Sunday, October 27, 2013

Family S.T.E.M. Night - Year 2

Last year I was given the task to plan a family STEM night for my school. I received lots of helpful feedback from students, parents, and teachers that helped me plan for this year's event. Planning started about a month prior to the event and stations were once again chosen for their level of engagement, simplicity, and variety. We had an amazing turn out for a busy Thursday night and the gym was packed the entire event! Here's what STEM Night Year 2 looked like:

The Activities


Students watched a chemical reaction between an acid (vinegar) and a base (baking soda) blow up a balloon! While this station was "hands off" (due to the potential messiness of this demonstration) students were still able to practice making verbal predictions, observations, and drawing conclusions. 

Tie-Dye Sharpie Art

Students created a small abstract art piece using Sharpie markers on a scrap of natural fabric. Teachers put a few drops of rubbing alcohol onto the fabric and students watched as the ink began to run together to create "tie-dye."

Magic Ketchup
Students discovered the secret of "Magic Ketchup" while exploring concepts of density and buoyancy. While this station was fairly simple and straightforward (only a bottle of water, kosher salt, and a ketchup packet were needed), students were fascinated that they could control the motion of their ketchup packet with just a simple squeeze of the water bottle. Note: this experiment is also called a Cartesian Diver.

ColAR App

Have you seen this app yet?! This was one of our most popular stations! I think parents were more impressed than the kids!

Marshmallow & Toothpick Towers

Families were challenged with the task of building a sturdy tower using only 30 marshmallows and 30 toothpicks in only 3 minutes.

Make a Parachute
Students learned how parachutes work and then were given materials to construct their own mini-version. Students had to make tough design choices (such as which type of material to use for the parachute) and experimented with adding weight to their pipe-cleaner person.

Angry Birds Farm Animals
Students begged for this station to return this year, so I had to oblige. I somehow managed to lose my two Angry Birds, though, so we used bean bag farm animals as a replacement (which proved to be just as effective in the sling-shots).

Guess My Number
Families used their keen questioning skills and knowledge of place value to guess their opponents mystery number. K-2 used a simple hundreds chart, while 3-5 worked up into the millions.

Walk the Line

Students completed a series of activities using self-created number lines (K-2's went to 100, and 3-5 went to 1,000). The best part? Students were able to take number lines home to use for homework and math games!

Coin Toss

Students practiced making tally marks and explored the concept of probability.

Fruit Snack Math
Who knew a single bag of fruit snacks could have so many math connections? Students completed at least three math activities ranging from simple addition and subtraction to graphing and fractions using their pack.

PK/Kinder Area

Our Pre-K and Kinder teachers wanted an area just for the little ones this year. These students made orange pumpkins by combining red and yellow paints, used straws and pipe cleaners to create sculptures, and used mini-pumpkins to measure basic objects.

Estimation Jars
We had two water bottles for each grade band (K-1, 2-3, 4-5) filled with yummy Halloween candies.

Family Resources 
We partnered this station up with our Watch D.O.G.S table. Teachers passed out free packs of playing cards and parents signed up for a print out of this math packet. My students love playing these games in class to build their math skills.

Lessons learned this year...

Ask for help - often. STEM night fell on another busy week this year. With so many obligations, I knew help from my colleagues was a must. I held a work party after school a few days before the event to tackle all the little things like making signs and cutting/counting out materials. I was also very thankful for the ten extra AmeriCorps volunteers that helped run stations during the event.

It still pays to be extra prepared. Having a one-sheet for each station that lists materials and talking points for facilitators was incredibly helpful. Not only did it help as I did my final checks the day before, these sheets allowed each station to essentially run themselves the night of our event without any confusion.

Variety is good, but kids like the hands-on messy stuff. I tried my best to have a variety of messy, clean, quiet, and loud stations. However, families seemed to overall gravitate to the more "exciting" stations - Magic Ketchup, Marshmallow Towers, Angry Birds, Make a Parachute, and the ColAR app. My goal for next year is to make the math stations more enticing.

Buckets and towels need to be written into the supply lists. I found myself running to fetch these items too many times throughout the night, reminding me that ease of clean-up is just as important as set-up.

Planning STEM Night has been such a fun opportunity for me these past two years. Thanks for letting me share the adventure with you. Year Three is already in the works and is looking to be even bigger and better. Get ready for more STEMmy fun!


  1. Wow! Looks like you did an amazing job, and it looks like it was tons of fun! Can you give more info about the angry birds station? What were the directions, materials, etc? Thank you!

    1. Hi Tamra,
      For the Angry Birds station, I used a water balloon launcher (found on Amazon), a stuffed Angry Bird, and some Melissa & Doug cardboard blocks. It takes about 4-5 people to run the station - 2 two hold the launcher, and 2-3 to help set up blocks after each person. Thanks for reading!

  2. How long was each station before you had people going to the next activity?

  3. Have you posted elsewhere with details of these activities, and other details of organization? This might be something that would actually get the parents out. Perhaps for the quiet activities we could arrange some kind of a small "prize".

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I'd love to hear how year 3 went! Please share details!