Category: STEM

Fun hands-on ideas for kids that incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and / or Maths) principles.

45+ Hilariously Funny Math Jokes for Kids square

We ♥ jokes in our house, especially ones that sneak in some STEM learning love! The punnier the better. We tell knock knock jokes around the dinner table. My youngest likes to read joke books before going to bed. Sometimes I pop an educational joke into their school lunchbox.  We tell riddles on long car trips. You get the idea…

You might have already seen our awesome list of 60+ science jokes, but I was starting to feel that the other STEM subjects deserved some punny love too! This may have resulted in my spending the last few hours giggling researching and collating 45 of the funniest kid-friendly math jokes around. Read More Funny Math Jokes for Kids

Illustrate data! Use the shape of a line graph as inspiration for kids’ art.

Graph Art - illustrating data

I first came across the of idea of illustrating data, or using a line graph as the inspiration for an artwork, when an awesome barrier reef line graph artwork by Jill Pelto popped up on my Facebook feed. Not only is Pelto’s work artistically amazing, but I like the way her illustrations add context to the data being presented, encouraging the viewer to think about the data in a deeper way. Cool, huh?

So, one day when Jewel was feeling poorly and stayed home from school, we decided to do a little homeschooling and give our own version of “graph art” a try.

Suitable for

Jewel was almost 9.5 years old when we did this. I think this could be adapted to suit grades 3-6, or extended for early high school kids. Actually, it’s kind of fun for adults too.

How to create Graph Art (or Data Art)

These are the basic steps we followed:

  1. Think of a topic that you want to illustrate
  2. Research the available data, and see if you can find data that can be easily graphed as a single line graph.
  3. Conceptualise how you could use the shape of the line graph to create an illustration that is relevant to the topic.
  4. Create your graph art!

I love the way this activity combines several of the pillar STEAM (or STEM + Art) pillar subjects in the one open-ended activity. If you’re looking at trends in scientific / climate data, then you have the Science pillar right there. If you enter the data into a spreadsheet and create your own graph, then that’s your Technology and Maths ticked off. And of course the artistic component is the Art pillar. And because kids can choose the topics they’d like to research, and what they’d like to draw, it’s lovely and open-ended. So, tick, tick, tick, tick! (Let’s just leave the ‘Engineering’ bit for next time. 🙂  )

Jewel creating Graph Art

For our first artworks, Jewel and I looked at global temperature data from NASA. We thought that the annual mean temperature anomaly, (i.e. how much the annual temperature is different from the average), looked very spiky, like the tops of flames, which is a relevant image, as the graph is showing that temperatures are heating up! We downloaded the original data into a spreadsheet, created a basic line graph, printed this onto paper, and then used this as the basis for our art. Jewel and I used a combination of pencils, gel pens and marker to create these two artworks below.

Jewel global land-ocean temperature art

Global land-ocean temperature line graph with fire art zoomed in

Let me explain this graph a little bit. The x axis is the years, from 1880 (the year that climate data was first reliably recorded), until 2018 (last year). The y axis shows the temperature anomaly, or how much temperatures vary from the average. Can you see the dotted line above? That’s represents zero change from average. So, if the climate were staying more or less consistent, then you would expect the temperature to fluctuate on either side of this dotted line as the years progress. But the graph above shows a distinct upward trend, meaning that the temperatures are becoming a much higher than average. The top of this graph is 1.5 degrees higher than average, which is the point that many scientists say is the ‘tipping point’ for climate change. And if you follow the graph’s trend, that tipping point is fast approaching…. Scary stuff.

Jewel wanted our next graph art to focus on something more positive. She wants to focus on what we are doing to fix the world’s problems! So we started brainstorming positive topics that we might be able to find data for. We found these “good news graphs“, which are all very cool! The decreasing cost of solar electricity has a lovely downward curve which would make a great graph art topic.

But in the end Jewel and I decided to try illustrating the increase in electric vehicle sales in the US, partly because we’re considering buying an electric car ourselves, and partly because we found an electric vehicle sales graph we could print straight from the Internet (thus saving us the steps of having to find / download the data and create the graph ourselves). We used black marker and watercolour paints.

Increasing Electric Vehicle sales graph

For more math art ideas, my blogging friend Karyn from the fabulous Teach Beside Me blog (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite blogs of all time!) has just released an awesome new book called “Math Art & Drawing Games for Kids” that looks really cool. It has over 40 fun art projects that also build math skills! You can find it on Amazon here (please note, this is an affiliate link). But don’t tell Jewel about it yet, as she might be getting this under the Christmas tree this year!

Or for more arty or crafty STEM ideas, you might like to check out our STEAM activities page. (This page is live updated whenever we post a new idea, so be sure to check back often).

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Fun Science for Kids boards on Pinterest.

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox.

Graph art - illustrating graphs - fun STEAM activity for kids

Cool science craft idea for kids – make DIY articulated skeleton’s hands, and learn about hand bone structure! (They make a great Halloween prop too!)

How to make an articulated skeleton hand

You might remember back when Jewel and I first made our DIY articulated hand models? They were so much fun, and a great way to explain to Jewel how tendons work.

My younger daughter Bumble Bee was too young to join in at the time, but now that she’s a big 7 year old, we decided to make another set, this time with a Halloween-twist!

Skeleton hands

Suitable for

This is a little tricky and will need adult assistance for 5-6 year olds, but 7-9 year olds might be able to do most of it themselves. Bumble Bee had just turned 7 years old here.

Skeleton hands DIY

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Bumble Bee was so excited to make these skeleton hands. With Halloween coming up, I thought it would be awesome to use them to wave to trick-or-treaters.

Bumble Bee tells me she wants to use them as part of her DIY Dementor costume. (She wants to go as a Dementor for Halloween, and Jewel wants to go as Bellatrix Lestrange – they’re both a bit Harry Potter obsessed at the moment!) I’m not quite sure how the rest of the Dementor costume is going to work out, but we still have another week or so to work on the idea!

Either way, I think these skeleton’s hands are pretty neat. And they’re a great way to learn what the bones in the human hand are called, and how tendons work to make them move….

Here’s how we made them…

How to make an articulated skeleton hand

We used:

Trace around your hand using a pencil Cut out the hand shape
Step 1: Use a lead pencil to lightly trace your hand on craft foam and cut it out.

Gluing on the cut straws

Step 2: Cut paper straws into small sections to represent bones. Glue these on.

A few tips:

a) check which way your foam hand is facing before you glue on your straws. We accidentally made two right skeleton hands instead of one right and one left – oops!

b) make sure you leave a large gap between each straw section – otherwise you won’t be able to bend your skeleton’s fingers later on.

c) leave small space for the chopstick in between the hand bones – this will be added in the next step.

You might also notice that we tried colouring the straws black for one of the hands to see how this would look. The idea was that the black straws could hide how the fingers bent. But personally I like how the plain white straws look better. But if you prefer the ‘incognito’ black straws, you could use black marker to colour your straws first (or buy black straws).

Step 3: Paint a chopstick black, and glue this between the straws on the hands. This will act as your handle later on. Leave to dry.

Threading yarn tendons through the straw bones

Step 4: Cut five long pieces of wool. Tie a pony bead to the end of each piece. Then thread each piece through one of the four fingers / thumb, and through the corresponding straw in the hand. A large-eye blunt needle makes this process easier, but you can do it without this if you don’t have one. Leave long ‘tails’, as these are what you will pull on later to bend the fingers and thumb.

Painting on the hand bones

Step 5: Flip the skeleton hands over, and paint bones on the other side using white acrylic paint and a thin paintbrush.

This is, of course, a great chance to discuss what the bones in the human hand are called!

Fun Science Fact

You have three bones in your fingers, but only two bones in your thumbs! These bones are called phalanges.

The tips of your finger and thumb are called distal phalanges. The middle bone of your fingers are called middle phalanges. The lower bone in your fingers and thumb are called proximal phalanges.

The proximal phalanges connect to five longer bones in your hands, called metacarpals.

There are also 8 bones in your wrist called carpals (but we focused mainly on the hand and finger bones this time.)

diy skeleton hand

If you hold the chopstick handle, and tug on the different tails of yarn, you can make the different fingers bend over! The yarn works similarly to how the tendons work in your hand. Can you make your skeleton hand wave? Can you make it hold up just a couple of fingers?

Articulated skeleton or dementors hand

If you’re looking for more Halloween ideas, you might also like to check out the salt crystal ghosts that we made a few weeks ago! (The kids have asked to make them again with their Girl Guide group, so hopefully they’ll work well when done on a 25 x girl scale!)

So far these are the only two Halloween ideas we’ve tried so far, but we’ll add more to our Halloween science page as we try them….
Articulated skeleton hands - fun science craft for kids to make

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Fun game to learn how to find north using your senses, the sun, and a compass!

Finding North - Hiking Science Game for kids

We love hiking in our family (or bush-walking as we tend to call it here in Australia). It’s such a fun way to combine our love of nature, exercise and family-time!

Recently Bumble Bee gave Jewel a compass for her 9th birthday, so we decided to bring it along on our next hike to try it out – and we invented a game called Finding North.

 

Suitable for

This is a fun outdoor activity for younger or middle primary / elementary school aged kids. Jewel was 9 and Bumble Bee was 6.5 years old here.

Read More Finding North: a fun hiking game for kids

How to make a magnetic marble run for your refrigerator door. Fun STEM (or STEAM) activity for kids!

make a magnetic marble run for your fridge door contains affiliate links* to similar products

Suitable for

You can adapt this activity to suit preschoolers, kindergarteners or young school-aged kids. My daughters Jewel and Bumble Bee were 6 and 4 years old when we first made this.

We made this fridge-door marble run ages ago, but I’m only just getting a chance to share it now, because, you know, kids and life and stuff…

It was lots of fun, and super simple to make.

How to make a Fridge-Door Marble Run

We used:

Fridge door marble run!

Of course, you could make this with plain cardboard rolls, but decorating them with washi tape is fun, and much prettier!

I used a hot glue gun to stick magnets onto the side of our tubes (mainly because the results are quick, and I’m impatient!). You could also use regular PVA craft glue, and just wait overnight for it to dry. If you use self-adhesive magnets, you may have to add extra glue between the cardboard tube and the magnet so they stick ‘properly’.

Stronger magnets are best, especially if you plan to use heavier balls, like marbles or steel balls, as they have more force behind them. If you’re only planning on using pompoms, then you could get away with weaker magnets (like the promotional ones you sometimes get in your letter box).

Decorate toilet paper rolls with washi tape & stick on magnets to create a magnetic marble run for the fridge door.

My daughters (Bumble Bee, 4.5 years old and Jewel, almost 7 years old) helped decorate a few of our cardboard tubes, and I finished the rest. Stripes are easy and look great!

Testing out the marble run

We created some shape variations by cutting an angle in the end of some of the cylinders, or by cutting a small section out of the side of another. (These variations are great to have later, when the kids are trying out different marble run designs.)

Creating magnetic marble run piecesOnce you’re done creating and decorating your tubes, pop them on the fridge, and wait for the kids to come and play! (I *might* have played with them a wee bit too. It’s fun!)

Magnetic marble run for your fridge door - fun science for kids

Make a magnetic marble run

Some questions to ponder:

  • How many zig zags can you incorporate into your design?
  • Use a stopwatch to time your marble run. Can you modify your track to make it quicker? Slower?
  • Test your marble run using a heavier smooth ball (eg a marble) vs a lighter rough ball (eg a pom pom). Do you need to modify your design to suit the ball type? How does the type of ball affect the speed?
  • How far does your ball roll when it comes out of the end of marble run? Can you modify your design to get the ball to land in a particular spot?

Make a colourful DIY magnetic marble run

Fun Science

There’s a number of factors that influence your marble run design.

The first is gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls objects downwards (towards the centre of the earth). It’s what causes the marble to roll downwards.

The second is energy (and conservation of energy). The faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, changing their motion. When a ball hits a zigzag in the marble run, the energy is transferred from the ball to the marble run wall, and then back into the ball, causing the ball to change direction.

The third is force (and the relationship between energy and force). The faster and heavier an object, the more force it will have. Heavier balls will require a slower track (or stronger magnets), else the force of the ball will push the track out.

The fourth is friction. Friction occurs when two objects rub against each other (slowing movement and creating heat in the process). The texture of the ball and/or the track will affect the friction.

Make a DIY magnetic marble run for the fridge using toilet paper rolls and washi tape!

Science isn’t the only subject that can be introduced here. You could easily turn this into a playful STEM or STEAM (STEM + art) activity:

  • Science – see above! Marble runs are a classic physics activity covering gravity, energy, force and friction.
  • Technology – You could use a digital stop watch to time the marble run.
  • Engineering – taking in the various forces into account, testing and making design modifications are all classic engineering activities.
  • Math – estimating, measuring and comparing times is all great maths practice. Likewise, estimating, measuring and comparing how far the marble will roll. You could record results in a table.
  • + Art – decorating your tubes! We used washi tape, but you could also paint the cardboard tubes or draw patterns using markers…

Make a DIY magnetic marble run - for your fridge door!

For more physics fun, check out our Physics Experiments for Kids archives, including:

Make a magnetic marble run for the fridge door - STEAM activity for kids

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Fun Science for Kids boards on Pinterest.

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Did you see this tall Magna-Tile tower we built yesterday?

Using magnatiles to measure DIY catapult projectile heights - fun STEM activity for kids combining science, engineering and maths with playWe built it to measure how high our catapults were shooting. We had to keep building it higher and higher, as we discovered one of our catapults had a very high trajectory!

All that tall-tower-making had me thinking…. If we built it just a little bit taller, could we use it to measure the girls’ heights?

So that’s what we did!

Measuring height with Magna-Tiles is a fun way to explore math and measurement at home

Suitable for

This is a fun activity for 3-6 year olds. Using everyday items that are a uniform size to measure objects and compare their relative size is one of the maths skills Jewel learned when she was in kindergarten and Year One.

Bumble Bee and Jewel were 4 & 6.5 years old here.

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The girls have been lucky enough to receive two Magna-Tiles sets (this 100 piece one and this 48 piece one) over the past few years as Christmas gifts (thanks Grandma!), and so are quite familiar with building with them. Even so we had to get a little creative in working out how to build a tower tall enough to measure Jewel, stable enough that it wouldn’t fall down, using only the limited number of square tiles that we had available.

Here’s what the structure looked like from behind.

The rear of the tower

We ran out of squares at the very top, so we made our own using right-angled triangles. (Hands-on geometry!)

We found out that Bumble Bee is currently 13 Magna-Tile squares tall, and Jewel is currently 16 Magna-Tile squares tall, meaning that Jewel is 3 Magna-Tiles taller than Bumble. (Oh, don’t they grow up so quickly!)

Measuring the height of kids with a Magna-Tiles tower is a fun way to practise math at home.

The engineering and math components make this a fun STEM activity that kids can try at school or home!

 

For more Magna-Tiles fun, you might like:

 

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids, STEM for Girls and Playful Maths for Kids boards on Pinterest.

 

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities via email. We’d love to have you join us!

 

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