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3 15-Minute STEM Activities to Inspire Young Learners

Engage children in science and innovation with these quick exercises from Emily Hunt...

  • 3 15-Minute STEM Activities to Inspire Young Learners

1 | Paper plane bullseye

Fold a sheet of paper to create a plane. Place a short-range target 5m away and a long-range one 10m away.

Begin testing your plane with the short-range target, refining your design to make it land as close as possible. Then create a new plane and aim for the long-range target.

Spend time refining your plane to make it more accurate. Look at the most successful designs for each target. Why did they work best? How do the short- and long-range designs differ?

Throwing the plane creates a force that propels it forward. Real planes have engines to create thrust. Drag is a force working in the opposite direction.

The thrust has to be greater than the drag for the plane to advance. Gravity acts as a downward force on the plane.

This is balanced for a time by the wings, which experience lift (an upward force) as the air passes over them. The balance of these forces determines the journey of the plane.

2 | One-shape structures

What is the tallest structure we can make using only one shape?

Decide the shape you will use (triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons) and then start the 15-minute timer.

Use mini marshmallows as joins to dig toothpicks into. Double up the toothpicks for extra strength. Measure your structure to see how tall it is.

Encourage older children to discuss their structure using 3D shape vocabulary such as cubes, cuboids, triangular pyramids and prisms.

A successful structure will probably include triangles in the design as they are inherently rigid. This means when we apply a force they don’t change their shape.

In contrast, when we apply a force to a shape such as a square, it can be deformed into a parallelogram.

Civil engineers and architects are often asked to create tall structures and must think carefully about their foundations and shape.

Find out more about how triangles are used in architecture. A famous example you could research is the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

3 | Camouflage nature walk

How do animals protect themselves from predators? Head outside for a brief nature walk. Look carefully for camouflaged animals.

Try looking at tree trunks, leaves, flowers and leaf litter. Use a magnifying glass to look at each example of camouflage. Then take a photo.

When the time is up, review the findings and count how many examples you photographed. You can also try going to a different environment (such as forest, pond, urban) to find different examples.

Looking closely at our natural environment, we can find lots of examples of animal camouflage. This helps these animals to blend into their surroundings, protecting them from predators.

Examples that you may have spotted are a grey squirrel against tree bark, a moth on a wall, or dark-coloured insects in the undergrowth.

Engineers and designers often take ideas from nature when creating new things. This is called biomimicry.

Research how the military has used camouflage inspired by nature in its clothing and in its designs for vehicles and planes.

These activities have been taken from Emily’s book 15 Minute Stem, published by Crown House Publishing.

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