By Patty Cooke / December 22, 2020

Stay warm this winter with these indoor STEM activities

For most people, summertime means outdoor activities: sports, swimming, playing at the park, and so forth. But when winter comes around, we tend to hunker down inside our homes. Sure, as a kid, I still spent some time outside in the winter, building snowmen, sledding, and having snowball fights, but there were always winter days that were just too cold to enjoy outside.

Being inside didn’t usually hamper activity for me and my siblings. Rather, it tended to bring out our creative side. We played the typical board games as well as hide-and-seek and other kids’ games, but the games I remember the most are the ones we created ourselves: handball (with a pair of socks), indoor hockey (repurposing ski poles and my sister’s plastic doll plates), and marble runs or Rube Goldberg-type contraptions.

Outside of the Rube Goldberg contraption building, though, most of the things we did to kill time indoors didn’t really teach us much. And some could be downright destructive (RIP to my sister’s doll plates and some of Mom’s lamps). If you’re looking for something more productive than destructive, here are some ideas that might help keep everyone sane – and safe!

TAG Ideas

Two of our Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) members shared some great ideas for winter/indoor STEM activities.

  • Sending ice . . . to the North Pole?
    • One year, Susan Gaboriau, technology integration specialist for the Putnam County (FL) School District, had her fifth-grade students pair up with students from a school up north to exchange ice/a snowball. “The students had to design something that would keep the ice/snowball from melting,” she explained. “It really took a lot of thinking on their part!”
  • Making races a learning experience
    • Gaboriau also likes to have her students make cars and use technology to track the cars’ time and speed, getting the students to use STEM while also having fun.
  • Hands-on astronomy
    • Lisa Lewis, gifted intellectual instructor at Lafayette Upper Elementary, VA, currently has her third graders, who are learning about space and constellations, creating robot mazes and making flying comets from foil and paper. (See her PowerPoint for instructions). “They email [their mazes] to me and I share the bot tracing their mazes,” she said.
    • However, Lewis also strongly believes in student-created, open-ended STEM projects. “I believe that they should be encouraged to use an engineering notebook and to use and create task cards,” she explained. To that end, she also has her students drawing constellations in their notebooks and adding the names and temperatures of the stars. (See Lewis’ idea for a student-created engineering and STEM notebook.)
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STEM and the Arts

The idea of keeping a notebook introduces another great indoor pastime: writing. Writing in a notebook or journal, or even writing and sending letters, is a good way for students to practice their language arts skills. By asking them to choose the appropriate size of envelope, teaching them about different kinds of stamps or the history of the American postal system, or explaining how STEM keeps mail moving, you can bring STEM and history into the mix. Add art, and you’ve got a cross-curricular activity that can be fun for all ages. Most students have grandparents, aunts, or uncles who would love to receive handwritten letters and homemade drawings and creations. And, if no such relative exists, letters and art projects can be sent to senior citizens in nursing homes or those stuck at home by themselves. Better yet, have students create and send Christmas cards – the perfect way to combine letter writing, art, spatial awareness, and other STEM skills!

Pitsco’s 2020 Christmas Card Contest

If it’s too late to send Christmas cards for this year, take some ideas from our 2020 Christmas Card Contest entries for next year! (Or put a spin on it and make New Year’s greetings. Holiday mail is always fun to send and receive!)

In November, we held our annual Christmas Card Contest, asking students to help us design the 2020 Pitsco Christmas card. As usual, we had several amazing entries. Congratulations to Cameron, an eighth grader at Saranac Lake Middle School in Saranac Lake, NY, for creating the winning card! See this and all our runners-up here.

And for even more indoor STEM ideas, check out our Pinterest boards or STEM Anywhere page!

Resources:

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TOPICS: BEYOND THE CLASSROOM, IDEAS & INSPIRATION, Homeschool, Teacher Resources, STEM, Trends, Resources, Activities, Hands-on Learning, STEAM

Patty Cooke

Written by Patty Cooke

Hello! I work as a communications assistant here at Pitsco, editing, writing, helping with publications, and working with other departments to help create awesome STEM materials and resources. I learned my love of storytelling from my dad, who constantly entertained me and my 11 siblings with the most fascinating, albeit fictional, stories. His tales kept us out of our mother’s hair for a while and probably saved her sanity. Our blog posts aren’t fictional, of course, but I still enjoy infusing the same amount of fun that Dad put into his stories. I hope reading these posts brings you equal enjoyment.