Our family recently attended the NOAA Open House and want to share some DIY STEM learning activities inspired by our visit. Before I jump into the DIY STEM learning activities, let me introduce you to a fascinating organization known as NOAA. NOAA stands for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
NOAA has several different branches, but the underlying theme is to protect our Earth’s resources. The branches include the following websites. Each has a wealth of information that you can explore further to appreciate all the facets of NOAA:
- National Weather Service – Studies weather patterns and improves the ability to predict the weather to better protect us.
- Satellite & Information Services– Provides satellite data to help protect us.
- National Marine Fisheries Service – Studies, protects, and conserves ocean resources and ensures that our seafood is safe to eat.
- National Ocean Service– Studies the ocean tides and currents. Provides navigation charts to assist our water-based commerce. Monitors, preserves, and protects our coastline communities.
- Marine & Aviation Operations – Oversees a fleet of 16 research ships and 9 aircraft that help provide data to NOAA to support its branches and their distinct missions.
- Oceanic & Atmospheric Research – Another support area that provides data and helps improve understanding of our oceans and atmosphere to make more informed decisions. Examples include studying contributors to air pollution and better ways to predict climate change and its impact on the Earth.
About the NOAA Open House & Visiting Other Times
This is a free annual event that happens every February in Silver Spring, very close to Washington, D.C. within walking distance of the Metrorail Red Line. NOAA stands for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
If you are in the area at another time of the year, NOAA also has a permanent exhibit called Gateway to NOAA. This exhibit is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. It offers several different educational areas about NOAA’s role in the environment, weather, and ocean resources.
More on the NOAA Open House
The open house is an all-day festival that highlights the various sections of NOAA. One of the goals of the NOAA Open House is to explain the benefits of preservation and protecting our important resources.
The Open House features hands-on activities geared towards elementary and teenaged children as well as learning opportunities, guest speakers, and short movies and presentations for all ages. This year, the activities were well organized and spaced out.
There were also two ticketed events. Tickets were limited to the first attendees to sign up on-site and the events were restricted to ages 7 and up. One of the ticketed events was Science on a Sphere® . We had seen this at the Maryland Science Center and it is well worth seeing if you ever get the opportunity! The other activity was guided tour of the National Weather Service Operations Center, which sounded quite interesting!
NOW ON TO THE FUN STUFF!!
Activities at the NOAA Open House & How to DIY STEM at Home
There were a lot of fun hands-on activities that we explored. Here is a brief description of each one and how you can create DIY STEM activities at home:
Build a Boat – Learn about buoyancy through trial and error:
- Design a boat out of tin foil.
- Float it in a basin or tub.
- Add paper clips or other waterproof objects into the boat until it gets too heavy and sinks.
- Repeat the exercise with other designs!
Your Nose Knows! – This was a funny one! At the open house, the purpose of this exhibit was to demonstrate how NOAA Fisheries inspectors determine the quality of seafood. Kids were encouraged to test their nose in a game of “What’s that smell?!” Here is how to do it yourself
- Collect a few empty squeeze bottles or other disguised containers.
- Add ingredients such as peanut butter, honey, yeast, oranges, or other kid-friendly scents.
- Have your kids sniff and guess…”What’s that smell?!”
The Nation’s Nautical Chartmaker – Many years ago, nautical charts or maps were engraved on plates and created using a printing press. These historic machines are on display at NOAA. Here is how to turn this into DIY STEM fun in your own home:
- Visit the online Historical Map & Chart Collection to read about the history of charting.
- Review the Collections tab to see what charts looked like many years ago.
- Finally, click over to the current charts in the Office of Coast Survey and find a link to your nearest waterway to appreciate how far we have come from the original chart making days.
Whale Tail Hats – At the Open House, kids could make their own whale hats and decorate them with markers and stamps. Here is how to appreciate the ocean’s largest creatures at home:
- Explore Pinterest for ideas on whale crafts with your family.
- Gather up some supplies.
- Have a WHALE of a good time using your imagination and creativity to craft your ocean animal.
Ocean Exploration Command Center – The NOAA Ocean Exploration Command Center is where scientists can watch and study live video feeds from the ocean floor. Pretend you are a scientist and explore the vast ocean:
- Check out these cool videos to see highlights from ocean exploration expeditions!
- Visit the Ocean Service website to learn about ocean facts and see pictures of everything and anything related to our vast seas!
Teacher at Sea Book – At the Open House, we were able to get a free copy of this neat book. It is all about a teacher’s adventure at sea on a NOAA ship! This is the fourth book in a children’s’ series from NOAA. You can get a copy on Amazon.com!
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