I’ve long promoted the benefits of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and maths) and have loved seeing (and encouraging) its evolution into STEAM (adding arts into the mix). I’ve worked with Brighton Science Festival for several years, teaching science through play as part of the Forest of Thoughts. (Our lovely tree illustration above was created by a favourite artist of mine, Kate Shields)
Forest of Thoughts events have included everything from a Jelly Baby Wave Machine to Miracle Berries (which change the way your taste-buds work, and make sour things taste sweet, among other things*.) I’ve also run numerous other events with activities including seed-bomb making, crafting flowers, and anatomically correct body painting.
As time’s gone on, I’ve become increasingly convinced that STEAM education should evolve into STAMEN education. Combining the arts with STEM is great for creativity and invention. However, nature helps bring art and science together in equal measure – as well as providing its own benefits.
Try one of these to add some science (and art) to 30 Days Wild. If STEM education becomes STAMEN education, it could be a way for new seeds to grow…
- Get a plant that has been under-watered and is looking sad. Water it. Take a photo every 30 minutes after you’ve watered it, for a few hours, and see how they compare. Better yet, video it…
- Look for ladybirds – then paint your favourite one on a pebble. Make it as accurate as possible. Taking a photograph and zooming in on the picture will help you see all the tiny details you may miss with the naked eye.
- Craft a botanically accurate flower (choose an appropriate flower for the age level of the crafter. Egg-box daffodils with pipe cleaner or recycled tissue paper stamen are a good place to start.)
- Make a bottle garden by putting a plant that is undemanding into a bottle that is half-filled with water (after stripping back the bottom leaves to allow it as much chance to root as possible – make sure none of the leaves are underwater or they may rot.). Let the plant grow in its own mini-greenhouse (a chance to learn about condensation) and watch the way the roots develop. Daily photographs will help you keep a visual diary of its growth – you may be surprised by the difference a sunny day can make. Pot your plant on if it starts to look limp or unhappy – just cut the top part of the bottle off (being careful not to damage your plant – or yourself.) and fill the bottle with (peat free) compost instead of water.
- Count bees – and draw each type of bee that you see. There are over 250 types! These resources from the Wildlife Trusts will help you identify them – and make your garden as bee-friendly as possible.
- Collect seeds for a seed bank.
- Search for seaweed.
- Make bread – and read about how yeast works.
- Look for spirals in nature.
- Learn how to waggle dance.
- Watch slime mould videos.
- Help Project Splatter reduce roadkill by monitoring it.
- Learn about botanical drawing.
- BioBlitz your garden.
- Track wildflowers – then write a poem about your favourite flower.
- Look at the stars – and learn the constellations.
- Take part in the Nature’s Calendar Survey (the oldest wildlife survey in the UK).
- Make or buy seed bombs including native wildflower seeds and throw them somewhere grey and neglected.
- Analyse the soil in your garden and work out whether you need to change its acidity to help your plants thrive.
- Take part in Earthworm Watch.
- Plant a garden (a mini garden in a plastic box can still grow a surprising amount, if you don’t have a garden). Test which plants attract the most pollinators (this will help).
- Stick a feather to a piece of paper and label the parts – or make a bird-board with different feathers labelled with the kind of bird they come from.
- Find and identify a fossil.
- Take a photograph from the same position at the same angle every day for a week, month or year then flick through them in order. What changes?
- Look at the clouds, and learn to identify the basic cloud types (or advanced ones if you’re clever and already know the basic ones.) Then come up with a metaphor for the way they look, listing cloud types and metaphors in a note book to inspire future creativity – and see how your metaphors change according to the weather. Alternatively, draw or paint the different cloud types.
- Make a leaf rubbing then label all the parts of the leaf correctly on the rubbing you’ve made.
- Sign up for the RSPB Big Birdwatch.
- Download a citizen science app – there are loads to choose from (don’t just download it and ignore it. Make citizen science part of your daily routine, even if you can only spare 5 minutes. You’re helping grow our knowledge of nature and gain a deeper understanding into the world around you – and research has shown that noting three things in nature each day can have many benefits.)
- Look at your hair or skin under a microscope. You’re part of nature too…
- Take part in 30 Days Wild. There’s fascinating research going on alongside thousands of nature adventures.
- I first encountered Miracle Berries when AVM Curiosities brought them to an event as part of their entertainment. I’d strongly recommend that you follow AVM’s continued work as it’s some of the most interesting food science and art I’ve ever seen.