Tie simple science explorations in with Star Wars for May 4th. Great STEM ideas for remote learning and family science.

Three images from a group of 15 activities that tie in with Star Wars - ice melting, slime, and airplane launcher

May the 4th Be with You

There are countless odd and unusual holidays celebrated throughout the year. Science teachers often plan themed activities to tie in with major holidays (like St. Patrick's Day and Halloween) and science holidays (like DNA Day, Earth Day, and World Oceans Day). Then there are lesser-known and more unusual days, like National Pencil Day, National Apple Pie Day, World Turtle Day, and World Password Day.

May 4th may or may not be one on your radar, but for Star Wars fans, the day is celebrated, appropriately, with the phrase May the 4th Be with You Day. (It's also known as Star Wars Day.)

In the name of intergalactic, pop culture fun, especially during these days of remote learning, we have a list of easy STEM connections you can make with your students.

15 Simple Activities with a Star Wars Spin

  1. Build a Paper Airplane Launcher: TIE fighters…. X-wing…. no matter what variety of starfighter you like most, this airplane launcher activity is an easy tie-in. (Lesson Plan available)
  2. Build a Gumdrop Geodesic Dome: the desert planet of Tatooine where Luke Skywalker grows up is spotted with dome-shaped structures. (This activity was recently featured in our Doing Science at Home series, too, with a geometry focus)
  3. Colorful Patterns in Melting Ice: Hoth is an ice planet. Remember when Luke was frozen to the ceiling upside down? Explore the structure of ice — and ice melting — in this colorful activity.
  4. How Does a Hovercraft Hover?: landspeeders and hovercraft appear in many places in Star Wars. In this activity, kids make a simple hover-inspired vehicle using a balloon and CD.
  5. Oobleck: A Recipe for a Mesmerizing Mixture: there are numerous quicksand (or mucksand) pits in the saga. Exploring the non-Newtonian characteristics of Oobleck is a great opportunity for tactile fun with colloids.
  6. How to Make Slime: Jabba the Hutt brings icky slime to mind. Slime is simple to make, but it's a great chance for kids to experiment with the formula to make slime with specific characteristics. What will their Jabba the Hutt-inspired slime be like? (Lesson Plan available)
  7. Circus-Trick Science: How to Balance Anything and Balance the Forces Within a Mobile: bringing balance to the Force is a big part of the Star Wars storyline. These activities are about using physics to make things balance (literally). You could also use light and dark objects on each side of your balancing activities to see if you can use STEM to bring things into perfect, balanced harmony!
  8. How to Harvest Water from Fog: moisture farms on Tatooine use "vaporators" to harvest moisture from the air. Kids can explore similar concepts in this activity.
  9. Build a Robot Hand: Luke ends up with a cybernetic hand in the movie arc, but fixing robots and droids is also a recurring theme. In this activity, experiment with making and using a simple robot hand. (This activity was recently featured in our Doing Science at Home series.)
  10. Candy Waterfalls: Can Candy Flow Like Water?: garbage pits and compactors involve piles and piles of trash and recycling (sorted along the way). In this activity, kids explore what circumstances make it possible for a material to flow like water. For an engineering design challenge on sorting, see the Marble Machine project. For a lesson plan about using magnets to create a sorting machine, see Build a Recycling-Sorting Machine.
  11. Build a Rubber Band-Powered Car and Build a Wind-Powered Car: there are many kinds of vehicles in the Star Wars saga. Designing vehicles for different terrain and using various means of power is good practice for thinking about engineering to meet the needs of specific locations.
  12. Creating Craters: with so many planets to explore, a crater-making activity is always a good fit. This one can be messy, but it's a great opportunity for a cool, slow-motion video, too!
  13. Mars Rover Obstacle Course: Han Solo beat the odds when navigating the Millennium Falcon through the Hoth asteroid field. He was at the controls, but you can simulate the course by giving someone else directions and seeing if you can guide them through a tricky maze.
  14. Robot, Make Me a Sandwich!: what are your favorite robots in Star Wars? Most of the droids operate based on their programming. In this activity, students practice thinking through and giving step-by-step directions for performing a task.
  15. The Bouba-Kiki Effect: there are many races and languages in the Star Wars series. This activity is a simple way to explore how people make associations between sounds and shapes — and to think about communication.

Other Star Wars Projects and Activities

These projects and activities involve materials that students might not have on hand or have ready access to during the current pandemic, but these are still good ideas to consider for Star Wars-inspired science and engineering. You and your students might have just what is needed to do one of these fun STEM explorations:

  • Junkbots: Robots from Recycled Materials: lots of robots in Star Wars are "junk droids," robots made from salvaged and assorted parts. With a few simple electronic parts (e.g., a motor and AA batteries), kids can build their own junkbots using parts from the recycling or craft supplies bin. (See the brushbot activity for another robot-building activity to get inspired by ways a robot can move.)
  • Make a Paper Circuit: if you have copper tape, LEDs, and a coin cell battery, this is a perfect opportunity to make a light-up lightsaber card or piece of art! (What color LED will you use?)

Get Inspired with STEM Videos

The following videos are from a few of the activities mentioned above. Short videos like these are a great way for kids to see what's involved in a project before starting.

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