This is a STEM learning activity for kids who adore getting out into nature. A lot of kids love picking flowers and we can build on that to teach STEM principles. Here is a step by step guide of how to use flowers as a STEM learning activity.
Step 1: Exploring
Go exploring in the garden and see what flowers are blooming. You can do this in your own garden, on a walk to the park or wherever is close and convenient for you. Take a magnifying glass with you and let your kids stop and inspect all of the flowers. You won’t go far quickly, but that’s ok! They will love seeing details of the leaves and flowers magnified and up close. You might even find some bugs on the plants as well.
Step 2: Gathering
Collect some flowers that are of interest. Have some kid friendly scissors that they can use to cut the flowers (if age and skill appropriate). Make sure you cut them low enough to include the stem and some leaves as well. Put them into a container that your little one is able to carry so that they feel a sense of accomplishment of gathering the flowers themselves.
You can gather flowers in their different phases of blossoming as well. You can try and get them as buds, in full bloom and past blossoming. This is one reason why daisy bushes are fantastic for this (and why I’ve used it here) as they often produce flowers in abundance and will contain multiple stages of flower development in the single bush.
Step 3: Identifying
Identify and inspect the flowers that you have collected. Again, you can use your magnifying glass for this step. Try and talk with your kids about the following questions:
- Can you count how many flowers you gathered?
- Can you count the number of leaves and petals on each one? Are they all the same?
- Line up the flowers in order of size. Or are they all the same?
- Do you know what the name of the flower is that you collected? If not, try and search for the flower type with either a book or on the internet.
Step 4: Deconstructing
Deconstruct the flowers into their components of leaves, stem, petals and seed. Place them into piles of similar objects and compare the differences between each pile. You can compare size, colour, texture and shape.
Step 5: Reconstructing
Reconstruct a flower using the deconstructed piles in Step 4. You can place as many leaves and petals as you want for each flower. You could even make a ‘hybrid’ flower if you have collected different types of flowers. Let your child’s imagination and creativity run wild!
Step 6: Preserving
Preserve the creations you have made in reconstructing your flowers in Step 5. You could do this by gluing the components onto paper or cardboard. I find craft glue easier to do this with. Alternatively, you could also get a clear piece of contact paper and have your child ‘stick’ (ie place) the parts of the flower onto the sticky side of the contact. Once they are finished you can either place another piece of contact on it or a separate piece of paper as a backing board. Cut out your design and enjoy your creation.
What makes this a STEM Activity?
A ‘true’ STEM activity is one that incorporates all of the STEM disciplines individually. This is one such case. It even contains ‘Art’ to transform STEM into STEAM. Outlined here are the components of this example:
This activity uses plant biology to teach about the natural sciences. It includes learning about the lifecycle of plants (Step 2) and about the components of plants (Step 4). When you are exploring (Step 1) also have discussions with your kids about areas where flowers are in abundance and where they may not be due to light, shade and water access.
Using a magnifying glass (Step 1 & 3) and scissors (Step 2) are technology items to assist your activity. Remember that technology does not have to be electronic especially at a preschool age. You can also use the internet to identify your plants that you have collected (Step 3) utilising another piece of technology in your activity.
Steps 4 and 5 of deconstructing and reconstructing respectively are typical engineering skills. You are teaching your child to deconstruct (Step 4) an item into its components to see what makes up the final form. Then you are asking them to build and make a final product (Step 5) from singular components.
When you identify your flowers (Step 3) you are teaching mathematical concepts. Counting and size comparisons are all activities relevant for this age group.
Preserving the flowers (Step 6) puts the ‘A’ into STEM to form STEAM. Most kids love to be able to have something tangible from an activity and this is one way to do it for this activity. Plus you get some pretty flowers to put around the house too!
Getting outdoors to do activities with the kids is such an enriching way to learn STEM. Kids love exploring the world around them and you all get a burst of fresh air. So, start with Step 1 and 2 the next time you are out walking with your kids and leave a comment below on how you go.