Activity Idea: Color, Chemistry and Cooking

Part of learning from home is the flexibility to go off course.  Some days we just need to do something else.  Why not spark some creativity, learn some chemistry, and enjoy a good meal! 

How to Start: Plan, plan, plan.  You’ll need to work as a team to decide what to make.  The goal is to try something new while getting everyone involved.  Think healthy and colorful, at least for the main dish. This isn’t just a meal, it’s also an art project! 

What to do next: Have fun and make a mess.  Clean-up can be a life skills lesson for the kiddos!

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

Believe it or not, cooking is an ideal STEAM activity!

  • Science: What is the chemistry behind mixing different ingredients?  What about the chemistry of taste?
  • Technology: What technology did you use to cook? 
  • Engineering: How was the technology you used made?  Can it be made better? What did people use in the past and how have we improved it (why not bring in some history)?
  • Arts: How many colors can you use?  What different flavors can you make? How would you put together an appealing presentation?
  • Math: Measuring, English vs metric, experimenting with amounts.

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Show your teacher and school staff appreciation, the STEAM way!

This week is teacher and school staff appreciation week.  Now that we, as parents, are starting to understand what teachers and school staff do every day, it’s important to let them know how much we appreciate them.  Schools are helping to organize virtual activities, and there are tons posts and suggestions from the education community.  But I had an idea, why not do it a little differently?  Instead of saying thank you for being a great teacher, staff member, or friendly face, why not SHOW them how they have influenced you and your kiddos?

How to Start: First, you need to decide who you are thanking any why.  There may be one person that stands out as a strong influence in your kiddo’s lives.  There may be multiple staff members you want to thank, or even the entire school.  I know for us, our district has jumped in and banded together in a way I could not have imagined prior to this craziness. 

What to do next: Be creative with your “thank you”.  Since this is a STEAM blog, send a STEAM thank you!  You can build a robot, design a Rube Goldberg, code, or use cabbage juice and pH to spell out a colorful “thank you”.  If you’re not sure what to do, pick your favorite STEAM field and go from there. Then, send a picture or video to show how grateful you are.

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

After you pick your STEAM field, try to incorporate the other STEAM fields below.  No suggestions this time, that’s up to you.

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Arts
  • Math

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: How to design Crazy

I am finding that my family, and some others I’ve heard from, are cycling through a range of emotions during our time at home, some calm and some… not so calm.  In our house, we have recently returned to the nutso-bonkers stage.  So how do we use this to our benefit?  Let’s design Crazy!

How to Start: How do you design Crazy, you ask?  I have no idea.  But it sounds like a fun experiment to me!  Start by thinking about what Crazy would look like to you.  Use your senses to figure out how it would look, feel, sound, etc.   Then brainstorm ideas, make a design, and determine what materials you would need to build your Crazy. 

What to do next: Go ahead and make it!  If you don’t have the materials, make a model and include a description of what you need to complete your Crazy.  Then, ask relatives to join in.  Set a date to share pictures or hold a video conference to present and compare your Crazy’s.

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

This is the fun part.  You can use ANY content area you want.  Reach for the stars and design something outrageous. 

  • Science: One definition of science from Merriam-Webster is: “an area of study that deals with the natural world (as biology or physics).”  How would this apply to your Crazy?
  • Technology: What technology will you use to build your Crazy?  What technology is part of your Crazy? 
  • Engineering: What do you need to build your Crazy?
  • Arts: How are you designing your Crazy? What materials are you using?
  • Math: Did you include patterns in your design?  What are they?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Become a Citizen Scientist

What is a citizen scientist, you ask?  Good question, considering April is citizen science month!  According to National Geographic, citizen science is a “science project or program where volunteers who are not scientists conduct surveys, take measurements, or record observations.”  (

I believe we are all scientists since we all observe our natural world, interpret what we see, and then adjust that interpretation as we get new information.  So… I would make one small update to their definition and add “professional” in front of scientists.

How to Start: Decide what type of citizen science opportunity looks interesting.  Below are some guiding questions that can help you figure it out.

  • Do you want to participate in a one-time activity?  Periodic activity? Daily activity?
  • Do you want to make a few quick observations?  More in-depth observations?
  • What subject area interests you most?  Do you like to study animals? The weather? History?
  • In what subject area do you have the most experience?  Your answer can be the same as, or very different from, the question above.
  • Did you answer “I don’t know” to any of the questions above?  If so, great!!! Yup, you heard me, I said great!  Most people I know have heard me say that “I don’t know” is my FAVORITE scientific answer!  All scientists use that answer as their first step in learning something new.  And yes, it is okay to say “I don’t know”.  Not everyone knows everything and anyone who says they do, well… let’s just say I wouldn’t believe that. 

What to do next: Take your answers from above and look into citizen science networks.  As a start, check out the list under “STEAM Resources” below.  Try to match your answers to a citizen science activity.  Or, completely ignore your answers and just look through the available opportunities and find something fun!

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

What activity did you choose?  What area does it focus on?  Are there other areas that are also addressed?

  • Science: What areas of science are being observed?
  • Technology: What technologies are you using?
  • Engineering: How were these technologies you listed above made?
  • Arts: Is there art in science?  Look around, what do you see? 
  • Math: Same as in “Science” above.  What area(s) of math is(are) you using?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Earth Day at a National Park

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  What can you do to celebrate?  Well, since it’s also National Park week, why not visit a National Park.  I know you can’t do it “for real for real”, as my kids would say, but why not go on a virtual visit? 

How to Start: Do you know how many national parks there are in the US?  I had to look it up.  According to the National Park Service, there are currently 419 national park sites in the US and its territories that span more than 84 million acres.   That’s a lot to choose from!  How do you get started?  Well, you can sit down with your family and discuss places you would like to go.  Don’t worry about which National Park you want to visit just yet.  Focus on types of things you would like to see, regions of the country you would like to go, and how you would like to visit the park (by car, hiking, camping out, etc).

What to do next: Now that you have brainstormed the types of places you would like to go, find a National Park that matches.  But where are all the national parks?  How do we figure out which one is right?  The first question is easy, I’ve provided a link in “STEAM Resources” below (the first link).  The second question is up to you and your family to answer.  Look at your brainstormed list from above and research which National Park(s) match.  Since this is virtual, you can go to as many as you want!

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

Before you go on your virtual visit, why not research it?  Below are some initial guiding questions to help you get started.

  • Science: What area of science would be most prominent in your virtual visit?  Even if you select a historical site, there is still science all around.  What do you think it is? 
  • Technology: What technology is used for your virtual visit?  What do you have to know in order to design a virtual visit? 
  • Engineering: What tools and equipment are used for a virtual visit?  Are there any new tools or equipment you can imagine/design for virtual visits? 
  • Arts: How would you portray your virtual visit through art?  Would you draw a picture? Make a sculpture?  Compose music?  Do you expect to see art in your virtual visit?  What would you say if I told you there is art in all the National Parks?  Could you find it?
  • Math: How far away is your National Park from your home?  How long would it take to get there?  How large is your park?  Can you compare its size to your home town?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Earth Day

This Wednesday, April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  It marks a day where the world celebrates, and shows its support for, environmental protection.  It is a day of action and a day to show what people can accomplish.    

Why is this day so important?  What is the significance of the date?  Is it really an international effort?  Can I really make a difference?

How to Start: All scientists have to know how to conduct research.  You can start by asking questions, like the ones above.  Any and all questions are fair game, the only bad question is the one you don’t ask.  It is important to remember that scientists have the responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation, which means they have to be aware of what they know, and what they don’t know.  So, what don’t you know about Earth Day?  Have the family create their list.  Don’t forget to find out how the different parts of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) are all core to environmental protection.

What to do next: Conduct your research.  Look up the answers to your questions on credible sites or in credible books.  But… how do you know if a site or book is credible?  Great question!  I have provided some links below that can help you figure that out. 

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

What would an Earth Day post be without a call to action?  You’ve conducted your research, you understand why Earth Day is important, now it’s time to do something about it.  There are so many different activities you can do, both short and long term, to celebrate Earth Day.  The hardest part will be to narrow down the ideas.  Below are some questions to help guide you and your family through the process:

  • Do you want to do something just for today?  This week?  The entire year?
  • Do you want to do something at your home?  In your neighborhood? For your town?
  • What type of environmental protection are you interested in?  Would you prefer to help people? Animals? Plants? Do you want to participate in scientific research (yes, that’s right, YOU can help scientists in their research)? Or, would you rather focus on studying and learning so that you can design and conduct your own research?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Science Fiction Story

I remember watching Star Trek as a kid and being amazed by their cool gadgets, but never thought I’d ever seem them, for real, in my lifetime.  I even remember playing with my brother’s “communicators” (aka walkie talkies, which I still have, shhhh….) pretending I was talking with someone on a distant planet. 

Fast forward 40ish years, and we’ve already progressed past the flip-phone.  Now, even iPad technology is old news.  And then there’s Dick Tracy’s video watch, man-made satellites, hoverboards, and even antidepressants.  What will be next? Well, why not invent something?  Your outrageous ideas today could be our reality tomorrow. 

How to Start: Do your kiddos know what science fiction is?  What about the definition of technology?  Research and discuss them as a family.  Maybe even read a science fiction book, or watch a show or movie.  Then brainstorm some cool ideas they would like to see in the future.  Do they want to develop a new gadget? A new program? A medicine?  

What to do next: Write a story.  Design a future world.  How will your new idea be part of this world?  Who are your characters?  What will happen in your story?

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

  • Science: What science area(s) can you integrate into your story?  How can you relate this area(s) to your new idea?   
  • Technology: Research your new idea.  Is there current technology related to it?  Is there evidence that it can work?
  • Engineering: How will your new idea be designed or built?  What will the people in your story need to know in order to design or build it?  Remember that there are many different types of engineers. 
  • Arts: Illustrate your story.  Make sure you include illustrations of your new idea.  Will you need a blueprint?  Will it require chemical equations?
  • Math: What type of math would you need to know in order to design and explain your new idea? 

STEAM Resources:

Most of today’s resources focus on writing, including practicing writing, realistic fiction and science fiction.


Activity Idea: Go fly a kite!

Okay, so it’s still spring break for many of us, and thinking about schoolwork is not the most pressing thought on our minds.  But since we are all cooped up at home why not try a fun family activity?  And if we learn something, well, just don’t tell the kids!  

How to Start: There are a TON of websites out there on how to make a kite.  If you want, you can copy any of those designs and learn quite a bit. Or…. You can skip the tutorials and apply the engineering design process to see what you and your family can come up with.  Discuss how you think a kite works and make your own design that the family can build together.  

What to do next: Let the engineering design process guide you, see my version below.  If you would like to delve deeper into the process, I’ve included a couple links under STEAM Resources.

Sample questions to discuss with your “team” are:

  • Ask: What are we going to build? 
  • Brainstorm: What will it look like? How will we build it?  What materials will we use?
  • Plan: Can we sketch it out?  What is a blueprint?
  • Create: Let’s build it! (Okay, I know that wasn’t actually a question).
  • Test:  Did it work? 
  • Make it better: If it didn’t work, why not?  What do we need to do to fix it? If it did work, why?  How do we make it better?

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

  • Science: Look into how kites fly.  Do you think this is how the Wright brothers started?
  • Technology: Where do you think this knowledge is applied today?  Did you know that 3 astronauts just arrive at the International Space Station (ISS)?  Why did I bring that up here?
  • Engineering: How would you engineer a different kite?  What materials would you use?  What shapes would you use? Why?
  • Arts: Design a family crest, or use an existing one, and add it to your kite. 
  • Math: Discuss the different shapes and why you think some would work better.  Can you scale down/up your design? Would it still work? 

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Topsy-Turvy Day

As a parent, have you ever dreamt of your child asking you a question and just responding, in that whiny voice “I don’t know!” or “I don’t wanna!”  While we can’t fully embrace a role reversal (can we?), we can implement a topsy-turvy day.  Switch roles with your kids and let them be the Unexpected Parent-Teacher. 

How to Start: Talk about what topsy-turvy means ( adjective turned upside down; inverted; reversed, or noun a state of confusion or disorder.) Explain to your child/children that they will be the teacher today and you will be the student.  Then set up some ground rules.  The idea here is to still be learning during the day, just a little differently. What do you think is a must, such as 2 hours of instruction time, specific topics being addressed, lunch time, nap time (couldn’t hurt to try, right?) etc.  What do they think is a must?

What to do next: Give you child/children some time to prepare for the day.  They will need to brainstorm the schedule and activities.  If they are younger you can, of course, help them.  But as I’ve stated before, let your children be in charge.  You should only provide the help they ask for.  This is supposed to be a fun activity that gives them the opportunity to be in charge and you the opportunity to, maybe, get a little even (just kidding… maybe). 

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

Since you and your child/children are designing the day, you can bring in any content areas you would like.  I’m going to take this opportunity to share with you some topics I find interesting, just because I can. 

  • Science: Geology in your state.  Can you find fossils? Minerals? Fault zones?
  • Technology: Make binary code secret messages.
  • Engineering: Build a Rube Goldberg machine
  • Arts: Learn about nature through art.  You can take pictures, draw pictures, make pictures with nature items.  Then research what you found/used. 
  • Math: What patterns can you see in your home, in nature?  How is this math?

STEAM Resources: I’ve narrowed down (yes, this is narrowed down) some of my favorite free resources at different levels.


Activity Idea: I have to do this for how long?!?!

It’s real now.  Those first few weeks have passed, spring break is happening, and then…. well, we’re home for the rest of the school year.  Everyone is settling into their new reality and, if you’re like me, you’re wondering if life will ever be the same again.  With all this going on, we still have to figure out how to do the day-to-day. It’s overwhelming, even for adults who supposedly have good coping skills.  But what about our kids?  We are asking them to handle big concepts and big emotions with a much smaller toolkit.  How can we help them get through this confusing and scary time?  One thing we can do is establishing a routine.  If nothing else, it puts some normalcy in our crazy situation.  It provides consistent structure and expectations for everyone involved. 

There are a ton of successful homeschool parents who already know how to structure home education.  They are a great resource in helping the rest of us figure this out.  Now, for all you homeschool parents out there… I know.  I know what the rest of us are doing here isn’t the same as what you do.  But it is the closest most of us are going to get. 

So how do homeschool parents do it?  What is their trick?  One part of it is, you guessed it, structure.  While it may not be our traditional view of classroom structure (homeroom, 1st period, 2nd period, etc.), as the Unexpected Parent-Teacher it is up to you to determine what this means to your family.  Well, you and your children. 

How to Start: As a family discuss what needs to get done during the day.  What do your kiddos need to do?  What are they used to doing?  What do they WANT to do?  What do YOU need/want to do?  Don’t forget non-academic activities like snack, lunch, recess.  Kids, and parents, need to get the wiggles out multiple times a day, both physically and mentally.  Keep in mind that if your kiddos want to include a task you don’t think is necessary, like unpacking their back pack every morning, let them do it.  What can it hurt?  And it gives them ownership into the process. 

What to do next: As a family, put together your schedule.  Are your children more comfortable mimicking the traditional school schedule?  Or do you want to do things a little different, like focus on different subjects on different days?  Think outside the box.  Here’s your chance to do something different.  Because no one knows what to expect right now, the traditional rules don’t have to apply. 

Then, review what you’ve created.  How does it look?  Are you expecting too much?  Do you think it can work?  If you’re not sure (let’s face it, most of us are flying blind here) are you willing to take a chance to test it out?  It’s okay if your first pass at a schedule doesn’t work.   Or your second, or your third… Think of it as a scientific experiment for the entire family.  Formulate your hypothesis, test it, and then make changes.   It can be an evolving process AND successful at the same time.   And remember, even a great schedule needs some flexibility, for everyone’s sake! 

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?  

Honestly, most schools will provide you the curriculum.  The key here is not to expect to do too much every day.  A homeschool friend of mine gave me some GREAT advice… 2 hours.  That’s how much total instruction time you should shoot for each day.  I know it may not seem right, but it is a great place to start. You’ll be amazed at what you get done.

STEAM Resources: I’m not going to include my typical STEAM resource list here.  Instead I’m providing information on schooling at home and support for understanding and coping with the current crisis.  I hope they help.