I'm always on the look-out for super-fun STEM & STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities. You know, the ones that really engage kids and inspire them to learn?
Here's 12 super-fun STEM learning resources that I've discovered recently, for kids from preschool to high school. This list includes learning games, informational apps, building kits, print books and online courses (for the older age group):
1. Squishy Circuits | Ages 5+ (Building Kit)
Learning about electricity and circuits has never been so easy! Kids love this hands-on activity making electrified clay creations. Order the Lite Kit ($15) to get the battery pack and LEDs that can be re-used over and over.
2. Tynker | Ages 6+ (Web & Mobile App)
3. Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding | Ages 5-8 (Digital & Printed Book)
An incredibly thoughtful and well-written book, 392 pages full of activities and explanations, for only $5 (PDF instant download). This is the most comprehensive science curriculum for beginning learners that you will find anywhere. 41 lesson plans cover all major areas of science. Lessons are laid out as stepping stones that build knowledge and understanding logically and systematically. Child-centered, hands-on activities at the core of all lessons bring children to observe, think, and reason. Skills of inquiry become habits of mind as they are used throughout. Printed book version also available ($22).
These top-rated astronomy apps brilliantly utilize geolocation and gyroscope features of mobile devices. As you hold your phone/tablet up and point it towards the sky, StarWalk Kids (with cartoon graphics) and StarWalk 2 (with realistic graphics) follows your motion using the built-in gyroscope to match the visuals on your screen to the stars seen from your location. Packed with engaging astronomy science content ($3-6).
5. Google Earth | Ages 5+ (Web & Mobile App)
Explorers young and old will enjoy zooming around the planet with this free web and mobile app. Explore other planets and the sun too. National Geographic has teamed up with Google Earth to develop innovative lessons plans on topics including geography, natural sciences, environmental sciences and cultural studies. Use the “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature to learn about surprise locations around the world.
Both entertaining and educational, Build a Bridge is an award-winning physics-based puzzle game. It combines realistic physics simulations with carefully staged challenges to guide anyone into becoming a master bridge builder. Teaches engineering concepts in a visual, interactive and truly fun manner.
7. The Elements | Ages 9+ (iPad App & Book)
“The Elements” by Theodore Gray is a stunning publication that illustrates and describes all the known elements in the universe. Written in a conversational, easy-to-read style, the author weaves in stories and personal observations to make the elements come to life. Available in both iPad app ($9) and printed book ($16, 240 pages) form. The iPad version allows users to interactively rotate the elements. Follow-up books Molecules and Reactions are also beautifully written and photographed.
8. Tinkercad | Ages 8+ (Web-based App)
Tinkercad is a free, easy to use app for 3D design, electronics, and coding. It is a free online collection of software tools that help people “think, create and make.” Tinkercad is an ideal introduction to Autodesk, the leader in professional 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.
Note: All Autodesk software programs are available for free educational download by K-12 students and college students. These programs are used by industry professionals worldwide. Recommended professional apps include Maya (3D modeling & animation), AutoCAD (3D product design & architecture) and Inventor (product prototyping). For an easy introduction to Maya, take the free online Kadenze course Introduction to 3D Modeling & Animation in Maya.
For Teens (and Adults) - for this age group, super-useful equals super-fun. Here's some resources to help teens and young adults attain their dreams:
9. Kadenze | Ages 12+ (Web Learning Portal)
Kadenze brings together the world’s leading colleges, universities and industry partners to provide best-of-breed online courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Design, Music and Math. Free membership includes access to most courses. Premium membership ($20/month) includes grading services and certificates. Geared towards high school and college students, younger students will require support to complete these video-based courses. Recommended courses: Introduction to 3D Modeling & Animation in Maya, Motion Design Animated GIFs and Ableton Live.
10. Blender 3D | Ages 10+ (Software App, Mac & PC)
Blender is a completely free, open source 3D animation software and game engine. It can be used for both educational and commercial purposes. Some of the most popular animated videos have been created with Blender, including a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which has been viewed over a billion times. To get kids started on Blender, try this introductory tutorial.
11. MIT Open Courseware Highlights for High School | Ages 14+
MIT Open Courseware Highlights for High School website offers free high school curriculum and exam prep for a variety of STEM areas, including Engineering, Biology and Chemistry. The website offers an abundance of resources that cover not only science, engineering and math but also humanities and social sciences. In addition, the college-level MIT Open Courseware educational resources are free and available to all.
12. Stanford Online | Ages 14+ (Web Learning Portal)
Aiming to promote life-long learning and share knowledge with the general public, Stanford University has put extensive efforts into providing free online courses to anyone, anywhere. Stanford Online offers over 160 free courses for the community. Over 10 million learners have enrolled in these courses. In addition, Stanford University offers a range of research internships for high school students.