STEM Education Activities in Williamsburg

One of the best ways to foster a love for learning within your kids is to organically incorporate lessons into fun family trips! With summer break quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to think about creative ways to engage your kids in STEM learning. Within the educational system, there has been a big push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. There are so many benefits to STEM activities for kids of all ages, including:

  • Boosting curiosity
  • Improving creativity
  • Helping develop communication skills
  • Teaching problem solving
  • Encouraging teamwork
  • Improving critical thinking skills
  • Exploring potential careers in STEM fields

My family and I had the opportunity to visit Williamsburg and explore STEM activities there. As a former teacher, I was so excited about this trip. Kids love hands-on activities and learning how things work, so I knew my daughter and son would enjoy this trip.


Trains and Rollercoasters at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens was the perfect mix of education and fun for the whole family. Engineering is a big part of STEM education, so seeing the rollercoasters and trains throughout the park was a great way to visually teach my kids how machines function. We spent a lot of our time in the Sesame Street Forest of Fun. This area has family-friendly rides, play areas, and photo opportunities with some of the Sesame Street characters.

Activity 1: My daughter and I rode the kids rollercoaster named "Oscars Whirly Worms," which spins and twists around. While we waited in line, I spoke with my daughter about how rollercoasters are made. If your child is in elementary school, you can focus on helping them think critically. Asking questions about how rollercoasters are made, what material rollercoasters are made out of, and how long it might take to build a rollercoaster are great questions to spark curiosity. If your child is older (middle or high school age), you can speak with them about the various basic features of a rollercoaster and how they function.

Activity 2: All aboard! Busch Gardens has a family-friendly train that takes guests around the park's 134 acres. There's something about trains that kids love. When my daughter saw the train, she immediately wanted to get on. While on the train, we spoke about the train tracks, the steam coming from the train, and how a train works. If you have older kids (middle or high school age), you can speak with them about the steps they would take to build a train. A major part of STEM education is boosting curiosity and improving creativity, so having these discussions while on the train is a great opportunity for that.

Take Home Activity 1: Have your kids build their own paper roller coaster. The materials needed include paper, pencils, scissors, colorful pipe cleaners, tape, glue, and a marble. You can have your kids add other materials to boost their creativity on how they would build their own roller coaster. A major focus for this activity can be learning about the engineering aspect of building a roller coaster and then problem solving as they build their own rollercoaster.

Take Home Activity 2: For elementary-aged children, you can do STEM activities at your local playground, or a slide and swing set at home. For the slide activity, gather a couple objects (toy car, a rock, a small ball). Have your child guess which will be the fastest object to reach the bottom of the slide, and which will be the slowest to reach the bottom of the slide. With the swing activity, have your child guess how many seconds it will take for them to get to a certain height in the air in their swing. This is a fun way to explore science and physics with your elementary-aged child. I'm sure this will be an activity that your child will continue to want to do when they are outside in the backyard or at a playground.

Educational resources, including videos, coloring pages, and activities specific to each age group, are available on the Busch Gardens website.


Animals at Colonial Williamsburg

Horses, sheep, fowl, and oxen are just some of the beautiful animals roaming the pastures in Colonial Williamsburg. They are cared for with the latest technology, medicine, and facilities. I was very excited to walk through Colonial Williamsburg with my family to see them.

Activity: While my daughter and I walked through the pasture, we saw several horses. I asked her questions about what the animals were eating and what type of habitat they lived in. Understanding how animals live is an important part of science. For older kids (middle and high school age), there can be a discussion of the different species and the different technology that is used for care.

Take Home Activity: For younger kids (elementary age), they can choose one animal to do a book report on. They can read the book, write a couple sentences on what they learned, and/or draw a picture. For older kids (middle and high school age), you can give them an opportunity to volunteer at a local farm or animal shelter. They'll be able to learn about how to care for animals.

My daughter enjoyed this activity. She's in kindergarten, so I thought it would be a good idea to get a book that also had an educational TV show to spark her interest. We picked the book Clifford which is also a show on PBS Kids. I read my daughter the book and had her look through the pictures of how to take care of a dog. We extended this activity by having my daughter walk our small dog throughout our neighborhood. During our walk, we completed a fun scavenger hunt where we found various plants and animals that live in our neighborhood. We discussed how certain plants and animals work together, such as bees and flowers. During this STEM activity, we focused a lot on teamwork. There were times when my daughter needed some help with walking our dog and times when she needed help with finding more animals and plants in our neighborhood. When we got back to our house, she was very excited that we were able to work together on this activity.  

The Colonial Williamsburg Education Resource Library is a great resource for more ideas.


Williamsburg Botanical Garden

Williamsburg Botanical Garden was the perfect opportunity to explore various plants, insects, and butterflies. Understanding the science of how plants grow is something kids learn at a very young age. Within the botanical garden, there were lots of signs giving details on the plants.

Activity: While exploring the botanical gardens, I asked my daughter questions about the life cycle of a plant. She's in kindergarten, so she was able to identify the whole process of the seed, seedlings, sprout, and plant. I also spoke with my daughter about some of the things all plants need, like water, soil, and sunlight. For older kids (middle and high school age), you can have them read various signs within the botanical garden and discuss the various species of plants and where they grow throughout the world.

Take Home Activity: For kids of all ages, have them grow their own plant in your yard or house. This will encourage independent skills and knowledge of the science behind a plant growing.

My daughter really enjoyed this activity. First, I took my daughter outside to explore various plants, weeds, dirt, rocks, and leaves right outside our home. I encourage you to have your child touch the dirt, pick up some of the leaves, and use their hands to explore. I also had my daughter bring a notepad to take notes on what she saw in nature. If your child is not able to write sentences in their notepad, they can draw pictures of things they find in nature around your neighborhood.

Next, we bought a small flower kit to grow a sunflower. I spoke with my daughter about the process of growing a plant as she was adding in the soil, seed, and water. During this STEM activity, my daughter asked a lot of questions that helped with the development of critical thinking. Also, my daughter's curiosity was boosted because she spoke about wanting to visit a sunflower field and other flower gardens in the future.

Overall, this was such a great family fun trip filled with lots of STEM education opportunities. I hope you incorporate some of these STEM activities into your next trips to Williamsburg.

Looking forward to all that Williamsburg has to offer? Check out our trip planning tools for what to see and do on your next adventure.

About Ashley

Ashley Washington is a Virginia-based blogger who writes about motherhood, homeschool education, family travel, simplified lifestyle, marriage, and self-care. Check out more about Ashley on her site and follow her on Instagram.

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