. Does it erupt to the same height each time? You could invite older siblings to engage here as well, ask them if they have any other ideas of how to estimate and measure volcanoes.
One great way to put together a STEAM theme is to check your local museums and community events to see if there are exhibits or events that might help. Living and working in the Albuquerque, New Mexico metro area, I get to experience Balloon Fiesta every October. Kids love balloons and what better way to celebrate seeing 500+ balloons for 9 days then to learn about them.
Science. Use a plastic bag and a hairdryer and show the kids what happens as air is heated and cooled. We are lucky here because we have the Anderson-Abruzzo Balloon Museum to go to. They have wonderful hands-on exhibits on everything balloon; hot air and gas.
Technology. Do an internet search for balloon flights and watch videos of hot air and gas inflation’s and flights. If you have kids who like the movie Up, look for the video on “cluster ballooning, Up house.” This was a cool flight done with a replica of the Up house and cluster balloons piloted by Jonathon Trappe.
Engineering. Challenge the kids to try and build their own hot air balloons with pipe cleaners and bags. Can it fly with hot air added?
Art. Provide a variety of mediums to create their own balloons. Some of the projects One of my favorites is to create balloon shapes cut out of foam then decorate it with stickers. We add a gondola with a craft sticks in it. On the stick, we put their photo so that they can be the pilot.
Math. Count balloons in the sky or in a picture. Talk about how high balloons can fly? Wind speeds and how they affect balloon flight. Talk about the different sizes of the balloons: from 90,000 cubic feet to 500,000 cubic feet. Talk about distance records with older kids.
I have several books about balloons, these include:
A Rainbow Balloon by Ann Lenssen
Pop Flop’s Great Balloon Ride by Nancy Abruzzo
Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman
Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon by H.A and Margaret Rey
A few more that look interesting include:
How Things Work Hot Air Balloons by Joanne Mattern
How Do Hot Air Balloons Work by Buffy Silverman
The Hot Air Balloon Book- Build and Launch Kongming Lanterns, Solar Tetroons, and More by Clive Catterall.
I hope this gives everyone some ideas to get started with. Remember to consider ages of your kids and make sure they are having fun.
Stacie Gebeke has been a nanny for more than 27 years in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and now makes her home in New Mexico. She has cared for 37 children, including 3 sets of twins, in that time. In looking for ways to continue to grow and challenge herself she chose to look at STEAM for young children. She wants to encourage other nannies to bring STEAM to their charges.