“One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.”
— President Barack Obama, February 2013
Today, in an age in which nearly half of all primary breadwinners are women, and women’s labor has expanded the economy by $2 trillion dollars, the fact is that females are still underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.
As Reshma Saujani – an education activist who has the goal of getting one million women in computer science by 2020 – stated in her Ted talk, we must encourage a culture in which girls learn bravery and find a sense of comfort in imperfection. Part of nurturing a girl who can innovate and change the world with her talents is helping her develop the confidence in her skills to show what she can do, without fear of failure.
With summer break approaching, these next few months are a prime time to nurture a sense of creativity, innovation, problem-solving and invention in both girls and boys.
STEM Activities for Kids: Five Ideas for a Summer of Exploration
1. Create a question jar
The first week of summer break, sit down with your child and brainstorm all of the questions that are on their mind.
- Why is the sky blue?
- Why do lightning bugs glow?
- How does an airplane fly?
- How many iPhones do you have to stack end-to-end to reach the moon?
Write each question down on a note card or piece of paper, fold them up and put them in a jar. Each day or week of vacation, have your child draw a question and brainstorm ways to find the answer. Field trips, research, a library visit or science experiments are all great ways to encourage curiosity and discovery.
2. Get growing
Help your child plan and plant a backyard garden. They can research the kinds of seeds that are likely to thrive in your climate, the optimal levels of sun, shade and water necessary to grow, the impact of insects and other animals.
Encourage trial and error! They don’t need to have the greenest thumb on the block the first time around. Have your child keep a journal with notes on the growth and harvest schedule, and at the end of the summer, have them develop a plan for the next season, using the key learnings from their first garden.
3. Host an at-home science fair
Whether you tackle the classic egg drop challenge, build a toothpick bridge or research a different problem to solve, work with your child to tackle a feat of engineering. Have your child gather some friends and neighbors to display their creations, explain their thought process and test them out to prove or disprove their theories.
To drive home the importance of trial and error and the iterative process, make the focus of each child’s presentation to share their best “lessons learned,” recognizing that there is a lot to be learned by examining unsuccessful attempts at creating a solution.
4. Crack the code
One of the amazing benefits of the proliferation of smartphones and tablets is the ability to learn the back-end functions of computing with the touch of the screen. While parents want kids to put down their electronic devices and spend the summer outside, a possible exception to this rule could be for coding apps.
We like this list of eight of the best apps that help kids learn to code, but be sure to research your choices thoroughly to ensure they’re safe, reliable, educational and fun!
5. Sign up for an “epic” summer camp experience
For students entering grades one through six, sign them up for Camp Invention, a weeklong adventure that will turn the summer from ordinary to extraordinary through hands-on problem solving. Camp Invention is the only nationally recognized summer program focused on creativity, innovation, real-world problem solving and the spirit of invention.
Camp Invention provides an opportunity for inventive young minds to exercise their creativity and use their imagination in ways they don’t normally get to in the classroom. Campers have so much fun they barely realize they are learning and developing new skills as they build prototypes, take things apart, explore different types of technology and so much more.
This year’s Camp Invention curriculum is called Epic™, inspired by some of our nation’s most brilliant minds, including experienced educators, Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and members of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Campers will construct a DIY solar-powered cricket, design an eco-adventure park, brainstorm product ideas and build original prototypes using real tools and components found in everyday devices, and much more! Learn more about this year’s curriculum by clicking the link.
Camp Invention serves more than 94,000 students every year through nearly 1,400 camps across the nation. For additional information or to find the nearest location for registration, visit www.campinvention.org.
This post about STEM activities for kids is brought to you in partnership with Camp Invention. All opinions are our own.
Images courtesy of Camp Invention.