STEM Projects You Can Do at Home


This at-home science activity uses ordinary cornstarch to model the behavior of quicksand.
Over the past 12 years, the Science and Engineering Education Center at UT Dallas has developed a lending library of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related, hands-on discovery kits and materials that it provides to North Texas community partners, such as public libraries. Last year these materials served more than 150,000 K-12 students, 86% of which were from underrepresented groups.
The COVID-19 crisis has shuttered many public learning spaces, so instead of loaning physical materials to libraries, SEEC staff are providing retooled instructional guides to community centers and youth librarians to help them deliver STEM programming to their patrons using online tools and media such as Facebook Live.
“Eighty percent of our community partners are public libraries, and as they plan for remote programming into the summer, these materials will provide additional options for families,” said Dr. Lani Connolly, SEEC director.
Many of the activities are also available to the public on the SEEC website, where users can search by category, topic, age level and time needed for the activity.
The SEEC catalog includes more than 100 fun and engaging learning activities that can be done at home with common household materials. Some timely topics are lessons about germs and experiments that show the importance of hand-washing.
SEEC staff members also have written a series of do-at-home instructional guides to complement the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme for 2020, which is fairy tales.
“We have developed several fairy tale STEM challenges, such as having youth design a way to get Rapunzel out of her tower, testing the lung capacity of the Big Bad Wolf, and helping the Shoemaker and his elves understand supply and demand,” Connolly said.
Feedback from community partners has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Our programming budget has been reduced, so this is a great free resource we can share with our community. I especially love that it has been customized to fit with the summer reading theme,” said Kasey Fanucchi, teen librarian at the Denton Public Library.
Rachel Burroughs, a library instructor and research specialist at the Plano Public Library, also praised the effort.
“The STEM Investigations activities database can be used in multiple ways to engage and enrich the learning experiences of our library patrons,” Burroughs said. “They are thoughtful, simple, thoroughly educational and accessible activities, and the organization and filtering options are amazing.”
–Amanda Siegfried