7 fun ways to keep your kids STEM-tertained these Easter holidays


School children build STEM skills every day in the classroom, but there’s loads of fun ways to continue their STEM learning at home. This toolkit gives parents and carers all the information they need for hands-on family STEM-tertainment at home this Easter with a range of exciting science and engineering experiments.

What does STEM mean and why is it important?

It’s important for parents and carers to understand what STEM is and why it’s important for their kids.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. Look around your home. STEM is everywhere, from the photosynthesis of plants to the evaporation of boiling water on the stove.

Learning STEM builds a child’s ability to think outside the box and work through problems logically by critically evaluating information and applying knowledge to develop solutions.

Last year, the Australian Academy of Science and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering released a government-sponsored plan that said demand for a STEM-skilled workforce was rising in line with advances in artificial intelligence, big data and automation across all Australian industries.

STEM learning is about creativity

Children are naturally curious. They ask questions about everything – How does a clock tick? What makes a car go? Why does the sun set? Our kids are learning by observing the world around them. They experiment by putting things together and taking things apart and keenly watch their loved ones, connecting concepts and ideas about how things work along the way.

These are all perfect opportunities for you to get involved in your child’s learning. And the Easter break is a great time to spend lots of time doing it!

It’s never too early to start STEM learning! Encourage your kids to ask questions and explore.

Fun Easter STEM activities at home

Here are some awesome yet simple hands-on science experiments and engineering activities to help put your child’s STEM skills into action, and yours too!

The ingredients, if you don’t have them in the cupboards, aren’t expensive and can be found at your local supermarket or discount store.

1. Grow your own crystal Easter eggs

A safe science experiment that brings chemistry to life, encouraging your child to learn how to follow a methodology, observe and create. Grow your own crystal Easter eggs!

Supplies
• Glass jars with wide mouths
• Borax powder (in the detergent aisle)
• Water
• Craft sticks
• Pan (to boil water), Spoon, Measuring Cups and Spoons

Technique
This experiment involves chemicals and boiling water so adult supervision is a must!

STEP 1: Mould your pipe cleaners into “egg” shapes. You can wrap the pipe cleaners around an object like a spoon to help get the size and shape you want. But keep in mind the size of your glass container as it has to fit through the opening, without touching the sides or bottom.

STEP 2: Wind a pipe cleaner around a craft stick (or you can use a pencil or skewer to suspend the pipe cleaner egg in the jar of solution).

STEP 3: Making the crystal growing solution is the fun part! Boil approximately 2 cups of water. Put the water in a heat proof measuring cup or jug. Add approximately 3-4 tablespoons of borax powder per cup of water. Add more water and equivalent borax powder if your jars are bigger. Mix the solution until the water can no longer hold the powder and you can see the borax powder is no longer dissolving. This is called saturated solution.

STEP 4: Pour your solution into the jars and place your pipe cleaner eggs into the solution.

STEP 5: Place your Easter science experiment in a place where it will be undisturbed for 24 hours. Don’t touch or pick the jars up as this can disturb the mixture and the growing crystals!


Easter_3_Crystal_Eggs.jpg

STEP 6: Now is a good time to ask your kids what they think could happen. Check on the solution every few hours and talk and take notes about any changes you see.

STEP 7: After approximately 24 hours remove the crystals from the solution and allow them to dry on paper towels.

STEP 8: Hang your crystal eggs around the house or by the window where they will sparkle.


2. Walking on Eggs Science Experiment!

Supplies
• Two cartons of eggs

Can you walk on raw eggs? Give it a try and learn about mathematics, pressure and force at the same time.

Technique
STEP 1: Place two cartons of eggs on the ground. Make sure you leave the eggs in the egg carton because the individual compartments support and strengthen the eggs.

Place the first carton near a wall or other strong support so you can lean on it while you climb onto the first carton. Make sure the eggs are sitting in the same direction with the pointy-side facing up. Note the tips of the eggs are the strongest part.

It’s very important to place your weight on as many eggs as possible at the same time. If you place your weight on one or two eggs, they get an uneven amount of weight and will crack.

STEP 2: The secret is to spread the force of your weight over as much area as possible. If your heel isn’t big enough to sit across four eggs, place it carefully between four of them. Make contact with as many eggs as possible.

Easter_Eggs_Experiment.jpg

STEP 3: If you're kids are older, have a conversation about the mathematics of how the pressure on each egg decreases when the force is applied over a greater area. The actual equation is: Pressure = Force / Area). It’s the same principle behind lying on a bed of nails.

STEP 4: Wash your hands and feet with soapy water, especially if you crack some eggs. Eggs can carry salmonella, and nobody wants to get sick.

3. Engineer your own tower, bridge or spaceship!

Engineer your own Easter creations by connecting toothpicks and jellybeans together. Build the shapes into anything you can imagine. If you prefer not to use sweets, substitute the jellybeans for playdough which you can mould into small balls. Talk about shapes and maths as you put things together.

Supplies
• Toothpicks
• Jellybeans or playdough

Technique
STEP 1: Simply stick the toothpicks into the jellybeans or playdough balls and keep on building.

STEP 2: Create triangles, squares, pyramids, prisms and cubes. Join your shapes together to create larger structures.

Easter_1_Jelly_Beans.jpg          Easter_2_Jelly_Bean.jpg

STEP 3: Keep the maths chat going. Talk about what makes 2D shapes and 3D shapes. Count the planes (flat surfaces) and vertices (corners). Talk about which shapes seem to be stronger as you engineer your own buildings together. Which shapes can take the most weight? Which ones stack better?

4. Magnetic Easter eggs

Early learners and older learners love exploring the forces of magnetism! You can teach your kids all about the science of magnets starting with their poles.

Supplies
• Plastic Easter eggs
• Magnet wands
• Objects to place inside the eggs including nails, paper, paper clips, marbles, piece of Lego, rubber, piece of wood, aluminium cans.

Technique
STEP 1: Fill the plastic Easter eggs with the different assorted objects. Try pulling each of the Easter eggs along. Open the Easter egg to find out which object could be magnetised and which couldn’t.

Explain to your kids that the Easter eggs that could be pulled along, such as those with nails or paper clips, contain metals which attract magnetism. Easter eggs with items like rubber, paper, plastic, marbles and wood inside are not magnetic and therefore wouldn’t move.

STEP 2: Explore the magnets on their own and how each end attracts and repels. Explain how the north pole of one magnet attracts the south pole of a second magnet but repels the other magnet's north pole. The invisible area that creates magnetism is called a magnetic field.

STEP 3: Try pulling a paper clip along. Now try pulling an aluminium can. Kids can learn how some metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and steel, are magnetic while others such as aluminium are not.

STEP 4: Next try running a magnet over an unmagnetized piece of magnetic material such as a nail. This can convert it into a magnet as well by the process of magnetization!

5. Crack the Code Easter egg hunt

Add a twist of maths and logic to your Easter egg hunt that helps develop your kids’ problem solving and critical thinking skills. Ask your kids to find each Easter egg by cracking a code to find out where it is.

Supplies
• Chocolate eggs
• White crayon or invisible pen or ink
• Construction paper
• Invisible Ink
• Lemon
• Cotton buds
• Hairdryer or lamp

Technique
STEP 1: Hide your Easter eggs.

STEP 2: Develop your codes and write them down on messages for your kids.

Examples of codes:

• Replace each letter with a number corresponding to its place in the alphabet.
• Reverse the Alphabet (Z becomes A, A becomes Z etc)
• Move each letter one along (A becomes B)
• Move each letter 2 places along (A becomes C)
• Replace letters with a symbol

STEP 3: Write in white crayon on white paper so the children have to find a way to reveal the clue, for example by colouring over the writing using a different colour.

STEP 4: Or you can write your codes using your own homemade invisible ink. Squeeze half a lemon into a bowl and add 3 drops of water. Dip your cotton bud into the solution and use it to write your message. Tell your kids to hold the paper over a lamp or warm it up with a hairdryer. The lemon juice will turn brown when it heats up to reveal the message.

Explain how lemons, like all fruits, are organic substances containing juice which have carbon compounds. When its heated they release the carbon. Once the carbon touches the air, a process called oxidation occurs, and the substance turns light or dark brown.

STEP 5: Once your kids have worked out the solution, find the Easter egg!

6. Easter egg number matching

Get your kids involved in this hands-on Easter Egg puzzle to build their maths skills. There’s a couple of different ways you can play.

Supplies
• Different coloured construction paper
• Pencils

Technique
STEP 1: Trace and cut out some oval Easter egg shapes on different coloured construction paper.

STEP 2: Cut your Easter eggs in half. On one half write different numbers. On the other end write out the numbers in words. Or you can colour in different shapes, such as dots and stars, that can be counted.

STEP 3: Get your kids to match the numbers on the top half of the Easter egg to the word or the correct number of shapes on the bottom half of the Easter egg.

7. More Easter egg maths!

Adding shapes to a large paper Easter egg is a great way to explore maths

Supplies
• Different coloured construction paper
• Glue
• Pencils

Technique
STEP 1: Cut a large Easter egg shape from construction paper.

STEP 2: Cut out a selection of small shapes including circles, ovals, triangles, squares and rectangles in different sizes.

STEP 3: Ask your kids to decorate the Easter egg by creating rows of patterned shapes on the eggs. You can layer the smaller shapes on top of the larger shapes as well if you like.

STEP 4: When all of the shapes have been arranged start using maths vocabulary to talk about what you’ve created.

STEP 5: Ask you kids to record their answers to these cool maths questions:

• Which shape did you use the most?
• Which shape did you use the least?
• How many circles and ovals were used?
• How many shapes were used on the egg?

Why STEM is important for you, and Australia?

It is estimated more than 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills.

At the same time, the number of children choosing STEM subjects at school is declining.

It’s a big problem facing the Australian economy because it means there won’t be enough people with the sorts of skills we need to grow our nation.

There also won’t be enough people to fill all the new and innovative jobs that haven’t even been invented yet!

School is most often the first step into STEM for children and they need to be inspired by what’s possible and approach it with confidence and excitement.  But learning STEM also starts at home, so let’s get creative this Easter! Find out more about our award winning GoIT Progams here