Activity Idea: Nature Investigation

We are all getting a bit stir crazy, but most of us are still able to get out for walks, bike rides, etc.  Use this opportunity to observe and investigate the natural world around you.  If you are not able to go on a nature walk, there are a ton of virtual field trips through national parks and zoo’s that you can use instead. 

How to Start: Go for a walk or take a virtual field trip!  On your trip look around.  What catches your eye? Take notes, draw pictures or bring a camera to take pictures of the things that interest you.

What to do next: When you get home, make a list of everything you saw.  What did you draw or take pictures of? Why?  Can you identify what you saw?  Do some research, the depth of research depends on your child/children’s age.  Younger kiddos can identify what they found.  Older kiddos can delve deeper into the scientific name, family, genus, etc.  Look into where everything you saw fits in the food chain/food web.  What other areas in the world can they be found?

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

  • Science: What is photosynthesis?  How to animals digest their food?  What happens if part of the food chain/food web is disrupted?  What can you do to support scientific research?
  • Technology: What technology do experts use to investigate nature? Think about technology you can use to investigate both up close and far away.
  • Engineering: Can you make a simple or complex machine that mimics what you saw? How do engineers use what they learn from nature?
  • Arts: Make some nature art!  Use what you find to make a picture. Or grab some vines and make a basket.
  • Math: What did you find more of?  Less of?  What shapes and patterns did you see in nature?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Becoming an Astronaut

Did you know that astronauts are still launching into space?  While we’re in quarantine, on April 9th NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch Expedition 63 to the International Space Station (ISS)! Does becoming an astronaut sound like fun to you too? 

How to Start: Are you interested in becoming an astronaut candidate?  What does it take to be an astronaut?  Where in space would you like to travel? What would you like to study as an astronaut? Wait, not all astronauts study same thing?!?

What to do next: Research it!  Remember, your child/children are in charge here.  See where their research takes them.  But in case they get stuck, some potential questions to help guide them are below.

  • Will you be a pilot or mission specialist?  What’s the difference?
  • What should you study to become an astronaut?
  • How do you train to become an astronaut?
  • What would you do when you are in space?

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

  • Science: Did you know that astronauts conduct all types of scientific experiments, some even on themselves?  What scientific experiment would you like to conduct in space?
  • Technology: How do astronauts survive in space? Where do they live? What do they eat? What do they wear?
  • Engineering: Who designs and builds space vehicles?  Space suits?  The food astronauts eat?
  • Arts: Did you know that the astronauts design their mission patches?   Have you seen the sketches of the future lunar and Martian colonies?  How do we know what they will look like?
  • Math: How many days will it take for Expedition 63 to get to the ISS? back to the Earth? How far will it travel? How long will it take to launch? For older children, refer back to the technology and engineering questions.  There is a whole lot of math in there! 

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Field Trips

Okay, so we can’t actually go on a field trip, or at least we really shouldn’t.  But now’s the time to take advantage of all the amazing virtual field trips available online.  Where have you always wanted to go? What have you always wanted to see?  Is it a museum?  A national park?  What interests you?

How to Start: Ask your child/children where they have always wanted to go.  Of course, we are trying to keep this educational, so remind them that this is a learning experience.  If your kids are as sneaky as mine, you may have to add in a requirement that it is a place where (insert responsible adult) would say you would learn something.  If they can’t decide, have them list their top three choices.

What to do next: Research it! Look up the place where you would like to visit.  Use the following questions as a guide:

  • Where is it located/how far away is it?
  • Why did you pick it?
  • How would you get there?
  • What do they do there?
  • What would you do there?
  • Why are you interested in this location?
  • What makes your location special or unique?
  • Would you like to work there?  If so, why?  What would you do?
  • Do they offer a virtual fieldtrip?  If so, take a field trip! 

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

  • Science: Did you pick an outdoor location?  If so, what geology did you see?  What biology did you see?
  • Technology: Are you able to take a virtual fieldtrip?  If so, how was the virtual fieldtrip created?  If not, what technology would you need to create one?
  • Engineering: How would you build the technology for virtual field trips?
  • Arts: Picture yourself as a tour guide.  How would you present information about your location?  Can you make a commercial?
  • Math: Calculate the distance from your home to your location, convert between English and metric.  How long do you think it would take to get there by car, train, boat? 

STEAM Resources:

I hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend.


Activity Idea: Meal Planning

How many others find planning two meals a day taxing?  The weekends used to be tough enough but now having to do it every day, on top of monitor schoolwork and doing my own work, is just exhausting.  In talking with my kids, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) have decided to change how we do lunch.  Every Friday, my kids will be putting together the lunch menu for the following week. 

How to Start: On Friday, plan a sit-down meeting with your child/children to discuss next week’s menu.  Explain to them that they will be responsible for determining the lunch menu for the entire week. 

What to do next: Establish the rules.  That’s right, this isn’t a free-for-all.  They don’t get to choose just anything for lunch.  If you have younger kids, you can brainstorm the rules together.  For older kids, make it a research project.  In the “STEAM Resources” listed below, there are a couple links to use as a starting point for making healthy choices.   

Once the rules are established map out the meals by day, including all necessary ingredients and a shopping list.  And remember, they can be responsible for helping cook these meals also. 

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

What’s so dynamic about this activity, is that you can expand it in so many directions. Below are a few examples.  If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to post! 

  • Science: Believe it or not, this activity encompasses all science content areas:
    • Biology: How does the body process food (chewing, saliva, digestion)?
    • Chemistry: How does the body breaks-down food? How do we taste?
    • Physics: What are the simple machines in the human body. What are the simple and complex machines used by farmers?
    • Earth science: Where is food grown: What type of soil is used and why; why are farms located near water sources? Why do farmers have to remove rocks from their farms every year? 
  • Technology: What is remote sensing and why is it important to farmers? Do farmers use drones?
  • Engineering: Can you design and build your own vegetable garden?  What does a food engineer do?
  • Arts: Learn about the art of cooking.  Why are certain foods frequently paired together? 
  • Math: How do you double/half a recipe?  What are the different units of measure for volume/temperature, and how can you convert between them?

STEAM Resources:


Activity Idea: Design a Rocket

Getting stir-crazy?  Cabin fever setting in?  Need some space (yes, I went there)? Well, fear not!  Today’s activity will solve all your problems: Launch your imagination AND use up all those empty food cartons, containers, cans, etc. from the past week at home. 

How to start: Inform your child/children they have been hired to design a new launch vehicle for the next phase of human space flight.  Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to manage a team and develop their design. 

What to do next: This is a team effort, so team member roles and responsibilities should be assigned.  Start with a discussion about what those roles are.  Once all roles are clearly defined, make assignments and start working! I recommend also reviewing the engineering design process, see link below.  If the team gets stuck, some questions you can ask are:

  • Where will your launch vehicle be going?  Why does this matter? Will it need to land? 
  • How many astronauts will be traveling in your launch vehicle?  What will they be doing? 
  • Will your launch vehicle be carrying any equipment?  If so, what?
  • How will the astronauts return to Earth?  Will the astronauts return to Earth?  Will the launch vehicle be designed for re-use?

What grade level is this for?  Great question!  This activity can be expanded for multiple age/grade/ability levels, examples are:

  • Use materials to build a life-size rocket.
  • Design and build a hand-held prototype.
  • Build a scale-model that includes internal and external components.
  • Build a launchable prototype.

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

  • Science:  Will the astronauts be conducting any experiments?  If so, what? 
  • Technology: How do astronauts communicate with Mission Control? How do they perform everyday functions in microgravity, including eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom?
  • Engineering: How would you get your launch vehicle to the launch site? How would it launch?
  • Art: Design a mission patch. Write a story about your launch vehicle; it could be about designing/building the launch vehicle, the purpose of the mission, or the mission itself. 
  • Mathematics: What are the measurements/dimensions of your launch vehicle? To what scale did you build your proto-type? 

STEAM Resources:

– Peace