Water-Based STEM Activities for Summer

Summer is a time for students to play, have fun, and enjoy the outdoors. There is a way for parents to seamlessly integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into their child’s summer in a way that seems more like they are playing than learning – but we know the truth! In this article, we will explore a variety of STEM activities for summer that use water as a key material, making it cost-effective, easy to implement, and perfect for hands-on outdoor learning.

The Science of Water Play

Many science experiments use water, or H2O, as the main material of the lesson. These lessons teach students key science concepts they can connect to other classroom lessons and the world around them. 

Here are some water-based lessons that emphasize science concepts: 

  • Density Tower: In this lesson, students will create a layered density tower using various liquids and observe how they stack based on their densities. These liquids can include whatever is handy around the house but can include water, oil, milk, and more!
  • Floating and Sinking: First, students collect various objects from around the house and yard. Then they should write down their predictions of whether each item will float or sink. Then they can test each object recording the results and seeing how they connect to their original predictions.
  • Ice Melting Experiment: In the ice melting experiment, students investigate how different substances, such as salt or sugar, affect the melting rate of ice. Students should make predictions before starting, write observations throughout the experiment, and then write conclusions based on what they saw.

Technology and Water Experiments

Technology literacy is an essential part of a child’s future success in the STEM workforce. Whenever possible, parents and educators should try to find ways to incorporate technology into their curriculum, giving students time to interact with the technology and improve their skills. Below are activities that combine technology and water to create engaging summer fun:

  • Water Sensor Projects: In this lesson, students will use water sensors to measure moisture levels and explore how technology can help monitor environmental conditions more accurately than ever before.
  • Programming Water Sprinklers: This sprinkler lesson is the perfect introduction to coding, creative thinking, and real-world applications. Throughout this lesson, students will design a simple program to control water sprinklers and use basic coding to bring their plan to life.

Engineering with Water

Many engineering activities can seamlessly incorporate water, making it the perfect interactive, outdoor summer STEM activity. Through each of the engineering activities below, students will learn more about working within the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and how creativity is essential to STEM careers. 

  • Build a Water Wheel: In this lesson, students will design and construct a water wheel to learn about energy transfer and mechanical engineering. If their water wheel is not functional and successful the first time, encourage them to analyze their last design and try again, based on their observations.
  • DIY Boat Building: Using various household materials, students are tasked with building small boats with the goal they can float on the water. After creating the boats, students will make connections between the object and their ability to float, introducing the idea of buoyancy. 
  • Water Balloon Catapult: Students will create a catapult with the goal of being able to shoot a water balloon the furthest. This is the perfect lesson for families with multiple children or the whole neighborhood. Students can test their catapult’s success on each other during an outdoor water balloon fight.

Math Fun with Water

One hurdle parents and educators often run into with STEM learning is when students do not understand how what they are learning will be applicable in their daily lives. While this is not true across the board, since STEM impacts almost every aspect of the world around us, it is even more true with math. Math literacy is a key skill for people not only in the workplace but in their everyday lives. 

Below are math lessons using water that emphasize real-world applications and skills for students:

  • Water Volume Measurements: Using different containers, students will measure and compare water volumes. Parents can then have their children help with dinner, where they will see how what they learned in this lesson connects to their day-to-day lives.
  • Water Relay Race: Let’s get students active this summer! In this lesson, parents set up a relay race where kids must transport water using different tools, timing their efforts, and calculating their average speed and success rates.

Environmental Science and Water Conservation

Students must understand the current state of the environment. Their understanding and passion for the topic are what will create meaningful changes for future generations. Below are STEM activities to teach students about environmental science and water conservation efforts. 

  • Water Filtration Experiment: In this STEM lesson, students are tasked with creating a simple water filter using natural materials. Then, once the filter is built, students test the effectiveness of their filter in cleaning dirty water.
  • Rain Gauge Construction: Do you live somewhere that rains over the summer? For example, Arizona during monsoon season. If you do, students can make a rain gauge to measure rainfall and learn about the weather patterns and water cycles in their city.
  • Ecosystem Jar: By creating an ecosystem in a jar, students have the chance to see how water supports plants and animal life. The ecosystem experiment is the best long term summer project to engage students in the environment and STEM learning.

Making a Splash with STEM Learning

Keeping students engaged mentally during the summer months is a great way to ensure they head into the school year ready to learn new material, avoiding the summer slump. Through the water-based STEM activities listed in this article, parents can ensure students are spending their summer months staying active, having fun, and improving their STEM literacy.

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