My kids are loving STEM activities right now! We have been doing a lot of winter STEM and STEAM activities and my latest project was a hit, and I am excited to share it with you. A STEM activity is a great way to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills in children.
Most STEM activities involve fun, hands-on learning opportunities for children to explore these subject areas. Recently, you will often see activities that also integrate art – or STEAM activities for kids.
When I taught kindergarten, one of my favorite lessons to do were science activities. Children were always excited to learn and do a hands-on experiment. If the experiment also included fizzing, or an explosion, as the kids called it, it was even better.
This winter STEM activity is really simple to create and uses materials that you probably already have in your kitchen. Although the materials are found around the home, all science experiments that children do should be done with an adult. Make sure that the experiment and the materials are age and level appropriate for the children doing the STEM activity.
If you are interested in doing an exciting science experiment for kids that will get them excited to learn about science, this is a great place to start. You can simply have children experiment with baking soda and vinegar to have an exciting reaction. This STEM activity however, adds a surprise element and some hidden treasures for kids to find.
STEM Activity Materials
I always prepare the materials at least a day before I plan to use it. It is best if you can leave the mixture overnight to harden a bit.
For this winter STEM activity, you will need:
- Baking Soda
- Silicone Cupcake Liners
- Clear Soap (Optional)
- Beads, Gems, Decorative ‘Treasures’ (Optional)
- Food Coloring (Optional)
- Eye Droppers (Optional)
I used silicone cupcake liners as a mold for my pucks, however, you can simply use paper cupcake liners and remove the paper after it dries.
Preparing the STEM Activity Materials
Start by mixing the baking soda and some of the clear dish soap. You want to add just enough dish soap so that the baking soda will stick together and you can roll it into a ball.
I used clear dish soap because I wanted to keep my baking soda white. You can use any color of dish soap, but it may cause the color of the baking soda to change.
Also, you don’t have to use soap in your mixture. I have done this type of activity several times, and sometimes I add soap and other times I leave it out. The soap causes extra fizzing and bubbles, which kids tend to love.
However, the bubbles also make it harder to see, and find, the treasures within because there are so many bubbles. Choose whichever way you think the children doing the activity with you would most enjoy.
If you don’t use the dish soap, simply add a bit of water in place of the soap when mixing.
Adding the STEM Activity Mixture and Treasures
Once you have made your baking soda mixture, put it into your cupcake liners. Press the baking soda mixture down so that it is hard/solid. Also, press the mixture so that the baking soda goes up the sides of the liner and creates something like a nest in the liner. (See image below.)
Next, add your gems and small treasures. I used snowflakes, blue beads and gems because I was doing the STEM activity for a winter themed day. However, you can add anything you want! You can change this activity to fit any theme or celebration you want.
Next, in a bowl, mix more baking soda and soap and then add blue food coloring.
Once mixed, add some of the blue mixture on top of the beads and white baking soda mixture in the liners.
Finally, cover with more of the white baking soda mixture to cover all of the blue.
Hiding the blue color inside the white, is a fun surprise for children doing the STEM activity. My kids saw the white baking soda pucks and assumed that there was no color to them, but as kids do the experiment, the blue is revealed!
Before kids start the experiment, I always encourage them to predict what they think is going to happen.
What will the vinegar do when it touches the baking soda? Asking questions like this is an easy way to bring some extra learning and science into the experiment.
STEM Activity Steps
Once you have made as many of the baking soda pucks as you need, (I recommend one for each child), let it dry overnight. It will not dry so that it is rock hard, however, it should be solid enough to remove from the liner.
Once removed, place in a bowl or dish. I recommend using something that will hold all of the vinegar and run-off from the puck.
Next, give children eye droppers. You can get kid friendly eye droppers. I love using these with kids for science experiments because it adds to the experience. It makes kids feel like real scientists when they use them.
STEM Activity – The Experiment
Encourage children to use the eye droppers carefully and only add a drop or two at a time – at least to start. Encourage them to really look and inspect their baking soda puck as soon as the vinegar touches it. What does it look like? What does it sound like?
Once a few drops of vinegar touch the baking soda, the blue color hidden underneath may start to come through. This is very exciting to watch children see.
Children will guess where the blue color is coming from and inspect their baking soda puck even closer.
Allow children to keep adding the vinegar and continue to see what happens.
Soon, some of the gems and hidden treasure will also become visible. My kids were really excited when they realized that there was actually something inside their puck. They used their vinegar to clear away some of the baking soda mixture.
Kids will love watching the fizzing, or ‘explosion’, every time they add more vinegar.
The Science Behind the STEM Activity
Since children are engaged in the STEM activity, it is a great chance to talk about the science and what is happening. You can simplify it for kids so that it makes sense, but I always try to use real science terms and fully explain what is happening.
When the baking soda, which is a base, comes in contact with the vinegar, which is an acid, it causes a chemical reaction. We can see this chemical reaction in the fizzing and “explosion”.
You can also talk about the fact that the chemical reaction, in this case, caused lots of bubbles. The bubbles are usually visible long after the experiment is done. This does not happen with all chemical reactions, but because we added the soap, it bubbled when the reaction occurred.
Once all of the treasures have been found and the vinegar no longer causes a reaction, hopefully your kids are happy with their little treasures and learned some science.
I hope that your students, or children, enjoyed this STEM activity as much as my kids did at home and my students always do at school. STEM activities for kids are a great way to make learning fun and encourage a love of learning and science, technology, engineering, math and even art for STEAM activities!
STEM Activity Extension Idea
Another idea that you could try if you are looking to make this STEM activity a STEAM activity for kids is adding a bit of art.
You can add some color mixing to this experiment, by using two different colors of the baking soda mixture. For example, instead of the white outside, use yellow and keep the blue inside. When you add the vinegar the blue and yellow will mix to create green.
You can also prepare the science experiment in the same way, but add food coloring to the vinegar. For example, you can add a few drops of red food coloring. When the chemical reaction occurs, the red and blue on the inside will mix to create purple!
It is such an easy science experiment that can be used in many ways!
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Extra Hands-On Teaching Ideas
There are lots of fun and exciting STEM activities that you can do with kids. Whether you are in the classroom, or looking for activities to do at home, there is a huge collection of ideas and activities below. Try another STEM activity for kids!
From more STEAM and STEM activities for kids, to science experiments and hands-on activities, there is lots to keep kids busy and learning!