StEAM/STEM–looking to the stars…
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Another STEAM/STEM activity.

Star Gazing.

Since the dawn of time (or in the world’s of the always resplendent Sheldon Cooper “It was a warm summer’s evening”) human being’s have looked up into the sky. We’ve wondered what lie beyond our grasp the tiny sparkly lights that shine in the heavens.

Today, with the incredible technology at our fingertips we can do so much more than we ever could before. With that – my newest STEAM/STEM Activity.


  • Start off by showing the Vincent Van Gogh painting Starry Night. You could also play the wonderful Dan Fogelberg Tribute to that painting (Starry starry night the song title is “Stars”). The goal being inspire the kids to see more than is there today. Lookup and see beyond the roof of the classroom and beyond the edge of the earth’s gravitational field to wonder about the stars beyond. Really fun project allowing kids to imagine the stars and then create something that represents what they see.
  • This is a great opportunity to tie together the model rocket experience with this broad new concept. You can have the kids draw pcitures and represent the flight of their rocket as well.
  • Now we split into a number of fun technical activities:
    • Math: How far away is the nearest star?
      • How long would it take to travel there at 1/2 the speed of light?
      • How long at 1/4 the speed of light?
    • Physics
      • how much energy is required to accelerate 1 pound of mass to the speed of light (E=mc2)
    • Astronomy
      • Using a wi-fi or other connected telescope take images of the night sky.
      • Give the kids the latitude and longitude where was the image taken?
      • What stars do they see (based on answering the first question)
    • Art
      • Paint the starry night – what do you see?
      • Paint what the world looks like from the stars down to earth – what do they see?

I actually planned on doing this activity once with a bunch of 8th graders. It ended up being cancelled due to snow so this one isn’t as polished as some of the others as I haven’t had a chance to actually deliver it.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.

Another Steam/stem lesson!
My Amazon author page!!!!

As promised my new series for this blog – focusing on STEM and STEAM activities. In the past I’ve talked about the exceptional quality instrumentation from Vernier. Without a doubt the best kit to bring into your classroom to show the functions generated by the fantastic device.

Today I am focusing on a lower cost solution. It doesn’t do what the Vernier products do. The Labquest 2 product in particular is exceptional. I’ve used it in more than 30 STEAM and STEM presentations.

A recent Kickstarter project (VERVE) has offered a very inexpensive way to show a number of components. Where the Labquest is a stand alone device that can be used anywhere and brought back to a computer to upload data, the Verve requires an active computer connection. What you get however is a screen that let’s you measure the world around you by simply plugging in a sensor to the mainboard and connecting that via USB to your computer.

The Lesson:

As computers move from static entry (keyboards) to touch and motion what are we really talking about?

Connect Verve to the computer and connect the motion connector to the unit. Have a student stand up and holding the motion sensor wave their arms. Show the computer screen to the class (project). Have the student wave their arms slowly and then fast.

The concept is to teach the complexity of motion. Have the student wave their hand holding the sensor, do circles and so on. Watching the screen introduces them to the concept of both point in space as well as relative motion.

  • Optional Exercises:
    • Track the required motion to move the graph a specific amount.
    • Art project: have the students create a visualization of motion – what does motion look like when presented artistically?

The beauty of all of this – less than 200 bucks to get rolling. Plus motion is only the first sensor I used. You can use many more sensors to present a number of interesting connections.

Science is the concept of studying questions and seeing if they can be proved or disproved. Art is the process of sharing the connection of that question.

Have fun – more to come in this series.

((T-Minus O days and I feel better – and free of BS).


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow