This preschool STEM challenge is a great tangible way to introduce center of mass to a young audience because they can physically hold the broom with their fingertips and feel the force of gravity in action.
One of our favorite Halloween books is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. Because we love to read books and add a super cool activity, we decided to see if there really was room for all of those animals on the witch’s broom.
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WHY STEAM ACTIVITIES?
STEAM is the abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
STEAM, like STEM, is an integrated approach to learning that encourages learners to make connections between the concepts they are learning and how they apply them to real-world problems.
STEAM helps students ask questions, problem solve, think creatively, and produce innovative solutions. Many schools have adopted STEAM learning activities into their curriculum, but it’s never too early to start building critical thinking skills.
We love to learn through play at our house and have a blast doing activities for toddlers all the way to tweens!
KEY BALANCE TERMS
- Center of Gravity – the point where the mass of an object is concentrated
- Gravity – the force that pulls all objects downward on Earth
Balance Broom STEM Challenge Materials
Is there Room on the Balance Broom?
This preschool balance STEAM activity is a great way to explore the center of mass!
We used unifix cubes to build our balance broom because our blocks kept sliding off of our large craft stick. You can choose to use a craft stick or other straight surface.
The first step is to zero out your scale by balancing it without any blocks attached. We make our own preschool balance scales often because it encourages a more hands-on understanding of simple machines.
The center of mass for our unifix cubes was slightly off center because one end of the blocks will have an end sticking out slightly if you choose to use unifix cubes.
This is why is it important to zero out (or level) your scale before you add any additional blocks.
For our activity, we designated a certain number of cubes per animal and three purple cubes to represent the witch.
We decided that our green cubes represented the frog and the bird in the story. The brown cubes represented the dog and the orange cubes represented the cat.
For our first step, we added our smallest animals. You can choose to follow the story pattern if you like. We started with the smallest ones because I was working with my first grader, preschooler, and toddler.
For my littles, we focused on describing and comparing the amount of blocks we were adding using words like “smaller” and “larger“.
After adding the “bird” and the “frog”, we added the “cat” and the “dog” blocks. This is where it gets tricky. You will need to shift the blocks very carefully around until your scale balances.
For this part, I held the yellow base centered and let the kiddos place the blocks. My preschooler shifted them as I lightly released the yellow base and we observed which way it was leaning.
Adding the witch was the easiest part because it was a matter of placing our “witch” in the center of our yellow beam. Notice how ours is slightly off center.
After we placed our blocks, my first grader and I observed the differences in the placement and talked about how one side of our yellow base (the right side pictured) was slightly heavier because of the little nub that was sticking up (we attached the light green cube to it).
At this point, you can adjust your yellow base and use the nubs to attach the cubes to the other colored blocks. We held the yellow base with our index fingers and moved it around until we found the center of mass so that we could feel the force of gravity.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND YOUR BALANCE BROOM
The center of gravity or the center of mass is the point where the mass of an object is concentrated. If you support an object at its center of mass, it will balance or be in a state of equilibrium.
A great way to learn about the human body’s center of gravity is to put an object on the floor about 30cm from a wall. Stand with your back and heels against the wall and try to pick up the object on the floor. Can you do it?
Most people’s bottom keeps their center of mass over their feet (no one in my house can do this with our athletic leg builds!) and when you bend over, your bottom can’t counterbalance you.
WANT TO CONNECT THIS PRESCHOOL STEM CHALLENGE WITH OTHER STEAM BUCKETS?
Check out these STEAM extension ideas!
Science – Learn more about mass with a simple balance scale activity.
Technology – Use a robot like Gyrobot that relies on its center of gravity on two linear wheels that can move along a tightrope to help make this physical law more tangible!
Engineering – Build your own post like we did for our Balance Bat activity! We used two different types of clothespins to create a stable post for our balance bat to perch on!
Art – Grab some pipe cleaners and make a balance mobile by hanging multiple objects from your hanger or pipe cleaners. Can you make each row balance?
Math – Use your unifix math cubes to count the number of blocks on each side. Balance your scale using by counting the number of blocks.
SOME BOOKS TO READ WITH YOUR ACTIVITY
We love incorporating books into our activities. Here are some great books about engineering to read with your activity!
SIMILAR STEAM ACTIVITIES
- Learn About Mass With This Preschool Balance Scale STEAM Activity
- Whatever Floats Your Boat Buoyancy STEAM Challenge
- Pumpkin Balance Stack STEAM Challenge
- Stellaluna Balance Bat STEAM Activity
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Meet Toni, the Maker Mom behind Our Family Code
Hey there, I’m Toni! I’m a software engineer and Maker Mom that finds my joy in unleashing my children’s curiosity by exploring STEAM concepts with my fantastic five!
When I’m not chasing toddlers or raising tweens, you can find me tearing things up and putting them back together over here at Our Family Code.
I am the owner and content creator of multiple educational websites designed to increase access to STEAM & STEM education with a focus on teaching computer science and coding to kids of all ages!
You can also find out more about me by visiting ToniGardner.com!