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Artists and Makers: Summer of STEM (Week 4)

Join Science Buddies this summer for virtual summer camp! Each week, we'll have a fun STEM theme for kids of all ages, suggestions for simple hands-on activities, book picks, and more. With our Summer of STEM, we'll keep you and your kids inspired all summer with creative and innovative science and engineering activities — for free. This week: creative activities for artists, makers, and innovators!

Image of an easel with a colorful piece of art on it to represent Week 4 of Summer of STEM virtual summer camp with an Artists and Makers theme

Artists & Makers

Week 4 is for artists, makers, creators, and innovators of all ages! The activities this week are great for kids who like to make art, write stories, decorate and customize items, or invent things! The line between art and science is maybe smaller than kids think, and this week, we celebrate the creative spirit as well as the science and engineering involved in exploring, explaining, and inventing techniques and mediums used to make art.

For kids who love to draw, paint, tell stories, or do craft projects, we have colorful and creative activities they can do to use science to make art. For young makers and inventors, we encourage an appreciation of creativity as an important part of engineering. Creativity has a role in problem-solving, troubleshooting, designing new products, and brainstorming new ideas or ways to improve things.

Tip: This downloadable PDF contains a summary of the ideas for Week 4. Print this out and use it as a check-list for activities you try this week! You can also print and use our simple activity log (PDF) if you want to encourage your younger students to reflect on their activities.

ASK: Science Questions for Week 4

Use these questions to prompt conversation and reflection this week about the science behind the Artists & Makers science activities:

  • What are some of the differences between art and science?
  • What are some of the similarities between art and science?
  • Why would an artist need to understand science? Can you think of an example?
  • Can you think of an experiment you could do to test and compare two approaches to making your favorite kind of art?
  • Which science or engineering activity did you try? How did art and science combine in the activity?
  • What do you enjoy most about science and engineering activities that also involve art?
  • What kinds of STEM jobs are related to the creative Artists & Makers activities you explored this week?

DO & EXPLORE: Artists & Makers Activities

  • The Science of Frescoes: fresco painting involves painting directly onto a wet layer of plaster. This technique has been around for thousands of years and was popular during the Renaissance. With this activity, kids compare painting on Oobleck to painting on wet paper to simulate the difference between fresco and other types of painting. Which technique creates the most vivid paintings?
  • Make Tie-Dye T-shirts with Permanent Markers: use permanent markers and isopropyl alcohol to make a special, colorful kind of art that looks like classic tie-dye. Draw your design first and then see what happens when you drip alcohol onto the colored fabric. What patterns can you make? What fabrics work best? What happens if you try other surfaces, like a plastic lid? (For added inspiration, see how we used this process to make ornaments.)
  • Balance the Forces Within a Mobile: use your own art, magazine cut-outs, or photos to make a custom hanging mobile. Pick a favorite theme, story, or character for your mobile and use straws, thread, and physics to make it balance. How many objects can you balance? How tall can your mobile be? (This student turned her love of fantastic beasts into a colorful and very cool mobile that was almos[ as tall as the front door when she finished!)
  • Apparent Motion in Flipbooks: use a stack of index cards to illustrate a simple story in a way that will appear to "move" when you flip through the cards. You can start with a simple bouncing dot (see the video below), but after that, kids can see if they can animate a character or object with a flipbook!
  • Make a Paper Circuit: use copper tape and LEDs to make paper circuits to add light-up effects to a creative diorama or to a simple city scene or playscape (like this one) for imaginative play. (Paper circuits are also great for special, one-of-a-kind greeting or thank you cards as long as you can hand-deliver them.)
  • Paper Airplanes: Why Flaps and Folds Matter: explore different features of a paper airplane to find the combination that works best for the kind of plane you want to make. You can decorate the plane to customize it, but be careful to keep the overall weight in mind. How might you decorate a stunt plane versus a jet plane?
  • Make Marbled Cards Using Science!: use shaving cream and food coloring for a fun paper marbling effect to make wall art or cards. Tip: make full-size marbled art on cardstock or art paper and, after it dries, cut it into strips for bookmarks. You'll end up with multiple awesome bookmarks you can share! (For a look at how different color combinations work, see this family's paper marbling exploration.)
  • Design a Cell Phone Stand: use simple materials to build a handy cell phone stand — or any other stand that might fill a specific need! With the basic idea in mind, it's up to you how to design it!
  • DIY Face Mask: for kids interested in sewing or fabric arts, making face masks at home is a good way to make something that is useful as well as unique. With this activity, kids can try different types of face masks recommended by the CDC and then experiment to see if there are ways to improve their homemade masks for the best comfort, individual fit, and effectiveness.
  • Make Cardboard Automata: use cardboard and craft materials to make a multi-segment automaton that moves in a certain way as you turn hand controls that rotate the axle. What character will you bring to life this way? This activity is a good challenge for older kids!
  • Junkbots: Robots from Recycled Materials: this free-form robotics activity gives kids the chance to design their own simple robots. These robots use an introductory circuit that requires a few specialty parts (available in the Bristlebot kit), but what the robots look like is completely up to the maker! (Vibrobots are another creative type of robot kids can explore. Note: click to the background tab of the project to see a bunch of cute and innovative examples.) For JunkBot inspiration, see our Special Delivery Robot.)
  • LED Patch: there isn't a simplified activity version of this project, but for older kids with an interest in sewing and electronics, using the principles of wearable electronics and e-textiles to create a light-up patch is a fantastic way to customize a backpack, denim jacket, or bag. You'll need special thread and some simple electronics. This post can help get your maker started.

WATCH: Videos for Week 4

These videos demonstrate activities highlighted for Week 4's Artists & Makers theme:

The Science of Frescoes – STEM Activity
Paper Marbling – STEM Activity
Make Cardboard Automata
Build a Mobile Sculpture – STEM activity
Explore Flipbooks
Design and Make Automata

These videos are not from Science Buddies but tie in with this week's Artists & Makers theme:


ArtBot robot made from Bristlebot kit Sample electric playdough squishy circuit sculpture with LEDs lit up Example of chromatography strips showing colors of dye in markers or candy Sample piece of art with LED lights added to light up using Raspberry Pi kit

The following Science Buddies Kits fit in with this week's Artists & Makers theme. These science and engineering kits provide the specialty materials kids need for a variety of fun explorations, including robotics, computer programming, and electronics:

  • Bristlebot Kit: the ArtBot is one of three different introductory robots you can build with the Bristlebot Kit. (You can also design your own Junkbot robots using recycled materials!) The ArtBot fits right in this week because this robot has markers for legs. As it shuffles around on a piece of paper, it draws! Kids can have fun building and decorating this simple robot and then experimenting to see what it creates. How could you help the ArtBot make its marks in a certain shape (like a circle or a heart)? Could it have more legs?
  • Electric Play Dough Kit: by using conductive and insulating dough, kids can design their own 2D electric play dough designs with LEDs that light up. As they learn more about circuits, they can move on to try more challenging 3D sculptures! How many LEDs can be used successfully and how does the number of LEDs change what happens?
  • Candy Chromatography Kit: kids interested in exploring chemistry and color can use the Candy Chromatography Kit to analyze the dyes that make up candy coatings, leaves, or markers. See this example using colorful candies.
  • Raspberry Pi Projects Kit: creating a custom piece of artwork with LEDs that light up when a room darkens is one of a series of 8 creative, interactive activities kids can do with the Raspberry Pi Projects kit. For a look at the kinds of light-up fun kids can have combining electronics and programming with Raspberry Pi and Scratch, see the star these kids built and coded to light up at night. For more inspiration, view the progressive series of 8 projects. (Note: if you already own a Raspberry Pi, see the Circuit Building Kit for Raspberry Pi.)

Learn more about Science Buddies Kits and see our 12 Science Kits for Summer Science Experiments and Discovery recommendations.

READ: Books to Pair with Week 4's Artists & Makers Theme

Iggy Peck cover The Dot cover Boy Who Drew Birds cover 30-Minute Sustainable Science cover
Girl who drew butterflies The Day the Crayons Quit cover Frida Kahlo Animalitos cover Noisy Paint Box cover

For other great STEM stories for summer reading, see our Book list for science-filled summer reading! post. Also, don't miss this roundup of creative STEM activities for storytelling and imaginative play.

Summer of STEM Posts

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