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STEM Activity Spotlight: Winter

By Francesca Vidal


As the weather becomes colder and children find it harder to play outdoors, STEM activities are a great way to ensure that kids have fun during the cold months. Enjoy the winter season by conducting a melting snowman experiment, creating a snowstorm in a jar, and assembling a snowball launcher!


Melting Snowman

photo/ Little Bins for Little Hands

This baking soda experiment allows kids to observe a chemical reaction that melts snowmen. Younger kids between four to 8 years old would most enjoy this activity. While this experiment is simple to conduct, children may need help creating their snowman and pouring ingredients.


Materials:

  • 2 Bowls

  • Baking Soda

  • Blue Food Coloring

  • White Vinegar

  • Water

  • Googly Eyes

  • Orange paper

  • Glitter

  • Spoons


Steps:

  1. In a bowl, pour water into lots of baking soda (dough shouldn't have the same texture as an oobleck and should instead be crumbly).

  2. Mold the mixture into a snowball.

  3. Add googly eyes and an orange triangle to the snowball to represent eyes and a nose respectively.

  4. Place the snowman in the freezer (the longer it is in the freezer, the more time it will take to melt during the experiment).

  5. Take your snowman out of the freezer.

  6. In another bowl, add vinegar, blue food coloring, and glitter.

  7. Using a spoon, pour the vinegar onto the snowman and watch as the snowman melts!


How it Relates to STEM:

The snowman appeared to have melted because of a reaction that occurred between that baking soda and vinegar. When baking soda, a base, and vinegar, an acid, mix, carbon dioxide gas forms. Since gas is forming, the snowman is shrinking until all of it has been converted into gas. It would also be inaccurate to say that the snowman melted because that would imply that a substance is changing from being in a solid state to a liquid state. What actually happened was that a chemical reaction took place. There are many ways to identify when a chemical reaction happens, and in this experiment you can tell by seeing bubbles form and hearing fizzling sounds.



Jar Snowstorm

photo/ Little Bins for Little Hands

For some, the best part of winter is the snow. However, why wait for a snowstorm when you can make your own! This experiment is quick and easy to do, and perfect for children of all ages. This activity requires no supervision for older kids and little supervision for younger kids.


Materials:

  • Oil (either vegetable or baby oil)

  • White/Blue Washable Paint or Food Coloring

  • Food Coloring

  • Alka Seltzer Tablets

  • Water

  • Large Jar


Steps:

  1. Add one cup of water to a jar.

  2. Add 1 teaspoon of paint and/or food coloring.

  3. Pour oil so that it almost reaches the top of the jar.

  4. Break the Alka Seltzer tablet into small pieces and, one by one, slowly add them to the jar. The more tablets you add, the stronger the blizzard will be!

How it Relates to STEM:

Water has a density of 1.00g/mL. Anything that has a density less than 1.00g/mL will float on top of water. Since vinegar is less dense than water, it floats on water. This experiment is also another example of an acid and base reaction. When the Alka Seltzer reacts with water, carbon dioxide gas is formed. The snowstorm effect is created when the carbon dioxide bubbles make their way up to the surface, bringing paint along, the bubbles at the surface, and the paint sinks downwards.



Snowball Launcher

photo/ Little Bins for Little Hands

Having a snowball fight is a classic childhood activity to do in the snow, but what better way to combine STEM and snowballs by creating a snowball launcher. This activity takes little time to complete and is simple but parent supervision is required since a glue gun is needed. This activity is perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy during the snowy season.


Materials:

  • Balloons

  • Hot Glue Gun

  • Small Plastic Cup

  • Styrofoam Balls (otherwise known as snowballs)


Steps:

  1. Cut the bottom of the plastic cup except for the rim.

  2. Tie a knot at the end of the balloon.

  3. Cut off half of the balloon.

  4. Hot glue the balloon onto the rim of the cup.

  5. Place the styrofoam balls inside the cup, pull the balloon back, and launch the balls!


How it Relates to STEM:

According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in rest will stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon it. The object in rest is the styrofoam ball and the outside force is the balloon. Pulling back the balloon creates tension which turns into force once you let go of it. The force of the balloon acts upon the styrofoam ball, launching it out of the cup.


Works Cited

McClelland, Sarah. “Easy Snowball Launcher Winter STEM Activity for Kids.” Little Bins for

Little Hands, 4 Jan. 2018, littlebinsforlittlehands.com/make-snowball-launcher-

winter-stem-physics/.

McClelland, Sarah. “Snowman Baking Soda Science for Winter Chemistry.” Little Bins for

Little Hands, 14 Dec. 2018, littlebinsforlittlehands.com/snowman-baking-soda-

science-activity-melting-snowman-sensory-play/.

McClelland, Sarah. “Winter Snow Storm Science in a Jar Activity for Kids.” Little Bins for

Little Hands, 3 Jan. 2018, littlebinsforlittlehands.com/winter-snow-storm-in-a-jar-

science/.

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