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5 Summer Science Exploration Ideas for Kids

Science surrounds us and summer offers the perfect time for families to explore science in action. Avoid the summer slump and try some of these suggestions for summer science adventures with your child. Most of these activities are low-cost or free, but be sure to check with your local library before heading out to learn about free and discount passes to museums and other local attractions.

1. Participate in a Citizen Science Project

Science is collaborate by nature, so join in and lend a hand by participating in a citizen science project. Project participants support scientific research by:

These are just a few of citizen science projects looking for volunteers and many welcome help from children working with the guidance of an adult. Search for other citizen science projects at Zooniverse and SciStarter.

2. Become a National Park Service Junior Ranger

With parks from Maine to California and everywhere in-between, the National Park Service offers an affordable option for hands-on summer science fun. Fourth grade students qualify for free annual park passes through the Every Kid in a Park program. The Junior Rangers Program gives kids the opportunity to explore nature, attend ranger guided programs, and complete activities for each park. If your budding park ranger completes a Junior Ranger Program, each park offers a patch or badge and a certificate of completion. Can’t visit a particular park? Visit the NPS’s on-line WebRangers page.

3. Visit a Science Center

There are many fabulous science museums that offer kids access to interactive learning opportunities. For those fortunate enough to be within driving distance to a NASA center, consider a visit. Learn about space exploration, aeronautics, and ongoing missions and discoveries. Many of the centers, including Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, welcome visitors and offer tours. If you can’t travel to a visitor center, then be sure to visit NASA Wavelength and explore the vast collection of educational resources NASA has to offer.

With centers across the nation, the Audubon Society provides outdoor adventure for all ages. Visit a sanctuary, go on a hike, and explore the local lands and wildlife. Many centers offer nature themed programs designed exclusively for children and families as well as summer camps. Centers are open to the public, but those with memberships may visit for free and receive discounts on programs and camps. Find an Audubon Center near you.

4. Try Hands-On Science Activities

Hands-on science activities at home are a great way to have some summer fun, spend family time together, and even learn a little something new. Science at home is affordable and typically can be conducted with household objects and resources. Follow your child’s lead and try experiments related to his or her interests. Get started with these science activities for kids or browse this collection of home science activities from Scientific American.

5. Star Watch

Grab a blanket and the bug spray and head outside for some star gazing. If possible, get away from light pollution, you will be amazed at what you can see once your eyes adjust to the dark on a clear night. Bring a star chart and try to locate a few stars, planets, constellations, and galaxies. Use binoculars to identify surface features of the moon. If that isn’t spectacular enough for your aspiring astronomer, try counting the number of “shooting stars” during a meteor shower. August’s Perseids meteor shower is a great one to enjoy on a warm summer evening. Check out this year’s not-to-miss celestial events to watch with kids.

Looking for more ideas for summer fun with your children? Be sure to read 100 Summer Activities for Kids!

10 Engaging Earth Day Activities for Kids

10 Engaging Earth Day Activities
Since 1970, Earth Day has been raising public awareness of environmental issues. Today, our waterways are less polluted and our air is cleaner, yet there is still much work to be done before we can consider ourselves a sustainable society. This year, engage your students or children with one of these eco-friendly activities on Earth Day or the weeks leading up to it.

Activities for Children – Kindergarten to Grade 6

Plant a Tree

It may seem cliché, but planting a tree is a simple act that helps the environment and gets children outdoors enjoying the natural world on Earth Day. Coordinate with your school a place on the grounds where your class can plant a tree or check with your local conservation board for a public location. Apply for free trees through organizations like Trees for Schools (UK and Ireland only) and Trees for Wildlife or by having students write to local nurseries.

Raise a School Garden

April is National Garden Month, making Earth Day the perfect time to plant a school garden. Gardens are an excellent way to get kids moving, encourage healthy eating, and incorporate project-based learning into your curriculum. A school garden takes time and commitment, but in planning and raising a garden, you will sow seeds that will help your students reap a lifetime of rewards! Get started with these school gardening tips.

Don’t Put Out the Trash

During the week leading up to Earth Day, arrange with the custodian not to remove the trash and recycling from your classroom. On Earth Day, have your students weigh the trash and recycling they generated (weigh trash separately from recycling). Over the next week, challenge your students to toss and use less, plus recycle more. After a week, have students weigh the trash and recycling again and calculate the decrease (hopefully!) in trash weight and increase in recycling weight. Extend the lessen for older students and have them calculate percent increase and decrease as well. Get started by assigning the lessons Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and The Trash Patrol, then read our America Recycles Activity Guide for more ideas.

Walk to School

It is good for the environment and our children’s health. More and more schools are planning annual walk or bike to school days. Why not plan one for April 22 or use Earth Day to have your students start planning for National Walk to School Day in May? Visit the Walk & Bike to School website for more information on getting started.

Our Top Pick

Declare April 22 Waste-Free Lunch Day

With the help of your class and the EPA’s Pack A Waste-Free Lunch site, make Earth Day a school-wide commitment to reducing the mounds of garbage generated during a typical school lunch. Have your class coordinate with administrators and cafeteria workers and help spread the word to students and parents about what can be done to minimize lunch waste.

Get your students excited for Earth Day by engaging them with these interactive lessons on Climate Literacy and Environmentalism by PBS Learning Media and with Help Teaching’s self-paced science lessons.

Activities for Teens – Grades 7 to 12

Participate in a Citizen Science Project

Engage your children or students in authentic science by participating in an eco-themed crowd science collaboration. There are numerous projects running that allow students to participate with adult supervision, including the environmentally oriented: Forgotten Island, YardMap, The Lost Ladybug Project, and Globe at Night.

Our Top Pick

Take a Field Trip

What student doesn’t love a field trip? Plan an inexpensive day out by arranging tours of your local landfill, recycling center, wastewater treatment facility, and/or power plant (even better – visit a plant that uses renewable energy and one that uses a nonrenewable source). Yes, it will be dirty, hot, and smelly, but what better way for students to develop an understanding of where energy comes from and trash goes than to see it for themselves?

Host an Environmental Career Fair

Enlist your students in finding local professionals working in environmental careers to visit the school on Earth Day. Arrange for a career fair that allows students to hear about green jobs and discuss job duties with the professionals. Have students prepare questions ahead of time and write thank-you notes after.

Conduct a School Energy Audit

Challenge students to work in small groups to perform an energy audit of their school. Each group can audit energy use for a given building space like the classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, or auditorium. Groups can share their results and compare their findings, then use the data to prepare an energy action plan to present to school administration. National Wildlife Federation and Green Education Foundation both offer resources for energy audit projects for students.

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine

Ask your students to bring in a variety of cleaned items from their home recycling containers during the week leading up to Earth Day. On April 22, divide your students into teams and task them with designing and building a machine that completes a simple eco-friendly task such as turning off the lights or watering a plant. Provide basic materials, like string and wine, to aid in construction. Be sure and have your students demonstrate their machines for an audience and see if their projects can be displayed in the school lobby or library.

Launch a Project-Based Learning Unit

Spring has sprung and students are anxious to get outside, making Earth Day is the perfect time to embark on an environmentally focused project-based learning (PBL) initiative. BIE.org offers extensive PBL resources for teachers and students – start by using their search tool for project ideas.

Be sure to visit Help Teaching’s Earth Science Printables and Lessons for free environmental science resources to use on Earth Day and year round!

101 Engineering STEM Activities for Kids

Engineering is a key component of many STEM classes, but it can be an intimidating subject to teach for parents and teachers not primarily trained in the field. The good news is kids are often drawn to building and taking things apart, skills that can be nurtured with simple engineering activities. We’ve gathered a list of 101 of our favorite hands-on activities that will get kids excited about the engineering design process. With some basic materials, and a bit of curiosity, kids will be designing, creating, testing, and improving solutions to engineering problems in no time!

Transportation

Whether your kids like boats that float or cars that go, these building activities will surely be a hit with those fascinated by forms of transportation.

Storytime STEAM with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Preschool Steam
How to Make a Recycled Balloon Car Left Brain Craft Brain
Square Wheels Exploratorium
Rubber Band Car DIY Figment Creative Labs
Absorb the Shock! Scientific American
Propeller-Powered Zipline Racers Digital Harbor Foundation
Straw Boats: Engineering Challenge for Kids The Science Kiddo
Making Simple Boats that Float Teach Preschool
Build a Paddle Boat Rookie Parenting
Cork Raft Building Challenge for Kids Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Simple Cardboard Airplane Craft for Kids Hands On: As We Grow
Egg Crate Airplane Engineering Project Schooling Active Monkeys
Design a Submarine Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Food Fun

From marshmallows to spaghetti, using food can make for affordable and fun engineering projects.

One Minute Marshmallow Engineering Challenge Steam Powered Family
Family Movie Night & S’mores STEM Challenge No Time For Flash Cards
Leaning Tower of Pasta TeachEngineering
How Strong is Spaghetti? Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
Candy House – Making a Stable Structure Science Sparks
Design Challenge with Sticks, Clay, and a Mandarin TinkerLab
Engineering with Food: Preschool STEM My Mundane & Miraculous Life
Engineer a Gumdrop Structure Creative Child
Edible Rovers eGFI

Back to Nature

Get kids out of the house or classroom and into nature with these activities perfectly suited for the outdoors.

Outdoor Engineering: Building Stick Forts Little Bins Little Hands
Playground Sized DIY Marble Run Babble Dabble Do
Log Pile House Building Challenge Inspiration Laboratories
How to Make a Homemade Water Wall for Kids Happy Hooligans
Mudbrick Houses Imagine Childhood
Speedy Shelter PBS Kids Design Squad Global
Build a Shelter from the Sun and Test it with UV-Sensitive Beads Buggy and Buddy
Design A Seed Engineering Challenge Share it! Science News
Backyard Pulley an Engineering Challenge for Kids Kids STEAM Lab
DIY Solar Oven The Craft Train
Backyard Railroad Engineering: Outdoor STEM Challenge for Kids Adventure in a Box

Robots Rock

Be sure to ask kids what problems their robots will solve before they design, build, and test these marvelous bots.

Build Your Own Robot Arm TryEngineering
Robo Arm PBS Kids Design Squad Global
Squishy Circuit Robot: Electrical Engineering Design Challenge Lemon Lime Adventures
Homemade Spinning Brushbot Research Parent
Upcycled Toy Car Marker Bots Left Brain Craft Brain
How to Make a Minion Scribble Bot Science Sparks
Drawing Robot: Learn How to Create Robot Art Rosie Research
Build Your Own Underwater Robot Science Buddies
Engineer a Bee eGFI

Simple Things

Sometimes the simplest things can make for the best engineering projects. Challenge kids to design and build with simple materials ranging from cups to straws to newspapers.

Newspaper Engineering Challenge for Kids The Educators’ Spin On It
100 Cup Challenge Busy Kids Happy Mom
Building With Straws: A STEM Activity Kids Activities Blog
Straw Geodesic Dome Babble Dabble Do
Building a Straw House Deceptively Educational
Fun and Easy Straw Rocket STEM Activity for Toddlers Engineering Emily
DIY Magnetic Marble Run Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
How to Make an Indoor Boomerang What We Do All Day
Indoor Snowball Structures: Engineering for Little Hands One Time Through
How to Make a Bubble Blower Machine Teach Beside Me
Balancing Dinosaur STEAM Activity for Kids Rainy Day Mum
DIY Marble Mazes for Preschool Kids Coffee Cups and Crayons
Build a Cardboard Scissor Lift Scientific American
C is for Catapult! Go Science Girls
How to Build the Eiffel Tower: An Engineering Project for Kids KC Edventures
How to Make Homemade Fidget Spinner STEM Little Explorers
3D Shapes and Shapes Out of Straws and Pipe Cleaners Meaningful Mama
Spider Web Construction Rainy Day Mum
Building Toothpick Bridges Eva Varga

Teaching Tip: Turn a simple engineering activity into a lesson plan by having students follow the engineering design process. Ask students to:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Do background research
  3. Brainstorm and select a potential solution
  4. Create a prototype
  5. Test and evaluate the prototype
  6. Improve upon the prototype
  7. Communicate the results

Get started with this engineering design challenge printable.

Holiday and Seasonal

Incorporate engineering into your lessons with these activities themed around holidays and the seasons.

Christmas Engineering Activity for Kids Fun-A-Day
Gingerbread Steam Project The Homeschool Scientist
Candy Can Construction Bridge Preschool Powol Packets
Build a Cornstarch Block Christmas Tree Gift of Curiosity
Paper Circuit Snowman Rosie Research
Sugar Cube Igloo Project The Crafty Classroom
November STEM: Giant Balloons, Thanksgiving Parades, & Engineering Get Caught Engineering
Halloween Robot Spider Craft Inspiration Laboratories
Candy Heart Catapult Stir the Wonder
Easter Catapult STEM Activity and Easter Science for Kids Little Bins Little Hands
PEEPS Parachute STEAM Challenge in Early Childhood The Preschool Toolbox
Engineering STEAM Activity: Build a Leprechaun Trap Kids STEAM Lab

Reverse Engineering

If your kids are constantly taking things apart, reverse engineering may be just the thing for them!

Reverse Engineer a Solar Toy From Engineer to Stay at Home Mom
Reverse Engineering a Fidget Spinner From Engineer to Stay at Home Mom
Recycled Toy Robot Project with Reverse Engineered Toys Brain Power Boy
Reverse Engineering Project: Disassemble, Sketch & Recap TeachEngineering
Disassemble a Click Pen TeachEngineering
Tinkering for Kids – Waffle Iron Confidence Meets Parenting
STEM Tinkering Activity: Taking Apart an Old Toy Little Worlds Big Adventures
Toy Take Apart Exploratorium
Your Kids Should Be Taking Apart Electronics! There’s Just One Mommy

Making the World a Better Place

Engineering projects should solve problems using design solutions. These activities will allow kids to explore how they can improve people’s lives in meaningful ways.

Earthquake Rollers Scientific American
Convenient Carrier PBS Kids Designer Squad Global
Articulated Grabber Engineering Project for Kids Instructables
Build a Lung Model US Patent and Trademark Office
Make Your Own Water Filters TeachEngineering
Solving a ‘Windy’ Problem Science Buddies
How to Make an Articulated Hand Go Science Kids
Building for Hurricanes eGFI
Tornado Tower Made for STEAM

Just for Fun

These engineering activities don’t fall into one of the above categories, but they do make for great learning opportunities for kids!

Engineering Kids | Rube Goldberg Machine TinkerLab
Using Pool Noodles to Build a Playhouse From ABCs to ACTs
PVC Pipe House Building Project Engineering STEM Activity Little Bins Little Hands
STEAM Challenge: Build a structure you can balance on one finger (or your nose!) Gift of Curiosity
Build a Satellite NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
How to Make Projector Using Smartphone and Magnifying Glass STEM Little Explorers
Pneumatic Machine Made for STEAM
Cardboard Automata Exploratorium
How to Make a Water Wheel Home Science Tools
Global Cardboard Challenge Imagination.org

If you enjoyed this article, try our Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science and our science worksheets and lessons for more great teaching resources.

Top Strategies for Teaching Anatomy and Physiology

Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Weird But True, and other enterprises like them have made an entire business of highlighting the odd, wacky, and incredible things the human body can do. Yet, engaging high school students in a topic that they may feel they already know enough about (after all, don’t we walk around in these bodies every day?!) can be a challenge. Bring anatomy and physiology alive in the classroom setting with these strategies and resources that will draw students in, hold their interest, and maximize their learning.

The Importance of Anatomy & Physiology

Anatomy, or the study of the structure of body parts, and physiology, or the study of the function of body parts, may be offered as a separate course in some high schools or may be integrated into various topics within a biology course, including botany and the human body. Therefore, neither anatomy or physiology is completely new for students in the upper grades. The key is to explore this wide range of topics in a way that students find fresh. But why are anatomy and physiology so important?

  • The study of the structure and function of the body is crucial for the basis of health and medicine. Today’s technology for diagnosis and management, pharmaceutical development and application, and techniques for the treatment or prevention of disease—all depend on anatomy and physiology. Understanding the anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of our own bodies make us all more science literate—more capable of asking the right questions, understanding relevant concepts, and making sound decisions about our health.
  • An anatomy and physiology course integrates both the life sciences and the physical sciences of physics and chemistry—much like biochemistry—and provides a natural interdisciplinary approach to topics from the simple to the complex, allowing students to begin to understand the relationships between various branches of science.
  • The field of anatomy and physiology is a wonderful example of exploring a single entity—the human body—by breaking the overwhelming expanse of it into systems. The systems can then be examined independently and relative to one another. The skills of analysis, synthesis, and making connections can also be applied across disciplines.
  • Learning anatomy can be a huge exercise in memorization because of the many structures in the body, such as the skeletal and muscular systems. Developing techniques and ability for memorization will serve students in any subject.

An Approach to Teaching Anatomy and Physiology

Not every student in a biology or anatomy and physiology course is interested in pursuing a career in health and medicine in college or professional school. So how do you keep all the students in your classroom engaged in learning? First, students need to feel that the subject matter has relevance in their world. That’s the easiest part; every student in your classroom has a body!

1. Introduce material with a story. Be clear about objectives for the lesson or unit. This may include a list of vocabulary terms and key concepts. Then find resources that will lay a foundation of interest while touching upon these terms and concepts. A news story, podcast, or segment from a network program could fit the bill perfectly. A quick online search can bring up interesting stories that cover just about any organ system.

  • Body Pods podcast. A series of seven podcasts, each is a unique focus on a part of the body and is produced through a collaboration of an artist and a scientist in the field.
  • LiveScience online. Read about some of the strangest medical reports, affecting systems from the eye to the gut.
  • ABC News online. This article covers baffling medical conditions.

Present only the portion that is relevant to the current topic. While some students may find themselves squeamish with any content dealing with the body, do exercise caution in avoiding exploitative or insensitive material.

2. Conduct laboratory activities that allow students to use their own bodies. Everyone has been medically examined using equipment that they may find intimidating and foreign, so allowing students to use simple items to take physiological measurements makes real science reachable. When students understand what these numbers mean and what normal ranges and abnormal values indicate, concepts can be solidified. Get started with these classroom activities:

3.  When real-life experience is impossible, look for the next best thing. Images, animations, videos, and simulations abound in the world of anatomy and physiology for both states of health and disease.

  • The Visible Body. This website has apps of images and simulations that cost, but there is also free content available.
  • Videos Medical. A YouTube channel, this video series shows blood moving through a beating heart or bones and muscles putting the body in motion.
  • MedLinePlus Surgical Procedures. These videos show actual surgeries, from angioplasty to knee replacement. Warning: Some videos can be quite graphic, so preview thoroughly before introducing to students.

4. Explore and solve a medical mystery. Use case studies as a culminating activity to reinforce vocabulary and concepts. Alternatively, case studies could be the primary method for covering a unit. Although a complete inquiry process would most likely take much longer than allowable in a course, allowing students to form groups under a system of their choice would allow for more in-depth examination and understanding. Groups work independently then present their case study, course of action, and conclusions to the entire class. Students work together to learn the anatomical structures and major physiological concepts of their system, common disorders and diseases of the system, and methods and techniques used to examine and assess the system. Students could broaden their resources, reaching out to experts in the field locally or digitally, as available.

Remember to make instruction effective by engaging students right from the beginning, checking in using assessments and questioning, allowing for collaborative learning, and providing feedback throughout the learning process.

For more great anatomy and physiology teaching resources, try our biology worksheets and online biology lessons.

Dana Johnson is a freelance editor and writer specializing in science education. Using every bit of her experience as a corporate and government scientist, high school science teacher, and academic specialist, Dana creates, reviews, and edits premium science materials for secondary and higher education. She currently serves as Help Teaching’s biology subject matter expert. When not working away at her laptop, Dana loves reading, journaling in long hand, gardening, and patronizing the arts.

6 Activities to Promote Computer Science Education

Activities to Promote Computer Science Education
Did you know that experts estimate there will be 1.4 million computing jobs open in 2020 and only 400,000 students to fill them? Since 2013, Computer Science Education Week has been held during the second week of December. This week is designed to make students and teachers more aware of computer science and the importance of building computing skills at early age. While enrolling all students in regular coding and other computer science classes may be the ideal solution, you can still take small steps to encourage students to take notice of computer science and help them discover how much fun it can be.

Participate in an Hour of Code

In 2014, the Hour of Code gained a lot of publicity when President Obama sat down to join students as part of the event. This year, and all year long, you can also participate in an hour of code. Organize your own Hour of Code event at your school or join up with an existing group. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, search for local volunteers to come work with your students during the event. For a less formal option, simply have your students complete one of the coding tutorials available through Code.org where they code with popular characters from Star Wars, Minecraft, or even Anna and Elsa from Frozen.

Don’t be afraid to go beyond an Hour of Code either. Many different apps and websites offer a series of lessons designed to teach students how to code or to think in ways that are related to the language of coding. A few of them to try in your classroom include:

Elementary

  • Kodable – a fun app that comes with an extensive coding curriculum
  • ScratchJr – a free app that teaches kids to think like a coder while completing fun tasks
  • Tynker – another provider of an Hour of Code resources featuring brands and characters kids love

Secondary

  • Hopscotch – an app that allows kids to make and publish their own games
  • CodeCombat – an online, multiplayer game that requires kids to write code to play
  • Kodu Game Lab – a visual programming tool that kids can download to create games

Hold a Computer Science Career Day

Students often hear that there are tons of job in the tech industry, but do they know what those jobs look like? Invite parents and other community members to your school for a Computer Science Career Day. Your speakers can rotate among classes to share what their jobs are like or they can set up tables in booths and talk to students as they approach them. If you can’t find individuals to come to school, then have students research different tech jobs or companies and share their findings with the class.

Show a Video

Take some time to show kids a video related to computer science. There are tons of Ted Talks related to technology that could inspire kids to consider a career in computer science. A few videos you might want to use include:

Have Fun with a MaKey MaKey Kit

While a MaKey MaKey kit does not involve a lot of coding, it does encourage kids to think outside of the box and imagine the cool things they can do when they combine computers with everyday objects. You can turn students’ experiments with the kit into writing assignments, science experiments, marketing proposals, and other educational activities.

Connect Computer Science to Students’ Interests

Your students may not be interested in computer science, but they may be interested in playing football, playing with their toys, or drawing and coloring. Chances are they don’t realize how much computer science can play a role in these activities. For example, it takes a lot of technology to take video of a football game, freeze it, and move it around on the screen. Give students the task of researching how technology plays a role in their favorite hobbies. They may discover that coders help create 3D models of their favorite toys or that they can create some amazing art with lines of code.

Get Away from the Computer

While learning how to code can benefit students, thinking in the language of coding is even more important. By promoting logic and creative thinking skills, you can give students the mental skills they’ll need to be successful in a computer science field.  CS Unplugged offers a large selection of activities designed to help kids develop these critical thinking skills. These include tasks such as learning about The Turing Test and discovering how difficult it is for computers to draw lines and circles.

For more resources to help you bring Computer Science into the classroom, check out Code.org and the Computer Science Education Week website. If you use some of these activities in your classroom, share them to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #CSEdWeek and #HourOfCode.