Four Fun Experiments for STEM Day

Nov 18, 2023
STEM day experiments Edmentum article 1

Science is cool, and if you have any doubts, keep reading. Young learners have an innate curiosity to explore, build, and invent. National STEM/STEAM Day, observed on November 8, is an opportunity to focus on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics topics and spark students’ interest in the STEM/STEAM fields.

Check out these simple science experiments, perfect for introducing your students to what STEM is all about and sparking their curiosity. The best part is these experiments are parent-approved, and could make or some fun at-home activities, too.

Science Experiment #1: Escape the Quicksand

Is it a liquid? Is it a solid? With this experiment, you’ll explore how pressure can impact the properties of a material. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One mixing bowl
  • A spoon
  • 1–2 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of water
  • BONUS: Add some food coloring just for fun!

Getting started:

First, you’ll want to pour the cornstarch into your bowl and have your students feel it. The cornstarch is a solid made up of tiny particles. Next, start pouring in the water and any food coloring you want to use. Stir everything together as you go. Keep adding water until it starts to look thick like quicksand. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes difficult to stir quickly!

Now for the fun:

Have your students tap the top of your “quicksand.” It should feel thick and hard. However, if they push their hand into the quicksand slowly, it will slide right in. Now, imagine that you’re stuck in quicksand! If you struggle to escape, it will harden around your hands, but if you try to slide your hands back out slowly, you can escape.

Explain what’s happening:

The quicksand-like material you have created is known as a non-Newtonian fluid. Unlike a solid or a liquid, non-Newtonian fluids have a different viscosity depending on the pressure you use. Viscosity corresponds to the concept of thickness. Think about stirring a cup of water versus a cup of pudding. The water and the pudding have different viscosities. The “quicksand” you’ve created has a different viscosity depending on how much pressure you apply. Therefore, struggling in quicksand makes it harder to escape, but if you move slowly, you can get out.

There you have it! In under an hour, you and your students can create “quicksand,” learn about non-Newtonian Fluids, and have a lot of fun.

Science Experiment #2: The Amazing Floating Egg

If you drop an egg in a normal glass of water, it will sink right to the bottom, but what if you drop it in salt water? Here is what you’ll need:

  • A tall drinking glass
  • One uncooked egg
  • 6 tablespoons of salt
  • Water

Getting started:

With this experiment, you’ll explore how water density affects flotation.

Now for the fun:

First, fill your glass with tap water and lower in your egg. What happens? It will sink right to the bottom. Now, start over. This time, fill the glass only halfway and stir in your of salt. Now, carefully pour more tap water down the side of the glass until the cup is full. When you drop in your egg the second time, it will sink halfway and then stop in the middle of the glass! You now have an amazing floating egg (or maybe you have a lesson about density)!

Explain what’s happening:

The egg looks like it is suspended in the middle of the cup because it is denser than normal tap water but not as dense as salt water. Density is the amount of matter in a set amount of space. Fresh water has low density, meaning there is plenty of space between the water particles. An egg is dense with lots of particles in a small space, so it can push the loose water particles out of its way. When you add salt to water, it dissolves, but the particles stay in the water and take up more space. The salt water is now denser than the fresh water, and the egg can’t push it out of the way.

If you have a chance to swim in the ocean, revisit this experiment and see how much easier it is to float in salt water than in fresh water!

Science Experiment #3: An Explosive Reaction

This one might get a little messy, but it’s always sure to impress. That’s right, you’re making a volcano! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Baking soda (NOT baking powder)
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • A cylindrical container (a vase with a narrow top works great)
  • BONUS: Start with a craft project to decorate your container so that it looks more like a volcano

Getting started:

With this experiment, you’ll discover what happens when you mix an acid and a base.

Now for the fun:

This experiment is simple. First, set your cylindrical container on an open surface that can handle a mess. Pour in some baking soda, and if you’re going to use food coloring, add that in too. This volcano is ready to go! Have your students pour in the vinegar, and watch the volcano erupt in fizzy liquid that will pour down the sides.

Explain what’s happening:

Your volcano is erupting because of a chemical reaction between an acid and a base. Baking soda is a base, and vinegar is an acid. When you combine them together, they transform into water and carbon dioxide, a gas. All that fizzing you see is the carbon dioxide gas pushing its way out of the container.

Science Experiment #4: The Self-Inflating Balloon

If you had fun building your very own volcano, here is another easy experiment using vinegar and baking soda that will teach your students more about the difference in density between gases, liquids, and solids. Here’s what you’ll need to construct your self-inflating balloon:

  • Baking soda (NOT baking powder)
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • A small plastic soda or water bottle
  • A funnel
  • Small balloons

Getting started:

This is another experiment where we’ll combine baking soda and vinegar to have some fun demonstrating the different states of matter.

Now for the fun:

First, you’ll want to stretch out your balloon a bit to loosen it up. Then, you want to pour the ½ cup of vinegar into your plastic bottle. Next, use the funnel to partially fill your stretched out balloon with baking soda.

Be careful with this next step! Without letting any baking soda fall out, attach the open end of the balloon to the neck of the bottle. Your self-inflating balloon is ready to go. Just lift the balloon so that the baking soda falls into the bottle, and watch the balloon fill!

Explain what’s happening:

If you completed the volcano experiment, you already know that baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When you combine them together, they have a chemical reaction and become carbon dioxide, a gas.

Now, you might be wondering, why did the balloon fill? If the liquid vinegar and solid baking soda fit in the bottle, why doesn’t the gas fit? The answer is that gas has a much lower density than liquids and solids. This means it needs room to spread out. First, it spreads out in the bottle, but then it needs even more room, so it begins to stretch the balloon.

Nothing beats celebrating in the classroom with FREE resources from Edmentum! Celebrate STEM/STEAM Day and other November holidays with our monthly free classroom printables and activities. And don't forget, in the words of Bill Nye the Science Guy, "Science is cool!"

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