Just like the unintended discoveries of penicillin, Teflon, X-rays and even microwave ovens, so was our venture into daily STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related activities. I guess it was our accidental discovery. It started out as a simple idea to have fun with a few at-home experiments. It made sense given that my kids enjoy hands-on activities, love to help, and yes, they even enjoy observing and learning. So why not combine all those things (and more!) with my love of science.
It was never meant to be a permanent addition to our daily lives, but each day my kids would ask about the NEXT experiment. When called to the kitchen they assumed it was to start another STEM project, only to be disappointed when they realized it was just to get ready for dinner. The joy they express when observing something happening, whether it takes minutes, days or even weeks is just priceless. And so it became a challenge, a new routine. But could we really do something related to STEM every single day?
I am happy to report that we are still going strong. Some experiments are finished in the matter of minutes; others take hours, days or even weeks, and some we will observe indefinitely. And yes, we have had our fair share of failures.
Our kitchen has become our pseudo-laboratory. For most of the experiments and projects we use stuff that we have lying around the house. Occasionally, we add some unusual requests to our shopping lists. I have bought things at the grocery, drug and hardware stores I would not normally purchase. (Yes, I have a huge package of disposable diapers and yes, my kids have been toilet-trained for years). I have shown disappointment that the pharmacy doesn’t carry syringes larger than 3 mL. I get excited when white flowers go on sale. I don’t buy balloons for parties, I buy them to observe gas production, static electricity and build barometers. There is tons of food colouring in our pantry now. I have sent store employees (and my husband) on wild hunts for bizarre things I’m sure a particular store sells.
All our mason jars are now designated “laboratory beakers”. As have, plastic disposable cups. Pop bottles of all sizes are never thrown away. And our old baby bottles have a renewed purpose. Our window-less bathroom is now secretly known as our “dark-room” where we observe our fluorescence and light experiments. I have used chop sticks as stir sticks, some are now permanently stained with food colouring. I have built very strange looking retort stands. And yes I have made many messes in our kitchen. I have torn apart laser pointers, highlighters, and old markers. I have bought marshmallows, whipping cream, bread yeast, tonic water and eggs NOT for human consumption. The black light I bought years ago to identify cat “accidents” is now an integral part of our fluorescence based studies. My children’s friends now ask me if I have any experiments planned when over for a play date.
I have learned that doing the STEM Play Every Day Challenge is totally do-able. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I have lots of tips (or cheats) to make it work even on the busiest of days. But the end result is always the same – FUN. And it’s so rewarding to see my children learn or see something new for the first time. It brings a tear to my eye to listen to my children share their STEM experiences with others and realize they completely understood what was going on!
We do all sorts of things in our STEM Play Every Day challenge. We may set up an experiment, build a piece of equipment, marvel in the beauty of nature or the human-made innovations around us, or use our math skills to answer a question.
Don’t fear STEM, embrace it by starting your own challenge, try a few experiments or just follow us on our adventure. If we’ve inspired (or taught you) just a little then we’ve succeeded!
This is our STEM Play Every Day challenge and it has been and will continue to be, 100% worth it!