Recently we had an opportunity to travel to the beautiful state of Rajasthan. This surreal Indian state is famous for it’s desert. We thoroughly enjoyed our short stay and my son, particularly, had great fun exploring a state with starkly different habitat.
Back home and still smitten by the beauty of Rajasthan, we engaged in some STEM activities for kids. It is always a great way to make the experiences last longer and help your children learn from observation.
Rajasthan-Inspired STEM Activities for Kids
1. Water and Sand Experiment
Find out what makes Rajasthan so unique in first place – the sand. Take two mason jars. Fill one with sand and other with garden soil. Add half-cup water to each of the jars. Ask your child to press her finger onto the sand and soil to find out which one feels wetter.
This desert STEM Activity helps children understand the foremost difference between sand and soil. What makes Rajasthan a desert is lack of moisture aka water vapor. Desert receives rainfall lesser than 250mm annually.
2. Habitat Exploration
A lot can be learned by simply observing. While on our road trip, we got the opportunity to observe the wilderness and countryside for hours. That gave us the perfect opportunity to revisit our Habitat STEM Journal and draw inference on the vegetation based on what we had learned. Some of the questions you can ponder over are:
- Why is there lesser vegetation?
- How the vegetation differs?
- What factors influence the vegetation?
- Why are the leaves shaped differently?
- Why many trees are still barren in spring?
- How the animals influence the vegetation in the area?
The most satisfying part was, with little prompts, he was able to guide himself to the correct answers based on his understanding of Habitats. When such discovery and analysis takes place, you can be assured of real, deep learning.
3. Sand and Soil Shapes
Illustrate the difference between sand and soil with this simple activity. Ask your child to mould the soil and sand into different shapes. Soil packs well, holds the shape better and longer than sand. Add water to see if it helps. We used clay moulds from our old play dough set to investigate textural differences between garden soil and sand.
4. Desert Day & Night Experiment
Another thing that we observed during our stay was that the nights were substantially cooler than the days. But you do not need to travel to Rajasthan to observe this phenomenon. Try this at home instead.
Take two pots, fill one with sand and the other with garden soil. Plant a room thermometer in each of the pots so that a part of the device is under the soil/sand cover. Place the pots outdoors and record the temperature of the two pots at sunset on the same day and early morning next day.
Sand tends to heat up faster and shows a higher temperature during the day. Thus making deserts hotter. But they also cool faster, as indicated by the temperature recorded early morning next day.
In case you don’t have room thermometer, you can use a small bottle filled with water and cover it entirely in soil (and sand) in the pot. Water temperature will be substantially different in both the pots, illustrating how sand heats up and cools off faster than soil.
5. Desert Terrarium
For this Rajasthan inspired STEM activity you will need:
- Mason Jar
- Water Spray
Step 1: Fill the mason jar with sand and soil in a ratio of 4:1.
Step 2: Water the sand-soil mixture to get slightly damp sand.
Step 3: Arrange pebbles on the sand bed and plant your succulent.
Step 4: Seal the mason jar and place it in a sunny spot.
Your Desert Terrarium is ready!
6. DIY Bandhej Handkerchief
While in the town, we observed many women wearing the tradition red bandhej. Inspired by this art form, we decided to make our own Bandhej. It is great STEAM activity integrating science and math with arts.
You will need:
- White cotton napkin
- White cotton Thread
- Food Colouring
Step 1: Take the napkin and spread it out on a flat surface. Place a button at the center. Fold the napkin around the button and tie it using thread. You would want to make many rounds of thread so that the button does not move from the place.
Step 2: Similarly, place buttons at one corner on the napkin and tie the napkin around the button using thread. Repeat for the remaining three corners.
Step 3: This step should only be performed by an adult. Boil water in a pan and add food coluring to the boiling water.
Step 4: Dip the tied handkerchief in the boiling water and let it stay for in the water bath for 10-15 mins before taking it out.
Step 5: Let the napkin dry. Open the thread ties after the napkin is cool and dry to reveal wonderful Bandhej pattern.
You can work with your kids to create various patterns and varying the size of the buttons. The end result is always beautiful.
7. Sand Dough
Make the experience more sensory by making a DIY sand dough. Add sand and flour (we used wheat flour) in equal proportions and mix with baby oil. Oil needs to be added according to the texture desired. We kept it nice dry and grainy. It is great sensory play for kids of all ages, specially younger ones who like to get their hands messy.