Megha Bharadwaj, a SWENExt blogger, is back again with more great insight on how she is planning outreach events in her community. This blog is part of series about Organizing a STEM Career Night for Girls. Megha explains each stage of the planning process of her event. If you have not already seen her other posts, be sure to check them out below.
Getting into the Nitty Gritty: What Activities to Pick?
One of the hardest things about planning a STEM Career night is actually picking the activities. That sounds a bit odd but it’s the truth. When you begin to search you will find that there are a LOT and I mean a LOT of different activities to choose from. So where do you start?
First you need to pick a target age range. For my project I wanted to reach out to all the middle schoolers in my region that encompassed a wide range from 10-14, so I break it down into 10-12 year olds and 12-14 year olds. That way I could pick specific activities for each age range. It is important to remember when you are having an event that you will have limited time with each activity! That’s why you would not want to pick activities that are too hard or easy for an age range.
One of the engineering activities I really wanted to do is called “Fancy Feet.” It is an intricate activity where students would have to use foam board, art supplies such as string, and household items such as Brillo pads to create their own shoes. Their model would not only have to look like a shoe but be engineered in such a way that it could support their weight. The activity seemed perfect to me at first but would 5th-6th graders be able to complete this in under twenty minutes? Probably not.
Since my event incorporated at least 4-5 other STEM activities, Fancy Feet had the potential to throw the timing off so I had to look for similar yet still entertaining projects for the girls. The key was to find quick activities that were easy enough for the girls to do while still getting a message across. I wanted the girls to be excited and intrigued by what they learned.
In the end, I decided to go fairly simple. The activities I chose were coding from scratch, making a model of blood from household food items, a CSI chromatography activity that used household markers, “wet pennies” which explored concepts such as surface tension and other qualities of water, making hoop gliders from straws and paper, and finally having the kids play with robots from my high school’s robotics team. All the activities, except the robots, used items that could very easily be found at home hitting on my point of simplicity. I wanted the girls to see that their love for science can start small and right at home.
So the bottom line is this – if your target audience is younger children, try to go with simpler activities that don’t seem too daunting. You want your audience to be actively engaged and be able to relate to what they are doing. Of course, activities such as Fancy Feet are also great, but you should be extremely cognizant in matching up the age of your audience to the difficulty level of the activity and the time they have to complete it.
For the activities mentioned above and other great STEM activities check out these sites: