For Coaches and Teachers, For Parents, Resources, STEM Education

USAT and STEM: The Role of Museums

Getting kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math can take many forms. They get a certain type of exposure to these subjects in school, but museums also offer great opportunities to explore these principles in a different setting and on a different scale. When kids interact with objects, be they the original things or exhibits that present their mechanisms, they can’t help but learn by doing. And these are the experiences that adults still remember long after their middle school years have passed. (If you would like to learn more about the impact of science centers on learning and personal growth, you should check out this meta study.)

In Minnesota alone there are several science and technology-based museums. The Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota campus, for instance, is a place for kids to learn about animals through dioramas and hands-on exploration of fossils. The Mill City Museum explores the history of industry on the Mississippi waterfront. You have probably never heard of the Bakken Museum, but it is a unique way to discover the power and uses of electricity and magnetism. The Works Museum in Bloomington is dedicated to the inner workings of machines and engineering, and the Minnesota Transportation Museum in St Paul is dedicated to the technology of getting from point A to point B. Of course, there is always the Science Museum of Minnesota as well.

“I would definitely say that the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) played a big role in my interest in science later in life. I had a great time visiting both the old building and the renovated one, so when I was looking for an out-of-the-box job for my final year of undergrad the SMM seemed like a perfect fit. I not only got to work in the Collections Department and the Big Backyard, but took some of the free classes they offered. I will never forget when I was first introduced to the concept of computer coding by learning how to write a simple program that turned LED lights on and off in the order I wanted. It turns out that coding is both easy and fun, and now there are so many different applications across diverse platforms. The possibilities for expanding this kind of technology are endless.”

~Alison Weaverdyck, Creative Director

And the best part is that the SMM still offers a variety of free classes for kids of all ages! This weekend the fabulous staff, as well as female scientists from around the state, will be celebrating women in science with their “Girls, Science and Technology” day. The demonstrations below are included in the admission price, but for one day only museum patrons can get FREE admission for up to four kids with the purchase of one adult ticket. Find out more on their website (link to embed:

On Saturday, November 14 from 10-4 you are invited to:

  • Learn how lungs work with ventilated pig lungs
  • Explore mathematics and learn how to calculate probability and percentages
  • Manipulate medical guidewires and stylets through human anatomy models
  • Bring magic to life with sensors and 3D printers, and learn how sensors improve and assist with our lives on a daily basis
  • Explore the properties of air with hands-on windbag activity
  • Touch real pig hearts and learn about the wild world of the heart
  • Play dentist and apply sealants to plastic teeth models
  • Create your own hoop glider and fly it down a runway
  • Discover what’s inside your mouth with intra-oral cameras
  • Learn about the mechanics and technology of robots with FIRST Tech Challenge
  • Find out what it’s like to do a weather forecast on the Fox 9 Green Screen

Looking to infuse your USAT practice with a little technology but don’t have time to take a field trip to a museum? Here are a few brainstorming and project ideas to get your triathletes in the right mindset.

  • Name things with batteries. If the batteries are removed, what else can be done with these items? Can they be taken apart and the components used for something new?
  • What are games that you play on a computer or smart phone? Do you play any games that are also available in another format, such as Scrabble? Which method do you prefer and why?
  • What are some things that computers can do that people can’t? What are things that people can do that computers can’t?
  • Choose an item of technology that students would use regularly, and ask them to research different components. For instance, we all ride in cars all the time, but how did we end up with rubber tires? What is anti-freeze made of? Do hubcaps serve a purpose?



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