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
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STEM Gem Topics:
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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.