It’s never too early for kids to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). These space-themed STEAM activities for kindergarten tap into kids’ creativity, their fascination with space, and their curiosity about the world around them. Try them in the classroom, for homeschool, or as a fun family activity!
Best of all, most of these kindergarten STEAM activities can be done with everyday items (no expensive kits or gizmos) and in one session to keep young minds engaged.
1. Make a hydroponic germinator to learn about growing food in space.
Kindergartners can learn about growing food in space (and here on Earth) by sprouting seeds in a hydroponic germinator! Hydroponics has been used to grow food since the days of the ancient Babylonians and Aztecs, and is still used today in high-tech greenhouses and even the International Space Station (ISS). Instead of putting seeds in soil—which isn’t always available and is difficult to transport—the seeds are suspended above a water-filled container.
You can do this kindergarten STEAM activity individually or in groups. You can also include it as part of a larger STEAM lesson plan found here.
- 2-liter bottle, clean and empty – 1 per group
- Fast-growing seeds, such as sprouts, radishes or squash – 1 packet per group
- Paper towels – 1 roll per group
- Water – 1 liter per group
- An adult should cut the 2-liter bottle in half, approximately 1 inch below the point where the curved part of the bottle straightens into the sides. A utility knife or scissors work best.
- Fill the bottom of the 2-liter bottle approximately 2/3 full of water.
- Turn the top section of the 2-liter bottle upside down, with the mouth of the bottle pointing down.
- Lay a wet paper towel in the top section of the 2-liter soda bottle to create a bed for the seeds.
- Place the seeds on the wet paper towel and cover them with another wet paper towel.
- Roll up a third paper towel and insert it into the mouth of the bottle from underneath. The paper towel should be hanging down approximately 6 inches from the bottle and must also be touching the covered seeds.
- Insert the top section of the bottle into the bottom section of the bottle, again with the bottle’s mouth pointed down. The rolled paper towel should be hanging low enough to touch the water in the bottom section of the bottle. The water will be pulled up through the rolled paper towel and into the bed of seeds. Explain how the seeds won’t need soil to grow, which is important for growing food in many places—like space!—where there is no soil or the soil is very different.
- Place the hydroponic germinator in sunlight. Explain how plants use water, light and carbon dioxide to make food for themselves in a process called photosynthesis.
- After a few days, the seeds should sprout. Once they do, remove the top paper towel so they can get more sunlight.
- Check and measure the plants each day and discuss what you observe. Students can also learn the parts of a plant by pointing out the leaves, stems and roots.
2. Learn about comets with a model that doubles as a tasty treat!
Even very young children are fascinated by the night sky. Imagine their wonder when they learn that the comets that shoot across the sky are gigantic balls of ice! Kindergartners can learn about the parts of a comet with a model they can eat.
You can introduce this kindergarten STEAM lesson by showing photos and videos of real comets. You can compare them to meteors (“shooting stars”), which are rock or dust instead of ice.
- Fruit juice, any type
- Canned fruit cocktail
- Small plastic cups (3 or 4 oz. size) – 1 per participant
- Wooden craft sticks (popsicle sticks) – 1 per participant
- Paper plates
- Colored sugar and/or sprinkles
- Fruit Roll-Ups
- Make the nucleus of the comet. Real comets have a nucleus made of dirty ice—kind of like a giant snowball! These comet models will have a nucleus made of frozen juice and fruit instead. Put a small amount of fruit cocktail in each cup and then fill about 3/4 full with juice. Add a wooden stick to each cup.
- Put the full cups into the freezer. They will take a few hours to freeze.
- When the juice is nearly frozen, get the supplies ready for the next step. Pour the colored sugar onto the paper plates.
- Remove the frozen juice cups from the freezer. Carefully remove the plastic cups from the frozen juice—young children will likely need help with this. If a cup is stuck, run some warm water over the cup.
- Make the coma of the comet. The coma of a real comet is made up of a cloud of gasses that surround the nucleus. You can tell your students that there are even huge planets made of gas like this! Roll the frozen juice nucleus in the sugar to represent the coma.
- No comet would be complete without a tail! The tail on a real comet forms when light from the sun reflects in the gasses that have sublimated off of the comet nucleus. Sublimation is when matter changes from a solid to a gas. To make tails for these model comets, attach a strip of Fruit Roll-Up to the wooden stick by trying it around or making a small tear and pushing the stick through. One end of the Fruit Roll-Up strip should be touching the nucleus.
- Tell your students that real comets can last up to 10,000 years before they finally melt, but these model comets will melt fast. Enjoy them QUICK before they do!
3. Build a Mars Curiosity Rover that’s good enough to eat!
Most kindergartners love superheroes, robots and superhero robots. But do they know there’s an awesome REAL-LIFE superhero robot on Mars right now?
Start this kindergarten STEAM activity by sharing photos and simple facts about the Mars Curiosity Rover—the official NASA site is a great resource. Discuss how far away Mars is (a comparison to how far away home is from school may help young children grasp the concept), how the rover traveled there, and what it’s there to do. Show some of the photographs taken by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Then, surprise the kids by making rovers that double as a tasty snack!
Materials listed are for one rover. You can substitute any of the ingredients with items of a similar shape and consistency.
- Packaged brownie (Little Debbie brand or similar)
- Large pretzel rod
- 6 Rolo candies
- 6 toothpicks
- 1 section (rectangle) of Hershey’s chocolate bar
- 2 cinnamon candy dots (Red Hots or cake decorations)
- 2–4 gumdrops
- Frosting, saltwater taffy or marshmallow creme (this will be used as “glue,” so you want a thick and sticky consistency)
- Make the wheels by connecting the Rolos with toothpicks as shown. Kindergartners may need adult help with this step.
- Unwrap the brownie and place it on top of the toothpick platform. This is the body of the rover.
- Use some frosting to attach the pretzel rod upright near the front of the brownie. This is the “neck” of the rover.
- Use more frosting to attach the cinnamon candies to one side of the chocolate rectangle. This is the laser, but it also looks like friendly robot eyes!
- Attach the chocolate rectangle to the top of the pretzel rod, as shown in the finished product photo. This is the rover’s “head.”
- Place gumdrops on the body to represent different scientific tools.
- Admire and eat!
4. Make a cloud in a jar.
Many kindergartners are fascinated by the big fluffy shapes in the sky. Perform this simple science experiment to show how clouds form. Guaranteed oohs and aahs! You can perform this demonstration using either aerosol hairspray or smoke from a blown-out match as the particle source.
- Glass jar with a lid
- Very hot water (about 1/3 cup)
- Ice cubes
- Aerosol hairspray or matches
- An adult should pour the hot water into the jar. There should be about two inches of water at the bottom of the jar. Carefully swirl the water around the insides of the jar to warm them up. Explain that some warm water is forming water vapor inside the jar. Clouds are made of water that has gone through a special process!
- Turn the jar lid upside down and place it on top of the jar.
- Fill the upside-down lid with ice and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Explain that the ice is making the air at the top of the jar very cold. In the sky, the air gets colder and colder the further up you go. When warm water vapor comes into contact with cold air, it cools down and condenses.
- An adult should perform this step. Explain that water vapor can only turn into a cloud if it has something on which to condense. There are countless tiny particles in the sky, like dust, pollen from plants, salt from the ocean, bits of ash from volcanoes and fires, and even particles from air pollution like the exhaust that comes out of our cars. To make a cloud in a jar, we will use particles from either hairspray or smoke from a match.
- If using the hairspray method: Remove the lid and quickly spray one pump of hairspray into the jar. Replace the lid with the ice still on top.
- If using the match method: Remove the lid and drop a lit match into the jar. Blow it out if it doesn’t extinguish when it hits the water. Replace the lid with the ice still on top.
- Watch the cloud form inside the jar!
- When the condensation cloud fills the jar, remove the lid. The cloud will escape into the air!
5. Take a virtual STEAM field trip.
The dark cloud of the pandemic has had at least one silver lining—greater access to world-class educational experiences for students everywhere. Some of the finest exhibits and interactive STEAM activities are now available through virtual tours and field trips. If you ever wished you could take your students to a particular space and science museum, but it was too far or too expensive, check their website—they may have a new virtual program available!
Space Foundation Discovery Center offers in-person and virtual STEAM field trips for kindergarteners. Kindergartners can take a tour of the solar system with Science On a Sphere®, learn what causes the seasons, and enjoy a hands-on STEAM activity. Scholarships are available. Learn more at: https://www.discoverspace.org/education/virtual-field-trips/