Everyone loves a reason to celebrate. Our calendars (and social media feeds) are full of National “this” and International “thats.” As overdone as these “holidays” may be, they do have the potential to make the time between the more widely celebrated dates more memorable and engaging, especially when it comes to your STEM lessons. Here are 10 science holidays you can schedule on your calendar to help make STEM lessons more memorable for students.
28 – National Data Privacy Day
Learning how to be safe and secure online is something all students can benefit from. There’s nothing like the start of a new year to encourage students to clean up their virtual identities and improve their online security measures. Consider using this holiday to teach students how to create a strong password or identify fraudulent websites using lessons from Ignition – Digital Citizenship. You may also want to check out C-Save, a volunteer program that contains resources to teach K-12 students about cyber safety and cyber ethics.
22 – National Engineers Week
With engineering hiring projected to grow more than 8% by 2026, there is an increasingly significant need to prepare students for this competitive and lucrative field. National Engineers Week aims to increase the understanding of an interest in engineering and tech careers to encourage a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce. The week changes every year, but always falls on the week that encompasses George Washington’s Birthday (February 22.) Did you know that George Washington is considered the United States’ first engineer? (He was a surveyor!) Get students excited about engineering with a digital lab in Endeavor: STEM Career Exploration, where they’ll also be exposed to various engineering careers. The National Science Foundation has several resources available to make engineering accessible at any grade level.
14 – Pi Day
As a sweets lover, Pi Day one of my favorite STEM holidays to celebrate. But if geometry standards don’t appear anywhere in your pacing guide, Pi day may not be perfectly aligned to what you actually need to teach. Luckily, March is Women’s History Month, the perfect opportunity to highlight the STEM achievements of modern-day and historical figures. Here’s a list of 6 “aweSTEM” women your students can research in groups and do short presentations or skits on. You could also incorporate fun facts on your board and use them as journal prompts or reflection questions during a warm-up. Another idea is to choose a “women in STEM” book for your students to read as they finish their work early. You can then hold class discussions on what the students have read once a week. This is also a great way to infuse literacy in your STEM classroom!
22 – Earth Day | 29 – Arbor Day
Whether or not you love drinking from a plastic straw, we can all get behind the notion that we all play a role in protecting Mother Earth and conserving our planet’s resources. WeAreTeachers and Teacher.org have a plethora of earth-loving activities appropriate for students of all ages. You can use all kinds of Earth facts to study percentages in a math class (71% of the earth is covered by water, 21% of the atmosphere is oxygen…you get the idea). For Arbor Day, you could teach processes to younger students using the water cycle, or use protractors to measure angles found on or around (shadows, branches, trunks.) If you don’t teach anything remotely related to environmental science, consider moving any STEM lesson outdoors (like this real-life ice experiment) to enjoy the warmer Spring weather and see what the weather does to those molecules.
You’d be hard pressed to find a student who doesn’t enjoy turning a typical classroom lesson into an opportunity to get up and move. May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month – lucky for you, STEM is found everywhere in sports. Even if your students don’t play (or even like) sports, there are still opportunities for you to capitalize on everyone’s innate desire to have fun.
One classroom lesson I did with my middle schoolers involved students running sprints to practice the formula for speed. Students tracked their results on a line graph and compared speeds with classmates. Anyone who didn’t want to run was able to “buddy up” with a runner and act as their coach/data collector. We also incorporated some life science standards by measuring students’ heart rates after their sprints. EVERFI’s Future Goals program has a similar (virtual) version of this activity, along with many lessons that show how science, math and engineering are used in hockey.
19 – National Aviation Day
With the rise of SpaceX and emerging technologies, now is a great time to excite students about the field of aeronautics. Teach middle schoolers about the engineering design process using paper airplanes or introduce them to Bernoulli’s principle using this hands-on activity. Elementary students can construct pinwheels to observe the wind and learn about turbines and renewable energy. And don’t forget about space (it’s making a comeback!); NASA has resources that are out of this world, including information on its plans for Mars.
First Friday of October – Manufacturing Day
Students love learning how everyday products they use are made. Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity to highlight the world of creation and inspire your students to consider careers in the field of manufacturing. Have the bandwidth for some hands-on learning? Take your Friday lessons off-site with a visit to a local manufacturer. Need some quick eyes-on learning instead? Here’s a list of 14 “How it’s Made” videos we’ve compiled for you.
Second week of December – Computer Science Education/Hour of Code Week
Computer science skills can be found in nearly every industry your students may be interested in. According to Computing in the Core, “Over 70 percent of computing occupations are outside of the information technology industry.” Whether your students aim to work in the financial world, healthcare or in the arts, they’ll benefit from the knowledge and skills gained from computer science. Consider having your class participate in Hour of Code to show them that anyone can learn the language of computers, including Steph Curry!
Have students log into Endeavor: STEM Career Exploration to learn how to build the algorithm behind their favorite streaming music playlists!
Brittany Simmons is Director of Communications for K-12. Prior to this role, Brittany served as a Senior Implementation Manager and Florida Team Leader. Brittany taught middle school science in Charlotte, NC and Jacksonville, FL. In her free time you’ll find her teaching barre classes, flipping historic homes and playing with her Goldendoodles, Ponce and Scout.