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7 easy STEM activities you can do at home

By Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted May 12th, 2015 @ 11:11am


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SALT LAKE COUNTY —Bringing science, technology, engineering and math activities into your home does not have to be complicated or expensive.

Learn from Salt Lake County youth services librarians Jennifer McKague-Scwartz, Susan Jeppesen and Carrie Rogers-Whitehead through some experiments they have tried. These projects can help teach youth principles such as aerodynamics, air pressure, meteorology and more.

1. Can crusher

Adult supervision required: Pour about ½ cup of water into an empty aluminum soda can. Then heat over a stove or hot plate until the water boils. Boil for one minute. Using metal tongs, invert the can and quickly immerse in the cold water. It will implode in seconds.

2. Mystery jar

How many items are in the mystery jar? Using three jars and objects (like beans, pennies, beads, Legos, etc.) of choice, place one object in the first jar, multiple objects in the second jar (label it) and an unknown number of objects in the third, a.k.a. “mystery,” jar. The first jar always has one of the objects in it: for example one bean. The second jar has 10 or 25 items in it, depending on their size. The third jar is the mystery jar. Show what “one” looks like, then show what “10 – 25” items of the same object look like. Guesstimate how many items are in the mystery jar and afterward count up the items together.

Photo credit: Jennifer McKague-Scwartz/Salt Lake County Library

3. Rain clouds in a jar

Take a wide-mouthed Mason jar or cup and fill it up ¾ of the way with water. Then squirt a small amount of shaving cream to cover the opening of the jar. Mix a few drops of food coloring with water in a separate, small bowl. After mixing, the shaving cream should have settled slightly in the jar. Then taking a pipette or dropper, drip “raindrops” onto the shaving cream. After a number of drops you'll see “rain” pour from the shaving cream cloud into the glass. This experiment demonstrates how clouds will fill with water before it rains.

Photo credit: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead/Salt Lake County Library

4. Hover craft

Adult supervision required: Firmly hot glue a pop top cap onto the hole of an old CD or DVD. You can find pop top caps in dish detergent and some soda or water bottles. Blow up a large balloon (the bigger the better) and stretch it over the top of the cap. Then gently open the cap slightly, place your hover craft on a hard surface and give it a push. This is a great experiment to teach about the properties of air and friction.

Photo credit: Susan Jeppesen/Salt Lake County Library

5. Get vacuum-packed

Adult supervision required: Have a volunteer step into a large garbage or leaf bag and pull it tightly around them. Make sure the bag does not go over the volunteer's face, and there are no holes in it. Take a tank vacuum and place it near the volunteer's stomach, making sure not to have it touch their clothes or the bag. Turn the vacuum on and watch it tighten around the volunteer's body. If done right, the person won't be able to move at all!

Photo credit: Susan Jeppesen/Salt Lake County Library

6. Ping-pong balancing act

Turn a hair-dryer on and turn it so it blows upwards. Gently place a ping pong ball in the air stream and see how long it will float in the air. See how far you can tilt the hair dryer before the ping pong ball falls down. Try this with a cotton ball, or another lightweight object. What happens? How does the smooth shape of the ball hold it's place? This experiment explores aerodynamics.

Photo credit: Susan Jeppesen/Salt Lake County Library

7. Hour of code

Encourage kids to learn the programming behind their beloved games using the hour of code website. This fun, free and educational site teaches kids to code through game play. Don’t have a computer at home? Access a computer at your local public library.

To find out more about some of the STEM activities at the Salt Lake County Library, visit this site. To learn more about STEM and find STEM events. Check out the Utah STEM Action Center.


Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a senior librarian with Salt Lake County Library. She can be reached at rogers-whitehead@hotmail.com

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