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Snow Day Science: Bringing Learning Home

Challenge your budding scientist with these ideas from The Haverford School's Director of Robotics.

Haverford School - Snow Day Science

By Holly Golecki, science teacher and Director of Robotics at The Haverford School

Do you have a budding scientist at home? If you are looking for ways to fuel your child’s passion for science, math, or robotics, this guide will help you explore their favorite topics in interesting and practical ways.

Science and Cooking

Cooking together is a great way to reinforce science and math concepts. Many culinary dishes are enabled by chemistry and physics! The Young Chef’s Project is one of my favorite resources. These recipes are great because they can usually be made with ingredients you already have at home – no need to run out on a snowy day.

You and your mini-chemist can study phase changes while making ice cream, learn about polymerization by making tortillas, see how foams are made while preparing pancakes, or practice ratios and measuring while experimenting with baking cookies. These experiments allow kids to tinker with a specific scientific concept and end with a tasty treat! Supplies are simple, the work can be done at home, and the finished product is edible — win, win, win!

An interesting project for your older Iron Chef Junior in training is spherification, a molecular gastronomy technique that Haverford School students do as part of their engineering class. This technique allows chefs to transform liquid foods into bite-size bursting balls (think homemade Boba balls). By utilizing simple biopolymer chemistry, your teens can create haute cuisine at home.

This is also the same technique that has been proposed for creating edible water bottles. How cool is that? Insider tip: flavorful juices or purees work best inside the spheres, and storing spheres in a sugar solution sweetens up the skin.

Robotics and Programming

Cooking and robotics may sound like STEM topics at opposite ends of the spectrum, but students at The Haverford School actually used gummy bears to create edible, biodegradable robots. The Haverford School’s soft robotics club won the 2018 and 2017 Soft Robotics Competition sponsored by Harvard University — and patented their formula for edible actuators. 

If your child is an inventor at heart, they can use Harvard’s Soft Robotics Toolkit to build and develop their own soft robots. Harvard’s Soft Robotics Toolkit gives step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions to build soft robots — perfect for kids who love to tinker. It includes instructions to build a wrist brace, a gripper that can pick up objects, and a full list of supplies parents can purchase. Projects are updated regularly based on cutting edge research. If your roboticist comes up with something novel they can even enter the competition themselves! Projects range from $15-30 per child.

Is your child a geography buff or little explorer? Google Cardboard is a virtual reality headset that can be purchased for about $10, and when paired with a smartphone, allows your child to visit any location in 3D using Google Street View. Here are some other apps I suggest downloading to use with a headset:

• Google Street View
• VR Roller Coaster
• Titans of space VR
• GoPro VR
• Google Arts & Culture

Sphero is a robot that works best with a lesson. I’ve done the following with boys in fifth through 12th grades: create an obstacle course and ask your child to program the robot to navigate it. The course can be throughout your house — around couches, under tables, and between chair legs. The Sphero community posts many other ideas for projects using Sphero too!

Cubetto is a fun robot to teach programming to young children, ages four and up. The price tag of $250 makes this wooden robot an investment, but it’s simple enough for a non-programmer parent to use and enjoy along with their child.  

If you’re looking to invest less but still experiment with programming, try the recently released Google Doodle. It’s a smart and simple  online platform with a very similar functionality  that makes programming a virtual game.

Code-a-pillar is less expensive but can be difficult to use if you don’t have a lesson in mind. I formulated this lesson to use code-a-pillar to teach kids to code the robot: set up a starting point, and place a piece of fruit (or target) out for the caterpillar to “eat,” like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. Your child can program the robot to get to the fruit. This activity is most appropriate for children ages 3-6.

Children of any age or interest can find fun and exciting ways to explore, experiment, and innovate right from the comfort of your home. Share your own resources and tips in the comments below!

Holly Golecki is a science teacher and Director of robotics at The Haverford School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Drexel University and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Harvard University.

Join The Haverford School Community for their Best for Boys Speaker Series on Wednesday, May 8, 7:00 p.m.

Boyhood in the 21st Century: Dr. Michael Reichert

Male models of abuse, casualty, and loss have dominated popular airwaves. But the truth behind these headlines is surprising and deeply reassuring. It is not boys themselves but an outdated model of boyhood that is the problem. Those in charge of boyhood – parents, educators, coaches – need to challenge masculine stereotypes and myths and create a new paradigm for raising a boy who is resilient, emotionally astute, and morally grounded.

In a talk based upon his new book, How to Raise a Boy, Dr. Michael Reichert reviews what we know and what we are missing when it comes to raising our sons. Building on his research and clinical experience, as well as from other research in boyhood studies and interpersonal neuroscience, his perspective affirms the goodness of boys and offers a roadmap for all those who care for them.

Participants in this workshop will:

  • Understand the historic model of boyhood and its developmental costs.
  • Review key aspects of boys’ lives – their emotional development, the role of friendship and intimacy, their health and wellness, violence, digital citizenship – to grasp some of the threats to their development and the protective role parents and others can play.
  • Appreciate how a relational approach to parenting, teaching, and mentoring boys can nurture their virtue and strengthen their resilience.

Register at haverford.org/bestforboys

Photographs courtesy of The Haverford School. 


The Haverford School, a nonsectarian college preparatory day school for pre-kindergarten through grade 12, provides a superior liberal arts education for qualified boys of differing backgrounds. We are committed to developing the full intellectual, artistic, athletic, and moral potential in each boy, and we aim to graduate young men with strong character who possess a passion for learning and the necessary problem-solving skills to make a difference in the world. The Haverford School prepares boys for life. www.haverford.org