Fall STEM Activities

As the leaves begin to change and cooler temperatures arrive, it is the perfect opportunity for educators and parents to incorporate autumn-themed STEM activities into their curriculum and at-home learning. This article outlines the benefit of incorporating seasonal STEM lessons and is organized by grade level, allowing each learning experience to cater to student’s skill sets and previous knowledge. 

The Beauty of Seasonal STEM Learning

Seasonal STEM learning integrates the changing dynamics of nature with foundational STEM principles. It taps into students’ inherent curiosity about their environment. As the world around them transforms with each season, students are naturally inclined to ask questions and explore.

General Benefits of Fall-Themed STEM Activities

Below are three benefits of incorporating fall-themed STEM activities into curricula: 

  1. Real-world Relevance: Fall-themed STEM projects anchor abstract concepts in concrete observations, making learning more relatable.
  2. Enhanced Engagement: Activities aligned with seasons capture students’ attention and enhance their interest in STEM topics.
  3. Holistic Learning: Seasonal activities often incorporate multiple STEM disciplines, promoting interdisciplinary learning.

Fall STEM Activities for Kindergarten

  1. Fall Color Match Hunt

Description: Provide students with color swatches matching the hues of fall leaves. On a nature walk, they can then find and match actual leaves to these swatches.

Educational Benefit: This activity hones observational skills, enhances color recognition, and introduces kindergarteners to the diverse range of fall colors in nature.

  1. Pumpkin Weight Estimation

Description: Using a collection of pumpkins of varying sizes, students can first guess the weight of each pumpkin and then measure the actual weight using a simple balance or scale.

Educational Benefit: This activity introduces kindergarten students to the concept of weight, measurement, and estimation.

  1. Fall Leaf Wind Catchers

Description: Using a collection of fallen leaves and string, students can create their wind catchers. They can then observe how different sizes and shapes of leaves catch the wind differently.

Educational Benefit: Students will understand basic aerodynamics and appreciate the varied designs of nature, sparking curiosity about why leaves are shaped the way they are.

  1. Pinecone Weather Station

Description: Students can observe a pinecone over several days to see how it reacts to different weather conditions. On humid or rainy days, pinecones tend to close up, and on dry days, they open.

Educational Benefit: This serves as a natural introduction to meteorology and the idea that nature responds to environmental changes.

  1. Sorting Fall Harvest

Description: Using a collection of fall fruits and vegetables, students can classify them by size, weight, color, and/or type. They can then graph or chart their findings using simple drawings.

Educational Benefit: This activity introduces students to classification and basic math concepts.

Fall STEM Activities for Elementary Students

  1. Seed Germination Observations

Description: Collect seeds from various fall fruits and vegetables (like pumpkins, squash, or apples) and plant them in transparent cups filled with soil. Over several weeks, students can document the germination process, noting changes in the seeds and emerging sprouts.

Educational Benefit: This activity encourages observational skills and offers a hands-on introduction to plant biology and the life cycle.

  1. Autumn Leaf Chromatography

Description: Using fallen autumn leaves, students extract pigments using rubbing alcohol and then separate these pigments on filter paper strips. By observing the different bands of color, students can see the range of pigments present in leaves.

Educational Benefit: Students will learn about the chemistry behind leaf colors and the concept of chromatography as a separation technique.

  1. Fall Shadow Study

Description: During a clear fall day, students can trace the shadow of a fixed object, like playground equipment, multiple times, observing how the shadow’s position and length change.

Educational Benefit: This experiment helps students understand the Earth’s rotation, the changing angle of sunlight during the day, and the basics of astronomy.

  1. Corn Kernel Density Experiment

Description: Provide students with a clear container, water, salt, and corn kernels. Students will first predict whether corn kernels will float or sink in plain water, and then they’ll gradually add salt to observe how increased salinity can make the kernels float.

Educational Benefit: This activity introduces concepts of density, buoyancy, and the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation.

  1. Mini-Corn Maze Challenge

Description: Students use corn kernels or stalks to create a miniature maze on a tray. Once complete, they can challenge their peers to navigate a small insect or toy through their maze, or even use simple coding robots if available.

Educational Benefit: Designing the maze bolsters spatial reasoning and planning skills, and, if robots are used, introduces basic coding principles.

Fall STEM Activities for Middle School

  1. Decomposition Diary

Description: Students bury different types of organic fall matter, like fruit, leaves, and small pumpkins, in specified plots. Over several weeks, they excavate and record the decomposition process of each item.

Educational Benefit: This project offers a practical understanding of decomposition, microbiology, and the natural recycling process of organic matter.

  1. DIY Anemometer

Description: Utilizing fall’s more windy days, students can craft their anemometers using paper cups and straws. They can then use their device to measure and record wind speeds over time.

Educational Benefit: This hands-on project teaches the principles of aerodynamics, the workings of meteorological instruments, and data collection. This is a great option for middle school students looking to incorporate fall STEM lessons into their at-home learning.

  1. The Science of Fermentation

Description: Students can explore the fermentation process using fall produce like apples or grapes. By making simple fermented products, such as cider, they can observe the changes in taste, appearance, and smell over time.

Educational Benefit: This activity delves into microbiology and chemistry, showcasing the science behind everyday processes and foods.

  1. Phototropism Challenge

Description: With the aid of a cardboard box and a small opening for light, students can plant a seedling and observe its growth. They will document how the plant grows towards the light source, showcasing phototropism.

Educational Benefit: This experiment provides insights into plant biology and the effects of environmental factors on growth.

  1. Thermal Energy Insulation Investigation

Description: As temperatures drop in the fall, students can design an experiment to test the insulation properties of various materials. They can evaluate which materials best retain heat by measuring the water temperature inside insulated containers over time.

Educational Benefit: This activity introduces the principles of thermal energy, heat transfer, and the practical applications of insulation, which can also tie into discussions about energy efficiency.

Fall STEM Activities for High School

  1. Analyzing Leaf Biochemistry

Description: Using spectrophotometry, students can analyze the pigments in leaves, understanding the biochemistry behind their vibrant autumn colors. They can further research why chlorophyll breaks down and other pigments become dominant.

Educational Benefit: This offers an in-depth exploration of plant biochemistry, allowing students to connect visual observations with underlying molecular processes.

  1. Engineering a Fall Harvest Machine

Description: Task students with designing a machine or device that can efficiently harvest a specific fall crop (e.g., apples, corn, or pumpkins). The project can be conceptual, or they can create a small prototype.

Educational Benefit: This project fosters engineering skills, problem-solving, and innovation while also considering the real-world challenges of agriculture.

  1. Microclimate Studies

Description: Students can pick various locations around the school or community and use sensors or simple instruments to measure temperature, humidity, and light levels, discovering how these microclimates change during the fall season.

Educational Benefit: This activity fosters a deeper understanding of climatology, environmental science, and data interpretation.

  1. The Mathematics of Leaf Drop

Description: Students collect data on the rate of leaf drop from specific trees throughout the fall season. Using this data, they can model the rate mathematically, using calculus to find rates of change or predict future leaf drop rates.

Educational Benefit: This activity integrates real-world observations with advanced mathematical modeling, showcasing the applicability of math to natural phenomena.

  1. Designing an Energy-Efficient Home for Fall

Description: As the temperatures decrease, students are tasked with designing a home that maximizes energy efficiency. This can involve exploring insulation materials, positioning homes relative to the sun, or considering renewable energy sources.

Educational Benefit: Students learn about architectural design, sustainable energy solutions, and the physics of heat transfer, preparing them for potential challenges in future engineering or environmental science roles.

Resources & Tools to Facilitate Fall STEM Learning

There are a variety of resources and tools available to educators and parents who are looking to facilitate STEM learning with their students this fall. Below is a list of some of the many options available:

  1. Teachers Pay Teachers
  2. Pinterest 
  3. Little Bins For Little Hands 
  4. STEM Sports® Resource Guide 

The Bigger Picture: Seasonal STEM All Year Round

Fall is just the beginning. Each season brings a variety of opportunities to incorporate nature into the STEM curriculum. Imagine the possibilities – snow-based activities in winter, flower experiments in spring, and sun-driven projects in summer. Keep an eye out for our upcoming STEM Sports® blogs that will explore STEM activities for each holiday and season. 

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