Dec 13

Perspective | STEM leaders share their favorite holiday gifts

To say that the holidays this year will be different from any we’ve known before would be the understatement of the year! So, why not make your gift giving something to remember this year?

Leave the socks on the shelf and instead focus on gifts that will stimulate the mind, unlock a sense of curiosity, and bring STEM to life for all the kids and adults on your shopping list.

The great thing about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is that learning about it feels an awful lot like fun and discovery. Kids who receive the right book, set, or gift card for an amazing experience won’t realize this gift is setting them up for a bright and bold future, but rather will thank you for the “toy” and set off to have their minds set afire.

We reached out to a few of our favorite scientists, engineers, and mathematicians for some ideas for their beloved STEM gifts and they did not disappoint…


  • International Cloud Atlas – Manual on the Observation of Clouds and Other Meteors – Although this book is written to train meteorologists, even weather enthusiasts and cloud spotters will enjoy this guide.
  • Mother Nature is Not Trying to Kill You – Prepare for the worst case scenarios nature throws at you! Extremely appropriate for 2020, this survival kit penned by Rob Nelson (with Haley Nelson) is the only guide you’ll need to successfully tackle wildlife, natural disasters, and everything else outdoors.
  • Super Science Experiments: Cool Creations – Make Slime, Crystals, Invisible Ink and More! – Oh, Elizabeth Snoke Harris, these are a few of our favorite things! This terrific book boasts nearly 100 experiments kids can do with household items without adult supervision. After all, every great scientist starts out making slime, right?
  • A Really Short History of Nearly Everything – A delightful read by acclaimed author Bill Bryson, this book breaks down mysteries of the universe, science, and humanity into bite-sized and delicious morsels, perfect for kids grades 5-8.
  • The American Practical Navigator – The book that hooked our meteorologist friend, John White, this classic touches on maritime navigation, weather, and heavy duty math including logarithms and psychometric tables. Definitely for the adult reader.
  • The Magnificent Makers Series – Boom! Snap! Whiz! Zap! The Magnificent Makers chapter book series is filled with science, adventure, and characters kids will love! Every book includes two science activities kids can do at home! A modern-day Magic School Bus for the chapter book reader!

Experiments and Kits

  • – Want to give the gift of experimentation? To release your own weather balloon, test the pH in your local water source, or track the duration of sunshine with a pattern sunshine recorder? Visit this site for all your equipment needs.
  • – The perfect subscription STEM kit for teens and tweens interested in chemistry. Each month, you’ll get 2-3 hands-on experiments (safe but exciting!) as well as accompanying virtual reality lessons for kids who want to take their lessons to the next level.


  • – This is a terrific site for STEM toys for all ages. From building circuits and designing simple machines to programming a mobile robot and assembling one of Da Vinci’s inventions, there are kits and games that are at once instructional and over-the-top fun.
  • – Another great site with tons of options to kickstart a love for STEM. Robotics, motorized cars, bridge construction, and invention are all facilitated with a variety of toy lines meant for tiny kids through teens.


  • Museum Memberships – Joining a great science or children’s museum is a brilliant way to support your local community, save a few dollars on entry fees, and visit often enough to see changing exhibits. (And don’t forget the gift shops for the cherry on top of a perfect day!)
  • Virtual College Course or Online Academy – Many universities (including MIT and Harvard) and independent organizations like NASA’s Aerospace Academy are offering virtual learning experiences kids (and adults) might otherwise not have access to. In some cases, classes like Calculus, Classical Mechanics, and Intro to Computer Science and Programming are free!


Happy Holidays from the SMT Center!

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