Share it! Science : Children's STEAM Festival: Family STEAM Night- Where Art Meets Science!

Children's STEAM Festival: Family STEAM Night- Where Art Meets Science!

It is Day 4 of the Children's STEAM Festival and today we are taking a closer look at how ART enhances STEM education. Read on for some great art projects featured at my school's Family STEAM Night. Then head on over to Growing with Science where Roberta has a String Theory art project for you!

Family STEAM Night, art meets science, technology, engineering and math!

It has recently become more common to add the "A", or art, to STEM education to make it STEAM education. It is not only a popular trend in education, but it also makes a lot of sense! The world is not sectioned off into subject specific experiences! Learning all of these skills together engages the whole brain and develops skills that are transferable to many educational and career-related areas. For a stunning visual on teaching STEAM vs. STEM, visit this site.

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For the past few years we have hosted a Family Science Night in February at Pine Cobble School. We focus our family activities around a theme and this year it was STEAM. Each activity had some combination of science, technology, engineering, art or math. It was a big hit and I am excited to share the activities with you today.

Catapult Painting


Catapult painting was an idea I had read about and thought it sounded incredibly fun. Despite the fun factor, I admittedly was hesitant to do this activity, particularly as we would be inside due to frigid temperatures. I was convinced otherwise. Although I would highly recommend doing it outside instead, it was a great project. 

Catapult painting on Family STEAM Night!
Getting ready to load the catapult! ©SBF 2015
We provided craft sticks, plastic spoons, rubber bands, masking tape and dixie cups. We printed a few pictures of catapults out and then left it up to families to determine how they would build their device. Cotton balls and washable tempera paint served as the "ammunition".

This was not only an interesting engineering project, but it also resulted in a modern art mural! If I were to do this with a smaller group of kids, or in a different situation, I would leave the catapult building open-ended, but guide the experimenting with some questions. What happens when you launch from the ground vs the air? How can you modify your catapult to make the cotton ball travel farther? What shape is the path of the cotton ball when it flies? If you use just a spoon as a catapult, where is the fulcrum? What else could we use to shoot paint besides cotton balls? For some links to great catapult building designs for kids check out this post at

Mural from catapult painting Family STEAM Night!
Early in the evening... ©SBF 2015

Mural catapult painting Family STEAM Night!
The catapult painting mural! ©SBF 2015

Recyclable Marble Runs


Building marble runs and marble roller coasters is always a popular activity with kids and adults alike. This is an excellent engineering project, as it involves design and lots of trial and error, in addition to being a sculpture project!

We collected recyclables from the school community in advance of our event. We had boxes, cardboard tubes, plastic tubs and more. We did not accept glass items. We provided dixie cups, tape (A LOT of TAPE!), scissors and marbles in addition to the recyclables. I made a small sample marble run, but otherwise designs were left to the participants. 

Engineering marble runs at Family STEAM Night
Building marble runs. ©SBF 2015
This is always great fun and a wonderful family project for all ages. I think an interesting challenge would be to try to connect all of the marble runs together to make a giant one! 

Symmetrical Snowflakes

Snowflake angles at Family STEAM Night
Symmetrical with 6 points, true to a snowflakes form. ©SBF 2015

One of my favorite activities of the evening was investigating symmetry and angles by making popsicle/craft stick snowflakes. I give full credit to the blog: Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational and the post: "It's Snowing Angles" for this great idea. 

We provided craft sticks, some images and information about actual snowflakes, protractors, and floor space. The kids went to town and created some beautiful designs. Snowflakes may not be what you are thinking about this time of year, but this is a fun math exercise with lovely results!

Mathematical angle snowflakes on Family STEAM Night
Beautiful! ©SBF 2015

We had an additional snowflake building room with hot glue guns that was not as successful. The intention was that students would be able to take their creations home, but it turns out the more simple solution of building giant ones on the floor was more engaging, safer and had better results! I'd recommend going that route! For excellent science information on snowflakes, check out: The Official Snowflake Bentley website and

Bubble Painting


Bubble painting on Family STEAM Night
A beautiful way to preserve and study bubbles! ©SBF 2015
I love bubble painting! There are so many math and science concepts inherent in the study of bubbles. Check out some of them here. From angles, to surface tension there is a lot to learn. 

We used plastic wash basins for our bubble paint solution. Each kid or parent got a straw to blow bubbles in the solution and then placed a piece of cardstock onto the bubbles. They flipped it over, popped the bubbles and had a beautiful picture!

An FYI: The neon colored tempera paint I had purchased was not dark enough to make good images, so we added some darker colors. I also recommend making a bubble solution with some corn syrup in it for stronger, stickier bubbles. There are lots of links to bubble recipes on my post "Bubble Fun!". For a more detailed explanation of bubble painting visit this page or just Google "Bubble painting" and you will find lots of options.

DNA Extraction and Double Helix Model
Our biology students helped one of my science teaching colleagues demonstrate fruit DNA extraction for families. In addition to seeing fruit DNA families created a huge double helix model made from fuzzy craft sticks (aka pipe cleaners...although I guess it's not ok to call them that anymore...). Each nitrogenous base had a corresponding color so that students could accurately make up the base pairs. The model made it from the floor to the ceiling! 

To learn how you can extract DNA check out "Extract DNA with Stuff you Have at Home". For lots of ideas on building DNA models visit this Pinterest board. 

Hosting a Family Science Night
If you are a science educator who'd like to host a Family Science Night at your school, I'd be happy to field questions about our event. Feel free to e-mail me at We were fortunate to have the support of our administration, lots of volunteer help from fellow teachers the night of the event and an interested and engaged community to participate in order to make this event a success.You could also simply have a family science night for your own family right at home!

Thanks for exploring STEM plus Art with me today! I'm excited to wrap up our STEAM festival tomorrow with a closer look at math and science. To review our schedule and find links to all of the festival posts, click the Children's STEAM Festival button below.

Looking for more STEAM projects for home, school or camp? Check out this great resource! Read my review and learn more about STEAM Kids here.

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