If you’re relatively new to arts integration and STEAM, holidays are an easy entry point for experimenting with the approaches. You may be planning little holiday activities or parties, so with the same amount of preparation (or less!) you can integrate the arts into science or STEM subjects to increase the level of learning while students enjoy their holiday celebration through a STEAM activity!
St. Patrick’s Day STEAM Activity
St. Patrick’s Day is a great holiday for integrating the arts. Today, you’ll find a few free lesson ideas for the elementary classroom. You can pick and choose a STEAM activity based upon the standards you’d like to incorporate as well as the amount of time you have to devote to the activity. Or, you can combine them all for a larger project-based learning experience.
The Science of Rainbows
In order to find the elusive “Pot ‘O Gold” at the end of the rainbow, we need to find a rainbow. Provide prisms to small groups or pairs of students, and have them try to work to create a rainbow. Once they discover the trick, have them “capture” it on a piece of white paper, tracing and shading over the rainbow with matching colored pencils. Once students have participated in this discovery lesson, teachers can extend it by explaining the science behind the prism and how light is refracted. There are many videos to explain this concept depending on the level of your students. To extend, have students create their own rainbow without a prism, using light, water, and a mirror. Find this experiment here.
While the science of color integrates art, teachers can further meet arts standards by allowing students to experiment to see what mediums best capture the rainbow they make, or by having students capture multiple rainbows and use them to create original artwork.
This lesson pairs the Next Generation Science Standard 1-PS4-3 (Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light) with the National Arts Anchor Standard 2, VA:Cr2.1.2a (Experiment with various materials and tools to explore personal interests in a work of art or design.)
Some of these ideas were from the website Buggy and Buddy, which has fantastic pictures of these explorations as well as more links.
Prism science videos:
The Science of Prisms (Better suited for older elementary)
STEAMy Leprechaun Traps
A favorite St. Patrick’s Day STEM lab activity for elementary school is leprechaun trap construction. Leprechauns are attracted to glittery, shiny items, so students build something with that medium as the bait in the hopes of capturing a sneaky little leprechaun. As a STEM lab, this gives students the opportunity to incorporate a chosen number of simple machines to power their trap. Analyzing videos of Rube Goldberg machines is a great way to kick off this investigation.
To intentionally turn this STEM lab focus into STEAM, there are just a few simple modifications.
- Have students work in teams. Have them brainstorm collaboratively to solve this design challenge. Make sure the trap is visually enticing with some glittery metallic components in addition to requiring the simple machine(s). (Anchor Standard 1: VA:Cr1.1.1a)
- While the students are working, provide many everyday items and recyclables such as cardboard boxes, tubes, etc., for them to use to build their trap. (Anchor standards 2: VA:Cr2.1.2a & 3: VA:Cr2.3.2a)
- Have students present their creation to the class via an art gallery/carousel walk display or by presenting it in front of the class. During the presentation, students should explain how they included the requirements of the simple machine(s), the metallic medium, and the repurposed materials to have a successful project. They might also reflect on the design process to share what their failures were and how they problem-solved their way to success. (Anchor standard 5 and/or 6, ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.6)
- If students participated in the prism inquiry mentioned above, they could incorporate their original artwork as part of the decoration of their trap. Or, have students position a prism so that the rainbow shines on their trap at a certain time of day. Leprechauns know to follow the rainbow to get to the gold.
Here are a few ready-to-go leprechaun STEM resources, which you can adapt based on the STEAM activity or suggestions above.