By: Martianne Stanger
Traditionally, summer is supposed to be a time for kids to enjoy long, lazy days spent playing outside. Inevitably, with such stretches of unstructured time comes the complaint, “I’m bored!”
Although I am a big believer that boredom can effectively act as springboard for incredible fun, creativity and imagination in children, I am also a realist. Sometimes boredom can lead to arguments or even injury. At such times, it is handy to have a few suggestions up your sleeve to engage your child’s mind and body. Science experiments can provide hands-on, outdoor fun (and learning!) at a moment’s notice.
How long does it take ice to melt on different surfaces? What materials (or colors) might cause ice to melt more quickly?
To find out, fill an ice cube tray with water at the same exact depth for each cube.
Collect a variety of materials, such as wood, a styrofoam meat tray, a metal lid, wax paper, tinfoil, etc. Place them next to each other in the sun. Put one piece of ice on each material and get set to discover.
Do the same, but put the ice on different colors of paper, particularly white ad black.
Do critters prefer long grass or short grass? What critters are in your lawn?
To find out, before mowing grass, pace out a three step square of your yard. With a notebook and pencil in hand, explore the square, noting the number of each different creature you see in it – grasshoppers, ants, spiders, ladybugs, dragon flies, bumble bees. You may even want to use a magnifying glass.
After the lawn is mowed, do the same thing.
Which type of lawn seems to attract more creatures? Does long grass attract different creatures than short grass? Did you notice any other differences about your lawn
Can you really fry an egg on the sidewalk? How long would it take? Does it taste good?
Gather some eggs, some tinfoil and maybe some oil and butter, a magnifying glass and a mirror.
Make a “pan” with the foil by crinkling up the edges. Grease the foil if you intend to eat the egg afterward. Then, crack the egg into the “pan” and see what happens.
If need be, “help” direct the sun’s heat with a mirror or magnifying glass.
Experiments Become Exploration
As all parents learn when their children hit the “why?” stage, one question often begets another. Similarly, as your children enjoys these suggestions, you may find that a given experiment suddenly metamorphoses into something completely different. That’s okay. It is summer, after all.
Inquiring minds and active bodies are the goal.
Encourage “experiment” to turn into “exploration.” In doing so with my own children, I have witnessed a few minutes of fun turn into an afternoon – or even a week – of learning and exploration.
I have also found that while children enjoy the freedom of exploring on their own, sometimes they benefit from the structure of established methods.
You know your child best. If you feel your child might enjoy being a “true scientist,” here’s a quick primer of what you might journal or discuss together:
– The Question: What is the question you have that you want to test.
– The Hypothesis: What do you think will happen? How do you think your question will be answered? What is your “best guess” about what the results will be?
– The Procedure: What steps are needed to complete the experiment?
– Observation: What happens during the experiment? Might you document it with written notes, sketches, photos or in some other way?
– The Results: What was the outcome of the experiment?
– Conclusion: How was your question answered? Was your hypothesis right? Do you think that you’d get the same result if you tried the experiment several times or do you think there was some “error” in your experiment that might have changed the result?
However you approach hands-on summer science experiments, enjoy! And, do stop back to leave a comment about your child’s results and other experiments and exploration.