Incorporating science and engineering into your summer is not only fun but easy. Try these simple ideas to bring more science to your summer.
1. Go on nature walks. Take along a camera and magnifying glass. Kids are naturally curious and observant. Repetition is key to maximizing the benefits of nature walks. Some days we don’t find much, other days we see lots of animals. Sometimes the kids really enjoy looking for rocks or observing how a stick or leaf flows down the stream. It might feel like this is just play, but it sets the foundation for learning theory. The more often you go, the more interesting things you will find. We have a mile long paved walking path close to us. We try to walk there at least a couple of times a month in addition to other walks. Over the last couple of years we’ve observed foxes, salamanders, frogs, tadpoles, hawks, deer, groundhogs, black snakes, ribbon snakes, water snakes, ducks, geese, and other birds . Of course we don’t see all of those every day, but sometimes we get lucky and see 18 snakes in one day or two foxes together.
2. Visit a science museum. We love visiting science centers and natural history museums. Your time at a good science center will look like play and it is. Play is imperative to developing scientific reasoning. I love when we begin studying a topic and the boys say, “Oh, like the ……..at the science center.”
3. Science kits and toys. Speaking of science centers pick up a science kit or toy while you are there. Hobby Lobby is also a great source for science kits and toys. Tornado tubes, circuit kits, magnets, geodes, Newton’s cradles ….. they all allow a child to investigate their world and learn through play. Steve Spangler also has a lot of kits and ideas. Don’t worry if the science principles behind the toy are beyond your child’s development. They are building experiential knowledge of the world.
4. Open the Kitchen Pantry – The chemistry that happens in the kitchen is amazing. Check out these fun experiments:
- Oobleck – simply mix cornstarch and water into a non-Newtonian fluid. It seems like a solid under pressure but quickly liquefies when the pressure is removed.
- Make your own pH indicator– You can use cabbage or black bean juice as a pH indicator.
- Make naked eggs – simply soak a raw egg in vinegar for a few days. The shell will dissolve but the membrane will stay intact.
- Freeze water, salt water, and sugar water
- Make ice cream
- Make hard candy or lollipops – All you really need is sugar, water, and a candy thermometer. Hobby Lobby has a kit that uses powdered corn syrup that is actually easier.
5. Programming– There are several ways to bring programming to a kid level. Check out scratch, Light-bot, Alice, Lego NXT or EV3.
We were fortunate to join an FLL (First Lego League) team this year. It is a great program that combines a research project and a robot game. I’m fond of the Lego NXT and EV3 because they combine programming and robotics. The ability to tell a robot what to do seems especially thrilling to kids.
6. Bake – The kitchen is excellent preparation for the chemistry lab. It provides great opportunity to measure accurately, mix ingredients, and observe chemical reactions. My kids have actually requested to re-write some of their favorite cookie recipes into metric units and use the scales.
7. Garden – Whether you stick to flowers or have a kitchen garden, gardening helps you study plants, weather, the water cycle, insects, butterflies, birds, slugs, and much more.
8. Do some easy experiments. We have a few different books of easy science experiments. One of our favorites is 101 Great Science Experiments, because it has great color pictures of the experiments. The kids enjoy looking through the book and picking out a couple of experiments each week.
9. Build – Build with LEGOs, PVC tubes, sand, cups, straws, toothpicks, books, or blankets. Build a pop boat. Make paper airplanes. Install a pulley system on your play set. See how high you can build a marble run.
10. Mix Art and Science – Grow crystals. Create paper mache sculptures, tessellations, or optical illusions. If you are really adventurous try a kinetic sculpture. Take a look through the recycle bin and see what you can create. Sculpt a clay creation and have it fired. Watch a glass blowing demonstration. Learn how to weave. All of these hands on activities are great not only for our creativity but teach math and science principles.
Wishing you a happy summer full of learning!