10 Simple Tips for Bringing Science into your Home

By Kim Vij, The Educators’ Spin On It

Do you ever wonder if your child is getting enough Science?

As an educator and parent I have observed over the years that with more and more time focused on Reading, Writing and Math our children are not getting enough time for deeper levels of understanding of in science at school.  Children need more opportunities for hands on exploration and time to process the experiments and concepts at their own pace.  Are you thinking this is something I can help with at home but where to start? Do you know what concepts your child is supposed to be learning in science at school?  It’s easy you can just check the Standards for their Grade Level and support from home.  Your local school board website will have a link.

At The Educators’ Spin On It we try our best to insure that our children have the opportunity to explore science with our After School Express Series and our Tot School Series. We share ideas that you can incorporate as a stay at home parents, after school or on the weekends with your child. You would be surprised how many other subject areas a simple science experiment can lead to… Reading, Math, Writing and more!

10 Simple Tips for Bringing Science into your Home

  • Create a Science Station at Home

Include a Microscope, Binoculars, Magnifying Glass, Tweezers and Containers which are all tools a Scientist Needs to explore.

  • Create Science Trays

Provide items on a science tray such as Magnets, Rocks, Shells or Fossils to provide opportunities to explore and investigate and question.

  • Visit your local library to check out books from the Non Fiction Section

A deep understanding of a concept can come from a self-driven question.  Before you get there ask your child what they want to learn about prior checking out books.  Reptiles, solar energy, volcanos, insects, or chemistry, which topic will it be?  Keep a list posted of the Dewey Decimal System as a menu to choose from and to record on what you’ve discovered already.

Stepping out and into your garden has so many benefits to your child.  Simple good nutrition is the first step as well as discovering the process from seed to plant to fruit or vegetables and all the stages in between.  Does your child know where potatoes grow?  Or how many peas grow in a typical pod?

Have you ever really talked about the chemical & physical changes that happen while something cooks?  Observe active yeast?  Egg or no egg, baking soda or no baking soda?  How can kneading bread change from a sticky mess to something extremely soft and smooth? It’s all explained with science.

Have your children record observations of the world around them.  Create a Hypothesis for an experiment they want to do.  Encourage them to look at the world as a scientist would.

  • Plan Family Outings

Plan trips that support Science Concepts they are learning at school.  A local trip to a science museum or park might be the first step to learning about the land forms and animal life in your area.  Zoo, local nursery, Pet store, Animal Rescue, or even your neighborhood can provide real life experience of many science concepts.

  • Keep simple items on hand for experiments

You would be surprised with how much you can do with baking soda, vinegar, sugar, food coloring, dish detergent, glycerin, corn starch, dirt & seeds. Plus check out Steve Spangler’s Store for some amazing options for teaching children about science.

  • Don’t be afraid of a little mess
  • Ask questions that are open ended

This is one of the biggest keys to remember.  We need to encourage our children to think about a topic and originate their own questions and answers it prevents them from thinking outside the box.  As you see them observing something, encourage them to talk about their questions and observations.  It’s also a great way to build vocabulary too!    

Bonus Tip:  Follow Steve Spangler’s Science Experiment of the Week.  Plus don’t forget you can use Pinterest as a source for Science Experiments.  There are always amazing experiments being shared.  We have a Science Board that we encourage you to follow.

We hope that you’re able to bring science into your home with these simple tips. With these simple tips you can create great thinkers and develop a strong science background.  Plus these experiences will help to build their imaginations to form the skills necessary to discover new things for our future!

 

 

Kim Vij is the co-author of The Educators’ Spin On It . As an early childhood teacher and a mom of three, she’s learned many tips and tricks of parenting and teaching along the way in the past 20 years. She shares her “Educator’s Spin” on parenting issues and how to make learning playful and playtime meaningful. You can also join The Educators’ Spin On It on Facebook and Pinterest.

The Science Behind Denver's Brown Cloud

The bad air in Denver is notorious. It’s so bad that it has a name – the Brown Cloud.

Denver’s location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains make it prone to temperature inversions in which warm air traps cooler air near the ground, preventing pollutants from rising into the atmosphere.

What is a temperature inversion?

Warm air is lighter than cold air. Hot air balloons rise because the warm air inside the balloon is lighter than the cold air surrounding it. In the wintertime, the sun warms the surface of the earth during daylight hours. This warm air rises and mixes with other atmospheric gases. When the sun goes down, the surface area cools and the air gets colder. The less dense warm air high up in the atmosphere often blankets the colder air that rests closer to the surface of the earth. Because the colder air is more dense than the warm air, the colder air is trapped close to the earth and the atmospheric gases do not mix. This is a temperature inversion.

Why is a temperature inversion bad for air quality? 

Air pollution is more noticeable during a temperature inversion since pollutants such as car exhaust are trapped in the layer of cold air close to the earth. As a result, state agencies in many parts of the country oxygenate automobile fuels during winter months with additives like MTBE in an attempt to reduce the harmful effects of trapped pollution.  This trapped pollution is what causes the “brown cloud” effect. Wind or precipitation can help alleviate the brown cloud effect by stirring up and breaking up the warm layer of air that traps the cold air and pollution down near the surface of the earth.

Temperature Inversion Demonstration

Warm water, like warm air, is less dense than its cold counterpart. You can demonstrate the effects of a temperature inversion by using bottles of warm and cold water. Fill an empty juice bottle with warm colored water and carefully place it over a similar bottle of colored cold water. Do the liquids mix?

Now, place the cold water bottle over the warm water bottle.

When the bottle of warm water is placed on top of the cold water, the more dense cold water stays in the bottom bottle and the less dense warm water is confined to the top bottle. However, when the cold water bottle rests on top of the warm water, the less dense warm water rises to the top bottle and the cold water sinks. The movement of the water is clearly seen as the yellow and blue food coloring mix, creating a green liquid.

The movement of warm and cold water inside the bottles is referred to as the convection current. In our daily life, warm currents can occur in oceans, like the warm Gulf Stream moving up north along the American Eastern Seaboard. Convection currents in the atmosphere are responsible for the formation of thunderstorms as the warm and cold air masses collide.

For complete step by step instructions and more on temperature inversions, visit the Brown Cloud Temperature Inversion Experiment Page.

 

Enter the 2013 Google Science Fair

Google has opened its online international Science Fair for kids between the ages of 13 and 18. Students can work alone or in teams.

Find your passion, learn a little science and maybe win a prize.

To enter, you only need a little inspiration, an idea and a Google account. Sign up at GoogleScienceFair.com. After signing up, run your test or experiment and enter all information on the project site. Submissions are due by April 30, 2013.

After the first round of judging, we’ll announce 90 regional finalists, whose work will then be reviewed even more closely by a panel of judges. The top 15 students will be invited to our finalist event at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA, where they’ll present their work to a panel of scientists, tech innovators and Nobel Laureates. In the end, we’ll be honoring three winners, including a Grand Prize winner.

What is the grand prize, you ask? Just a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions and $50,000 in scholarship funding. There are also lots of other prizes for finalists and in age categories.

Meet Brittany, 17, the grand prize winner in 2012. Her winning project was an app to test for breast cancer.

 

 

Marshmallow and Cherry Science Density Layer Cake

Bake a little science cake for your love this Valentines Day. This experiment mixes a little kitchen science, candy science and physical science. And the end result of this activity is delicious.

To make a 3-layer density cake, you will need the following materials –

  • Cake mix (flavor is up to you, we used Devil’s Cake)
  • Bag of small marshmallows
  • 2 cans of cherry pie mix with whole cherries
  • Eggs
  • Oil
  • Water
  • Clear glass cake pan

Instructions –

  1. Prepare cake batter per box directions.
  2. Spray the bottom of the cake pan.
  3. Cover the bottom of the pan with marshmallows.
  4. Pour cake batter over the marshmallows.
  5. Layer the cherry pie filing on top of the batter. Do this quickly, as the marshmallows will start to float up almost immediately.
  6. Bake the cake according to box directions.

As the cake bakes, the marshmallows and cherries will switch places. You have to check in on the baking process to watch the science. The baking is the best part (besides eating the cake.) As the marshmallows rise to the top, they will melt and become gooey. During our experiment, the marshmallows completely melted and disappeared. You may want to try baking your cake slower and at a lower temperature to preserve the marshmallows. As the cherries fall to the bottom, they will only be visible after cutting the cake or looking through the clear bottom.

 How does this work?

The answer lies in density. Density is defined as mass divided by volume or the amount of stuff in a certain amount of space. Marshmallows are sugar puffed up with air. They are much less dense than the cherries. The marshmallows are less dense than the cake batter too, so as the batter naturally descends to the bottom of the cake pan, the marshmallows rise. The cherries are the most dense, so they fall to the bottom.

What other ingredients can you use to switch places in this yummy experiment?

This experiment was developed by former teacher and Story Time Slime speaker Julie Gintzler as a 100-day activity with her class. She lined 100 marshmallows on the bottom of the cake pan as part of the celebration. 

Valentines Day Candy Science Experiments

It’s Valentines week – love is in the air and there is candy flowing everywhere. What are you going to do with all of the candy your child brings home on Thursday afternoon? Don’t eat it…experiment with it.

 

Here are a few experiments shown in the video -

The Ups and Downs of a Relationship – Candy Heart Soda Dance

  • Fill a clear glass with 7-Up, Sprite or other carbonated drink.
  • Drop a handful of candy conversation hearts into the soda.
  • Watch the hearts dance up and down in the carbonation.

The carbon dioxide picks them up and throws them to the top of the glass. When they reach the top, the bubbles burst and the candy works its way down again.

 

Skittles and M&M’s Letter Float

  • Fill a clear glass or bowl half way with water.
  • Drop a few M&M’s or Skittles into the water.
  • Wait about 10-20 minutes to let the candy soak.

How Does This Work?

The “M” and “S” letters on M&M’s and Skittles are printed in edible white ink. The ink won’t dissolve in water. When the candy shell dissolves, the letters peel off and float to the top.

(This experiment was originally done on CandyExperiments.com)

Pop Rocks Expander

  • Pour an entire packet of Pop Rocks into a balloon.
  • Stretch the mouth of the balloon over the opening of a bottle of soda. Carefully to avoid the Pop Rocks from spilling into the soda.
  • When it’s secure, dump the balloon over and empty the Pop Rocks into the soda.
The secret behind the famous “popping” of Pop Rocks candy is pressurized carbon dioxide gas. Each of the tiny little candy pebbles contains a small amount of the gas. These tiny carbon dioxide bubbles make the popping sound you hear when they burst free from their candy shells.

Gobstoppers or Skittles Color Mix

  • Fill a petri dish with enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Drop a Gobstopper of different color along each side so that they are across from each other and evenly spaced.
  • Wait and observe.

Science-Based Inquiry Tests

Try this experiment with other dyed candies, like M&M’s Skittles, Lifesavers. Do they all work the same?

Try it with different liquids, like milk, vinegar or soda. Do the colors spread the same?

Now try putting two Gobstoppers in a petri dish, then three. What happens?

Finally, test different temperatures in the water. What happens to the dissolve rate in cold water or hot?

Gobstoppers have at least four layers of of colors, so your petri dish rainbow should change colors four times during this experiment.

The Gobstopper colors do not mix. They all run into eachother and stop.