STEM is all around, so we wanted to share 5 easy ways to make STEM part of your favorite fall activities!
Practice your math and geometry skills when watching your favorite football team
Fall is the start of one of America's favorite sporting events: football! From the tailgating to the competition, most people love to cheer on their professional or college team decked out in their head to toe football gear. Since fall is all about football, it is surprising to realize that most avid fans never relate the game to STEM. To all the sport fans out there, it is actually a great way to think about and practice basic math skills in a fun and competitive way! Geometry is a key piece to how the field is setup, addition and subtraction must be utilized to keep score, play calling, and "routes" are based on different angles, and all players and teams are tracked and compared by a variety of statistics.
Build a structurally sound bonfire
With the thick summer heat cooling down and most people breaking out their jeans and sweatshirts, spending time outdoors can change a bit in what is needed to stay comfortable. In the earlier parts of the season, it can be fun to build a bonfire to roast marshmallows, keep warm, and tell scary stories around! However, there is a bit of engineering skill needed to build a great bonfire. To incorporate engineering into this activity, check out different methodologies online to building the perfect bonfire and test a few of them out. Talk with your kids about how each structure differs and what makes one better than another. Did one produce more light? More fire? More warmth? Or did a certain design just last longer? This is a great way to compare different outcomes and discuss different design techniques while doing a traditional fall activity. Don't forget to always exercise safety when building or using fire though; especially with young children!
Learn about the chemical reaction that causes leaves to change colors
In Spring and Summer, the leaves on trees are busy creating all the food that a tree needs to grow. This process is thanks to a chemical called chlorophyll which gives the leaves their green color. This chemical can absorb energy from the sun to turn it into food to help the tree grow. The chlorophyll covers up the yellow and orange colors that carotenes and xanthophyll reveal in leaves, but they shine through once the weather changes in the fall months. With the shorter days and cooler temperatures, chlorophyll stops making food and breaks down, revealing a variety of autumn colors we are used to that can differ by type of tree and chemical makeup. Take some time to learn more about why leaves fall from trees on your own and observe the difference between a green leaf and a yellow leaf with your kids. They even feel different!
Learn about the predicted AI Autumn that predicts a boost in AI growth and funding
Specific to this autumn, certain technologists are predicting an AI Autumn, with a surge in funding, interest, and breakthroughs in AI technology. Some had previously predicted that we were due for an AI winter where interest and funding tails off and the progress made in AI slows due to a lack of progress and distractions from other areas of technology.
Learn more about the AI spike here.
Learn about why birds migrate south for the winter
If you live in a climate that gets snow or cools down significantly in the fall and winter months, you are probably more familiar with the natural instinct of birds to move from their summer homes, where they breed, to their winter homes, where they move for resources to thrive through the winter. Of the 650 species of North American birds, nearly half of them migrate in the cooler months. There are different levels of migration from not migrating at all to long distance migrations which can span from Canada and the US to South America. Good thing birds don't need a passport! Scientists do not fully understand migration and believe that different factors can trigger the start of migration in different species, from the change in the length of sunlight each day to the temperature. Learn more about bird migrations on your own and do some bird watching!
Understand the chemical reaction that occurs when baking an apple pie
There are some delectable comfort foods that give us all the fall feelings. From apple pie to pumpkin bread, baking is a great way to make it feel like autumn is upon us. While baking is a great fall activity, many don't think of it as a science experiment as well. When baking just about anything, there are a handful of chemical reactions that must occur to give us the desired outcome we want in our favorite breaded, sweet treats. One of those chemical reactions is how bread rises. With mixing dough and a leavening agent together, carbon dioxide is created to which makes the dough rise and makes it lighter. Leavening agents that are commonly used include baking soda, baking powder, or yeast. In addition to mixing these together, once you add heat to the equation, these 2 agents help to create our favorite fall treats. Do some of your own research to learn about some of the other chemical reactions involved in baking such as gluten formation or emulsification.
Incorporating these fun and easy ideas into your autumn days can not only help spark increased interest in STEM, but they can also open the doors to more exploration and create wonderful memories along the way.
Alex Choquette is the founder of Growin’GEERS. Her passion for engineering started later in her high school career during a campus tour at the University of Pittsburgh. She immediately fell in love with engineering as a way to use her math and science skills to make an impact on society. Since earning her Industrial Engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh, she has been passionate about teaching others the joy of engineering.
If you are looking to add more hands-on STEM activities into your classroom, then take a look at Growin'GEERS and save 31% here on an annual subscription good for up to 5-users in your home.