STEM at Home

We compiled some of our favourite STEM activities perfect for you to try out at home so take a look and dive into the world of STEM!

Activities


    Invisible Ink

    Materials:
    • paper
    • paint brush
    • 1 tbsp baking soda
    • ½ cup water
    • rubbing alcohol
    • turmeric

    This experiment combines chemistry and some detective skills to make for the ultimate science activity called Invisible Ink. To make your invisible ink solution, combine the 1/2 cup of water with 1 Tbsp of baking soda. Next, use your paintbrush to draw, write, or encode your secret message on the paper using this ink. Once the paper has fully dried, it's time to make your reagent. Mix a 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 tsp of turmeric together then paint that over your paper and watch your top-secret message become visible!

    Invisible Ink

    How does it work:

    It's an acid base reaction, the baking soda mixture is the base and the turmeric mixture is an acid! The turmeric mixture is also something called a chemical indicator. Chemical indicators give a sign, in this case the change in colour of the invisible ink, depending on what the pH of the base mixture is. When the acid and base mix together the indicator changes the colour of the base to indicate the reaction has happened!


    Oobleck

    Materials:

    • 1-2 cups of cornstarch
    • 1 cup of water
    • food colouring

    This experiment is easy and fun to make, simply mix your ingredients together! To make it easier to mix in the colour, add your food dye to the water before you mix. Put your cornstarch into a bowl and add water mixing as you go until the mixture becomes thick and hardens when you tap on it. Now see the magic! When you tap the oobleck quickly you’ll notice it seems solid but try slowly putting your hands in the mixture and let it run through your fingers and it seems liquid! Warning this project can get a little messy but is easy to wash off your hands with water. 

    Oobleck

    How does it work:

     Oobleck acts this way because it is a non-Newtonian fluid which is neither a solid nor liquid but can act like both, making this is a super fun way to learn about phases of matter. This mixture is pressure-dependent so when you put more pressure on the mixture the viscosity (a way to describe thickness) increases! This is why it is hard when you punch it but liquidy when you slowly put your hands into it. If you are feeling ambitious make a big batch, put it into a pan or tub and show how you can walk across it!


    Marble Maze

    Materials:

    • cardboard box lid/scrap cardboard
    • straws
    • tape
    • scissors
    • marble
    • any other supplies found around your house

    To get those engineering gears turning, make a Box Lid Marble Maze! Use the box lid as the base of your maze and tape the straws down in a cool maze formation making sure to make a start and finish to your maze, the rest is up to your imagination! Test out your design skills, look for stuff around the house to add as obstacles and get super creative on how to get your marble across the maze. Redesign as you go, then test out the final product! This is a fun open-ended activity leaves a lot of room for creativity and encourages them to use their engineering minds.

    Space-Themed Marble Maze

    To get some inspiration take a look at this awesome space-themed maze from One Time Through.


    Lava Lamp

    Materials:

    • 1L empty drinking bottle
    • water
    • food dye
    • glitter
    • vegetable oil
    • alka-seltzer​

    This experiment we'll be exploring density by making our very own lava lamps! Grab an empty 1L drink bottle and fill 1/3 of the bottle with water. Add in some food colouring and glitter to make your lava lamp uniquely yours! Once the dye and glitter is mixed in, fill the rest of the bottle with oil making sure to leave some room at the top of the bottle. You'll see that the water and oil form two separate layers because these liquids have different densities, they don't want to mix together! To begin your lava lamp's chemical reaction, drop in an alka-seltzer tablet and watch the colours come to life.

    Lava Lamp

    How does it work:

    When the alka-seltzer tablet comes into contact with the water it begins to produce a gas called carbon dioxide, the same gas that makes your favourite pop fizzy. This gas is less dense than the oil and water so it floats to the top and brings some coloured water and glitter with it. When the gas escapes out of the top of the bottle the water sinks back down to the bottom and gets carried back up in a new bubble! Your lava lamp will last as long as there is gas being produced in the bottom of your bottle.

     

    Magic Milk

    Materials:

    • plate
    • milk (the full fat milk performs much better!)
    • food colouring
    • dish soap
    • a Q-tip

    This STEM at home activity is an experiment we like to call Magic Milk!. Fill the plate with a layer a milk, have your kiddos drop in some of their favourite food colouring colours, dip a Q-tip in dish soap, and place the end of the Q-tip in the centre of the plate! Watch what happens when the dish soap comes into contact with the milk and see why we think this experiment is pretty magical.

    Magic Milk

    How does it work:

    Milk is made of water vitamins, minerals, and small droplets of fat. The dish soap seeks out the droplets of fat, so once you drop the soap into the mixture the food colouring shows the movement of the soap and fat. When the colours stop swirling around, the soap has done its job and found all the fat!

     

    Straw Rockets

    Materials:

    • straw
    • paper
    • tape
    • scissors

    Prepare for blast-off with this STEM at home activity! Simply wrap and tape some paper around a straw for the body of the rocket, then tape the tip of the rocket closed to make the rocket nozzle. Cut out 3 small triangles for the rocket fins and tape these to the base of the rocket. Now put your rocket on the end of the straw and blow, launching your rocket into space! Now that you have the base rocket design put your engineering skills to the test and try out different designs!

    Rocket aerodynamic studies how air flows over a rocket. This affects how stable and far the rocket flies! The nozzle and fins are used to try and reduce the air resistance, also known as drag, as well as keep the rocket from wobbling during flight. So try different length rockets, with different numbers of fins, or a pointy nozzle to see what rocket flies the best! 3…2….1…. Blast Off!

    straw rocket

    Watch this Science Buddies video for a more in-depth tutorial, and go to this Article to learn more about the science of rockets.

     

    Ice Cream in a Bag

    Materials:

    • 2 large gallon-sized Ziploc bags
    • 1 cup of half-and-half (you can also use whipped cream or milk)
    • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
    • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
    • Ice
    • 1/3 cup of rock salt (other salt may also work but may take longer)
    • Optional: Sprinkles and any yummy toppings!

    First, grab 2 large gallon-sized Ziploc bags. Fill one will have 1 cup of half-and-half, 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and zip it up. Fill the other with ice and 1/3 cup of rock salt. Now put your first bag into the bag filled with ice and shake! This is going to be really cold so you may want a towel to hold the bag while you shake or go outside and play hot potato with your ice cream bag! You want to shake vigorously for around 7 minutes or until your ice cream is thick! Now you get to eat your tasty creation!

    Ice Cream in a Jar

    How does it work:

    The science behind this is salt lowers the freezing point of the ice, making the overall temperature of the bag colder to freeze the ice cream. This happens because salt makes ice melt faster and as it melts heat is absorbed, making the surroundings (the bag) even colder! The salt molecules wedge themselves between the water molecules as the ice melts and keeps them from sticking together and refreezing. This all means your bag gets really cold and this cools down your cream to make ice cream! Who knew science could be so tasty! 

     

    Soap Powered Boats

    Materials:

    • thin styrofoam (like used in meat packaging) or a sturdy piece of cardboard
    • liquid dish soap
    • pan/bucket, sink or bathtub filled with water

    To start, you’ll need a piece of thin Styrofoam like that used in meat packaging or a sturdy piece of cardboard. Cut it into a boat shape as shown in the picture below, the ideal boat length is about 2 inches long. Next, spread liquid dish soap on the edges of the notch at the back of the boat. Place your boat in a pan of water or even the bath tub and watch it go! Decorate your boats and get your family together to have a soap boat derby race at home! 

    To expand on this experiment try using different types of soap, which works best? Does hot or cold water make a difference, what about different shapes and sizes of boats?

    Soap Boat

    How does it work:

    This works because of the cool properties of soap! It is a surfactant meaning it is able to break up the surface tension of water. Surface tension is fancy way of saying the surface of liquid is strong and able to resist forces exerted on it. This is because water molecules are like best friends and always want to stick together. So light things, like your boat, float on water because they are not strong enough to break those molecules apart! But when the soap is dropped in it breaks up those bonds between the water molecules, this generates force that is strong enough to push your light boat around!

    Picture from Science 4 Fun.

    Spaghetti Marshmallow Towers

    Materials:

    • spaghetti
    • mini marshmallows

    This activity gets the engineering gears turning to see how you can make tall stable towers.

    Your building supplies are uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows, and your task is to make the tallest tower possible! Stick your spaghetti into the marshmallows so your marshmallows act as joints and the spaghetti acts as beams. The key is to see what shapes and formations will keep your tower strong as it gets taller. So, experiment and see what different structures you can make and how tall your tower can get!

    Spaghetti Structures


    Rock Candy 

    Materials:

    • 2 cups of water
    • 4 cups of sugar
    • pot
    • a stove to heat the water on 
    • food colouring 

    First you’ll need to boil 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove, be careful and get your parent to help you with this step. Once the water is boiling you’ll add 4 cups of sugar and stir it until it dissolves in the water. You’ve just made a supersaturated solution! This means that the water can’t dissolve any more sugar in it, it’s reached it’s limit! If you’d like, you can add some food dye to the sugar water to make your rock candy colourful. Now let the sugar water cool for 15-20 minutes.

    While the sugar water is cooling, grab some bamboo skewers, wet them, and roll them in sugar. Allow the bamboo skewers to dry completely after coating them in sugar. Once the water has cooled, pour it into a glass jar and place the wooden skewers in the jar, use a clothespin to hold the skewer in place so it doesn’t touch the sides of the jar! Finally, place a paper towel over the top of the jar.

    Place your jar in a cool and quiet place so it won’t be disturbed and watch over the coming week as the sugar settles and forms crystals on your skewer! Once the crystals have grown big enough, pull your rock candy out of the jar and enjoy!

    Rocky Candy

    How does it work?

    By dissolving your sugar in hot water rather than room temperature or cold water, the sugar dissolved fast and more sugar remained in the solution than could stay in the liquid as it cooled. This means the solution was supersaturated. As the sugar falls out of the solution as a precipitate it clumps with other sugar particles and the crystal begins to grow. By rolling the skewers in sugar, you made a perfect place for the sugar falling out of the solution to cling to and grow into crystals. These sugar particles are called ”seed crystals” and allow for organized crystallization.


    Cloud in a Jar 

    Materials:

    • a glass jar with a lid
    • around 1/3 cup of hot water
    • ice cubes
    • hairspray

    First, pour the hot water into the jar and swirl it around to heat up the sides of the jar. Then put the jar lid upside onto the top of the jar and put a couple ice cubes on top. After letting the jar sit for around 20 seconds, remove the lid, quickly spray a bit of hairspray into the jar then put the lid back on with the ice on top. Now, wait and watch the vapour in your jar condense and the cloud form! When you see a fair amount of condensation in the jar remove the lid and watch your cloud float out into the air. 

    cloud in a jar

    How does it work?

    Well when you pour the hot water into the jar, some of it evaporates and floats in the jar as water vapour. When it rises to the top of the jar it comes in contact with the cold ice, this causes it to condense. But to make clouds, which are collections of water droplets or ice crystals floating in the sky, you need the vapour to condense onto something rather than returning to the liquid pool at the bottom of the jar. This is where the hairspray comes in! The water droplets condense around the hairspray particles and form the cloud! In our skies, the things clouds usually condense around include dust, smoke, air pollution, and volcanic fog.