STEM Activity: Storm Switchers
Participants imagine that an island has been struck by an electrical storm, and that the animals on the island have been changed by the storm in unusual ways. It is up to the children to invent models of these new animals based upon the traits and features of the island’s inhabitants!
- Animal pictures
- Copy paper
- Cotton balls
- Craft sticks
- Googly eyes
- Masking tape
- Pipe cleaners
Preparation (An adult should handle each of the following steps)
1. Find and print images of any eight of the following animals from the internet: dog, cat, monkey, elephant, bear, hamster, flamingo, jellyfish, seal, turtle, crab, frog, owl, ant, ladybug, seahorse, octopus, snake or rabbit.
3. Set out supplies on a table in the room being used for the presentation.
At-Home or In-Classroom Instructions
1. Tell the group the following story:
There was a sunny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where the waters flowed clean and clear, gentle breezes glided through the trees and the animal sounds created a symphony that brought the land to life. There were thousands of animals living in harmony. There were even animals that weren’t typically known to live on islands.
2. Have the children look at pictures of some of the animals that live on this island. Hold up each picture, one by one, and ask the children what features or special things they notice about each animal.
3. Turn lights off. Continue the story:
One night, the animals watched a severe electrical storm approach the island. They scurried around the island, trying to find shelter and protection. The storm lasted throughout the night.
4. Turn lights on. Continue the story:
As the sun began to rise the next morning and the animals began to emerge from their hiding spots, they noticed that something very strange had happened. Everyone looked like they were a mix of more than one animal. Where there were feathers, there were now scales. Where there were once spots, there were now stripes!
5. Explain to the children that you need their help figuring out what the animals on the island now looked like. Explain that they will have a chance to build a model of one of these newly mixed-up animals.
6. Show the children what some animals that have been paired together in zoos and other places look like. Explain that there are real animals that are a mix of two different animals, known as hybrids. Show pictures of the hybrid animals: mule, wholphin, liger, zorse and grolar bear. When showing the picture and saying the name, ask the children if they can figure out by the name or the picture what animals comprise each hybrid.
7. In groups, have children obtain their supplies and begin building models of fantasy hybrid animals. Allow approximately 20-30 minutes for children to build their models. Explain to participants that they can use any combination of animals.
What Are We Learning?
Inventors often combine two or more familiar inventions or invention features to make something new and unique. In 1908, National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Elmer Ambrose Sperry studied the properties of gyroscopes and compasses and patented the gyroscopic compass in 1908. Gyroscopic compasses serve as automatic pilots to help guide ships and airplanes. A modern example of combining separate inventions to make new technology is the camera phone. Thanks to NIHF Inductees Steve Sasson, inventor of the Digital Camera, and Eric R. Fossum, inventor of the CMOS Active Pixel Image Sensor Camera-on-a-Chip, manufacturers are able to produce camera phones! Some inventions are brand new creations that have never been seen in any form before, while others take existing products and processes and tweak or adapt them in subtle ways that improve their use and function.