There is so much you can do with apples! I am finding that my kids, and my students are school are all showing a great interest in science and STEM challenges. I couldn’t be happier that this is a subject area that they are wanting to learn more about. And I am happy to come up with some science experiments for kids!
STEM challenges have become very popular and are often being done in school all over the world. If you have never done a STEM challenge, STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. A STEM challenge involves a mix of these subject areas.
There are many benefits to STEM challenges. I see the positive impact every single time I do a STEM challenge or science experiments for kids. STEM sparks an interest in the world around us. It encourages children to think outside of the box and gives children the chance to be innovators and inventors.
For this science experiment for kids today, our STEM challenge focuses on science and engineering. This is a great science experiment and challenge for fall, but can be used year round.
- Apples (roughly one for each child)
- Plastic Knives
- Large Bowl
- Wooden Figure/Person (not pictured)
You don’t need a lot of materials for this STEM challenge and the materials are typically fairly easy to get your hands on. Please use caution with the plastic knives. We went over the rules for using a plastic knife and I knew that the children that I was doing the experiment with were going to use the plastic knives carefully and safely.
As with all science experiments for kids, know the abilities of the children you are working with and don’t use the knives if it would not be safe. Always supervise. If you don’t want to use knives, you can always precut the apples or offer popsicle sticks to cut up some of the apples.
For this experiment, I started with a simple apple and asked children to predict if they thought that it would float or sink. We then tested the apple. It floats! We briefly discussed why we thought the apple floated. It feels heavy enough that it would sink in the water, but when we put it in the water it did not sink.
There is bits of air trapped inside the apple. The skin acts like a balloon and keeps all of that air inside when you put it in water. Therefore it floats. (This is a very simplified explanation, but enough that children can understand and learn some science.)
Once we all knew that the apple would float, I gave children their STEM challenge. I challenged them to come up with a structure that will not only float in the water, but one that I can place a wooden person on top of and it will not fall off. The structure has to be stable.
Once everyone knew the challenge, we headed outside. I would suggest cutting up the apples ahead of time so that it makes it easier for children to create. I cut up the apples into different sizes, leaving a lot quite large. Children had no issue cutting the apple pieces into smaller pieces.
Children were quick to create great looking structures and boats. I had a few bowls of water available to them to test their apple boats as they built them. Although they were able to make something that looked like a boat, the real challenge came when they tried to place the small wooden person on to their boat and have it stay.
They all did an amazing job of creating their boats, and then testing them in the water. I was also very impressed that when children tested their boat with the person, and the person fell off, they happily went back and improved and changed their design and then tested it again.
This is one of my favourite things about STEM challenges and science. Children learn that it is okay if something does not work the first time. Even professional scientists aren’t typically successful every time on their first try. Things take time and testing and improving is all part of the path to success.
The children constantly created and then tested and went back and improved on anything they felt didn’t work well and continued to change and improve for the whole period. I was very proud of how well they were thinking like scientists!
Once children had come up with a few solutions that worked, I gave them a chance to show their creations to their peers. Typically the ‘boats’ that were stable enough to hold the wooden person were ones that also had toothpicks sticking out, with apple pieces attached, and keeping the boat from tipping.
Some creations that had beautiful sails and special features were the fastest boats to tip. A huge part of the challenge was finding a balance between a great looking boat and one that actually worked.
In the end, children were able to come up with some great designs and children were so proud of themselves when their boat was successful. It was a very simple, but rewarding science experiment and learning activity.
I used apples for this science experiment because it was fall and children were learning about apples. The other benefit to apples is that they are easy to cut and use. You do not need to use apples. You could use anything from celery to foam craft sheets.
One of the best things about STEM activities is that you can use whatever you have on hand. The materials do not have to be perfect or ideal. In fact, sometimes the best challenges, and perhaps the most challenging, are ones that the materials are new to the children or a material that is a bit tricky to work with.
Looking for More Ideas?
If you enjoyed the apple boat challenge, you’ll love my collection of over 45 STEM building challenges that you can do at home or school!
STEM challenges and science experiments for kids have becoming something that I love planning and doing at home with my own children and in my classroom. For more science based ideas, visit some of my other experiments and challenges that have been done in the classroom and are kid approved.