Craft projects are a great way to kill time during the summer, but I’m sure you’ll agree that useful craft projects are even better! Crafts like up-cycled pencil cases, pen stands from cardboard tubes, and handmade paper are a great place to start, but for a serial crafter who’s up for a challenge, we’ve put together a list of STEM projects that take a little more time and effort to put together.
If your kid is already environmentally conscious, they will LOVE these. If they aren’t, these projects are a fun introduction to sustainability. Building something useful gives you a special kind of rush, doesn’t it? We’ve put together a list of useful crafts for kids to try this summer.
1. Build a Solar Still for DIY Drinking Water
Solar Stills or Solar Water Stills are contraptions that use heat from the sun to make water drinkable. You find these onboard lifeboats so stranded sailors can use them to turn seawater into drinking water for as long as they need to before they’re rescued.
While the solar still in this picture looks sophisticated, makeshift DIY Solar stills can be made with a hole in the ground, a container, a plastic sheet, and a rock. Their application isn’t restricted to desalination (the process of removing salt from water), they can also be used to extract moisture from foliage and mud to make clean drinking water.
HOW IT WORKS:
The Solar Still uses evaporation and condensation to desalinate water – like the process of distillation. Fill a large bowl or a pit in the ground with foliage, wet mud, wet sand, seawater, and water harvested from rain. Place a smaller empty container in the center of the large container/pit. Make sure this container is clean. This is where your clean water will collect. Spreadsheet of plastic/cling film/plastic wrap across the top of the large container and make sure that it’s fastened in place so none of the evaporation water can escape.
Once you’ve done this, place a paperweight or rock on top of the plastic wrap so it causes a dip right in the center of the bowl (right above our clean water container). Leave this apparatus in the sun for a few hours.
When you come back, you’ll see that the moisture evaporating from your large container is condensing on the plastic sheet and forming clean water droplets that are trickling into your small container. Pretty cool, right?
2. Build a Solar Powered Pinwheel
Full project video HERE.
This project uses solar energy too, but works by heating air instead of heating water. A solar updraft tower is a tower made of materials that heat quickly like aluminium and tin. This helps trap and heat air inside the tower that then rises upwards, gets trapped in the folds of the pinwheel and makes the pinwheel move!
Once you’ve made a simple version and understand the science, you can get creative and top your pinwheel with a paper cut out of a dancer to make it look like the dancer is twirling!
For this project you will need 3 empty cans with the tops and bottoms cut off, a paperclip or some wire, some tap, a thumb tack or pin, some craft paper, and a pair of scissors.
You can follow this LINK to watch a video on DIY that explains how to build a solar updraft tower.
3. Plot the Food Mileage of Your Favorite Foods on a World Map
Full project video HERE.
Food miles refer to the distances that different foods (fruits, vegetables, spices, meat, etc) travel to reach you.
The transportation of food accounts for 12% of the total carbon emissions generated during the process of food production and distribution. To lower your contribution, you can plot the food mileage of all your favorite foods and reduce your intake of foods that come from far away, especially foods that need to travel over sea.
This is a fun project to visualize so we recommend doing this on google maps. That’ll also make it really easy to plot the distances between you and the source of your food. Switching to a satellite view of the earth will also give you an idea of the kind of terrain your food needs to grow and the populations that live around the farms.
Here’s a map we’ve created for someone who loves pizza and lives in San Francisco, California. We’ve plotted the route that each ingredient takes to make it to his/her plate:
And here’s a link that’ll show you just how we got there: Pizza Ingredients to San Fransisco.
4. Build a Birdhouse
Did you know that the study of birds is called Ornithology? DIY has a few ornithology challenges that can help kids understand how to care for birds. One of the best ways you can take care of birds without keeping them captive is to create places where they can rest and feed. Predators pose the biggest risk to birds, especially small ones like sparrows and robins.
Making a birdhouse is really straightforward. You can make one from scratch using pieces of cardboard or pieces of wood, or repurpose/recycle an object that’s already shaped like a bird house (eg: a teapot, a milk carton or even an old boot!). Make sure to share your creation on DIY and check out birdhouses that other DIYers have made.
5. Make a DIY Projector
What if we told you that you can build a projector using an old shoebox, a magnifying glass, your smartphone, and a little bit of physics? The refraction of light is an incredible thing that has so many applications in everyday life! A DIY shoebox projector just scratches the surface of all the ways you can harness light.
Here’s a video you can follow to build your projector: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx4vPeL9y2g
HOW IT WORKS:
In a dark shoebox, the only available rays of light coming from the screen of your smartphone. When your phone is placed behind a magnifying glass, rays of light travel through the magnifying glass (a convex lens) and get refracted. The image that is produced on the wall is inverted and larger than the original image on your phone. Moving your phone closer or further away from the magnifying glass changes how clear the image on the wall is (depending on the focus or focal length of your lens).
This project doesn’t take long and is a powerful way to show kids how refraction works. You can use this project as a starting point to explain how the eye works and how spectacles help correct myopia (nearsightedness) and hypermetropia (farsightedness).
In a lot of cultures, useful crafts are a way of life. In India, baked earthenware pots are used to keep water cool where refrigerators are unavailable. In some parts of Brazil and the Philippines where the supply of electricity is limited, people harness the power of refraction through solar bottle bulbs to light up their homes during the day.
There are hundreds of other ways people build easy, homemade solutions to fix big problems. We hope that this blog post inspires your kids to build solutions for your community. Before we sign off, here is one of our favorite useful DIY crafts:
Exercising to Wash Your Clothes With Spin-Cycle!
Watch whole video HERE.
About the Writer: Shreya Vishwanath is part of the marketing team at DIY. With a brain that’s always asking both left and right brain questions, she’s been a DIYer since she was a little kid! She’s a big believer in making daily life choices that positively impact the planet and actions that actually follow through.