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Winter vacation doesn't mean quite the same thing this year, when most kids have been attending school at home for months already. The Santa Fe Alliance for Science (SFAFS), an organization of local scientists, engineers and other STEM professionals who volunteer in Santa Fe schools with the goal of inspiring the scientist in every student, recognizes that children and parents are anxious for new activities that will engage curiosity, creative thinking and enjoyment, without feeling like work!
Imaginative SFAFS volunteers have come up with two “mini-STEM Challenges” that you can do at home with your children over the winter break.
The Spaghetti Tower Challenge encourages kids to build the tallest freestanding structure they can, using sticks of spaghetti and tape, that will support a regular-sized marshmallow for at least 15 seconds. Sound easy? This engineering problem actually requires considering the same forces - gravity and wind - that engineers must take into account when building a cell phone tower, bridge or skyscraper.
In the Hoop-Winged Glider Challenge, students turn a piece of paper into an experimental wing for a new type of aircraft that may actually be more economical and efficient than today's airliners.
These two activities rely on materials readily available at home and reinforce basic principles of science and engineering investigation. Fun and simple to carry out, they are sure to spark further children's curiosity. And they won’t even realize they’re “doing science”!
By Claudette Sutton. Photos courtesy of Santa Fe Alliance for Science.