With Spring approaching, I am reminded now that this is the perfect season to start teaching and promoting environmental science. In my opinion, environmental science is one of the most important parts of science to teach because it promotes the understanding of nature and how we humans have a huge impact on our environment. When teaching environmental science outside, you can get the students out of the indoors and bring them into nature. Plus, teaching or doing experiment outside, gets students interested in the environment that surrounds them. Going into your own environment to explore and learn is fun and is a way to get students engaged with learning. Anytime you can get students to start the spark of love for science with hands-on activities and experiments is a time that you are encouraging students to be interested in a career in STEM. So take advantage of this time of year to find the STEM in your own backyard!
Here are eight fun ways to bring STEM alive in your own backyard:
Build a pulley system that students can use in the trees
With this activity, you can teach students the direction of force or discuss the different weights of items on the pulley and how they feel.
Make crafts sticks into boomerangs
Students learn the physics of a boomerang and test out the science through the engineering design process.
Go on a nature scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are great way to immerse students in their environments. You can identify different objects in nature (e.g. “find a compound leaf”) and draw comparisons between those objects (e.g., “find a walking insect and a flying insect”). I put together a simple Backyard Nature Walk scavenger hunt template that you can download here. For other scavenger STEM hunt ideas, click here.
Try a garden activity
There are many different STEM garden activities that you can try. For one, you can explore the different parts of a plant. You can also determine what resources plants need to grow successfully, and have students compare the environments of thriving and dying plants. Or try this soil science experiment to see how water moves through different types of soil.
Just like with garden activities, there are a lot of bug-related activities that students will love. You can have students identify the different lifecycles of the bugs and maybe see the lifecycle in action! You can also locate the different parts of bugs and compare those parts among a variety of different types of bugs (e.g., an ant has 6 legs, but a spider has 8).
Have students engineer a bird’s nest
Have students engineer a bird’s nest as a STEM challenge by giving students a variety of different items. Let them do research on local birds in your area to determine what the best size, shape, and materials would be to construct the nest.
Create a solar oven
This is a delicious science experiment! You can follow my construction instructions for a solar oven here. Try making smores or grilled cheese using your oven after construction.
Create a human sundial
Have students draw a circle in chalk on the ground and outline the shadows of the students to teach the time. You can also have students create their own sundials following my instructions here.
I hope you are able to enjoy the outdoors and get your students excited about science! Let me know in the comments how you’re exploring STEM outside this season.