STEM Activities to Do at Home

May 07, 2020

By Lucie Rochard, PhD, Liaison for Scientific & Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Sr Director of Innovation Services, MassBio

You might be a parent at home with young kids, trying to balance your time between all your duties – work, keeping the little ones busy and happy, and everything else; or you might just be looking for something different to do. If that’s the case, here are some activities you can do to (re)connect with the curious scientist hiding somewhere inside you (and hopefully your kid!).

First things first! Scientists wash their hands before any experiment. To start, let’s do two simple experiments that will show the importance of washing your hands to stop the progression of the virus:

  1.  Put sparkling powder (sorry moms who have to sacrifice their fancy makeup for this experiment!) on your kid’s hands and let them touch you, their face, etc. Are they sparkly now too?
  2. Now, ask them to wash their hands. It will take around 20 to 30 seconds of thorough washing for the powder to disappear – and it’s the same for a virus!

If you don’t have sparkling powder or sparkles at home, you can do the pepper experiment instead:

  1. First, add pepper to a bowl of water. The pepper should be floating and will play the role of the virus.
  2. Next, put your finger into the bowl. The pepper will stick to you!
  3. Now, add some soap on your finger, and notice the pepper will no longer stick. Magic soap! This is why it is so important to always wash your hands!

Watch this video to see the experiment in action! Note: The video is in French, but you can follow along with the instructions above.

If you have older kids at home, why not try a DNA extraction? Everything you need can be found inside your house: detergent to free DNA from the cells (dish soap), a salty solution to isolate the DNA from proteins and the alcohol, and hydrophobic solution which leads the DNA to “avoid” water molecules, and pack DNA to make it visible to our naked eyes.

You can find the full description of the experiment, here.  

Looking for even more? We can also do some physics! We can look at capillarity in action using a paper towel or a coffee filter and watch while the capillarity ignores all the rules of gravity:

  1. Take a paper towel or a coffee filter and dip into your favorite liquid, you will see it climb up on the paper, this is capillarity!
  2. You’ll see the water molecules are climbing up on the paper and dragging other molecules on their way up, the filter is now wet!

If you want more ideas for STEM activities you can do at home, Boston Children’s Museum has compiled its own resource. You can also check out Boston Tech Mom, learn how to make kinetic sand, or even create your own volcanic eruption!

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