You know that the “S” in STEM stands for science. But what is the difference between STEM and Science? STEM is so much more than just science experiments for kids. Since STEM projects demand much more deep thinking and innovation, the level of learning is enhanced. So instead of science being studied in an isolated manner, the student uses the tools of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to solve a problem.

Integration of Subjects

At its base, STEM involves the integration of 4 subject areas – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Most of the STEM projects involve at least 2 subject areas that have been integrated. Many involve all 4 areas, depending on the complexity of the investigation. Hence the STEM working environment reflects the real-world applications. It takes the application of tools in these 4 areas of study to conduct an intensive investigation.

The student may start with a scientific principle, but throughout the entire process, they will use their engineering skills to design a device or product to experiment with different scenarios. Throughout the entire process, they also will use mathematics to measure effects. Only through the integration of these areas will a solution reveal itself. A science experiment will have your child observing dancing raisins in a jar filled with water, vinegar, and baking soda, but a STEM investigation will challenge your child to use these chemicals in the best proportions to make a rocket cover the greatest distance. With the STEM investigation, your child will design a rocket, make accurate observations about the amount of chemicals in the mixture, and measure the distances covered.

Real-World Applications

Many times, science experiments reveal a particular fact without a comprehensive approach. With STEM, there is an in-depth investigation that examines scientific knowledge from many different perspectives. For example, a science experiment for kids about flight may involve demonstrating the concept of lift. In the science experiment, the task is to take a strip of paper and try out different methods of creating lift. For example, the student is directed to gently blow out while holding the strip near their mouth. Then they are instructed to blow harder.  The student may also use different types of fans to demonstrate the behavior of the paper.  With a STEM investigation, the student is presented with a challenge. Design a paper airplane that will fly the longest time. In STEM, the principle of lift is incorporated into an investigation that involves many different aspects. Lift is put into a real-world challenge.

Following the Procedure vs. Inventing the Process

In scientific experiments for kids, often there is a procedure your child can follow. While this may simplify your involvement, your child will not develop investigative or project management skills. Instead, give them a STEM problem to solve and provide the materials they need to cultivate these real-life strategies.

Incorporating Research

Frequently, the investigation is limited to 1 concept In a science experiment for kids. Through experimentation, the 1 concept is looked at in-depth to verify or discredit the hypothesis. But with STEM projects, the student is given a problem to solve. Many different mini-experiments and design changes occur to solve that challenge. Often kids are encouraged to research the internet to gain different ways of solving the problem. If you search YouTube for videos on dropping an egg from a height, you will view what almost seems like an endless list of videos on this subject. Instead of confining the parameters to a small list of solutions, there are many different creative ideas. Each idea has value in some way. Some solutions can be repeated over and over. Other ideas work well for a limited number of drops. It is fascinating to discover the many different variations.  It is heartening to see that solutions are shared from many different corners of the world and other languages.

Igniting the Spark

Student engagement is heightened through the project-based approach of STEM. A real problem or challenge is presented to the students. It is through creativity that the students work through a solution. In a science experiment for kids, often the outcome is known. Students follow a predictable path to determine an underlying concept. The science experiment is almost always confined to the classroom or home investigation. But STEM projects often propel your child into real-world events. For example, your child may design a mousetrap powered car and then enter a competition that involves designs from people of many walks of life and ages. Suddenly their work has value. By reaching out to such events, your child will learn so much more by observing how different people have solved the same issues that they struggled with for their design. For many occasions, professional organizations, such as an engineering society, sponsor the events foraging student engagement in their field of work.

Be Wary

Since STEM is a trendier term than science experiments for kids, you will find many experiences mislabeled with the STEM name. Before you invest your time setting up challenges, make sure that the science is incorporated into a project-based approach for the most learning impact. Yes, your child will enjoy dancing raisins. Unfortunately, that impact is fleeting. Your child will learn so much more by using these chemicals to overcome a challenge. The dancing raisins are merely a small step along the road to building successful rockets.

Take a Look At Young Explorers E-books

Your kids will love our STEM units. They

  • are project-based
  • integrate STEM subjects
  • are highly engaging

Each E-book has 4 different investigations to challenge your kids.

Ignite the SPARK in your child