School performers, assemblies, and cultural events can excite students and bring new perspectives. Get started with our list of memorable activities.

by Evelyn Beck


1. Dance: Through movement, a choreographer can explain how to design a dance using such tools as unison, counterpoint, canon, accumulation, theme and variation, and partnering. Students can create their own dances under the choreographer’s supervision.

2. Live Animals: Invite a traveling wildlife program to your school. You might focus on exotic or endangered animals, bugs, or reptiles. Or target a specific science question, such as how birds cope with changing seasons.

3. The Science of Music: Bring in a performer who can show how to make musical instruments from ordinary objects like plastic soda bottles and coat hangers while explaining the principles of sound waves, vibrations, resonance, and pitch.

Hands-on STEM and STEAM ideas for parent groups to support learning

4. Navajo Culture: Hire a performer to show the carding and spinning of wool for a traditional Navajo blanket. The cultural experience can be deepened by playing Navajo music and reading children’s books about tribal life.

5. Crime Lab Class: Conduct a workshop in which students get to be forensic investigators and solve a crime. They learn about crime lab chemistry as they collect fingerprints, examine hair and fiber evidence, and identify other clues.

6. American Sign Language: Students can enjoy folktales from the deaf community and gain a respect for ASL through performances that include pantomime, sound effects, and other audiovisuals. Teach them to sign a few common words, too.

7. State History: Students can learn about their state’s history through a fast-paced theater performance that condenses hundreds of years of notable events.

8. Bubbles: Students gain an understanding of molecular bonding and surface tension as they watch demonstrations involving bubbles of various sizes and shapes. Discuss why bubbles float and why they pop, then let kids make their own bubble blowers and test different soap solutions.

9. Icky Chemistry: Make goop and slime in different colors and consistencies to teach children about polymer chemistry.

10. States of Matter: Through demonstrations and experiments, students learn about differences between gases, liquids, and solids. Experiments might include blowing up one balloon with helium and another with hydrogen to compare what happens, or bouncing a racquetball frozen in liquid nitrogen.

11. Painting: Bring in a muralist to explain how she creates stories on long stretches of wall and guide students in making their own murals on scrolls of art paper. Or explore art history by looking at self-portraits from diverse artists through time, then ask kids to paint how they see themselves.

12. Interactive Theater: Becoming characters in a partially improvised performance of a familiar children’s story helps kids learn about storytelling, acting, and the creative process. Taking a role in Jack and the Beanstalk or fables by Aesop can also bring alive the stories’ morals.

13. Colors: By taking part in experiments using ultraviolet light, emission spectrum analysis, and chromatography, kids learn about the nature of light, how colors are produced from light and pigments, and how we see colors.

14. Motion: Lively demonstrations of juggling, ball-spinning, unicycling, stilt-walking, and yo-yoing can teach children about the properties of linear motion, rotation, and vibration.

15. History of Cooking: A look at what our ancestors ate and how they prepared food offers children a different perspective; they’ll be amazed at how much what we eat today reveals about ourselves. They’ll also enjoy sampling the food.

16. Musical Geography: Learn about a particular country or region, such as the Appalachian Mountains, through a performance of its traditional dances and songs. Teach two or three simple tunes to the students and pass around lyrics sheets so they can sing along.

17. Scientist Biography: Celebrate the accomplishments of a notable scientist through a one-person theatrical performance that examines the person’s childhood and scientific discoveries.

18. Historical Biography: Hire a performer to bring alive figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross. Students will enjoy seeing how these historical leaders dressed and hearing them relate stories about their lives and following their passions.

19. Writing Workshop: Help students get excited about writing by bringing in a performing writer who can make students laugh while offering tips for tapping their creativity.

20. Multicultural Photography: Ask a photographer to share photo essays about children from other cultures. Students will learn about life in another country while also gaining an appreciation for the art of photography.

21. Science Mystery Theater: Through an interactive theatrical performance, students help solve a mystery using scientific skills, including problem-solving, observation and recall, and deductive reasoning.

22. Electricity: Experiments that show how to create and control electricity, from static to lightning to fire, teach children about atoms and electrons, energy sources, conductors, insulators, and currents.

23. Drawing Lessons: Children can learn about one genre of illustration through lessons and demonstrations by a cartoonist. The artist can discuss how she comes up with ideas and translates them to paper and how the art combines pictures and words.

24. Sports Science: Demonstrate the biology, physics, and engineering behind athletics. Students learn about how different types of sports equipment—from footballs to hockey pucks—use friction, elasticity, and shape to their advantage.

25. The Science of Flight: Science mixes with history as students learn about the evolution of flight, from hot air balloons to airplanes to rockets, and the scientific principles that enable it, including lift, weight, thrust, and drag.

26. Puppets: After a puppet or marionette performance, talk about the mechanics of puppeteering and let the kids try manipulating the puppets themselves. Afterward, they can learn about the history of puppets and the different kinds there are, then create their own.

27. Earth Science: Demonstrations of seismic engineering and discussions of plate tectonics teach students how to predict damage from earthquakes and learn about earthquake preparedness.

28. Poetry Reading: Invite a poet to perform and to lead children through the writing and performance of their own poems. This also might be connected to a discussion about rap music to show children that rhyme and verse are a large part of contemporary society.

29. Dinosaur Archaeology: Fossils teach students how rocks, bones, and tracks help scientists search for answers about dinosaurs; set up a “dig site”where children can discover fossilized remains and identify different types of dinosaurs.

30. Light: With fire and lasers, kids can learn about the scientific history of light and observe its ability to bend and bounce. Topics covered might include the electromagnetic spectrum and the properties and uses of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared lights.

31. Opera: Expose students to the world of opera with performers who will give them a sampling of the art form, teach about its history and approach, and discuss the training required of its performers.

32. Shakespeare: Traveling troupes can help children appreciate the language and humor of Shakespeare by performing parts of his plays. Some groups perform ultracondensed versions from start to finish.

33. Colonial Life: A living history demonstration allows students not only to observe life in colonial America but also to take part in typical activities from that time, such as churning butter and playing children’s games.

34. Art From Nature: Bring in a chainsaw artist to create works of art while the students watch. Ask the artist to create a school mascot out of a donated tree trunk. Have him guide students as they develop their own abilities by carving a pumice rock or sponge.

35. Ecology of Owls: Live owls are used to teach about food chains and food webs and the adaptations used to hunt prey. Demonstrations include the different calls owls use for mating and territorial defense. A slide presentation might show owls’ environment and help students explore the ecological importance of these birds.

36. Traveling Aquarium: Invite a mobile tidal pool exhibit to your school so students can see sharks, anemones, and other marine creatures. They learn not only about these animals but also about their environments and the importance of ecological conservation.

Interested in running your own science event? Our free Family Science Night kit has everything you need to run a great event, including planning tips, invitation flyers, and lots of science experiments! As well, our free Guide to Supporting STEM Learning for PTOs and PTAs provides a comprehensive list of hands-on STEM activities and much more.

Our free Family Arts & Crafts Night kit makes it easy to make memories and get creative with school families. Download your free kit for planning and promotional materials, family-friendly craft ideas, and more.

Originally posted in 2007 and updated regularly. Family Arts & Crafts Night® and Family Science Night™ are trademarks of School Family Media®.


# Jacquie F. 2012-03-20 15:15
Wow! Now this is one great thought-provoking, makes you want to get on it list! And with the price of gas going up, bring the field trip to the students is also more cost effective these days. Thanks for some wonderful ideas!

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