Full S.T.E.A.M ahead for STEM
Full S.T.E.A.M ahead for STEM
If you have children of primary and secondary age then you’ve probably been hearing a lot about STEM. It’s the latest buzz approach to getting children (and dare I say it, adults) excited about the world of science. What’s really refreshing is the move away from geeky science silos and integration with other core subjects that transform everyday life in the modern world. Standing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, STEM recognises that science has, and always will have a vital role to play in shaping our world. An initiative started to pique interest in the sciences as the number of children selecting science options plummeted in the UK and the dearth of girls in particular, was recognised, STEM has recently undergone its own mutation as Arts has been added. The newly extended STEAM recognises the need to engage and retain children’s interest, although arguably well-chosen facts, projects and experiments, be it the ubiquitous bicarbonate of soda volcano or equally enthralling fizzy paint should certainly pique interest!
At the heart of STEM is the notion that science, engineering, technology and maths are infused in the everyday lives that we enjoy as well as the not so every day events of space missions. Far from being the preserve of a few, science is for everyone a message beautifully reinforced by the discovery in 2012 of a new molecule – Tetranitratoxycarbon in case you’re interested, not created in a lab by a white cloaked scientist, but rather the accidental creation of a ten year old!
Growing up as I did with visits to the Royal London Homeopathic hospital a part of my childhood and potions like arsenic, the seemingly counterintuitive solution to back pain, I’m fascinated that a whole new scientific method called ‘toxineering’ has recently been discovered, the art or should I say science of turning venoms into toxins. Being the mother of a teenage daughter I was thrilled when she chose to take triple science. Who knows where this might lead her, be it finding a cure for cancer, advancing genetics or criminology, or saving the planet from the effects of our actions, one thing is sure, with a solid foundation in science she can help change the world for the better. A love of science can start from a myriad of tiny seeds of thought planted in the home, like gardening, sprouting seeds or baking, all science-rich activities.
Cooking is certainly one area where S.T.E.A.M comes to the fore…
Science covers the way the ingredients interact with each other to produce an awesome cake or bread. Its fascinating to watch the effect baking soda, self-raising flour and vinegar have on a cake or how sifting or whisking add air and change the finished product. Then there’s opportunities for exploring solids and liquids and change with cream, chocolate and eggs.
Technology has transformed how we cook something and whether to steam, fry, boil or microwave? Take the humble potato and you can explore what and how all these different methods work to give us the perfect jacket or fry. Technology also helps us find the perfect recipe, with the internet so accessible to budding chefs I wonder if people still buying cook books are a dying breed.
Engineering the perfect recipe takes practice and skill, and often a fair amount of muscle power too!
Art can take many forms, from Culinary Art* to colour mixing, from using different toppings on a pizza to form a smiley face, to the presentation of a meal
Maths is essential to creating the perfect dish or bake. First of all the ingredients need to be correctly weighed and measured, then the sequence needs to be followed in the right order and the right size tin or size spoonful of mixture need to be used.
Recipe for enjoyment
There is nothing better on a cold winters evening, then enjoying together a comforting meal, cooked en-famille. Cooking helps develop children’s independence, makes them feel useful and responsible, expands their repertoire of culinary competence and helps them experiment with their taste buds. Try family favourites like toad in the hole, scrambled eggs or scotch pancakes or maybe something a little more adventurous like lasagne. The skills and knowledge gained from following a simple recipe does wonders for a child’s self-confidence, especially when seeing the family enjoying their food at meal time. And for younger children, getting them to help prepare a yummy pudding, like a crumble, where they have to get their fingers into the mix has the added benefit of providing a wealth of sensory fun.
Cooking is all about experimenting, so why not bring a little science fun into the mix? Check out some of these ideas for exploring the effect of different food cupboard staples such as baking powder, vinegar and even milk. Have you ever seen milk explode or watched rock candy form, just two STEM ideas for amazing and intriguing young minds.
Here are some links to the activities mentioned: