Stay at Home STEM Challenge

British Science Week is a ten day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths that takes place every year.

This year British Science Week takes place between 5th – 14th March; you can find more information about British Science Week here.

Schools and families are encouraged to take part in activities involving those subjects. Usually we work with people in person to do this. As schools are just about to return we are giving suggestions of activities you can do with your family.

STEM

Science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM, is all around us, all the time. Anything that is manmade will have involved those subjects in its development. Manufacturing companies have research and development departments and they spend months or years perfecting their products before we get to buy them.

A photograph of a phone, laptop, comb, scissors, computer mouse, mug and headphones.

Nature also demonstrates STEM all around us too. Can you think of any examples you have seen on your walks?

Brilliant Bees

An example you might know about is bees. Bees are brilliant at STEM!

Think about the structure of honeycomb and how bees create hives. The structure is important as it needs to support the weight and protect the honey especially in the winter. They use hexagons to create the structure. Science can explain this.

A closeup photograph of a honeycomb made by bees.

Bees cant use a shape like a circle as it would leave gaps. Squares or triangles would not leave gaps but a hexagon is stronger. A hexagon uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight. Engineers have copied this idea of making things using hexagons to give extra strength. They are used in the construction of many things including bridges, aeroplanes and cars.

Nests

Something you may have started to see on your walks around is bird’s nests. They are easier to spot at the moment when branches are bare.

Spring is when birds are building nests to lay their eggs and look after the chicks. Birds are brilliant at STEM too, nests are great examples of engineering. They need to provide shelter and warmth but also be strong in any winds and let water out.

An empty birds nest in tree branches

They are very intricate in how the birds weave materials together creating a nest that is distinctive for different species. Different birds use different materials and will sometimes use materials they have scavenged too. So they will use twigs, moss, leaves, straw, bits of twine or wool, feathers, mud, sheep’s wool, grasses and even spiders webs!

You can find out more about things you could leave out for birds to help with their home building on the RSPB website here.

Challenge: Make A Nest

  • Collect nest making materials – These could be  twigs, leaves, moss, grass, string, or anything you can find. (Make sure they are already on the ground and don’t snap parts off trees.) Remember, birds would have to make hundreds of trips to collect all the materials they need.

A collection of nest making materials including twigs, leaves and grasses.

  • Try to weave your materials together to make a nest. Make it harder by using your beak and not your nose; try using tweezers or chopsticks or tongs!
  • Is it strong enough in wind? You can test this with a hair dryer.
  • Will it let water through? Try by using a watering can.
  • Will it hold eggs securely? There are lots of handy Easter eggs around to test this out.

A handmade birds nest, made from twigs and leaves containing a small Easter egg.

Once you have made your nest, as long as you haven’t used any glue or sticky tape to help make it, you could put it in a hedge or a tree and see if any birds use it.

We would love to see any nests you make or any other STEM in nature you find. With an adult to help, you could share with us online. Head over to Twitter and tag our page @NlandNP.