Spring holds many opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)! Students can build their own rain gauge to measure rainfall or construct a solar oven to harness the sun’s energy.
Use the STEM activities below to bring spring to life in your afterschool program. To deepen their learning, use these STEM journals to invite students to document the activities and record their observations.
Garden in a Glove
Spring is a great time to break out your gardening tools! In this activity, however, students will only use household items to start their own garden. Creating a garden in a glove is a great way for them to watch their seeds grow.
- 5 types of garden seeds (beans, carrots, tomatoes, etc.)
- Clear plastic glove
- 10 cotton balls
- Pipe cleaner or twisty tie
- Permanent marker
- Label the glove. Students will plant a different seed in each finger/thumb of the glove, so this will help them identify each plant as it grows.
- Wet five cotton balls with the water, squeeze out the excess water and place them in the fingers/thumb of the glove.
- Place 3 or 4 seeds of each plant in the labeled finger. (They may need help with this part.)
- Wet and squeeze five more cotton balls and place them on top of each group of seeds. The seeds should be sandwiched between cotton balls.
- Blow air into the glove, and then tie it off with the pipe cleaner or twisty tie.
- Hang the glove gardens in a sunny window and wait! In 3 or 4 days, students should start to see some plant action.
DIY Rain Gauge
We all know spring brings rain. But do we know exactly how much rain falls during a heavy or light shower?
Student can find out by making their own rain gauge, testing it during the next rainshower and recording the results!
- With adult supervision, cut the top off the bottle.
- Place the stones in the bottom of the bottle.
- Turn the top upside down and tape it to the bottle.
- Use a ruler and marker to make a scale on the bottle.
- Pour water into the bottle until it reaches the bottom strip on the scale. Congratulations, your rain gauge is finished!
- Put the rain gauge outside where it can collect water when it starts raining. After a rainshower has finished, check to see how far up the scale the water has risen.
Did you know March is also known as the windiest month of the year? It’s also a great time to teach students about wind power by building a windmill generator!
Wind energy is a renewable resource - which means it’s replenished naturally - plus it doesn’t pollute the air. Windmills convert wind energy into a rotational energy that was once used to mill grain and pump water. Modern windmills, called wind turbines, convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity for homes, businesses, schools and more.
In this activity, students will construct a windmill generator that uses green science to harness wind power and light an LED bulb.
- Windmill generator kit
- Recycled soda bottle
- Use the detailed assembly instructions included in the kit to build the windmill generator.
- Then, light the LED bulb using the wind power created by the windmill.
DIY Solar Oven
With spring comes bright, warm sunshine! Use it to help students create their own solar ovens! They are designed to absorb and trap in sunlight to create heat. In this experiment, the solar oven will use light and heat emitted from the sun to cook marshmallows.
- Shoe box
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Line the inside of a shoe box with foil, and poke a hole in each end of the box.
- Stick a skewer through the hole on one side.
- Put marshmallows on the skewer, and put the end of the skewer through the hole on the other side.
- Cover the box with plastic wrap and set it outside on a warm, sunny day to make springtime smores.
Tornado in a Jar
Spring also marks the peak of tornado season for some parts of the country. A tornado, or twister, is a fast-spinning column of air that occurs when hot and cool air meet and create instability in the atmosphere. Resembling a funnel cloud, most tornadoes form from thunderstorms and can cause extensive damage.
Students can try this experiment to see what a tornado looks like up close, with no danger involved. Before starting the experiment, be sure students understand how tornadoes are formed. Watch the video below to give students a brief overview. You can also watch this video from National Geographic to see an actual tornado in action.
- Glass jar with a lid
- Dishwashing liquid
- Fill the jar with water, nearly to the top. Leave about a 1-inch gap for shaking room.
- Squirt in a good amount of dishwashing liquid.
- Shake the jar vigorously in a circular motion then set it down. Students should see a tornado forming in the center of the jar.