We’re a family that loves a good project especially if it involves science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the chance to personally experience an awe-inspiring phenomenon through a hands-on activity. But I know not all families are like ours. If the idea of coming up with science fair project evokes a sense of dread thanks to bad memories of failed experiments, too many baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, and late nights of putting together the tri-fold board, engaging activities like cooking can provide inspiration while television shows and movies get them thinking about science in ways they maybe never thought of before.
This year the DeLorean from Back to the Future provided inspiration for my son’s award winning Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car while his sister took on the challenge of creating a submarine shaped car after watching The Hunt From Red October.
If you’re looking for other movies and shows that can provide inspiration for older and younger kids, Netflix has an entire list that can be streamed. Check out the list below for blue ribbon-worthy projects for big kids and ones that will encourage curiosity and problem-solving in the younger ages. Be sure to check Common Sense Media to ensure that the titles listed below are right for your family!
For elementary ages and up:
- How Stuff Works
- How Do They Do It
- Is It Possible?
- Build It Bigger
- How the Universe Works
- Extreme Engineering
For early elementary and preschoolers:
- Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius
- Peep and the Big Wide World
- Magic School Bus: All Dried Up
- Animal Mechanicals
- Wild Kratts
Our kids, ages 7 and 10, also love Design Squad for the challenges that are part of each episode and friendly competition that involves using STEM skills to solve a problem.
If you’re still looking for inspiration, Common Sense Media has 13 Tools to help Your Kid Put the “Pro” in Science Project that is full of helpful ideas and features ways to engage kids through music, apps, and websites.
And don’t forget cooking projects! Cooking is a great integrated STEM activity because it involves kitchen chemistry and math skills like measurement and fractions! According to AlwaysOrderDessert.com’s Alejandra Ramos, “the process of making candy is an especially great way to talk about science and chemistry, in a fun, safe, and exciting way.”
She provides a step by step tutorial for homemade honeycomb candy, a recipe that involves aerating hard caramel made from a mixture of three different kids of sugar by adding baking soda. Kids will be wowed as they watch the mixture bubble and quadruple with the addition of baking soda to the boiled sugar mixture!
Alejandra also provides great age appropriate safety tips about cooking with kids of all ages that accompany the recipe. Just remember that you might want to do a test batch of honeycomb candy before you try making it with your kids to anticipate any difficulties or identify safety issues specific to your family.
This post was inspired by Netflix. No compensation was received but my family does enjoy a complimentary Netflix subscription and other items for my involvement as a Netflix Stream Team Member. Images courtesy of Netflix.