STEM Gems are short discovery-based experiences. They involve little or no materials and may be easily implemented by educators who are not STEM specialists. Each STEM Gem is designed to engage young people in active experiential learning. The activities begin by setting up connections to prior knowledge, then a hands on activity provides new concepts and the opportunity to design experiments to answer any questions the kids discover. Finally, a connection to a different scenario for the concept is provided to help cement and evaluate the learning.
STEM Gems are experiences designed to be used with kids of all ages. Younger children should be focused on one idea or concept and should perform the activity as a collective group with prompts and directions from the teacher. With older youth, the teacher should act as a facilitator. The older youth should be set up to work independently in small teams and encouraged to ask questions and try out their own experiments to answer them. Each team should report back on their findings, so a consensus around the concept is reached.
Each STEM Gem is presented in an easy to follow lesson plan:
Big Ideas and Science Talk • Engage • What You Will Need • Before You Begin • Explore and Experiment • Make the Connection and Extend and Evaluate
Click here to download additional information about these experiences.
STEM Gem Topics:
Looking for your place in the universe can be hard and this STEM Gem will help. In this STEM Gem, young people will explore the solar system by building models of the planets and discovering what makes each planet unique. This is a fun science activity combined with art that would be a great start to a space theme. Space facts are fun, easy to find, and interesting. This activity is a great opportunity for young people to develop their analytical and presentation skills as they conduct independent research by seeking interesting and relevant information to go along with their models.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Spinner Winner
This STEM Gem ostensibly covers the physics of angular momentum. However, that is merely a coating. This STEM Gem is really about providing young people with a touch of science so they can practice engineering and put their creativity to work. You will demonstrate to young people the science behind spinning using only a penny and some cardstock. Armed with this knowledge and a collection of recycled materials, young people will be challenged to design and create spinning tops to compete in games and master challenges. A little physics gets this STEM Gem started, but only the limits of imagination will constrain young people’s creations.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Flower Power
Spring is in the air and life is literally blooming all around us. This is a great time to go with the flow and share a little biology with young people. Perhaps a little dissection? Don’t panic! Anything icky or complicated is not suggested. Just an up-close look at the power of flowers. This STEM Gem will walk you through a simple flower dissection. It is an activity that will give young people a close-up view of something we see all the time, but seldom really look at. This is a great opportunity to inspire wonder and demonstrate that great science can often be found hiding in plain sight all around us. Young people will get to carefully study the different parts of a flower and examine their role in helping a flower make and disperse its seeds.
3... 2... 1... Blast Off
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This STEM Gem will engage young people in literal rocket science using nothing more than straws, tape, pencils and paper. This activity is quick, fun, and simple, but will get young people thinking like a scientist. So, 3...2...1... blast off for some fun!
Ski into the wonderful world of polymers with a look at winter-themed chemistry. Polymer science was first developed in the 1960’s, but today polymers surround us and are indispensable to our lives as plastics, paints, glues, diapers and fabrics. In this STEM Gem, young people will be inspired to investigate polymers by experimenting with a superabsorbent polymer developed for use in disposable diapers that has since been adapted to create artificial snow.
Tie Dye Dairy
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Tie Dye Dairy
This STEM Gem combines a little art and science as Andy the Science Wiz explains how to perform a truly spectacular and beautiful chemistry experiment using only milk, liquid dish washing soap and food coloring. In this experiment, young people will explore the science of soap and milk by creating beautiful changing, inspirational swirling patterns. Get ready to charge up young people and demonstrate how beautiful science can be with a little tie dye dairy.
Embrace the winter cold with this STEM Gem and spend time with some fun animals that love the cold, penguins. From their warm personalities to their formal black-tie coloring, penguins have managed to capture our imaginations and they have taken center stage in books and movies of popular culture. In this activity, young people will be encouraged to exercise their literacy skills and get crafty as they explore the biology and adaptations that make penguins special.
As a result of this STEM Gem, young people will learn to use inexpensive craft materials to make a hands-on math manipulative. The focus of this lesson is a hands-on activity to help younger children master simple shapes. However, the project is so fun that young people of all ages will enjoy it. This project can be used by older children to explore the geometry of complex polygons and angles or as a unique building block for engineering challenges.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video for Un-be-LEAF-able
We know that autumn has arrived as temperatures turn cooler and colorful leaves start falling around us. This STEM Gem takes on tree biology as we explore an age-old questions of why leaves change color in autumn. From green to yellow, orange, brown and red, what is the cause of this amazing explosion of color? In Un-be-leaf-able, young people will explore leaves, photosynthesis, and chlorophyll as they unlock the hidden surprise inside every broadleaf.
Kite Light Flight
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Kite Light Flight
Nice weather is the perfect excuse to take STEM outdoors. This STEM Gem provides a simple activity that you can save for a clear and windy day, challenging young people to take flight and learn about kites. Kites are among the earliest man-made flying objects, dating back at least 2,500 years to a military general in ancient China. The general flew a kite over a battlefield, then measured the string to determine how long to make a tunnel that his troops were digging. As kite flying spread, so did the reasons for flying them. These days, kites are flown for entertainment, kite-fighting competitions, target practice, fishing, weather forecasting, and scientific experiments.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Straw Flutes
Music is in the air! In this STEM Gem, you will learn how young people can build a simple musical instrument using just a straw. Young people will get hands-on to discover how vibrations create sound and how the length of a straw affects pitch.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Solar Eclipses
On Monday August 21, 2017 North America will be treated to a rare celestial event that is truly amazing to witness. People in a 70-mile wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will be able to witness a total solar eclipse. People outside the path will be able to witness a partial eclipse, in which the moon will partially cover the sun’s disk. The abrupt darkness of a solar eclipse is stunning and quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
In addition, the incredible solar corona surrounding the sun, usually hidden from us, is simply awe-inspiring. However, during an eclipse eye safety is very important. You should never look directly at the sun. The sun’s UV radiation can burn the retinas in your eyes and cause permanent damage or even blindness. This STEM Gem will show you how to build a simple tool with young people to safely view the sun and solar eclipses.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Pollination Buzz
A well-rounded STEM program should include a wide range of activities that appeal to all the different interests and abilities of young people. With this in mind, a little art has been added to this STEM Gem activity to turn it into a STEAM Gem. Spring is in the air and this activity takes its cue from nature and involves construction of a bee to use for modeling how pollination works. Young people will learn some vital biology while making an art project that they can take home to share with their families.
Sink or Float
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Sink or Float
Many young people like splashing around in water and a classic STEM activity is challenging them to discover types of objects that sink or float. This month Andy the Science Wiz adds his take on this activity with a twist that gets young people thinking. The best thing about this simple activity is that it can be done at a moment’s notice with materials you most likely already have on hand.
In this STEM Gem, you will use Andy the Science Wiz’s touch to make classic glue slime. There are often a lot of oohs and aahs when young people make slime. But is real science taking place? In this special version of the activity, young people will be amazed at how many different types of glue can be used to make slime. They will also perform an investigation to find out which type of glue makes the best slime using criteria and experiments that they determine and design.
A Fire, Three Lions, Three Zebras and a Raft
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About A Fire, Three Lions, Three Zebras and a Raft
This STEM activity is short, easy to implement and requires only pen and paper. The focus of this activity is a type of math riddle that has been amusing thinkers since medieval times. This type of problem can be fun and engaging and the key to successfully facilitating it is not to provide the answer too quickly. The value in this type of activity is giving young people plenty of time to think through the problem and design a solution. Young people will learn as much and have a deeper sense of accomplishment when struggling to nd a solution and working through dead ends as they will nding the solution. When conducting this activity, assure young people there is no quick answer or tricks. This type of problem requires logically thinking through all the possible choices and their associated consequences, hence strengthening training and practice in both logical and critical thinking.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Crystal Snowflakes
The crunch of fresh snow underfoot, the crackle of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and the smell of eggnog all signal that it’s time for a little winter STEM activity. If you find that real snowflakes are pretty, but melt too quickly, than this is a great activity for you. This activity will allow you to use some simple science to grow permanent glittering crystal snowflakes.
Glow On Try This
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Glow Sticks
The nights are dark and all the Halloween glow goodies are on clearance. Now is the perfect time to explore the science of glow sticks. The cold ghostly fluorescent light of a glow stick easily captures the imagination of young people everywhere, but like all good things the glow fades. It is of no surprise that after Halloween I am bombarded with questions that revolve around whether it is possible to make the “magic” of a glow stick last longer. Instead of providing a quick answer, there is an easy experiment that you can do with young people that allows them to discover the answer for themselves.
Acids and Bases
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Acids and Bases
Ask any young person about science and they will usually conjure up a picture of someone surrounded by beakers doing chemistry. Chemistry can be a great motivator, but the thought of doing any in an after school setting can be scary. This month’s STEM Gem demonstrates how to perform a series of simple color changing reactions using nothing more complicated than cups and nothing more dangerous than a cabbage.
Tower Engineering Challenge
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About the Tower Engineering Challenge
This STEM Gem is an engineering challenge that is perfect for the hectic start of a school year. It is low cost, low stress and extremely easy to implement. Tower building can serve as a great icebreaker and team building exercise for any new faces that have joined in your program.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Planet Oobleck
You are probably already familiar with the fun substance you get when you mix of cornstarch and water. In Planet Oobleck we add art, storytelling and design to turn a classic STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) inquiry into a STEAM (STEM + ART) activity.
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Simple Sundials
Summer is a great opportunity to engage young people with the outdoors. This inexpensive experience uses a simple sundial to demonstrate how the Sun moves across the sky and connects young people to the spinning of the Earth. It is a great activity kick off exploration of time, history, astronomy and the weather.
Cloud in a Bottle
Download | View Andy the Science Wiz's Video About Cloud in a Bottle
The sun directly affects the weather outside our window. Each day the weather changes, as do the clouds in the sky. Have you or your students ever wondered how clouds are formed, or what accounts for their different shapes and sizes?
The sun's heat changes the temperature, causing water to evaporate and air to move from place to place. Water from lakes, rivers and oceans is soaked up into the air. As the air cools, the water it was carrying condenses and clouds are formed. By using hot water, ice and a soda bottle, your students could create a cloud in a bottle—a tangible way to better understand this scientific, weather-based principle!
Long, long ago an ancient Greek scientist noticed that when he sat in his bathtub, the water overflowed. It was at that moment that Archimedes' Principle was born. This principle states, "An object immersed in water will experience an upward, buoyant force equal to the weight of the water it displaces." Your afterschool students can demonstrate this ancient principle by using a modern day soda bottle to create a Cartesian Diver.
Cartesian Divers demonstrate the concepts of air pressure, buoyancy and density through the use of bubbles and pressure. Students will note entirely different reactions are caused when they either squeeze or release their Cartesian Diver. Once your afterschool students learn these concepts, they will understand how scuba divers and submarines float and sink, just like their Cartesian Diver.
Plants are incredibly important to Earth's ecosystem. They have been oxygenating our planet for millions of years. Most plants grow from seeds. Once sprouted, plants use the chemical process of photosynthesis to create their own food. Spring is the perfect time to teach your afterschool students about the growth process of this all-important flora.
Using simple household supplies and some grass seeds, your students could make their own miniature inflatable greenhouses. As the seeds start to germinate, your afterschool students will see science at work. And in seven days, they will have grown a small putting green.
How to Weigh an Elephant
This month's STEM Gem combines science and literature. The basis of this experiment is an ancient Chinese literary tale in which townsfolk seek to determine the weight of an enormous elephant. To make this determination, these ancient people unwittingly utilized the scientific principles of buoyancy and floating. Your students, too, will explore these principles.
After constructing a clay model elephant, teams of students will suggest ways to ascertain its weight. They will then use a model to test out the solution that was employed in the folktale. Once the experiment is completed, you and your afterschool students could discuss different types of modern day scales.
This month's STEM Gem experience is all about baseball. Baseball science, that is! Through the use of frozen baseballs, your afterschool students will learn about the concepts of flexibility, movement and impact recovery. After determining what bounces better—a warm or frozen baseball—students will then be asked to chart and record their results. Additionally, students will learn the importance of completing a fair scientific test via this experiential platform.
Mini Ice Rink
Have you ever slipped on ice? That unfortunate slip is the key to all winter sports. From snowboarding to hockey, the extra zip in these sports is due to the extra slip you get from ice. Now, to understand this slip you first have to understand the science of friction.
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Dr. Helen Soulé is the Executive Director of P21. She has led the organization's state recruitment and support effort, the 21st Century Learning Exemplar Program, and other initiatives. Soulé is a lifelong educator with P-16 leadership experience at the local, state and national level. Soulé served as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education, and as Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom. She is a founding SETDA member and the recipient of several awards, including Converge magazine's 30 "Shapers of the Future" award, E-School News "Impact 30 Award for Excellence", and the Mississippi Educational Computing Association's Technology Educator of the Year award.
As a policy analyst on Google's Public Policy & Government Relations team, Kate Sheerin focuses on Google's strategy and programs on creativity, education, and innovation. Prior to joining Google in 2010, she served as a Municipal and Community Development Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Kate received her B.A. in Political Science from Tulane University.
Jenny Nagaoka is the Deputy Director of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, where she has conducted research for over 15 years. Her research interests focus on policy and practice in urban education reform, particularly using data to connect research and practice and examining the school environments and instructional practices that promote college readiness and success. She has co-authored numerous journal articles and reports, including studies of college readiness, noncognitive factors, the transition from high school to postsecondary education, and authentic intellectual instruction. She is the lead author of Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework (2015) which draws on research and practice evidence to build a coherent framework of the foundational factors for young adult success, and investigates their development from early childhood through young adulthood and how they can be supported through developmental experiences and relationships. Nagaoka received her BA from Macalester College and her Master of public policy degree from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.
Jessica is Founder and President of Catalynics, a consultancy with the mission to help corporations and NGOs catalyze smart strategy, partner collaboration, stakeholder engagement, project ideation and development, communications and issues management in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Jessica also has experience in designing and executing market research and assessments. Some of Jessica's current clients include the World Resources Institute, the US Chamber Foundation, USAID, World Wildlife Fund and the Strategic Innovation Lab.
Jessica has 20+ years of sustainability operational and policy experience across a number of sectors, most recently serving as the North American Director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). In addition to member and stakeholder engagement, business development and program and policy support, Jessica ran WBCSD's global Sustainable Lifestyles project.
Prior to WBCSD, Jessica worked for the World Wildlife Fund on a variety of environmental, climate and forest policy issues as well on corporate forest supply chain partnerships. Jessica also worked for International Paper Corporation in various sustainability, stakeholder engagement, partnerships and issues management roles.
Currently, Jessica is affiliated with Forum for the Future, IO Sustainability, and Proforest. She is a Fellow at Virginia Tech, a member of the Board of IUCN-US, and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Combatting Deforestation. Jessica holds a Master's in Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and degrees in History and Biology from Messiah College.
Allyson Knox is Director of Education Policy and Programs in Microsoft's Washington DC office. Since joining Microsoft in 2004 she launched several new national education programs including InterroBang, Problem Solving with Smithsonian Experts, Service Technology Academic Resource Teams program with the Corporation for National and Community Service, Scaling Education Success, C2i Gaming Challenge with the NEA Foundation and CareerForward. At the state-level, she helped deploy Microsoft's IT Academy available for NC, VA, GA, LA, and WA high school students.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Allyson managed Workforce Innovation Networks as a senior program officer at the US Chamber of Commerce's Center for Workforce. She directed Michigan State University's Young Spartan Program – a university-urban elementary schools partnership, taught leadership and entrepreneurship courses to urban youth and community members as an economic development agent for Michigan State Extension, trained community leaders on building service coalitions at the Michigan Community Service Commission, secured federal grants and managed industry committees as Director of Workforce Development at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, and directed a nationally recognized community outreach program at Michigan's largest independent bookstore.
Allyson received her BA from University of Michigan, MA from Michigan State University, and Ed M from Harvard University.
Becky Johnson is Vice President of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), a CEO led initiative aimed at helping to reduce obesity, especially childhood obesity, in the United States. Johnson serves as the deputy to the President, manages the staff and consultants for the Foundation in addition to ensuring all Foundation messaging fits the overall goals of the organization and its members. Johnson joined HWCF as Project Coordinator in July 2009. As a founding member of the HWCF team, Johnson has been instrumental in the development and expansion of our Together Counts™ curriculum and platform reaching over 27M students, the growth of our membership to over 300 corporate and non-profit members and the design of our partnership programs. Johnson also works with the corporate partners who use the power of their own brands to promote the Foundation's messages beyond HWCF's Together Counts social media presence.
Before joining HWCF, Johnson served in the federal government at the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security. In January 2009 she left the position of Director of Scheduling for U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. As Director of Scheduling, Johnson worked with other members of the Department's senior staff and the White House to strategically plan the Secretary's schedule to achieve the goals and priorities of the Department and Administration. Johnson was responsible for managing the activities that comprised the Secretary's Scheduling Office including final approval of the Secretary's daily schedule and serving as the liaison to other Departments, the White House and private sector participants regarding protocol, logistics and meeting strategy to ensure successful delivery of event messaging.
Johnson also served as Senior Advance Representative and Trip Coordinator for Secretary Gutierrez where she coordinated, planned, handled all logistics and led overall execution of official events both domestically and internationally. Johnson was advance for Trade Missions to Vietnam and China and over 20 domestic trips involving Senators, Members of Congress, foreign dignitaries and private sector leaders. She also advanced events for President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in addition to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.
Johnson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Minor in Public Relations from Union University.
Dr. Dale Blyth is a senior research consultant and advisor who recently retired as Extension Professor in the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Minnesota where he served as the Howland Endowed Chair in Youth Development Leadership and Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. For 15 years he served as Associate Dean directing the Center for Youth Development. The Center was home for the Minnesota 4-H Program (with over 100 staff and 10,000 volunteers touching 130,000 youth annually); the Youth Work Institute (focused on developing and delivering professional development to 4,000 youth workers), Youth Community Connections (then the statewide Mott network), and conducting applied research and evaluation. Recently he led an initiative to advance social & emotional learning outcomes. He serves on several community, state and national groups related to out of school time, data systems, and youth development.
Prior to joining the University of Minnesota Dr. Blyth was the Director of Research and Evaluation at Search Institute and on the faculty of Cornell University and Ohio State University. He co-developed the Center for Adolescent Health at the American Medical Association, and was a Research Scientist at the Boys Town Center for Youth Development.
Dr. Blyth has co-authored a book, written many chapters and dozens of articles and delivered numerous presentations. His research focuses on access to, participation in, the quality of and outcomes from non-formal learning opportunities in communities as well as the use of data in policy and practice. Recently he led an initiative to advance social and emotional learning outcomes in collective impact efforts. He serves on several community, state and national groups related to out of school time, data systems, and youth development.
In his current roles, Dr. Blyth is a senior advisor and consultant on a variety of projects where his experience in bridging research and practice, change management, and shaping the fields of youth development and non-formal learning can be utilized to make a difference. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.