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Taking STEAM Outdoors

STEAM learning naturally appeals to a child’s basic instincts to explore, experiment, and discover. From birth, infants engage with their environment to discover the how and why of everything. A child’s natural curiosity lends itself to hands-on engagement and problem-solving, and the outdoors is the ideal location to develop those instincts.

Depending on where you live, your access to the outdoors and natural materials may be limited, but no matter where you are, there are ways to create STEAM opportunities outside the home.

The STEAM acronym stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and technology. Many of these disciplines relate to one another, so engaging in activities that cover a few bases simultaneously is easy. Below are five fun activities that you can do outdoors to engage in STEAM learning.

Natural Instruments

If you’ve ever taken a walk with a child, you have probably noticed that they love to bang and hit objects. Their natural desire to touch everything can be harnessed by creating natural percussion instruments. Go for a walk and bring an empty wide-mouthed bottle with you. Have your child collect acorns, rocks, small twigs, etc. Once about half full, seal the lid and shake it. Discuss the sounds it makes. Try collecting different items in different bottles and then compare the sounds. Next, encourage them to use different-sized sticks to bang on objects: rocks, tree trunks, the ground. How do the sounds change?

Areas covered: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts.

Weather Observations

Taking a small sketchbook and colored pencils, head outside, and over a few weeks, ask your child to observe the weather and draw or write down their observations. Each time, before you head outside, have your child make predictions about what they think the weather will be like today compared to last time.

Areas covered: Science, Technology, Arts.

Obstacle course

Using a playground, sports equipment, or even logs and rocks, have your child design an obstacle course. For example, you can use soccer cones, hula hoops, and jump ropes to jump and climb over, through, and around. Allow them to decide what the sequence of the obstacle course is and how many times an action must be completed. If outdoor access isn’t available, you can use tape on the floor, couch cushions and make tunnels out of chairs and sheets inside.

Areas covered: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

Leafy Patterns

When the fall leaves begin to change, take your child on a walk and collect leaves of all different colors. Once you’ve collected a large quantity, use the leaves to make patterns together. These could be patterns based on color, shape, or size. Discuss the attributes of the leaf and use this opportunity to introduce chlorophyll.

Areas covered: Science, Mathematics.

Sun Fading Art

Have your child make designs and shapes using dark-colored construction paper and masking or painter’s tape. There should be areas the tape covers and areas that you can still see the paper. Make three different pictures and place all three outside in a sunny location. Discuss with your child what they think will happen to the pictures while in the sun. After 24 hours, bring the first picture in and remove the tape. Discuss your observations. After another 24 hours, bring in the second picture. Before removing the tape, make predictions about if it will be different or the same as the first one and why. Repeat with the third picture after another 24 hours.

Areas covered: Science, Technology, Arts.

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