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.
When I tell my kids we’re going to the science museum, the first thing they do is race up to their rooms to look through their rock collections. Even my twelve year old is not immune to this behavior.
Since they were old enough to talk, the three of them have been bringing paper wasp nests, quartz crystals, empty Monarch chrysalises, fossils and other interesting finds to a hidden gem in the Science Museum of Minnesota: The Collector’s Corner. At this oasis of curiosities (tucked away in a corner of the Collections Gallery near the mummy,) kids can trade in their stuff for points, which allow them to “buy” other amazing items. The more science they know about the item they’re trading in, the more points they get. Luckily, they have a comfy couch for parents and grandparents to lounge on while they talk to the well-informed and friendly volunteers staffing the “Corner.”
The Science Museum of Minnesota is a great destination for those days when you don’t want to go outside, but you want to give your kids a chance to learn, explore and use their imaginations.
Every Tuesday, the Museum caters to the pre-K crowd with Preschool Playdates, where, if you purchase a regular price adult ticket, you receive a free child admission (ages 5 and under). Minnesota Children’s Museum members receive free Science Museum admission during Playdates.
These playdates include:
- Admission to the Science Museum’s exhibit galleries, packed with hands-on fun.
- Make & Take creations: Your child will use their imagination to engineer a project the museum developed especially for them!
- Special theater programs and demonstrations designed just for preschoolers.
- Parent’s guide to preschool activities and accommodations throughout the museum, including an introduction to the Collectors’ Corner trading post!