STEAM Kids – Book Review

Today’s review is STEAM Kids: 50+ Science / Technology / Engineering / Art / Math Hands-On Projects for Kids

Authors & Contributors

This book is a collection of the work of several people, described on Amazon as “an MIT engineer, award winning educators, designers, and homeschooling experts.” They all write popular STEAM for kids blogs: Anne Carey (Left Brain Craft Brain), Amber Scardino (Figment Creative Labs), Ana Dziengel (Babble Dabble Do), Chelsey Marashian (Buggy and Buddy), Dayna Abraham (Lemon Lime Adventures), Erica Clark (What Do We Do All Day?), Jamie Hand (Handmade Kids Art), Karyn Tripp (Teach Beside Me), Leslie Manlapig (Pink Stripey Socks), Malia Hallowell (Playdough to Plato), Piper Newton (STEAM Powered Family).

Book Description (condensed from Amazon)

“A year’s worth of captivating STEAM activities that will wow the boredom right out of kids! … STEAM Kids will inspire your children to: question like a scientist design like a technologist build like an engineer create like an artist deduce like a mathematician – and, most importantly – play like a kid! [Includes] projects like: – Rainbow Reactions – PVC Pipe Slingshot – Graffiti Art & Science – Color Changing Play Dough – Diaper Science – Circuit Bugs – Candy Mazes & so much more! Perfect for children ages 4-10, all the step-by-step activities are helpfully coded with difficulty indicators and estimated project times. Helpful project extensions promote further exploration and learning for enthusiastic children. Bonus materials will make things easy for parents and educators, and include: a handy weekly planning guide, project shopping lists, STEAM journal and more.”

Audience

Parents of kids age 4 – 10. (Some projects are really best for 4 – 6 year olds, and some are complex enough to be suitable for ages 8 and up.)

Reviews

51 reviews, averaging 4.2 stars. What reviewers like: Fun projects, tons of pictures, easy to follow steps, simple explanations of why, a large variety of projects divided into categories. Section to help you plan a week of experiments/activities, printables, and a list of where to find additional project extensions on the web to further an experiment or idea. Great for 4 year old, but 8 and 12 yo like too. Combo of ideas from multiple blogs – “nice to have it all in one place where I don’t get distracted by everything on the internet.”

Negative reviewers felt like they could find the projects online easily, and  wished there was more information about the science behind the projects and on how to teach STEAM concepts to kids.

Content

Intro. 50+ activities are are divided into 5 categories: build, play, color, grow, and sense. Activity planner:  11 weeks worth of plans, each including a list of 5 activities (one from each category) and a materials list for what you’d need to have on hand. An appendix which has a few worksheets and a few items you would copy and cut out to complete projects. A list of more activities to try, with links to where to find the projects online. Index. Several blank pages for notes.

Format of activities

  • Title, brief summary with big photo.
  • Difficulty rating of 1 – 5 dots, based on the capabilities of an average 7 year old. The book is intended for 4 – 10 year olds, so obviously the “difficulty” would be higher for a 4 year old and lower for a 10 year old than the dots show. (Note: I didn’t feel like the difficulty ratings were very consistent between authors.)
  • Estimated project time.
  • Materials.
  • What’s the STEAM behind it?
  • Instructions, often with photos of some steps.
  • Project extensions – ways to extend that project or similar projects that can be found online.

Here are some sample pages (click for bigger image)

     

Clarity of instructions

This is a compilation book, which gathers blog posts from 11 different authors, so there’s a range of style, length, and clarity. Some are perfectly clear and would be easy to duplicate. Others less so – a few of them I’d need to make a lot of guesses based on the directions and the pictures. It would have benefited from more editing: there are typos and some missing words. There’s places where there’s a reference to a printable or to a related project online, but there may not be something that explains that the printable is in the back of the book and that you can find the links to related projects in a list at the back.

Some answers to the question “What’s the STEAM behind it?” are really good scientific explanations. Others are not as strong. For example, with the “insect hotel” of plastic straws, it doesn’t explain whether / why insects would be attracted to the plastic straws. The PVC slingshot is a great idea. But the STEAM section says “it takes trial and error to discover the most effective slingshot design.” So the STEAM only applies if you design your own slingshot, not if you follow the wonderfully detailed directions. A better STEAM concept for this project might have focused on using the slingshot once assembled – how far does it shoot – if you tweak the design will it shoot further? Gelatin science on page 75 says it’s about “the reflecting and refracting of light” but does not explain those terms.

Summary of Strengths

I really like all the individual authors of this book – I have frequently used all their blogs for information and inspiration. This book has lots of really fun, easy, kid-friendly STEAM experiences that kids will enjoy doing. This could be a really great gift for a parent, or a kid around age 8 who is just getting started in hands-on STEAM projects – there’s a lot of fun things to try out and get kids excited, then readers could go on to each of the author’s websites and find lots more fabulous ideas to explore.

Note: This review is part of a series where I  review STEM activity guidebooks that are written for parents or teachers who want to teach science and engineering concepts to kids age 3 – 7 or so. For a full list of resources I recommend, including books for adults, books for kids, websites, curricula, toys, apps, videos, podcasts and subscription kits, see my resource page: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/resources/.

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