Popular projects for youth that are engaging and creative
Practical advice for picking project materials for youth that support creativity, learning and relationship-building for years to come.
May 29, 2015 - Author: Scott Lakin, Michigan State University Extension
Engaging, exciting and experiential program supplies can come with a costly price tag. It can be frustrating to find the next greatest project for youth and have it only last one hour. “Shopping for projects – keeping it creative,” covers some general priorities to guide project selections and purchases. This article shares specific examples of popular projects that can be tweaked to ensure youth stay engaged and learn all the way through without spending a fortune.
One popular project that explores physics, propulsion and trajectory is model rocketry. Basic combustion model rocketry kits are a fun activity that youth get excited about, however they don’t typically allow for much modification of the rocket design. Although additional learning can be explored around aerospace programs and model rocket launch safety, model rockets don’t offer much opportunity for critical thinking around design and launch variables. A related project that allows for more flexibility is designing and launching water bottle rockets. The rockets are made from pop bottles, which allows for the design to be customized and are cost-effective for youth to make multiple attempts at their design. The design of the launcher, quantity of water and air pressure applied are other things that keep the learning going.
Model building of cars, buildings and structures is another popular activity and is a fun way to explore spatial composition, engineering and design. One option that many explore are die-cast model cars, laser-cut wood models or building brick sets with specific directions. These are great options for finished projects, however they are typically one-and-done or allow little flexibility. When considering building projects your program can use over and over and allow youth to really explore their creativity, consider sets of building blocks or components that can be bought in bulk and reused. Typically, bulk purchases of components are cheaper than instruction-based sets, which allow for huge group creations as well.
In general, finding the right equipment to support creativity, learning and relationship-building does take some pre-preplanning before hitting the store or loading up your online cart. Pick the right projects that allow you to implement quality youth programming recommended by Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H and keep project purchases relevant for years to come!