Come February – many parents will forego the vacation to sunnier climes and stay at home with their kids during winter recess. In most of the country, the weather outside will be cold, local aquariums and museums will be packed and everyone’s cabin fever temperatures will be running high.
How about finding fun in your home by setting aside a day to do science?
Kitchen experiments are a playful introduction to science and can be great motivators to learning other subjects as well. Many science activities for young children are simple and can be experienced at home using materials you may already have in your cupboards.
How about doing volume experiments with water and empty plastic bottles or sensory experiments by closing your eyes and smelling flowers? Experience and research show that young children are excited about science and thrive when they are given the chance to explore the world around them.
The Merck Institute for Science Education provides K-12 educators and administrators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with professional development to support their ability to cultivate student scientists and is one of just a few teaching advocacy programs that strongly supports science for early elementary aged schoolchildren.
“We hope that by encouraging science in young children that they will grow up seeing science as relevant, accessible and even exciting,” says Stacey Gruber, manager of the Elementary Education Programs at Merck Institute for Science Education.
Carolyn Janney, kindergarten teacher at Kulp Elementary School in Hatfield, Pa., and MISE participant, shared a few science activities with us that can easily be done at home. Here are her ideas.
Q-Tip Taster Try-Outs
Young children are natural born explorers. Learn about the five senses by experiencing different tastes. Set out a number of Q-tips and small bowls containing, lemon juice, salt, unsweetened cocoa and sugar. Mix each item with water and set in a separate bowl. Dip the Q-tip in the bowls and place on their tongue. Have them put the Q-tip on various parts of their tongues so that the children can discover for themselves where the taste buds are located.
Talk to the children about what they are experiencing. Let them discover that one’s tongue experiences bitter tastes at the back of the tongue, sour on the sides and salt and sweet tastes at the front. Consider doing the cocoa in the middle so that they have some tastes that they don’t mind. Then follow it with sugar so that they can get rid of the bitter taste quickly!
Hold the beans!!
Teach little ones about volume and capacity by setting out several containers of different shapes and sizes. Fill each with beans. Ask the kids, can you find any containers that hold the same amount of beans? Which of the containers holds the most? After they find matching containers, act puzzled and ask them, “But how? This one is taller and this one is shorter.”
They are often able to vocalize that while one is taller, the shorter one is wider. The idea is for them to understand that different shaped containers can hold the same volume. They are beginning to understand the geometric principles of volume and capacity.
Oil and Water Don’t Mix
Oil and water don’t mix and this is your chance to explain why.
Take an empty water bottle and fill it 1/3 full of water. Add food coloring. Add another 1/3 full with oil and another 1/3 with Karo Syrup. The liquids will separate. The heavies (Karo) will go to the bottom the lightest (oil) will go to the top.
They can try shaking the bottle, but the liquids will always separate into layers. Each of the liquids in the bottle has a different density level, which means that their molecules are more tightly packed together.
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