Fall is in the air, and that means more inspiration for science activities. These Fall STEM projects are a fun and educational way of getting kids into the seasonal spirit while adding in dashes of fall holidays.
In this collection, you’ll find everything from pumpkin and apple experiments to leaf chromatography and haunted inventions.
Related post: Long Term STEM Projects (for Fun + Learning!)
Fall STEM Projects
These STEM projects are broken up into manageable age groups to help inspire your search. But just remember that age doesn’t have to be a barrier. The younger kids will get a lot out of observing more challenging experiments, and vice versa.
Apple Balancing Act
Fall is apple season! Learn about balance with round objects and bases.
- Apples (You can also use oranges and grapefruit for variety)
- Paper towel rolls (just the cardboard)
- Toilet paper rolls (just the cardboard)
- Blueberries, marbles, and other small round objects
- Paper straws
Having both sizes of rolls gives the child an idea of how a shorter base makes it easier to balance. Set your rolls in a row on a flat, sturdy table or floor and have the children balance the apples on top of each.
Try larger fruit like grapefruits for an added challenge. Once they get the idea, have them hold a roll with the fruit on top and attempt to walk at different paces across the room. Talk about why it was more difficult to balance when they moved more quickly.
Using straws will be a bigger challenge, and lends more to discuss the size and speed of which you walk across the room. Use paper straws since they are sturdier, wider, and more environmentally-friendly than plastic straws.
This activity teaches kids about how spiders use the vibrations felt in their webs to determine whether or not a prey is worth consuming. This is a fun Fall STEM project to do around Halloween.
- Yarn (black is more festive)
- Two chairs or the legs of a table
Separate the chairs wide enough for the web to go in between the backs. Cut the yarn into several pieces, long enough to tie across from one chair to the next. Make sure the yarn pieces touch each other, so they create a vibration. Have one child be the spider and place their fingertip somewhere on the yarn and close his eyes.
Have another child be the “prey” and pluck a yarn string in a different section, mimicking a struggling insect. See if the spider felt the vibration. The kids can switch turns.
The point is to investigate the strength of the vibrations, and the spider will determine whether or not the prey is worth the energy spent into consuming. If it is a weak vibration, the spider will ignore it. If it’s a strong vibration…. Well, I’m glad I’m not the prey. See Bug and Buddy for inspiration.
Fall wouldn’t be complete without the changing of the leaves. You can use chromatography, a simple but powerful technique, to find hidden pigments in leaves and to predict what colors they may change into.
This lesson touches on a range of concepts in botany while using basic chemistry, prediction, and record-taking skills. Using the problem, “How can different pigments in leaves be revealed?” this experiment is hands-on and also gets the kids outside to collect leaves. After using simple materials, including isopropyl alcohol (or, rubbing alcohol), the kids will learn about hidden colors in chlorophyll and how the results will vary depending on the types of leaves chosen. See the full tutorial.
Not only is baking bread an excellent opportunity to add home economics into your curriculum, but it teaches kids about yeast, fermentation, and carbon dioxide. The Amish white bread recipe is one of the simplest, and you get an amazingly delicious result.
The Science Behind Baking Bread
Yeast is a member of the Kingdom Fungi and is necessary for baking, medicines, and fermentation. It devours the carbohydrates then breaks down the sugars, which creates the process of fermentation.
Fermentation converts the carbs into carbon dioxide, CO2. The kids will notice the reaction and release of CO2 as the water, sugar, and yeast start to bubble. The bubbles create pockets of gas that make the dough rise. Flour has gluten and keeps the bubbles from popping so that the bread stays poofed up. The gluten hardens while the bread bakes, keeping the air pockets in place and results in a soft, fluffy loaf of bread just in time for Thanksgiving.
Haunted House Invention – LittleBits
I can’t sing enough praises for all of the creative ideas you can come up with when you have Sphero’s littleBits. This activity invokes Halloween by allowing the kids to invent and build a haunted house, then add littleBits for the lights and sound. You can find some neat ideas that other kids have created on the littleBits education website.
For most of the haunted houses, the kid inventors used GridLinks, paper, clay, boxes, twigs-turned-to-spooky-trees, and other innovative building supplies. For younger kids, ages 6-9, you can use the littleBits set with pre-made Halloween decorations. Pretty clever!
Pumpkin Brush Bots
If you want to get technical with circuits, motors, and pumpkins, try making a pumpkin brush bot. Plus, you might get a scrubbed table out of the deal!
- Styrofoam pumpkins (from a craft store)
- 3VDC micro-vibration or toothbrush motor
- 1.5V or 3V coin cell battery
- Toothbrush (angle-head)
- Masking tape (can be any color, but orange is more festive for Fall)
- Glue gun
- Wire cutters
- Googly eyes (optional)
To see step-by-step instructions, visit Left Brain Craft Brain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I incorporate winter projects into these activities?
Yes, these fall STEM projects are inspirations and a great way to observe the changing seasons. For example, you can change out the pumpkin bot for a snowman or make a Christmas house instead of a haunted house.
What if an experiment doesn’t work?
Not all experiments work on the first try. That’s why it’s important to try the experiment out for yourself first, then introduce it to the kids. It’s a good lesson in experimentation. Ask the kids why they think it didn’t work, and how they can improve it for next time.