Share it! Science : 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

[TerraCycle Earth Day Giveaway!] Recycle "Un-Recyclable" Items and Earn $ for Your School or Non-Profit!

Many people tend to think about recycling and conservation a little bit more when Earth Day rolls around. Unfortunately, a lot of the waste we create isn't easily recycled. What if we could prevent some of that waste from entering the waste stream at all? It is possible, and you can even raise some money for your school or favorite charity in the process!

Read on to find out what I mean, and even enter a giveaway to win some cool recycled and upcycled items!

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information. 

TerraCycle is a company that has been helping to limit the trash headed into the waste stream since 2001.  They partner with other companies to provide waste collection programs, and reward you, the trash collectors. That means that you could collect things like baby food pouches, snack bags, energy bar wrappers, toothpaste tubes, and a whole lot more of those items that you can't otherwise recycle, print out a shipping label and send them to TerraCycle for free. TerraCycle and the companies sponsoring the programs you participate in then reward your school or favorite charity by paying you to collect these items.

These "un-recyclables" are then upcycled, reused, or recycled into other products. Pretty cool, huh? This video sums up the process:

As you can imagine, these programs are really popular, so if you want to participate, you should hop on over the TerraCycle website and create an account. Then join the programs you are interested in and get on the wait list for any that aren't currently accepting new collection sites. Two that I recently joined that are (as of this blog post) accepting waste are GoGo squeeZ, which accepts all squeezable plastic snack pouches and caps, and Colgate, which accepts toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and caps, floss containers and the packaging from these oral care products.

Alternatively, some programs will send you a collection envelope to fill up. Two of these that I like are for Late July snack packaging and Buddy Fruits squeezable fruit and veggie pouches. For help with any of the recycling programs or for more information check out the resources here.

If you want to try recycling these items by upcycling them into new products yourself, TerraCycle has a whole bunch of DIY project ideas. I'm sure by perusing their site, you'll find something you want to make, or be inspired to create your own design. Check them out here. Then grab some "un-recyclables" and get designing and engineering yourself!

You might also be interested in two books by members of the TerraCycle crew: Make Garbage Great: The Terracycle Family Guide to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle, and ReMake It!: Recycling Projects from the Stuff You Usually Scrap.

If you're interested in conservation and recycling, you may want to visit my other posts: 20 Earth Friendly Ideas for Earth Day and Every Day and "Here Comes the Garbage Barge" Inspired Landfill Model.

Now for some fun! Enter below to win one cool upcycled drink pouch pencil case, and enough recycled TerraCycle bracelets, and recycled TerraCycle pens for your class, homeschool group, or household (as supplies last). There will be 8 winners in this giveaway that begins on April 21st, 2017 and ends April 28th, 2017 at midnight, EST. Open to US residents only. Winners will be notified via e-mail and announced here on the blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Getting Kids Involved in Citizen Science

What is citizen science? Citizen science is the collaboration between the general public and scientists in the collection or analysis of data. Science is for everyone and citizen science projects are wonderful because they allow anyone to be part of the process. There is so much to explore in the world, that by crowdsourcing we can collect so much more information than would otherwise be possible.

Read on to learn about some great projects that you can take part in, and a giveaway to help you get started!

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information.

Citizen Science Day (or days) is a celebration of citizen science through a series of events. This year, 2017, Citizen Science Day events will happen from April 14th-20th. You can look to see if there is an event near you by visiting this site. To learn more, watch the video series below from Citizen Science Day 2016.


You may have read about various citizen science projects here on Share it! Science already. I've been fortunate enough to partner with one of my favorite citizen science projects, Project BudBurst for the past 3 years to offer a giveaway to inspire you to try citizen science, and get kids involved in these great projects too.

Sense of Place

Not only does citizen science offer an opportunity at authentic science for kids, families, school groups, etc. but also can help kids develop a sense of place. When they begin to study their surroundings carefully they develop an intimate knowledge and appreciation of the natural world.

Project BudBurst is one of those projects that gets kids looking more deeply at the world around them. Formerly part of NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network), and recently moved to the Chicago Botanic Garden, Project BudBurst collects phenology data. Phenology is the study of seasonal phenomena, particularly in relation to climate, plants and animal behavior. Spring is a very busy time for the project, as citizen science volunteers are submitting data on when leaf and flower buds are opening.

You can learn more about Project BudBurst and how to use it with your children or students by visiting one of my previous posts, "Project BudBurst, Easy, Authentic Plant Science".

Virtual Field Trips

Many digital citizen science projects can provide an opportunity to visit or study a place that is far away. There are a wide variety of online citizen science projects through Zooniverse and SciStarter. You can help count penguins or help monitor the life cycle of Amazonian rainforest trees.

Through the WildCam Gorongosa project, you can travel to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa and help identify wildlife from photos taken by trail cams throughout the park. These are excellent projects to set up in your classroom and have students participate in a little at a time. They help hone observation skills and allow students a chance to contribute to actual field science.

Looking for a Project? 

Learn more about these citizen science projects:
You can also search for projects on SciStarter here.

Citizen Science Giveaway!

Now for some fun! This year we are giving away citizen science goodies to 3 winners. One prize will be a hardcover copy of Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns, a cool Chicago Botanic Garden cap, and a Project BudBurst tape measure. Two additional winners will receive a Chicago Botanic Garden cap, and a Project BudBurst tape measure.

Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard is written for kids and takes a close look at four citizen science projects and resources for several more that kids can take part in throughout the year. The photography is engaging and the background and descriptions of the projects including images of kids taking part in them makes you want to get right out there and try it. Click the book image below to learn more.

This giveaway begins on April 14th, 2017 and ends April 20th, 2017 at midnight EST. You must be a US resident to enter. Follow the directions carefully in the Rafflecopter box below, some entry options can be completed daily. We'll contact the winners via e-mail and announce them here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Giveaway prizes were provided by the Chicago Botanic Garden, Project BudBurst and Share it! Science. All opinions and recommendations are my own, I was not otherwise compensated for this post.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Grow an Alphabet Themed Kid's Garden!

Plan and grow an alphabet themed kid's garden! Literacy and science

A is for Aster and B is for Basil. Can you grow an alphabet in your garden? Here are some ideas for a themed children's garden for school or home. Also- read on to find out how you can win some Renee's Garden seeds to get your garden started!

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information.

Why not incorporate some literacy into your garden planning this year? Gardening already has so much potential for science and life lessons. This will be the third year we've shared an idea for a themed children's garden along with a seed giveaway. We're so excited to be able to do it again. No matter how you get gardening with kids, we believe it will be a rewarding experience.  

Here are some ideas for using the alphabet to design your garden:


A-Z Garden

For those of you with lots of space, you might be ambitious enough to try a garden with every letter of the alphabet. If you are starting seeds in the classroom, you could have each student take on a different letter. Or you could pick and choose from a few letters of the alphabet.

Here are some fruit/vegetable and flower ideas to get you started (please note: depending on where you live these may or may not be good choices for your garden, do your homework!):

A- Arugula, Aster
B- Beans, Bee Balm
C- Carrots, Cosmos
D- Dill, Daisy
E- Eggplant, Echinacea
F- Fennel, Forget-me-not
G- Gourds, Geranium 
H- Honeydew melon, Hollyhock
I- Iceberg lettuce, Impatiens 
J- Jerusalem artichoke, Johnny Jump Up
K- Kale, Kalmia angustifolia (sheep's laurel)
L- Lettuce, Lupine
M- Musk melon, Marigold
N- Napa cabbage, Nasturtium
O- Okra, Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
P- Peas, Petunias
Q- Quince, Queen Anne's Lace
R- Radish, Rose
S- Spinach, Sunflower
T- Tomato, Tulips
U- Upland Cress, Ulex
V- Verbena (lemon), Viola
W- Watermelon, Wallflower
X- Xeranthemum
Y- Yam, Yarrow
Z- Zucchini, Zinnia (find out how to win some Zinnia seeds below!)

Name Garden

Spell out a name with garden plants. If I did mine I might plant Spinach, Artichokes, Radishes, Arugula, and Honeydew to spell out SARAH. You could certainly get creative and use the common names or specific variety names to spell out just about anything you wanted. Make some cute garden markers to go along with your name garden.

Looking for other themed garden ideas? Grow a butterfly or rainbow garden. Try growing a taco or pizza garden!

Seed Giveaway!

Now for some fun. We are very excited to have Renee's Garden provide us with seeds for our third annual garden seed giveaway.

We'll get you started on your alphabet garden adventure with some heirloom "State Fair Gold Medal" and "Cut and Come Again" Zinnia seeds from Renee's Garden seed company. 8 winners will receive two packets each of these zinnia varieties (for a total of 4 seed packets per winner). Enter in the Rafflecopter box below. We'll notify winners by e-mail, so be sure the one you've given Rafflecopter is the best way to reach you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: Renee's Garden seeds donated all prizes for this giveaway, but I was not otherwise compensated by Renee's Garden to write this post.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Here Comes the Garbage Barge" inspired Landfill Model

I'm excited to be participating in Inspiration Laboratory's Storybook Science series again this year! This time around we're exploring conservation with a children's book and science activity.

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information. 

Here Comes the Garbage Barge is the fictionalized, but true, story of a barge full of trash that no one wanted. During the late 1980's Long Island's landfills were overflowing. Eventually the government stepped in and outlawed further burying of trash. So, it was decided the trash would be shipped to the south.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge humorously tells the tale of colorful Cap'm Duffy St. Pierre and his tugboat and barge. As the garbage barge travels south word spreads and everyone is ready to turn poor Cap'm Duffy away. The adventure that ensues is funny, but also clearly illustrates the point that we create too much trash and no one wants to have to take care of it.

In addition the the subtle conservation message, the story serves as a great geography lesson. The interesting illustrations were created by making models and photographing the images. Much of the material used to make the models was repurposed trash.

Where does our trash go? If it is not reused, recycled or composted, in most cases, waste heads to the landfill. A landfill is much more than a pile of trash. Learn more about the anatomy of a landfill here. You can build the model below to better understand what a landfill is like. Once you understand landfills better, I bet you'll want to recycle even more! You will be able to observe your model over time to see how the trash in a landfill changes (or stays the same).

There are many layers to the landfill. To make your model you'll need the following:

Your first step will be to cut the top off of the plastic bottle. This will be the container you build your model in.

The first layer of your landfill will be soil. The base of the landfill is the natural soil of the land that the landfill is placed on. Because of this, great care is taken to be sure that any toxins in runoff water, or leachate, from the garbage do not end up in the native soil and ultimately in groundwater.

The next layer is compacted clay, or play dough for your model. The clay in an actual landfill provides another barrier to prevent leachate from entering the groundwater. It also helps gases to escape from the landfill.

The third layer of the model, plastic wrap, represents the geomembrane, a thin plastic sheet that again serves to prevent leachate from draining from the landfill. Do you sense a pattern? Leachate is nasty stuff!

You'll use cotton balls, spread thin, to represent the next layer of the landfill, the geotextile layer. This is part of a system that in an actual landfill uses pipes (not included in the model) to separate solids and liquids in the runoff from the landfill. The geotextile fabric prevents the pipes from getting clogged.

The fifth layer is a layer of gravel. The gravel layer is what collects the leachate as it originally exits the landfill's trash.

Finally, in the 6th layer up from the ground is the trash! In a working landfill, the trash layer is covered with soil daily. We added two layers of trash and soil to represent this. You may have room to add more layers of each in your model. 

Once a landfill has reached a specified height, it is closed off. There is another layer of clay added to the top of the last trash/soil layer.

Another geomembrane, or in our case, plastic wrap, is added.

After the plastic geomembrane is another layer of gravel that serves as drainage.

The landfill is topped off with soil and grass. We used some houseplants, but to be even more accurate, you can plant some grass seed in your topsoil.

Voila! Now watch your model. See if you can answer the following questions in the next days, weeks and months.
  • What happens to the trash over time? 
  • Do you notice anything changing? 
  • Can air and water get all the way through your model? 
  • How is this like a real landfill? 
  • What pieces of trash could have been recycled or composted? 
Why is it important to reduce, reuse, and recycle? So that our planet doesn't run out of space! Who wants to live surrounded by trash anyway?

To see all of the great posts in the Storybook Science series, head on over to Inspiration Laboratories!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Design an Insect Investigation with Zoey and Sassafras- NGSS Linked Activity

I am so thrilled to be sharing a new science-themed fiction book series, Zoey and Sassafras with you! I've found there are great non-fiction kid's books to spark a love of science, and wonderful fictional picture books that have themes that can be used in the science classroom. Zoey and Sassafras manages to do both! 

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more details.  

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows is the first book in this fun series by Asia Citro. This illustrated chapter book, aimed at readers in Kindergarten through 4th grade, features a curious girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras. Zoey loves science, insects and other animals. She's not only a strong female character, but also, incredibly relatable to any kid who loves investigating questions, getting down in the dirt, and a little bit of magic. The series is perfect for budding scientists, aspiring veterinarians and zoologists.

I fell in love with Zoey immediately because the story opens with her flipping over a big, mossy rock to investigate what creatures lie beneath it. She proceeds to build a bug circus with what she has found. Flipping over a rock in search of insects and other macro-invertebrates is something you could find me doing when I was a kid (and admittedly, you still might find me doing it today!). 

Zoey and Sassafras are tasked with caring for some magical animals in the series. To do so, they must use scientific thinking. Skillfully woven throughout the story are examples of experimental design, science vocabulary, and scientific reasoning. There are examples of science journal entries throughout and a glossary of science terms at the end. You can read a sample of the first story here, but be warned, you'll want to know what happens next!

Since we love insects and other crawly creatures, we thought it would be fun to design some experiments just like Zoey does. So, grab your thinking goggles, because off we go! 

The most important part of an insect investigation is understanding that you are working with living creatures, and that they must be treated with kindness, care and respect. Be gentle with anything you collect, and be sure to return it to where you found it before too long! 

You might need these materials for your insect investigations: 
...and basically anything else you can come up with! Just remember to be gentle with your creatures!

Let's learn more about what insects need, just like Zoey and Sassafras had to do with their dragon in Dragons and Marshmallows. First, you'll need to collect some insects, bugs, worms or other small creatures. Look under rocks, small logs or pieces of bark. Dig in the soil. Where else can you find them? 

(If you need creatures for a classroom project and/or live in an area where you can't access nature easily, you can investigate crickets purchased online or at the pet store, or even worms sold as bait! The same careful, respectful handling rules apply to these creatures.)

Time to start your investigation. Leave the experimental design open-ended for young minds to ponder. Here are some ideas for experimental questions:
  • Does my animal prefer light, or dark? 
  • Would my animal like to live where it is damp or dry? 
  • What types of food does my animal prefer? 
  • What type of home would my creature like to live in? (Try building a bug hotel! There is a fun design built with LEGO bricks here!)
What is your hypothesis? Be sure to make one before you begin!

Use these free printable Zoey and Sassafras science journal sheets to help organize your ideas and collect your data. 

What are your results? We'd love to hear about your insect or bug investigations! Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+

For more excellent STEM activities and extensions to compliment Zoey and Sassafras, check out the book's website here

This activity aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Here are a few aligned standards: 
  • Kindergarten: K-LS1-1  (making observations of what animals need to survive)
  • 2nd Grade: 2-LS4-1 (making observations to understand the diversity of life in different habitats)
  • 2nd Grade: Take it a step further- include plant investigations! 2-LS2-1 (design an investigation to see if plants need light and water to grow)
Are you looking for other NGSS aligned lessons that deal with small critters? Check out one of my favorite curriculum books: More Picture Perfect Science and the "Wiggling Worms at Work" lesson. It uses 2 great children's books: Diary of a Worm, and Wiggling Worms at Work

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows in exchange for an honest review. Zoey and Sassafras character art is used with express written permission from Marion Lindsay and The Innovation Press.