Play Right: Science Experiments for Kids
For New Jammies kids, Spring brings a sense of renewal to the world, with plants sprouting and flowers blooming. The rain and the sun team up to boost and nourish the new seasonal growth. Spring is a perfect time to teach the wonders of science to kids with fun and easy projects to create at home. Check out these ideas for hands-on learning and play in nature:
Bean Sprout Science Experiment
The website education.com offers a simple Bean Sprout Science Activity that teaches kids how flowers bloom. “When springtime arrives, your third grader might wonder why there are so many new flowers and plants. This awesome hands-on science activity addresses your young learner’s questions,” education.com says. “He’ll get to observe the life of a bean sprout seed and see what happens when it is properly fed and sheltered.”
What You Need:
• Paper and pencil
• Paper towels
• Baking sheet
• 3 types of bean seeds (mung, green, lima)
What You Do:
1. Give one of each bean to your child to observe, explaining that each bean has a little opening for water to go inside.
2. Have your little scientist lay a few stacked damp paper towels onto the baking sheet, and put the beans on top. Put a few more stacked damp paper towels on top of the beans. Set the baking sheet aside in a sunny place. Make sure this spot isn’t too sunny, so the beans might get scorched.
3. Ask your child to write down some thoughts on a piece of paper. Have him predict the life cycle of a bean. How long will it take for it to fully sprout?
4. Each day, have your child re-wet the paper towels. Has anything changed in the beans?
5. At the end of a week, your scientist’s beans will have likely sprouted! Otherwise, wait and keep observing. When the beans have sprouted, ask your child about the little plants. Ask him what the purpose of a hard exterior is, what the seed needed to grow, and how plants outside grow.
6. You can take this fun project a little further and plant the seeds outside.
Click to download a printable version of this activity here.
See this activity in a set: Learn About the World Without Going Far
Homegrown Eggshell Geode Crystals
“Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a science teacher, author and presenter who is a regular guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Live With Kelly, The Dr. Oz Show, and Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. He encourages parents and teachers to practice “Random Acts of Science” by providing instructions and videos for interactive science experiments on his website, sciencebob.com. This science project from the website, provided by mom blogger and photographer Melissa Howard, helps kids grow their own geodes, with a little help from Mom and Dad.
“This project nicely demonstrates how real-life geodes are formed in igneous and sedimentary rock. It also demonstrates super-saturated solutions and shows a nice variety of crystal shapes and formations,” says sciencebob.com.
What You Need:
• Clean eggshells
• A variety of soluble solids: table salt, rock salt, sugar, baking soda, Epsom salts, sea salt, borax, or cream of tartar
• Small heat proof containers (coffee cups work well)
• Food coloring
• Egg cartons and wax paper or mini-muffin tins
What You Do:
1. Crack the eggs for this project as close to the narrow end as possible. This preserves more egg to use as a container for the solution.
2. Clean the eggshells using hot water. The hot water cooks the lining and allows you to pull the skin (egg membrane) out of the inside of the egg using your fingers. Make sure to remove all the egg membrane, if any membrane stays inside the shell it is possible that your eggshell will grow mold and your crystals will turn black.
3. Use an egg carton lined with waxed paper or mini-muffin tins to hold the eggs upright.
4. Use a saucepan to heat the water to boiling. Pour half a cup to a cup of water into your heatproof container. If you poured half a cup of water into the container, add about a ¼ cup of solid to the water. Stir it until it dissolves. Likewise if you used a cup of water, add about ½ a cup of solid to the water. You wanted to add about half again the volume of the water as a solid to the mixture.
5. When the initial amount of solid is dissolved continue adding small amounts of the solid until the water is super-saturated. Super-saturated simply means the water has absorbed all it is able to absorb and any solid you add will not dissolve.
6. Add food coloring.
7. Carefully pour your solution into the eggshell, filling it as full as possible without over-flowing it or causing it to tip.
8. Find a safe place to put your shells while the water evaporates. Crystals will form inside the eggshells as the water evaporates.
How it Works
Dissolving the crystals in hot water created what is called a “super-saturated solution.” This basically means that the salts took advantage of the energy of the hot water to help them dissolve until there was no more space between molecules in the solution. As the solution cooled, the water lost its energy and the crystals are forced from the solution to become a solid again. Since this happens slowly along with the evaporation, the crystals have time to grow larger than they were when the experiment started. Natural geodes in rock are form in much the same way as mineralized water seeps into air pockets in rock. This is also how rock candy crystals are formed.
Build Your Own Terrarium
KidsGardening.org creates opportunities for kids to learn though gardening, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder by providing inspiration, community know-how and resources. For 35 years, KidsGardening has led the school gardening movement, and as a national nonprofit is dedicated to improving nutritional attitudes, educational outcomes, social and emotional learning and environmental stewardship in youth across the country through garden-based learning. Their website features garden activities and crafts, including this project on how to build a terrarium, a miniature garden grown inside a covered glass or plastic container.
“It is a low maintenance way to incorporate plants into your classroom or home and an excellent tool for teaching children about the water cycle as it demonstrates evaporation, condensation and precipitation. In the presence of light and heat, water evaporates from the plants through transpiration and from the soil,” says kidsgardening.org. “Since it is an enclosed environment, when the water vapor hits the side of the container, it condenses. Once enough water accumulates or the temperature decreases, the condensation will then precipitate down the sides of the container back into the soil.”
What You Need:
• An enclosed container
• Pea gravel or small rock
• Potting soil
• Small indoor or tropical plants
• Charcoal (optional)
What You Do:
1. Find an appropriate container. Glass jars, fish bowls and tanks, clear plastic bottles and food containers can all make fine terrariums. Just make sure there is enough room to reach your hand into your container for planting and maintenance.
2. Clear plastic soda bottles are commonly used in school settings because they are readily available and inexpensive. To create, cut off the top of a large, clear plastic soda bottle, leaving a container that is approximately 8 inches tall. After planting in the soda bottle, you can either tape the top back onto the soda bottle or just cover it tightly with plastic. Clean the container using soapy water and rinse well. Dry completely.
3. Cover the bottom of the container with ½ inch (for small containers) to 1-1/2 inch (for large containers) of pea gravel for drainage. This mimics the bedrock found under our soils and allows access water to drain from the soil. You can also add a few granules of filtering charcoal (not the type used for barbecuing) to the top of the gravel to help remove odors. The charcoal is optional and is not needed if your terrarium maintains proper moisture levels.
4. Next fill the container to approximately one-third to one-half full with moist potting mix. The amount of soil you put in will depend on the size of the container (you need to have enough room for plant roots). Use a sterilized potting soil mix to avoid problems with molds and fungi (small bags of potting soil are available at most garden centers).
5. The moisture level of the soil when you put it into your terrarium is very important. Pour the soil into a bowl or tub and mix with water until the soil is moist enough to cling together in a ball when pressed into the hand. If water drips from the soil when pressed into a ball, then it is too wet and you should add more dry potting soil to your mixture. Once you find the perfect balance, place the soil in your container. Try to avoid getting soil particles stuck on the sides of the container above the soil level.
6. Many potting mixes contain slow release fertilizers. If the soil you purchased does not contain any fertilizer you may want to add a small number of slow release fertilizer pellets or some organic fertilizer like worm castings to your mix before planting. You want your plants to stay small and grow slowly, so you do not need much.
7. Next add your plants. Look for plants that are small, slow-growing, and perform well in humid environments. How you arrange the plants will depend on the size and location of the terrarium. If you will be viewing the terrarium from one side, then place the tallest plants in the back and shortest plants in the front. If your terrarium will be viewed from all sides or you plan to rotate it, plant the tallest plants in the middle and the shorter plants along the outside.
8. There is a wide range of plants to choose from. Most garden centers have an area reserved for indoor plants and you can usually find a variety of plants in 2 to 4 inch pots. Some recommended plants to use include: African violet, artillery fern, false aralia, jade plant, miniature peperomia, nerve plant, oxalis, pink polka dot plant, prayer plant, small, ferns, small peace lilies, small philodendrons, spider plant, strawberry begonia, and Swedish ivy. These are just a few suggestions. Experiment with different plants. If they appear to grow too vigorously or respond poorly to the humidity, remove them and try something new. You can also try growing plants from seeds and cuttings.
9. In addition to plant material, you can also be creative and add other objects to create mini-landscape scenes. For instance you may want to add decorative rocks, small animal figurines, small bridges or mirrors to look like mini ponds.
10. After planting, attach the container lid or cover with plastic. Place the terrarium in a windowsill with indirect lighting or under grow lights. Do not place it in strong direct sunlight or water will evaporate too quickly and plants may scorch.
11. Observe your terrarium closely for the first few days to make sure you have the proper moisture level. You’ll know that the terrarium contains the right amount of water if the sides and top get misty with water droplets when in bright light. If there is no moisture along the sides, then you need to add some more water. If the sides are always very wet and it is hard to see the plants, then there’s too much water and you should remove the top for a few hours and allow some of the excess water to evaporate. Once you achieve the perfect balance, it will not need frequent attention.
12. Check on your terrarium periodically. Prune or remove plants with excessive growth. You want to avoid plant leaves touching the sides of the container as much as possible to prevent constant water sitting on the foliage. Also check on the moisture levels as some water may be lost over time.
Click to download a printable PDF of this garden activity.
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