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Make the most of your kids’ spring break by inviting your young scientists to join in on the following at-home spring science activities. These four experiments incorporate spring themes to take advantage of kids’ natural observation abilities in engaging ways.
Spring is all about growth, and you may even be planning to plant your own garden, so take this opportunity to teach your kids about germination with this experiment!
Supplies: jars, tape for labels, wet paper towels, various seeds (pea and bean seeds sprout quickly!)
Set several damp paper towels in a jar.
Place seeds in the jar near the bottom half of the jar.
If you use multiple kinds of seeds, label the jars. Then place them by the window and wait!
After a couple of days, you will notice the seeds begin to sprout, and after about a week, their growth will be measurable.
Suggestions for more science: Try using a journal such as this Seed Journal to track the growth of your seeds. Which seeds grow the tallest? The quickest?
Have a bunch of interested young scientists? Check out this chemistry germination kit! This kit includes bean, pea, and sunflower seeds, which can be dissected, germinated, and grown. The kit includes enough material for 15 groups, allowing participants to compare plant growth between groups. Includes a teacher’s manual and safety data sheets for all materials.
April showers are on the way, offering easy segues into all kinds of discussions on science-based topics from simple numbers and amounts to climate change. Make a rain gauge to keep track of how much rainfall you're getting, and use the gauge to compare the rainfall day to day, week to week, or even month to month.
Supplies: plastic soda bottle (20 oz. or larger is best), stones or marbles, scissors or knife (use only with parental supervision!), permanent marker, tape (masking or duct), ruler
Have an adult use scissors or a knife to cut the top off of the bottle where the bottle starts curving inward toward the cap.
Place a few stones or marbles into the bottom of your bottle. This will weigh down your gauge when it is outside.
Turn the top portion of the bottle upside down and place it into the neck of the bottom section, pointing downward. This will serve as a funnel, directing rainfall into your gauge. Use the tape to secure the two pieces of the bottle together and cover sharp edges.
Pour a small amount of water into the bottle until it just covers the top of the stones or marbles.
Hold a ruler to the side of your gauge, making sure that the 0 point lines up with the top of the water. You have just calibrated your gauge to measure all rainfall beginning at the top of the water (versus at the bottom of the bottle). Use the permanent marker to make a mark every 1/2 centimeter from zero (the top of the water) to the bottom of the funnel. Turn the bottle one-quarter turn and repeat this process, making a mark every 1/2 inch.
Place your gauge in a secure location outside. Choose somewhere with no overhead obstructions (nothing to prevent rain from reaching the funnel) and where it is unlikely to be disturbed by pets, wind, etc.
Recalibrate your gauge each morning by emptying out all of the water until it’s level with the zero-mark. Note: If the weather has been very dry, you may have to add a small amount of water to get up to the zero-mark, to make up for evaporation that occurred overnight.
Keep your eyes on the daily weather forecast, or look at the sky each morning. Do you expect a lot of rainfall today? Can you predict how much? Take a measurement at the same time every evening to see how much rain fell during the day.
Suggestions for more science: Record your data in a log or a table to track rainfall in your area. Include the date, your rainfall measurement, and maybe even a sketch of the types of clouds you noticed that day. What other data might you want to record in your rain log? Take daily measurements for one week, two weeks, or one month. Do you see patterns emerging? Does your ability to predict daily rainfall based on cloud cover become more accurate over time? Why do you think that is?
Dissect flowers and learn about their structure with this simple hands-on activity. Dissecting a flower is a great way to visually explore and identify the different parts of a flower. Any common spring flowers with large parts work really well, such as lilies, irises, daffodils, and tulips. How many plant parts do you think you can identify?
Supplies: common spring flowers with larger parts, paper plates, tweezers, magnifying glass (optional)
Label each of the paper plates with one plant part (e.g., stem, petal, leaf, pistil, and stamen). Label one extra paper plate "other."
Choose one of your flowering plants, and start your plant dissection. Use your hands or tweezers to carefully take apart your plant. Which plant parts can you identify?
Once you have removed one part of the plant, try to identify it, and place it on the corresponding plate. Put it in the section that is labeled with the right plant name. If you cannot identify a specific plant part, place it on the "other" plate.
Repeat the dissection with the remaining flowers. Then compare the plant parts on each paper plate. What do you notice about the same plant part from different flowering plants?
Look at all the plant parts that you placed on the "Other" plate. After closer inspection, do any of them belong on the other plant part plates? How could you find out?
Suggestion for more science: If you have intact specimens of the types of flowers you dissected, examine these to see how all of the plant parts you identified fit together in the whole flower. Note how these vary across different types of flowers. Download and print this free coloring page and color in each different flower part as you identify it!
A wormery is an enclosed area that utilizes live worms to break down organic waste and kitchen scraps. The worms ingest and decompose the materials into fertile and nutrient-filled compost. Not only is setting up a worm farm an excellent way to compost food scraps but it allows you to add nutrient-rich composted soil to your garden for growing vegetables.
Supplies: an old jar (plastic would be best), sand, soil, gravel, old leaves, water, grass clippings, leaves, worms, a piece of fabric large enough to cover the top of the jar, scissors (use only with parental supervision!), rubber band
Pour a thin layer of sand into the bottom of your bottle. Cover this with a thick layer of soil. Repeat until your bottle is three quarters full.
Put a handful of dead leaves on top of the soil.
Now add your worms!
Make small air holes in the fabric. Cover the opening and secure it with the rubber band.
Keep your wormery in a cool, dark, safe place, such as a cupboard.
Ensure that you keep the contents damp.
You should see the sand and the soil get mixed up as the worms burrow down. The leaves and grass should be pulled down into the soil, mixing everything together, which is what worms do in the garden. Worms help carry decaying material into the soil, where it is broken down by microorganisms into nutrients that can be used by plants to grow.