Our planet is buzzing with life, and over 90% of all the animals on Earth are invertebrates, including worms, insects and arachnids. From Earthworms to sow bugs and butterflies, your neighborhood is teeming with amazing creatures.
Below are five science projects from my book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids ! Click on the experiments below for instructions, or order your copy (wherever books are sold) to find step-by-step instructions, how-to photos, science explanations and more outdoor science experiments!
5. Make a bug house to discover what environment isopods (pill bugs and sow bugs) prefer.
What did you discover?
It’s Monarch season!
Go find some caterpillars, gather some Milkweed and watch an incredible transformation. The second video in this post tells you how to spot Monarch eggs and caterpillars and how to raise them into butterflies!
Here’s a short video on how to find and raise caterpillars, via my new book, Outdoor Science Lab for Kids.
From surface tension to evaporation, science come into play every time you blow a bubble. Here’s some bubble science, along with a recipe for making giant bubbles from my book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids!
Water molecules like to stick to each other , and scientists call this sticky, elastic tendency “surface tension.” Soap molecules, have a hydrophobic (water-hating) end and (hydrophilic) a water-loving end and can lower the surface tension of water. When you blow a bubble, you create a thin film of water molecules sandwiched between two layers of soap molecules, with their water-loving ends pointing toward the water, and their water-hating ends pointing out into the air.
As you might guess, the air pressure inside the elastic soapy sandwich layers of a bubble is slightly higher than the air pressure outside the bubble. Bubbles strive to be round, since the forces of surface tension rearrange their molecular structure to make them have the least amount of surface area possible, and of all three dimensional shapes, a sphere has the lowest surface area. Other forces, like your moving breath or a breeze can affect the shape of bubbles as well.
The thickness of the water/soap molecule is always changing slightly as the water layer evaporates, and light is hitting the soap layers from many angles, causing light waves to bounce around and interfere with each other, giving the bubble a multitude of colors.
Try making these giant bubbles at home this summer! They’re a blast! (It works best a day when it’s not too windy, and bubbles love humid days!)
To make your own giant bubble wand, you’ll need:
-Around 54 inches of cotton kitchen twine
-two sticks 1-3 feet long
-a metal washer
1. Tie string to the end of one stick.
2. Put a washer on the string and tie it to the end of the other stick so the washer is hanging in-between on around 36 inches of string. (See photo.) Tie remaining 18 inches of string to the end of the first stick. See photo!
For the bubbles:
-6 cups distilled or purified water
-1/2 cup cornstarch
-1 Tbs. baking powder
-1 Tbs. glycerine (Optional. Available at most pharmacies.)
-1/2 cup blue Dawn. The type of detergent can literally make or break your giant bubbles. Dawn Ultra (not concentrated) or Dawn Pro are highly recommended. We used Dawn Ultra, which is available at Target.
1. Mix water and cornstarch. Add remaining ingredients and mix well without whipping up tiny bubbles. Use immediately, or stir again and use after an hour or so.
2. With the two sticks parallel and together, dip bubble wand into mixture, immersing all the string completely.
3. Pull the string up out of the bubble mix and pull them apart slowly so that you form a string triangle with bubble in the middle.
4. Move the wands or blow bubbles with your breath. You can “close” the bubbles by moving the sticks together to close the gap between strings.
What else could you try?
-Make another wand with longer or shorter string. How does it affect your bubbles?
-Try different recipes to see if you can improve the bubbles. Do other dish soaps work as well?
-Can you add scent to the bubbles, like vanilla or peppermint, or will it interfere with the surface tension?
-Can you figure out how to make a bubble inside another bubble?
Seven weeks from today, my new book “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: Edible Edition” hits shelves everywhere books are sold, and there are some great pre-order sales going on now! Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, Edible Edition gives you 52 delicious ideas for exploring food science in your own kitchen by making everything from healthy homemade snacks to scrumptious main dishes and mind-boggling desserts.
Here’s a sneak peek into the book….
When you step into your kitchen to cook or bake, you put science to work. Physics and chemistry come into play each time you simmer, steam, bake, freeze, boil, puree, saute, or ferment food.
Knowing something about the physics, biology, and chemistry of food will give you the basic tools to be the best chef you can be. The rest is up to you!
Monday April 22nd is Earth Day, so get outside and show our home planet some love! Whether you’re picking up trash or visiting a park, it’s always fun to throw some science into the mix.
Here are some of our favorite environmental science experiments. Just click on the experiment names for directions and photos. You can find more fun outdoor experiments in my books “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” and “Outdoor Science Lab for Kids“ (Quarry Books.)
Homemade Sweep Nets: Make a sweep net from a pillowcase and a hanger to see what arthropods are hanging out in your favorite outdoor spaces.
Window Sprouts: Plant a bean in a plastic baggie with a damp paper towel to see how plants need only water and air to sprout roots and leaves. Here’s a short video demonstrating how to make a window garden.
Homemade Solar Oven: Using a pizza box, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and newspaper, you can harness the sun’s energy to cook your own S’mores!
Nature Walk Bracelets: Wrap some duct tape around your wrist (inside out) and take a walk, sticking interesting natural objects like leaves and flowers to your bracelet. It’s a great way to get outdoors and engage with nature. Bring a bag along so you can pick up any trash you find.
Carbon Dioxide and Ocean Acidity: See for yourself how the carbon dioxide in your own breath can make a water-based solution more acidic. It’s the same reason too much carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere can be bad for our oceans.
Plant Transpiration: See how trees “sweat” in this survival science experiment.
Earthworm Experiment: Do you know what kind of earthworms are living in your back yard?
Composting: Be a composting detective. Bury some things in your back yard (away from power cables) and dig them up in a few months to see how they look. Composting reduces methane gas emissions (a greenhouse gas) from dumps.
Diffusion and Osmosis: See for yourself how the chemicals we add to water, put on our streets to melt ice, and spray on our lawns and crops can move into our soil, ground water, rivers, lakes and oceans.
Solar Water Purification: This project illustrates the greenhouse effect and is a fun “survival science” experiment. Requires hot sun and some patience!
Citizen Science: Don’t forget about all the real environmental research projects you can participate in through Citizen Science programs all around the world!
For mores activities and games, check out NASA’s Climate Kids website, to see a kid-friendly diagram of the water cycle, click here, or just get outside and enjoy the beautiful planet that sustains and nurtures us.
It’s simple to make gorgeous marbled eggs using olive oil marbling. Simply dye your eggs with food coloring and then marble them with a darker color. (Epsom Salt Egg Geode instructions are at the bottom of this post.)
Hint: Wear gloves to avoid staining your fingers.
-2 cups of warm water in a bowl
-hard boiled eggs
-food coloring (We used Wilton Color Right food coloring: 2 drops blue mixed with one drop of yellow in about a cup of water to make robin’s egg colors, and brown for marbling.)
1. Make base dye by adding a few Tbs. vinegar to two cups of water. To this, add a few drops of food coloring. Lighter colors work best for the base.
2. Dye the hard boiled eggs in the base color until they are the desired shade. Let them dry.
3. To a small bowl, add 1/2 cup water, a Tbs. of vinegar, darker food coloring, and 1/2 tsp olive oil. Add more oil if you want less dark color when you marble. Oil shouldn’t cover the entire surface.
4. Swirl the oil with a toothpick or spoon and lower your egg into the water/oil mixture, swirling and spinning it. When you like the results, take it out and let it dry.
5.When the egg is dry, remove the excess oil with a paper towel.
The science behind the fun: Food coloring is an acid dye, so the vinegar (acetic acid) helps it bond to the egg shell. Oil is less dense than water and floats on top. When you put the egg in the oil-colored water mixture, the oil coats part of the egg, preventing it from being stained.
Epsom Salt Crystal Egg Geodes:
Have an adult cut a raw egg in half lengthwise, using a serrated knife. Wash the shell and dry it. Dye if desired.
Use a glue gun or school glue to coat the inside of the egg. Sprinkle in Epsom salt crystals and allow to harden or dry.
(Warning: Hot liquids require adult supervision.) To make the Epsom Salt crystals, dissolve 3 cups of Epsom salts in 2 cups of water by heating and stirring until no more crystals are visible. This creates a supersaturated solution. Allow the solution to cool slightly. Fill each half eggshell with Epsom salt solution. When long, needle-like crystals have formed, dump out the excess liquid and break the thin layer of crystals on top to reveal the ones in the shell.
Homemade pop rocks aren’t as fizzy as the ones you buy at the store, but they’re mighty tasty! Citric acid combines with baking soda to make carbon dioxide gas bubbles that get trapped in the candy. Adding extra citric acid and baking soda to the surface of the candy gives some extra fizz when you put them in your mouth. Trick your friends by adding a flavor that doesn’t match the color!
Warning: Ages 8 and up only. Extremely hot candy syrup. Adult supervision required.
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup
a few drops of food coloring
1 tsp flavoring, like orange or cherry
1/4 cup citric acid + 1 tsp to sprinkle on in final step
1 tsp baking soda plus some to sprinkle on the candy
Step 1. Coat a the bottom of an inverted baking sheet with cornstarch.
Step 2. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water, stirring until it reaches 300 degrees F.
Step 3. Remove the hot, melted candy from heat. Stir in food coloring, flavoring, 1/4 cup citric acid and 1 tsp baking soda.
Step 4. Very carefully, pour the mixture onto the baking sheet. Do not touch!!! Sprinkle 1 tsp. citric acid evenly over the surface of the candy.
Step 5. Let the mixture cool for at least 30 minutes and the break it into small pieces. Put some of the fragments in a plastic zip lock bag and use a hammer or rolling pin to crush them into tiny pieces or powder.
Step 6. Sprinkle on a little more baking soda and shake up in the bag.
Step 7. Enjoy the leprechaun pop rocks!
Does hand-washing really get rid of germs? Yes! Scrubbing your hands with soap and water for the length of time it takes you to recite the ABC’s will get rid of the majority of harmful microbes on your hands.
Here’s a video on how to make Petri plates for a hand-washing experiment, where you touch labeled sections of the plates with your fingertips before washing, after washing with water alone, and after scrubbing with soap or hand sanitizer. You can also use the plates to swab and grow microbes from around your house or school!
Find the recipe for Petri Plates in my book Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, or click here for a link to the recipe on my original blog post, where you can also read more about the science!
Most clear hard candy has what scientists call a glass structure. It’s a disorganized jumble of three kinds of sugar: glucose, fructose and sucrose, which can’t assemble into organized crystals, so it remains transparent when you melt it and allow it to re-harden.
To make stained glass for our gingerbread house windows, I adapted the crushed stained glass candy project from my book “STEAM Lab for Kids.” The challenge was figuring out how to create perfect rectangles. After some trial and error, I discovered that scoring the candy when it was still warm and soft created weak points, which allowed me to snap the candy into clean shapes once it had hardened.
-Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers or another clear, hard candy
-a baking sheet (spray or grease the baking sheet, if not using a silicon liner)
-a silicon liner for the baking sheet, if you have one
-a metal spatula or dough scraper
Safety tip: Adult supervision recommended. Hot, melted candy can cause burns. Don’t touch it until it has cooled.
What to do:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- Unwrap the candy and arrange the pieces on a baking sheet so that they’re close together, but not touching.
- Bake the candy for 7 to 8 minutes, or until it has melted.
- Remove the candy from the oven. Tilt the baking sheet, if needed, to fill gaps.
- Use the spatula to score (make lines in) the candy, creating whatever shapes/sizes you need.
- When the candy has cooled, snap it carefully along the lines you made. (See photo at the top of this post.)
- Eat your creations, or use them to decorate some edible architecture.
- Try crushing the candy before you melt it for different visual effects. What else could you try?