Thursday, 1 December 2011

Celebrating a STEM Holiday Season

STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, technology, engineering & mathematics.

Adding a little STEM to the holiday season is a great way to have a little geeky fun.


Mobius Paper Chains:
Liven up the traditional paper chains by giving each link a twist before fastening. Try making a thicker link on its own, then cut it down the centre to see what happens. You can use a few of these for your chain as well.  Try cutting a strip 1/3 from the edge all around. What happens?

Stars & Angles:
What kind of star do you get when you join up all the corners of a square? Pentagon? Hexagon? Septagon? Octagon? Calculate the angles involved in each of these. What is the sum of the angles for each of the different stars?
Now try drawing a triangle on a sphere (a balloon or Christmas ball will work well). Measure the angles of this triangle. What do you notice about their sum? What might this mean if you were to draw one of the stars on a sphere? Try it and see if your predictions hold.

For the younger set:
The Twelve Days of Christmas song lends itself well to learning ordinals (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), and at the end you can add up all the gifts the "true love" gave. Can you find a shortcut for adding successive numbers?

An Advent Calendar as well as a regular calendar can reinforce counting up and counting down skills.

A few chemistry concoctions lend themselves well to Christmas.

Crystal window paint: This easy-clean recipe uses epsom salts to make a crystal pattern on any glass surface.
  Use this salt solution recipe to paint crystal patterns for cards and gift tags.
  Make a classic borax crystal ornament (remember when you did this as a kid?)
  Use one of these recipes to make either shaving-cream or soap-based indoor "snow" dough.
  Paint the snow with spray bottles.
Don't forget to take a little time out for a nature walk and some star gazing too!

Design your own Rube Goldberg machine to deliver a gift to a loved one, or make it a little simpler and set up your electric or wooden train around the tree to do the same thing.
Make and use some squishy circuits (playdough recipes that conduct and resist currents) to make a light-up Christmas tree, Rudolph, etc.

Design an electronic gift card, video greeting or holiday game using one or more of the following:
Scratch drag-and-drop computer programming tool from MIT
Windows paint
Picasa (try making a mosaic creation too!)
MS Movie Maker
Or any other photo, drawing, graphics, video or word processing programs you like.
Or try Make-a Flake for some addictive mess-free snowflake making.

Remember, many more math & science activities can be found on the Lemonade website.