Tag: Building

ENERGY MATTERS – Fall 2017 STEAM Program at MERCY!

General Topics: Physical Science, Solar System, Space, Time, Energy, Gravity, Heat, Light, Electricity, Chemistry, Aerodynamics, Building, Programming

Grade Level: 4-7

In these classes we learned a variety of natural sciences, from space to unicellular organisms, and we explored these different areas through hands on activities that were fun and instructional.

The Solar System

In this class students learned about units of measurement, including the metric system, in order to learn about the size and scale of our solar system. We learned about the actual distances and diameters of the planets in our solar system, and learned about the distance at a smaller scale.

First we cut out a cardboard circle with 40cm diameter. This circle was the sun! – Next, we used clay and our metric rulers to form the planets to scale to our sun. Due to this, some of the planets were as small as a crumb! However it showed the scale in a tangible way!

In order to show the distances between the sun to the earth, students measured out in string the length of approximately 50m which was the scaled distance from the sun to the earth. We then went outside and asked the students to stretch out the string while one end held a sun and the other an earth. This showed how far light travels from the sun.

Last, students were tasked to make a Papier-mâché Earth. The earth was made of layers of newspaper which were meant to represent the layers of the earth: inner core, outer core, mantle, crust.


Space-Time and Gravity

In this workshop students learned about different forces acting on us everyday. In particular, students learned about gravity and aerodynamic forces. Students made paper planes of various designs in order to understand how different shapes affect the aerodynamic forces on a plane. From the different designs, students could make planes which could travel a long distance, a faster speed, can stay afloat longer, or do all three!


Energy: Heat and Light

This topic taught students about heat and light. The class began with the movement of molecules experiment. Here we explored the different states of water and the molecule movement associated with those states. By putting a few drops of food coloring in a beaker of water when the beaker contained cold water then hot water, students could see how the food dye spread faster when the water was hot, rather than cold, due to the faster movement of the molecules.

Next we did the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide experiment. Students learned about decomposition and how heat is generated from the energy caused by the movement of molecules. By adding yeast to hydrogen peroxide, students could see the solution foam up. This was caused by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water, creating bubbles to release the gas. Students lowered lit matches into the bubbles made by the solution in order to show how oxygen powers fire. While doing this, the students could feel the solution get warmer as the reaction happens.

Properties of Light

Here we worked with prisms and made kaleidoscopes. Students used prisms to separate the light and see the different colors in a human being’s visible spectrum. They also had a variety of activities to test with the prisms. We then made kaleidoscopes, using 3 reflective walls and a clear sphere. Students decorated their kaleidoscopes in creative ways. This activity taught students about how lenses worked.

Electric Energy

In this class we made a solar battery charger for a rechargeable 9V battery. Students learned about solar energy and how to make simple circuits. We learned about the power of photons from the sun, and how we can take advantage of that to make charging devices for batteries. Each student was able to make their own solar charges using 4 mini solar panels and a diode. Using the sun, they power their battery!

Students then made a flashlight which was powered by their rechargeable a 9V battery.

Last we made a motorized car. Students learned how gears and an advanced circuit containing an h-bridge worked. They made the chasis of the car and then created the circuit on a breadboard that acted as joystick. The joystick allowed students to drive their cars forward and backwards! Students raced their cars!

WeDo Projects

Students created WeDo projects to end the term.The students made a robotic car using the WeDo to understand how programming can be used to make a more advanced version of a motorized car like they made in the previous lesson. With programming, students can add more ‘flare’ to their robots. Such as sounds, lights, and using sensors to assist in having the robot sense the world around it.


Making Slime, Our last activity!



Making a Lens Camera!

General Topics: Optics, Physics, Visual Perception
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored the process of building a lens camera. This exercise was used to teach how lenses work, from a camera to our own eyes. The students were given the materials to assemble and asked to explain various observations they made with their lens cameras.

Students were able to decorate their lens camera any way they liked at the end!

The students were given all pieces of the camera to work on. The first challenge was to assemble the walls and base of the camera. The arrangement of the pieces to form a square is the beginnings of being able to visualize and design in 3D space!

The next piece was completing the front which holds the magnifying lens. Two rubber bands crossing each other were used to hold the magnifying lens so that it may be removed to be used for any science explorations outside of this specific project! This was then attached to the rest of the camera.

The final piece was placing the tissue paper onto the sliding component. This would act as the screen to have the light (and thus images) projected on. This component can slide closer and further away from the magnifying lens in order to focus the image. Afterwards the students were able to learn about how light density, combined with distance of the sliding component, affected the ability to view images!

This class we learned:

  • How lenses work
  • How our eyes work
  • How light comes into lenses
  • What light is and how it allows us to see

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Some students had trouble tying the rubber bands together, we should have longer rubber band pieces in the future
  • Adding an extension which corrects the orientation of the image being projected so students understand how cameras and other lenses correct for this would be a great additional lesson



Making a Wooden Box!

General Topics: Building, Energy Transfer, Physics
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored the process of building a wooden box with a lid, held together with a fabric hinge. This exercise was used to teach the fundamentals and begin an easy introduction to building and creating. Students were then allowed to get creative and decorate their boxes with markers and tissue paper.

Each student was given all 4 walls and the bottom of the box to start with. The students then assembled the pieces and glued them together. After the glue dried, they were given nails and a hammer to secure the pieces together by nailing them together. It was a loud and fun time!

With the walls and bottom nailed and completed, the students nailed the fabric to their lid and to the back wall of their box, allowing them to make a hinge. This step complete, the students got creative and decorated their boxes!

This class we learned: 

  • How to use a hammer and how to use nails
  • The transfer of energy from your arm, through the hammer to the nail into the box
  • The basics of creating a new object

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Because of the age of the students, hammering was a lengthy process that needed a good amount of assistance
  • Next time perhaps drilling small holes part way through the wood for the nails to rest in may be easier for students to hammer in
  • Having the same amount of assistance (about 1 person for two students) was very helpful