Christmas and Fourth of July are great – don’t get us wrong – but we really break out our party pants when it’s time to celebrate National STEM Day. National STEM Day 2022 falls on November 8th, and this year, we’d love to party with you and your budding scientists, engineers, and mathematicians!
What is National STEM Day? The Thimble team is here to tell you all about it! Join us in making National STEM Day (a.k.a. National STEAM day) a hit for administrators, teachers, parents, and students with these engaging and creative STEM ideas and activities! (Sorry, no pin-the-tail-on-the-scientist!)
What is National STEM Day? A Peek at the Evolution of One of Thimble’s Favorite Unofficial Holidays
You might be asking- what is National STEM Day? National STEM Day is a day designated to celebrate and recognize the importance of the STEM workforce, and their contributions to almost every facet of our lives. While it hasn’t been around for decades like Flag Day, Christmas or Thanksgiving – it’s still a holiday worth celebrating in our eyes.
National STEM Day was created by MGA Entertainment. Who is MGA Entertainment? They are one of the largest toy companies in the world- creators of the Project MC2 franchise. The Project MC2 line of toys was designed to make STEM/STEAM topics and professions appealing to girls – who typically represent lower numbers in STEM industries. They strategically chose the November 8th date each year as a play on words. The letters N O V followed by the number 8 turned out to be a trendy way to write the word “innovate”. It’s a way cooler use of wordplay than that license plate in the Starbucks drive-through this morning that said, “4EVRL8”
National STEM Day 2022 will be celebrated by preschools, K12 public schools, public libraries, museums, science centers, and higher education institutions – just as it has been since it was created back in 2015. Many schools and STEM-related organizations found creative ways to celebrate National STEM day virtually in 2020 and 2021 when facing pandemic restrictions.
Over the years, the holiday has gained traction as more and more companies and celebrities shine a spotlight on National STEM Day- hoping to raise awareness for the importance of STEM education. Miranda Cosgrove spoke of her passion for National STEM Day during an interview in Seventeen Magazine.
Why does STEM get its own day?
The importance of STEM education is growing as every part of our lives becomes digital. The IoT (Internet of Things) grows every day as connectivity and data are leveraged in every industry from education to health and wellness to entertainment. STEM careers have an increasing number of openings each year, as data points to a decreased number of STEM graduates qualified to fill those positions. Check out some of the mind-blowing data surrounding STEM graduates, careers and wages- and decide for yourself if STEM deserves a holiday!
- The projected growth of employment in STEM occupations (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) from 2021-2031 is over 10% as opposed to non-STEM occupations which are projected to grow only 4.9%.
- The median annual wage for a STEM occupation in 2021 was $95,420, compared to the median annual wage for a non-STEM occupation in 2021 which was only $40,120.
- In 2019-20, 429,298 STEM Bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the US. In that same year, 142,775 STEM-related Master’s degrees were awarded.
STEM touches every part of our day. From asking Alexa the weather report to programming your coffeepot– STEM professionals are behind it. It’s a big deal. STEM deserves it’s own day! Viva La National STEM Day 2022!
A Hidden Reason Why We Love National STEM Day at Thimble
At Thimble, we eat and breathe STEM education. Anything that is intentionally shedding light on STEM importance is something we want to celebrate. Our curriculum designers, teachers, and even our CEO share a lifelong love of STEM learning that trickles directly into the educational products we develop.
In addition, our desires go a step further in providing equitable STEM education. Our commitment to helping facilitate a diverse and inspired future workforce with 21st-Century skills. We know that National STEM Day is being used all over the country to help build excitement around STEM topics, careers and skillsets. Opening doors to STEM/STEAM for underserved populations is so critical to future successes in STEM industries.
20 Engaging STEM/STEAM Activities to Take National STEM Day 2022 to the Next Level
This unofficial STEM holiday allows teachers, administrators, after-school clubs and higher education institutions to really capitalize on the opportunity to “STEM outside the box”. Moving to project based, or hands on engaging activities outside of the written text can create an experience that students look forward to annually. They know that National STEM Day is going to bring something extra fun to the day in the same way that “100th Day of School” brings extra fun to mathematics. Learners begin to anticipate the fun rather than dread the “learning”.
These engaging and hands-on STEM activities tend to ‘stick’ better than text learning. Kids can connect it to knowledge they already have, and once it’s attached to their schema, retention is off the charts.
Check out this list of 20 creative and engaging STEM activities from professional development to easy, free field trips for National STEM Day 2022!
1. Visit Project MC2 and Play a STEM Game
In honor of the creators of National STEM Day, check out Project MC2 and spend some class time playing an in online, STEM related game. Try out their Chemistry Word Game or download some of the Project MC2 Case Files and see if you can crack them!
2. Listen to a STEM Podcast (or better yet, create your own!)
Podcasts like Brains On! peak children’s natural curiosity as they hear kids voices like their own asking big questions and seeking answers side-by-side with adults. Another great STEM/STEAM podcast is properly titled, That Show About Science. Hosted by a boy named Nate, the episodes interview different scientists, cover different science and technology topics and generally make STEM entertaining for kids and adults alike.
You can use these podcasts as inspiration and then try creating your own STEM podcast with students. Continue monthly or weekly episodes to keep the learning going beyond National STEM Day. Not sure where to start? Check out this great guide to creating podcasts from Reading Rockets.
3. Pick Up a STEM Book and Launch a Novel Study with Your Students
Cross-curricular learning has data-backed benefits. Integrating language arts and STEM topics provides real benefits. Consider grabbing a novel a few weeks before National STEM Day and scheduling an in-depth conversation around the characters or topics. Here are a few great examples of STEM books that are appropriate for 5th-8th grade students:
- The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
- Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
- The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
- Bees on the Roof by Robbie Shell
- Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
4. Have a STEM Book Marathon Leading Up to a Celebration on November 8th
Rather than picking one book for a classwide novel study, allow students to choose books based on their own interests and reading levels. Focus on STEM literature quantity as opposed to the quality of an in depth novel study. Keep a running tab of completed novels using tools like Accelerated Reader and Read n’ Quiz. Gamify it! If students hit a goal that you have preset together, a STEM celebration will ensue. Pizza party? Ice Cream Bar? The STEM possibilities are endless!
5. Are You an Administrator? Schedule a STEM PD Training for Your Faculty
Teaching STEM has become a more technologically heavy practice in the last two decades. Your faculty will be more successful with proper training on research-based, data-backed best practices. There are many options for a STEM-focused professional development session. Make it fun and hands-on. Reinspire. Ignite a passion for STEM in your faculty that will trickle down to students.
6. Hands-On, One-Off Experiments, and Design Challenges
Looking for a hands-on experiment or a STEM design challenge that won’t take weeks to prepare for? Try engaging students in memorable activities that can be pulled off on National STEM Day without interfering with the rest of the curriculum calendar. Here are some of our favorites:
- Extracting DNA from a Strawberry
- Engineering an Earthquake-proof Structure
- Code a Basic App, Quiz, or Game
- Create a Math Escape Room
7. Trash Can Balloon Car Derby
Split your students up into “pit crews” a few days before National STEM Day. Each pit crew will prototype, build, test, perfect and finally race a balloon-powered car. Equip them with a balloon. In order to source supplies for the rest of their car construction, have them sort through recycled materials, including items like water bottles, CDs, cardboard tubes, straws, etc…
This activity leverages collaboration and innovation to gamify engineering design. Your National STEM Day 2022 Balloon Car Derby can be as big or small as you want. Consider holding the race with an audience of peers to get teams hyped up about their outcomes. Offer a significant prize to drum up participation and raise the stakes.
8. Check out Stellarium Interactive Planetarium, or Visit a Local Planetarium in Person
Stellarium Interactive Planetarium is a free planetarium that can be viewed from the comfort of the classroom, sending National STEM Day 2022 out of this world. If technology resources are scarce, or your school isn’t yet 1:1, there are plenty of great planetariums that host field trips in person. If you live near any of the following planetariums, inquire about scheduling your field trip on November 8th for National STEM Day!
- Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL
- Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco, CA
- Hayden Planetarium in New York, NY
- Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, NC
- Planetarium at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA
- Flandaru Planetarium and Science Center in Tucson, AZ
9. Earth Beautification Project
Who says you need to wait until Earth Day to clean out a stretch of forest or an over-visited creek bed in your area? What is National STEM Day for if not to help build an appreciation for caring for our planet and moving civilization forward in positive ways?
Consider teaming up with a local state park or college campus to clean up a neglected community area.
10. Check Local Libraries for Pre-Planned Stem Day Events
Many local libraries lean on days of educational importance to plan themed events. Public libraries like the Bay County Library are celebrating STEM day with their community members. Reach out to your local library and find out if there are age-appropriate events available for your students. Most library programs are free. If you see that your library does not have a STEM day event planned, perhaps they are unaware of this quickly rising STEM/STEAM holiday. Take a minute to drop them a note, or ask if your students can help plan an activity or presentation for the community!
11. Organize a STEM Movie Night Fundraiser
This could end up being two STEM-related activities that go hand in hand. Hold a STEM themed movie night fundraiser. Advertise the movie night and hold it on November 8th. Charge a small admisstion fee. Sell drinks, snacks and popcorn and watch a movie. like one of the STEM themed movie from the list below.
Use the proceeds to fund an activity or piece of equipment for your STEM club, after-school robotics program, or local makerspace. If needs are unclear at your school, consider donating the proceeds to a STEM/STEAM organization in the community such as a wildflower preserve, nature conservancy, or a non-profit STEM organization like The Citizen Science Lab in Pittsburgh, PA. Consider bringing in a stakeholder from the organization that you raise money for to speak to students prior to presenting earnings.
12. November Marks Monarch Migration End in Mexico
This could really be an entire fall unit study, but could be explored briefly on National STEM Day on November 8th. Monarch butterflies make an incredible journey south to Mexico each year that usually ends in the month of march. Studying the life cycle of the butterfly and ending with a deeper dive into their migration could be a great way to celebrate STEM day. Have access to VR for your classroom? Check out The Monarch Effect VR Experience. Cover the technological wonders of hummingbird spycams that give a “birds eye view” of the monarchs in their final migratory destination.
13. STEM/STEAM Career Day
Bring in local STEM and STEAM professionals for a day of career inspiration for students. Think engineers, doctors, graphic designers, software programmers, chemists, zoologists, veterinarians and even bakers! (Hey- kitchen chemistry is a thing.) National STEM Day 2022 might just inspire a student’s future!
Consider taking this STEM/STEAM career day a bit further and implement a professional dress code to get students in the right mindset. Conduct career surveys. Have students dress up as their “dream STEM job”. When planning for guest speakers during this day, be sure to include a diverse panel of options so that each demographic of student sees “themselves” represented in the professional world of STEM.
14. Reach Out to Your Local PTA or PTO to Host a Science Night
Lean into resources available and delegate some of the creativity and funding for your National STEM Day celebration to the local PTA. Parents in this organization have a vested interest in supplementing student education and are often looking for creative ways to supplement existing curriculum. Host a night with a STEM presenter, or even a PTA sponsored Science Fair. Students could plan to present their experiments and/or engineering designs on November 8th.
15. Virtual Field Trips
The pandemic forced many organizations to reinvent the way they open their worlds of science, technology, engineering, and math to students of all ages. Though virtual field trips existed prior to the pandemic, the options simply exploded post 2020. Below is a list of fantastic virtual field trips, both free and paid. Consider planning a National STEM Day Virtual Field Trip experience for your class!
- Discovery Education’s Expansive List of Virtual Field Trips
- Nature Conservancy Virtual Field Trips
- Visit Mars with this Virtual Field Trip
- Innovating the Future: Boeing Virtual Field Trip
- Amazon Fulfillment Center Robotics Tour
16. Build a Virtual Zoo
Celebrate National STEM Day by visiting the zoo, without spending a dime or leaving your classroom! There are live animal cams in many of the nations zoos, letting you peek in on animal enclosures and aquariums in real time! Set up “exhibits” throughout your school or classroom, and at each one have a computer displaying the live cam view of different animals in your virtual zoo. Give students a scavenger hunt. Include paper and pencil activities at each exhibit. Consider giving students a tour sheet that they would need to take notes on as they hop from exhibit to exhibit. The possibilities on how to supplement your virtual zoo are endless. We’ve found some great examples of potential virtual exhibits for your National STEM Day Zoo Tour here:
17. Explore STEM Hobbies
While not all students are cut out for a STEM career, National STEM Day can celebrate STEM hobbies in our everyday lives. If a student wants to be a writer or an interior decorator or even a preschool teacher- their lives can still be enriched by hobbies that are STEM foundational like gardening (botany), baking (kitchen chemistry), star gazing or bird watching.
18. Learn about the National Laboratory
The United States Energy Department has 17 National Laboratories across the country and many are available for touring, enrichment, and virtual visits. Spend National STEM Day 2022 learning about the purpose of the National Laboratory, some of the scientific breakthroughs attributed to the National Laboratory, and potentially visiting one if it’s geographically convenient.
19. Thimble’s Coding and Robotics Kits
Thimble’s Coding and Robotics Kits are a perfect introductory exploration into coding and the amazing connection between hardware and software. Kids ages 10-18 and even adults can get their feet wet in the science of programming with easy to follow learning modules.
One of the greatest things about implementing these kits in the classroom is the ability to place students in small groups to encourage collaboration and teamwork. Celebrating National STEM Day by diving into a new 21st-century skill with your students will leave a lasting impact, and Thimble would love to be there with you!
20. Genetics and DNA Virtual Lessons
Genetics and the exploration of DNA technology is one of those science topics that kids LOVE. It relates to family trees, genealogy, and crime scene investigation. But how can you explore genetics and DNA on National STEM Day? The University of Utah has made it easy for you to bring the science of genetics into your classroom for free with virtual DNA and Genetics lessons that you can explore and expand upon. Study DNA extraction and microarrays with your students. (Recommended for 8th grade and above)
Keep Us Up To Date On Your National STEM Day 2022 Celebration!
What is National STEM Day 2022 going to look like for your school? Keep us up to date! What things will you be doing to celebrate? Tag us on social media on November 8th at #STEMDaywithThimble and let us join you as we join with schools nationwide to celebrate STEM/STEAM together!