Branch Out for STEM

Feb 26, 2020

Wherever we look, STEM is all around us—from the buildings we enter each day, to the weather report you hear on the radio each morning and beyond. If you want your students to be too busy having fun to realize they’re learning, consider these STEM-centric destinations for your next trip.

The evolution of rock music, the engineering of iconic instruments, and the technology used to transmit soundwaves into our homes may all be found at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Students could see instruments played by their favorite musicians—spanning from 1939 to today—and through the use of interactive exhibits, even hear artists speak themselves about what inspired some of popular culture’s most remembered tunes. The architecture of the building itself is also a feat of engineering for students to admire: The 150,000 square foot building is a glass-enclosed double pyramid with seven levels, nestled along the shore of Lake Erie.

With 14-acres of exhibits, as well as films in the Giant Dome Theater and hands-on learning labs, the Museum of Science & Industry provides a wealth of STEM learning opportunities. Whether they’re discovering the mathematical patterns that abound in the natural world, being immersed in a world filled with tomorrow’s inventions and today’s visionaries, or discovering the future of space exploration, students will have an easy time finding engaging experiences to spark their imagination. There are even behind-the-scenes tours and live experiences that challenge students to use their problem-solving skills and creativity.

There’s no place like Liberty Science Center for learning about astronomical objects and celestial phenomena. It’s here that students could explore the vastness of space simply by taking a seat inside The Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the biggest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere and fifth largest in the world. In the nearby Weston Family Lab for Earth and Space Exploration, current weather patterns, earthquakes, hurricane tracks and more come to life. Students even have the opportunity to connect with real medical teams to learn about the dynamics of surgery during actual surgical procedures.

At New York Power Authority’s Niagara Power Vista, students could explore exhibits that include the latest hands-on interactive technologies, touch-screens, smartboards, animations, high-definition video and internet connectivity. They could watch the “war of the currents” between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, who debate the best method for transmitting electricity, and hold on tight while taking a virtual ride in the 4D theater to see how hydropower is created. From there, they could build a dam, operate a power plant during a storm, control a transmission system and visit the smart home to learn how to save energy. If students really want a hair-raising experience, they could grab on to the Van de Graaff machine and watch what happens to their hair! They’ll be charged up as they experience the effect of high volts without the jolts.

When it comes to understanding the complex connections between human activity, greenhouse gases, heat transfer and climate change, or extracting and analyzing your own DNA, Ontario Science Centre offers a chance for students to create a more a curious, creative and resilient world. Rooted in the belief that science, technology, and innovation help shape a better future for society and our planet, the Centre provides opportunities for students to explore, learn, and collaborate through live daily demonstrations, hands-on learning, and more. Programming inside Ontario’s only IMAX® Dome theater give student visitors a chance to feel fully immersed in the world of STEM.

With locations in Toronto, Canada, Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Ripley’s Aquariums offer a look at the science of the natural word unlike any other. Students who have ever wondered what it’s like to see the aquarium at night could sleep over and watch from their sleeping bag as the marine life swim by. Feeling brave? Students craving a closer look could also choose from a variety of in-water experiences to see the underwater world up close. Chances for discovery abound!

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Teach & Travel.