Monday, May 31, 2010

Can you build a boat that supports the most weight?

This is a fun and easy investigation that will keep Kid Scientists engaged for a long time.

Ages: All ages of Kid Scientist will be able to participate in this one.

Materials:  clay, plastic shoe box, water, weights…we used penniesScience 001Procedure:

  • Fill the plastic shoe box 3/4 full of water
  • Use pieces of clay to build a boat.  This is an important part of the investigation, before Kid Scientists can test how much weight their boat will hold, they will need a boat that floats.

Science 002 Science 004

  • As Kid Scientists are building their boats, ask them questions about the properties of boats.  Why did you boat sink?  Why did that one float?  What can you change?
  • When Kid Scientists have a floating boat, they can add pennies one at a time.  How much weight will your boat hold?

Science 008

  • My Kid Scientists were struggling with the clay boats when Connar said, “What about foil?” So they switched to a new boat building medium.

Science 012   Science 016 Science 014

What did you learn about boat design? 

How many pennies did your boat hold? 

What are you still wondering?


Using and understanding models are an important  part of being scientifically literate.  Kid Scientists should be able to answer these kinds of questions:
  • What "real thing" is this a model of?
  • How are the parts of the model like the real thing?
  • How is the model not like the real thing?  What are the drawbacks to the model?
  • Why is it easier to use a model in this situation?
Once Kid Scientists start looking for models, they will find them all over.  Models help us understand systems so large we can't possibly see all the components, and systems so small we can't possibly see all the components.  Models also allow scientists to isolate a part of a complicated system to better understand that part.

Have fun exploring models!  Let The Science Mommy know what you've found!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Make Your Own Marbled Note Cards…

This is one of the Science Mommy's favorite, messy projects!
Ages: Big and Little Kid Scientists will both enjoy this project
Materials: Shaving cream, food color, toothpicks, paper plate, paper towels, popsicle stick or plastic knife, paper or note cards (heavy weight paper works better)
  • Fill the paper plate with shaving cream, and smooth the topphoto
  • Add several drops of food color to the top of the shaving cream
  • Drag a toothpick through the food color to create a marbled pattern
  • Set the note card onto the shaving cream / food color.  Press gently to make sure all the color connects with the paper
  • Remove the note card and scrape the excess shaving cream off  with a popsicle stick or plastic knife
  • The design you created in shaving cream is now on your note card!
  •   You can continue to smooth out the shaving cream and add more color for several prints.
   Since this is such a mess, it’s fun to make several cards at once…or book marks, or frames or…the sky’s the limit.  My Kid Scientists and I had lots of fun with this project.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Make-Your-Own Fingerpaints...

Here's another great rainy day project...

Ages: Everyone will enjoy these paints, but they're aimed at Little Kid Scientists.  Even Very Little Kids can play with these paints, because if fingers go into's just pudding!

Materials: large package of instant vanilla pudding, 2 cups ice water, food color, small plastic cups, freezer paper

  • Mix water and pudding together in a bowl, until well mixed
  • Refrigerate for 5 minutes
  • Divide the mixture into several small cups
  • Allow Kid Scientists to create their paint colors with food color drops
  • Paint
The Science Mommy likes to use freezer paper for fingerpainting because the glossy finish on the back prevents the paints from seeping through.  You are also able to pull off a much larger sheet for a bigger picture. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can you build a Bubble Blower?

This is a great investigation to pair up with Bubble Solutions.

Ages:  All ages can participate in this investigation

Materials: A box of stuff...straws, string, small paper cups, empty thread spools, random toys...

  • This procedure is really experimental play.  Kids use the components available to discover what tool will create the best bubble
  • This is a great opportunity for parents to explore and play with their kids
  • Clean up...this is a big soapy mess.  Using a bit of vinegar in a spray bottle of water will help clean up soap residue from tables, chairs and other places you don't want it!

Tell Me: The Science Mommy would love to see pictures of your bubble blowing adventures!

Can you create a Bubble Solution?

Is there anything better in the summer than bubbles?  This can keep your kids going all afternoon!

Ages: This investigation is better for the Big Kids.  Little Kids will enjoy playing with the product though.

Materials:  Small plastic cups, water, several different dish soaps, glycerin, straws or bubble wands

The basic components of a bubble blowing solution are water, soap and a couple drops of glycerin.  Kid Scientists will explore ratios of those components and create their best bubble solution.
  • Kid Scientists will use all the materials they are given!  Especially if they are engaged in a fun investigation.  Set materials up for kids in small containers, giving them only the amounts you want used.
  • Each Kid Scientist will need a copy of the data table to record their investigation
  • When a solution is created, kids can blow bubbles to check how well it works

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exploring Density...

Density is a physical property of matter and there are some great explorations for Kid Scientists to build background knowledge.

Ages: All ages

Materials: Two glass containers - one larger than the other, water, string, food color

  • Tie the string around the top of the smaller container
  • Fill the larger container with cold water
  • Fill the smaller container with hot water and add a couple drops of food color 

  • Lower the container with hot, red water into the container with cold water
  • Watch what happens

What's Happening? The density of cold water is greater than that of hot water.  The hot, red water pours up, out of the container like a fountain and creates a layer on the top of the glass.

Kid Scientist Extension: Aiden watched this reaction and said, "I have an idea!  I am going to call it 3 Cup Madness and find out about pouring." 
 Using the materials he had, Aiden carried out his personal exploration.  It's not always important that we understand their thinking, or even that they can articulate their question.  Sometimes the best explorations are the ones that come in the moment. 
Celebrate the personal questions of your Kid Scientists!

Building Background...

Currently, there is a great deal of research surrounding learning theory.  The Science Mommy has read much of this research and incorporates it into her explorations and investigations.  If you are interested in doing your own reasearch, I would recommend How People Learn.  There are three important components that are well documented and researched:
1. New information needs to be attached to some background knowledge or experience
2. Students need to do something with the new information - practice it, apply it, explore it...
3. Students need to reflect on what they now know - how the new information connects with prior understanding or how their prior understanding has changed with the new information.

Consider explorations to be building background knowledge.  When ideas connect or build on each other, The Science Mommy will link posts.  Don't worry if your Kid Scientists doesn't understand the science behind the exploration.  While Kid Scientists won't be able to understand molecular theory or The Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy,  they can begin to build background by making obersvations and exploring models.  Later when Kid Scientists learn the more complex science, they will have background knowledge to connect.

Ask your Kid Scientists lots of questions...feed their their background experience and the technical understanding will come when it's time.

Exploring Air...

One important component of learning is being able to attach new information to background knowledge or experience.  Many of the investigations within The Science Mommy are about building background, like this one...

Ages: The actual exploration is best suited to Big Kids, but Little Kids will enjoy watching
Materials: Balloon, bottle, two bowls

  • Place the balloon over the neck of the bottle
  • Fill one bowl with ice and the other bowl with hot water
  • Set the bottle into the hot water and watch what happens
  • Move the bottle into the bowl with ice and watch what happens

What's Happening? Here's a snippet of the conversation I had with Connar while he did the exploration...
Mom: What happened to the balloon & bottle in the hot water?
Connar: It filled up
Mom: How?
Connar: It got hot and it expanded
Mom:What got hot?
Connar: um...the water
Mom: Is the balloon full of water?
Connar: No, air
Mom: Where did the air come from?
Connar:  The bottle...oh the bottle got hot and the air expanded
Mom: What is air made of?
Connar: Molecules...oh the molecules got hot and moved around more

I used questioning with Connar to help him understand that air molecules don't expand or get bigger, but when they are hot they move around more.  This is evident in the balloon.  Moving the bottle to ice, cools the air molecules and the balloon deflates. 


Ecology is the study of how living and non-living things interact in an ecosystem.  An ecosystem can be a tropical rainforest, it can be the abandoned corner lot or it can be the micro-ecosystem in your backyard.

Materials: 1-yard of string or yarn, knotted in a circle for each Kid Scientist

  • Invite your friends, cousins or brothers & sisters to join you
  • Drop the circle of string somewhere in the yard
  • Lay on your tummy near the micro-ecosystem
  • Observe what is happening in this tiny system...think about what is living and what is not living
  • Stay still for a while, so the creatures in your system move around
  • Compare what you saw with your friends...what is different?  What is the same?
- Big Kid scientists may want to list the living and non-living parts of their micro-ecosystem in their science journal
- Encourage kid scientists to visit their micro-ecosystems several different times to see what changes

For Mom's Eyes Only...
Kid Scientists often have trouble identifying non-living components of an ecosystem.  As they learn more about the world around them, Big Kids may easily identify air or sunlight as non-living.  Little Kids aren't so sure, they don't have a clear "rule" about what is living.  Many Little Kids think that water is living because it moves (they could say the same for wind).  Many kids will have a hard time with things like seeds or leaves off of trees.  Engage your kids in conversation, ask questions and see why they think, what they think. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fun Slime...

The Science Mommy loves mixtures like this one!

Ages: This is best for Big Kid Scientists


  • 2 cups white glue
  • 1 cup liquid starch
  • Food Coloring
  • Bowl 
  • Spoon
  • Zip-Lock bag

Procedures:  With supervision, Big Kid Scientists can measure everything themselves.
  • Pour 2 cups white glue into a bowl
  • Add 1 cup liquid starch
  • Add drops of food coloring for fun
  • Mix with the spoon (The Science Mommy often uses her fingers)
  • Slime can be stored in an airtight container

Questions for Kid Scientists:
  • How do the different materials affect the quality of slime?  What happens with too much glue or too much starch?
  • Is the slime a solid or a liquid?  
  • Research:  What is a non-newtonian liquid?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Natural Curiosity...

Kid Scientists are naturally curious.  My Kid Scientists pull this magnifier out every chance they get.

This magnifying lens is large enough for Kid Scientists to use and the stand makes it easy to locate the subject (without trying to manage a hand lens in one hand and the subject in the other). 


We use the magnifier frequently...when we're growing crystals, or looking at fossils or just exploring things on the counter.  I searched around and found this magnifier so you're Kid Scientists can feed their curiosity too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How is an Oil Spill cleaned up?

With the recent oil spill in the Gulf, Big Kid Scientists may be interested in understanding clean-up methods.  This exploration is adapted from "Oil Spill!" found in Picture Perfect Science Lessons by Karen Rohrich Asnberry and Emily Morgan.

Ages: Big Kid Scientists

Science Book Connection: Oil Spill! by Melvin Burger

Materials to Set up the Exploration:  Mom Scientists first need to prepare the oil for this exploration by mixing 1 tsp of powdered black tempera paint and 4 cups of vegetable oil.  Simulated oil is being used because black oil would be harmful to kid scientists.

  • Newspaper to cover work surface
  • 3 disposable pie plates
  • 3 rocks
  • 3 leafy carrot tops, celery tops, or weeds
  • Pipe cleaner
Procedure to Set up the Exploration:
  • Cover your work area with newspaper
  • Set up the oil spill models
    • Put a rock in each pie plate to represent the shore line
    • Put a leafy plant in each pie plate to represent aquatic plants
    • Model animals out of the pipe cleaners to represent aquatic animals, place one in each pie plate
  • Fill each pie plate about half full of water
  • Add 1/8 cup of simulated oil to each pan
Materials for the Exploration: plastic cups, plastic spoons & forks, yarn, nylon stocking, cotton balls, coffee filter, sand, paper towel...other materials that may aid in oil clean up

Procedure for the Exploration:
  • Your job is to find out which material will remove the most oil from the oil spill model
  • Select a material to test in each oil spill model
  • Determine a strategy for comparing removed oil from each system
  • Attempt to remove oil from each system
  • What was the effect of the oil spill on the model environment?
  • Which material was best for cleaning up the oil spill?  What is your evidence?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What affects Seed Germination?

Many families are busy getting vegetable gardens started or planting flowers.  Kid Scientists can explore germination with a few left over seeds.

Ages: This exploration will be interesting to all ages of Kid Scientists.  Read on for extensions for the Big Kids.  

Materials: Seeds, paper towel, water, plastic bags, plastic cups, garden soil

Procedure for Little Kids: 
  • Choose a question to test
    • Can seeds germinate (sprout) if they aren't in dirt? (set seeds in damp paper towel or in a plastic cup with a bit of water...try both!)
    • Will one type of seed germinate faster than another? (use two or more different types of seeds, they can be planted in cups of soil, or tucked into a baggie with a damp papertowel)
    • Will seeds germinate faster if they are in dirt? (try seeds planted in a cup of soil and seeds in a damp paper towel...make sure you use the same type of seed)
    • Can seeds germinate in the refrigerator? (put seeds in damp papertowel in both the fridge and on the counter, compare germination)
    • Can seeds germinate in a dark place? (use a similar set-up to the refrigerator)
    • Will seeds germinate faster outside or inside? (use a similar set-up to the refrigerator)
  • With help, Little Kids can set up their seed experiment.
  • Make observations every day
  • Ask Little Kids to describe what they saw and what they learned.
Procedure for Big Kids:
  • Encourage Big Kids to come up with their own questions to test...if they're stumped they could choose from the list
  • With a question, Big Kids should decide how to set up their investigation.  Help them with their variables, making sure they have a control and only one manipulated variable.
  • Big Kids could also figure out a way to collect data.  What observations will they make?  How will they record their observations?
  • Ask Big Kids to describe what they saw and what they learned
The Science Mommy would love to see pictures of your investigations!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Oatmeal Dough...

This is perfect for a rainy day, I'm bored moment.  Unleash your Kid Scientist's creativity.

Ages:  All ages of Kid Scientist will have fun with this one.  (Probably even Mom Scientists!)

Materials:   1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 2 cups oatmeal

  • Combine the flour, water and oatmeal into a bowl
  • Stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add flour if your dough is sticky.
  • Use a lightly floured surface to play with your dough.
  • This dough can be stored in an airtight container when you're done playing.

Add some Exploration:
This is another opportunity for your Kid Scientists to play with mixing colors.  Bring out that box of food colors and challenge them to create Orange, Purple and other mixed colors.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Books for Kid Scientists...

Periodically, The Science Mommy will include her current favorite books for kids.  I believe some of the most important minutes we can spend with kids are spent  reading!

The teacher in me feels compelled to share..."By the time most children start school they will have been exposed to 5 million words and should know about 13, 000 of them.  By High School they should know about 60,000 to 100,000 words... Reading is one of the most important factors affecting the development of a child's brain.  Reading skills are not hardwired into the human brain; every subskill of reading...must be explicitly taught."  (Teaching With Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen)  Children who don't have the advantage of reading and being read to at home enter school at a disadvantage and that disadvantage grows each year.  Keep reading with your Kid Scientists!

Here are three books my Kid Scientists LOVE...

The Pebble in My Pockettells the story of a pebble...any pebble you can pick up.  Read about the rock cycle and the story a pebble can tell in this beautifully illustrated book.  Then, go out and find rocks with your Kid Scientists...what stories do you imagine your rocks could tell?

Arrowhawk is the true story of a hawk that was shot with an arrow and survived.  Told from the perspective of the hawk, and illustrated with water colors, this story is amazing.   Not only will children learn about wildlife rehabilitation but also about courage and strength.

How Full is Your Bucket is not necessarily a science book, but it is a great book for kids.  Each person has an invisible bucket and our interactions either add to their buckets or dip from their buckets.  This book opens the conversation about compassion and understanding with even preschool age kids.  {It also lends itself well to sibling quarreling}

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sink and Float

This is a great exploration for Little and Really Little Kid Scientists!

Materials: Plastic tub, sink or other water source, toys and little stuff

  • Fill the container or the sink with warm water
  • Give your Little Scientist all kinds of stuff
  • Depending on the age, ask your Kid Scientist, "Will it sink or float?" before each object is placed in the water.  Making predictions is an important aspect of developing scientific thinking. 
  • Kids will be developing an understanding of concepts like density and buoyancy with this activity
This is a great activity to keep busy kids engaged while you're cooking or doing something else that requires part of your attention.  It's also a fun game to play when you out at a river or a lake. 

My Kid Scientist Aiden, has always been fascinated with water.  Many Children's Museums and Science Centers have water play tables for this very reason.  Play with thinking is a very important part of developing scientific reasoning.

Check out this Reaction...

This is an interesting demonstration that kids of all ages can do quickly and easily.

Materials:  shallow bowl, pie plate or dinner plate with high edges, food colors, milk, toothpick and dish soap

  • Fill the bowl or pie plate with milk (you don't need much, about 1 cm deep)
  • Add drops of food color scattered around the edges
  • Dip the toothpick into dish soap
  • Touch the surface of the milk with the soapy end of the toothpick
  • Watch what happens
  • Most Kid Scientists will want to try this again, once they have seen what happens!

What's Happening?
  • First of all, for Little Kid Scientists, the explanation is beyond their understanding and they probably don't care.  I like to use this when my kids are squirrely while I am cooking.  They can sit at the counter and watch the reaction, while I get dinner ready.
  • If Big Kid Scientists are interested in the chemistry involved, then they have their research question to explore.  (Hint...there is a connection to drops of water on a penny)
I didn't post any pictures this time because I didn't want to give anything away.  The Science Mommy would love to post your pictures...send them in!