This time of year, a lot of schools start planning for science fairs. While these have a certain amount of ugh factor for parents (who do you think is making that poster??) finding a cool experiment is easier than ever thanks to a number of seriously cool web sites. Not doing a science fair? Even better! You can do some easy investigations just for fun!
Here are my fav quick five and some links to Lots more!
1.Colored flowers-You probably did this when you were a kid. Put a white flower like a carnation in a vase with some food coloring and water and watch it change color! Experiment with different shades and formulas. Talk about how water is traveling up the stem and how this process is the same or different from how a flower in your garden gets food.
2.Grow a carrot-Take the top of a carrot and place it in a saucer with water. The water should fully cover the bottom but not the whole piece. Place it in a sunny spot, and within days your carrot top will start sprouting leafy, fern-like branches. You won’t ever get a new carrot, but it does make for a pretty houseplant. Carrots are essentially a big root, and the top has enough left to continue absorbing nutrients and sprouting leaves.
3.Water glass xylophone-I used to do this all the time when I was a kid, and it’s still good fun, even though you dirty up all your glasses. Get out glasses of the same size and height and fill them with different amounts of water. Tap them gently with the flat side of a spoon to make musical notes. The spoon is producing sound waves that travel through water. Different amounts of water make different notes. Even if your kiddo can’t quite “get,” this, it still makes pretty music. Just don’t use your wedding crystal.
4.Lemon juice invisible ink. Use lemon juice and a paintbrush to write a message and on white paper. Let it dry until it becomes invisible. Reveal the message by exposing it to a heat source like a low watt lightbulb or a hair dryer (a grown-up should do this). We ruined at least one of my mom’s irons doing this (not recommended). Your kids will love being spies. Who knew chemical reactions were so cool?
5.Baking Soda Volacanos Kids tend to do these as part of volcano projects, but this is really about a simple chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. My 7 year old has been known to make these just to kill a little time. Hey, who can blame him?
Know lots better experiments? Want to correct me on my science facts? Go right ahead! Really!
Need to find something more or less challenging? Here are some great sites to try:
ScienceBuddies.org A very organized site, especially good for finding an experiment suitable for a school science fair.
ZoomSci Based on the PBS Zoom series this site has loads of easy, fun experiments organized by science discipline. I also like that it includes comments from kids who have tried them and suggestions for variations.
BillNye Does anyone else remember watching him on Almost Live? A cool site for older kids. Check the “Parents and Kids,” sections for home experiments.
ScienceKids Colorful, comprehensive site with games and information as well as ideas for experiments.
Don’t forget that your library has shelves of books on easy science activities. If you haven’t ventured out of kids’ fiction, you’re missing out!
If you’re a home schooling family, I also urge you to look into the various science clubs at the Tacoma Nature Center (non home schoolers can enroll as well). There is also an outstanding program for 3rd through 5th graders through the Pierce County Library System based on the Fetch! series on PBS. It’s called Fetch! Club, and programs fill fast, so reserve your spot in advance.