Our 8 year old asked her friend, “Did you try the cricket cookies? They’re delicious.” That was just one of the unusual options available in the Entomology Room at our elementary school’s first Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Night. There were samples of chocolate chip cookies and protein bars made with cricket flour as well as whole roasted meal worms for attendees to taste in a room filled with live and preserved insects and arachnids including tarantulas, scorpions, black widow spiders, Manduca caterpillars, and Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches.
The gym and 4 other rooms of our daughter’s elementary school were filled with a wide assortment of hands-on activities and displays for students and their families to explore. At the paleontology area, we learned about fossils and got to touch a real cave bear scapula and even an Apatosaurus vertabrae. Plus, my daughter got to take home a free fossil. After some searching and deliberation, she choose a 35-million-year-old horse tooth over some shark teeth and dinosaur bone fragments.
She was then engrossed in building various geometric shapes out of marshmallows and toothpicks at the marshmallow construction area. Her greater challenge was building a stable tower out of long thin pieces of spaghetti and marshmallows.
As she continued to explore, our daughter saw a real live remote controlled robot that the high school Robotics Team had built and a 3D printer actually printing a bracelet. Although she was too shy to let the middle school students record video of her in front of a green screen, she worked with some of them to design the slowest possible roller coaster to fight the forces of gravity and launch straw rockets to learn about air trajectory.
At the end of the evening, she did the Family Tower Building Challenge with one of her friend’s family. It was an incredible sight – there were more than 100 people excitedly and diligently working in teams to build the tallest tower they could in 8 minutes out of a dozen sheets of paper, craft straws, pipe cleaners, and masking tape. Her team finished a respectable third with a 55-inch tower. The winning family built an impressive 77-inch tall tower and were rewarded with tickets to the American Museum of Natural History!
The only thing our daughter didn’t like was that she didn’t get to all of the stations because she ran out of time!
This fantastic evening was a huge volunteer effort involving 2 professional organizations, teachers in our school district, 35 middle school students, 12 high school students, many enthusiastic parents, and months of planning. Our elementary school’s Home School Association and I had wanted to create an engaging environment for students and their families to come together to explore science in a hands-on manner. With the support of our principal we recruited an army of people that wanted to show their love and enthusiasm for STEM. STEM Night was a huge success and everyone is looking forward to making it even bigger and better next year!
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), gross motor, fine motor, curiosity
- Preparation: Not really any – just be ready to explore!
- Cost: Our Home School Association made this a free event for families and included free raffle tickets for baskets filled with STEM-related activities and tickets to the American Museum of Natural History.
- Time & Energy: It was a 90-minute event.
- Contact Info: Email me if you’re interested in doing something like this at your school or would like to be involved in next year’s event.