Share it! Science : 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Monsters and Mold: An Apple Experiment

Kids love gross science. Sometimes things are so gross they are cool! So of course, they will be on board when you try this science experiment. Challenge kids to see if they can keep an apple from rotting using preservatives. They will design and carry out their own science experiment. This is a great activity for school or home.

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

Before you dive into the science, I'd highly suggest reading the super fun book, Zoey and Sassafras: Monsters and Mold. In this second book of the Zoey and Sassafras series, science-minded Zoey must systematically experiment to find what will help a monster with an embarrassing mold problem.
Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

This illustrated chapter book, is geared for readers in Kindergarten through 4th grade, and also makes for an excellent read-aloud to kids of all ages. The book series by Asia Citro features a curious girl named Zoey who loves science and animals. She is a strong, relatable character and will resonate with any kid who loves finding the answer to a question, even if it means getting a little dirty. The stories also include a bit of fantasy, adding to their appeal. 

The Apple Science Experiment

Just like when Zoey had to test different things to see what would keep the mold from growing on monster fur, kids will investigate what preservatives might keep an apple slice from rotting.

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

Although it is best to keep the project open-ended and really let the kids take the lead, you might want to have the following available for this experiment:

Although there are a variety of ways students might want to design their experiment, here is one option:

1. Slice the apples into fairly even slices. (If you are really trying to go for accuracy in your experiment you can even weigh them on a food scale.)

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

2. Set up one slice in a jar as is. This will be the control for the experiment.

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

3. Determine how much "preservative" you will use on each slice of apple. In our experiment we decided to use 1 tsp each of salt, fruit fresh and honey. You could use just about anything, but this is a good opportunity to teach about being consistent with your measurements.

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

4. Set up as many apple slices in jars as "preservative" you want to test. For example, if you are testing salt, sugar, honey and vinegar you will need 5 jars; 4 for the apples with preservatives, one for the control.

5. Sprinkle or pour your preservative on the apple slices, trying to cover both sides.

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

6. To keep fruit flies under control, you'll probably want to cover your experiment, either by placing the lid back on the jar, or plastic wrap on top. Remember that sealing up the jar will also help preserve the apple slices, so take this into consideration when you are discussing with kids. 

Then, make some observations and wait! This is what I would have called a "patience experiment" when I was teaching elementary science.  Decide how often to observe- every day? Every 3 days? A week? and then stick to that plan.

We're not going to leave our results here, we want you to try this one yourself!

You can use this free printable Zoey and Sassafras science journal to keep track of the experiment.

After Your Experiment

Further discussion points:
  • What variables may have affected what happened? Were they things we could control for?
  • Why is it important to set up a "control" in an experiment? 
  • How is our experiment different from how decomposition occurs in nature? How is it the same?

We want to hear about the results of your experiment! Leave a comment below or tag us (@shareitscience) in a social media post!

Explore decomposition further with this Pumpkin Jack activity!

If you are looking for another great activity involving decomposition, you might want to build your own worm compost bin for home or school by following these easy directions.

You will also definitely want to check out this Insect Investigation using the first Zoey and Sassafras book, Dragons and Marshmallows.

Buy a Book and Help a Good Cause

You may not be aware of this, but when you purchase a book published by The Innovation Press, like Zoey and Sassafras: Monsters and Mold, you are not only getting a great book for the children in your life, but also helping others. For every 10 books sold, The Innovation Press donates one book to First Book, getting books into the hands of kids and schools in need.

Apple Decomposition Science Experiment

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Communicate Like a Firefly: Light-up STEM Project

Just about everyone finds fireflies alluring and magical. In this post I'm excited to not only share a fabulous, funny and scientific new children's book all about fireflies, but also a free language arts and science printable activity and a STEM activity that combines firefly communication, life cycles and electric circuits for some light-up fun!

If you are a teacher or a parent, there is bound to be something in here that keeps your children or students engaged and gets them excited about fireflies. Read on to find out about all the activities listed above, including how you can align them with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

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

How to Survive as a Firefly

How to Survive as a Firefly by Kristen Foote Illustrated by Erica Salcedo

If you love kid's books that are not only fictional and funny, but also scientifically accurate, How to Survive as a Firefly by Kristen Foote, illustrated by Erica Salcedo, is definitely for you.

A group of eager firefly larva learn the ins and outs of their own life cycle from an adult firefly drill sargent. The humorous book outlines the life cycle of Photinus pyralis, the most common firefly in North America.

Woven throughout the silly story are serious biology vocabulary words such as bioluminescence and aggressive mimicry. Despite the great number of syllables in these words they are made completely understandable in the text. Fun firefly facts are found on many pages as well. An upper elementary science class, or STEM loving kids at home will get a big kick out of this book.

Here is a sneak peek:

If How to Survive as a Firefly sounds good to you, you'll also want to read the other, equally enjoyable book in this series, How to Survive as a Shark.

A Firefly Interdisciplinary Language Arts and Science Activity

Once you've read How to Survive as a Firefly, give your kids or students this fun writing prompt:  

"Imagine you are an adult firefly who must describe the life cycle of fireflies to your nervous cousin who has just emerged from an egg."
Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity
Use this free How to Survive as a Firefly-themed printable writing sheet and blank comic strip to write and illustrate the description of a firefly's life cycle.

Communicate Like a Firefly Light-Up STEM Project

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Adult fire flies, blink in various patterns with their bioluminescent abdomens (depending on species, temperature, etc.) to communicate with each other. This helps fireflies attract mates. Scientists study these patterns to learn more about fireflies.

You can learn these patterns or make up your own firefly language too! Use this free printable life cycle sheet to start your light-up firefly project.

You will need these supplies:
**PLEASE NOTE: Lithium coin cell batteries can be harmful and even fatal if swallowed. Please take care that they are out of reach of small children. 

Step 1:

Poke a hole with the prongs of one LED light bulb through the life cycle sheet on the adult firefly's abdomen.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Step 2:

Flip the paper over. Peel off a piece of copper tape and add it horizontally just above the prongs of the LED (see image below). Make a sharp corner, either by folding (see tips here) or by using another piece of copper tape. The tape should stop about an inch above the bottom edge of the paper.

[Please note: if your copper tape is not conductive on both sides, you must fold the corners, because placing one piece on top of another will break the circuit. The type I purchased and have used here is conductive on both sides, so you can layer on top with no problem.]

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Step 3:

Add a longer piece of copper tape horizontally just under the prongs of the LED. Again, make a turn or add another piece vertically below it. Make another corner, or add another piece so that the copper tape follows along the bottom edge of the paper right to the horizontal edge. Be sure there is a gap between the bottom of the first copper tape strip and this one.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Step 4:

Test out your circuit before you tape anything down. Fold the prongs of the LED down so that one is touching one strip of copper tape, and the other touching the second strip of copper tape. Place the coin cell battery on the bottom of the first strip of copper tape.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

You might need a second set of hands to help hold things down while you then fold up the bottom edge so that the copper tape makes a connection with the top of the battery. If the LED does not light, try adjusting where the copper tape is touching the battery. If it still will not light, rotate the light so that the prongs are making contact with the opposite strips of tape. The LED will only work in one direction.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Step 5: 

Once you've determined whether your battery and light bulb are in the correct position, and you've gotten it to light up, tape down the prongs of the LED and the battery. Be sure you aren't covering up the battery where it needs to make contact with the copper tape.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Step 6: Completion! 

Now you can use your paper circuit firefly to blink and communicate with your classmates. Close the circuit by pinching the paper around the battery.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

You can study actual firefly blinking patterns by visiting this firefly flash chart from the Museum of Science Firefly Watch project or learn more about their patterns with this Science Friday resource. These are a bit technical, but as long as kids understand that each species of firefly makes its own signal and pattern, then they can begin to create their own messages.

Have you ever tried calling a firefly? I've done it while leading families on a night hike. It is pretty magical. Learn more about how you can do this with only a flashlight by following this family friendly link, or this slightly more technical one. (If you are an outdoor educator, the latter link is a must-read!)

If you enjoyed making a light-up paper circuit, you can use the same materials to create your own light-up board games!

Links to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

You can use this lesson to work toward meeting the NGSS.

The following 1st Grade-4th Grade standards apply, if you are studying:

For another great book and NGSS linked science activity check out this Zoey and Sassafras Insect Investigation. 

Buy a Book and Help a Good Cause

You may not be aware of this, but when you purchase a book published by The Innovation Press, like How to Survive as a Firefly, you are not only getting a great book for the children in your life, but also helping others. For every 10 books sold, The Innovation Press donates one book to First Book, getting books into the hands of kids and schools in need.

Firefly Paper Circuits STEM Activity

Saturday, September 2, 2017

DIY Paper Circuit Board Games

If you're looking for an activity that can keep kids engaged indoors for hours (literally) then you definitely want to try building your own light-up board games using paper circuits. This is a great STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activity because through the process, your children or students will put their creative powers to use designing the game and board, learn the ins and outs of electric circuits, plus- design, test and tweak their light-up circuits like an engineer.

When I was teaching in the science classroom I used "design your own board games" every year with my 4th and 5th graders as a way to review at the end of the term. Kids love building games, and they worked hard to make the games challenging for their classmates, which meant they really reviewed the material accurately to do so. I always had to incorporate extra time into my plan for building the games and the culminating game tournament.

DIY Paper Circuit Board Games STEAM activity

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

Paper Circuit Board Game Materials 

Supplies for Paper Circuits

You will need:
You might also want:
**PLEASE NOTE: Lithium coin cell batteries can be harmful, even fatal, if swallowed. Please keep away from small children. 

Build a Board Game

It's a good idea to first map out what your game will be about, the objective and the basic idea behind how it will be played. How many people can play? What additional supplies might you need? A spinner or die? etc.

DIY Paper Circuit Board Games a Kids STEAM Activity

Kids and students will also need to understand the general idea of an electrical circuit. They will learn a ton through trial and error figuring out how to build them, but giving some background is important. You'll find an engaging lesson to learn about circuits and conductivity here.

Paper Circuit Board Games

The copper tape makes it easy to build circuits into your paper and cardboard game board. You peel off the paper backing, and stick it anywhere. The prongs of the LED light bulbs need to make a connection with the copper, and the same goes for the battery. Depending on the conductivity of your copper tape, you might need to fold the corners, rather than put one piece of tape over another. (There are some great tutorials on how to deal with corners and curves here
and on this instructables page.)

The easiest way to connect the battery to the circuit is to fold the corner of the paper over the battery as we did in this example, however, I'm sure that there are many other creative solutions.

Paper Circuit STEM

Common hang-ups can be placing the prongs of the LED bulbs backwards (they only work in one direction) or not placing the copper tape in the right place to connect with the battery. This is a great tutorial from the Exploratorium on paper circuits.

There will definitely be some trial and error, and that is what makes this an excellent STEM learning activity.

Paper Circuits

Have kids start out with simple circuits, one bulb only. This way there are only so many things to test and switch if it doesn't work right away. Then once they become experts, they might want to try multiple bulbs (each bulb will need its own battery), or making a "switch" to turn on the lights.

Paper Circuit STEM Game Boards

We connected the circuit with the game piece by placing a gap in the circuit on the game board and sticking copper tape on the bottom of the game piece. The possibilities are endless once you get the hang of what you are doing. Here is another great resource for help with paper circuits.

Paper Circuits

STEAM Saturday

Check out these other great STEAM activity ideas for keeping your kids or students busy indoors!

Ivory Soap Science Experiment :: Schooling a Monkey
Teach Your Kid to be a Project Engineer :: From Engineer to SAHM

Indoor STEAM Activities for a Rainy Day

Friday, August 25, 2017

Favorite Picture Books from the 2017 Green Earth Book Awards

We've been enjoying reading some of the picture books recognized by the Nature Generation's Green Earth Book Awards for 2017. Although we haven't read through all of this year's picks, we have thoroughly enjoyed the following 8 picture books. Each would be excellent to read in the elementary classroom or at home, whether during science class or any time you need a good read-aloud.

I love that the chosen books are full of stories of actionable projects and show not only how the environment is being impacted, but also how children and adults can be creative problem solvers when faced with a challenge. I think you and your children or students will not only enjoy these stories, but also be inspired to go out and enjoy nature and learn more about our Earth.

Green Earth Award 2017 Environmental Picture Books

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

The Green Earth Book Awards

The Green Earth Book Awards have been given annually, since 2005, to great reads in the categories of children's and young adult books. The books we are featuring here are from the picture-book category, in which visual and verbal narratives help tell the story for young readers. There are many more books on the list of this year's award winners and notable mentions. You can find the entire list of the 2017 Green Earth Book Award winners here.

2017 Green Earth Book Award Winners

Our Favorite Green Earth Award Picture Books 

Follow the Moon Home

Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So, was the Green Earth Book Award winner in the 2017 picture book category and was also our favorite of the picture books we read at home. I particularly loved Follow the Moon Home because it showed how kids have the power to work toward a solution to a problem. It tells the story of a class of students who work with their teacher to find a solution to the problem of baby sea turtles not making it to the sea upon hatching.

To work toward a solution to this actionable problem, the class makes posters, they spread the word throughout their neighborhood, and are leaders at their town meeting.  Rather than present a real-life issue in a scary and hopeless way, the story illustrates positive, realistic action by kids. The story is followed up by non-fiction information about turtles and more resources for kids at the end of the book.

We also loved that our library loaned the book out as a puppet set with this awesome Folkmanis sea turtle puppet! It added an element of play to the story.

Green City

I also really enjoyed Green City by Allan Drummond, which was an honor winner. Again, it is the story of a true, actionable problem. Green City the true story of a community in Kansas that suffered destruction by a tornado. When faced with rebuilding their town, they chose to rebuild it as sustainably as possible.

The story really looks at the process of problem solving, and how a group of people can turn a tragic event into an opportunity for improvement. Green City is written as a narrative story, but includes factual sidebars as well. The book could be read using both the narrative and the factual pieces, or one or the other. Green City would be most engaging for upper elementary-aged children.

Award Winning Green Picture Books

Prairie Dog Song

Prairie Dog Song by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore features really cool mixed media collage illustrations and the story is told in song (to the tune of "The Green Grass Grows All Around") but could also be read as a rhyme.

There is factual information on some pages that can be read in addition to the story. Prairie Dog Song tells the story of the importance of the interrelationships in an ecosystem, from the grass to prairie dogs. The song explains the factual process of plants and animals vanishing and scientists understanding the cause and consequences, then learning how to bring them back. The fact that Prairie Dog Song is written in song makes it accessible to a wider range of ages.

Finding Wild


Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd Illustrated by Abigail Halpin was incredibly engaging with extremely fluid and appealing images that almost danced across the page. The book captures the joy, peace, danger, and excitement of the wild world, and how you can find it even in the most paved over places. With concise, interesting phrasing, Finding Wild would be a great read-aloud to younger children, but will also appeal to older ones.

Mr. King's Machine

Mr. King's Machine by Genevieve Cote has cute illustrations and is immediately appealing to young children. Mr. King builds a machine to catch the caterpillar that is munching his favorite flowers, but ends up coming to realize that his machine is doing more harm than good. In the end he re-designs his machine to be a flower seed spreader instead. Mr. King's Machine is a kid-friendly way to look how our actions affect everything else and that there are many different ways to solve a problem.

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins was instantly of interest to me as I love books illustrated by Steve Jenkins. (You'll want to check out Living Color and Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World as other great examples of his work.)

This text is written in simple, yet factual, rhyme that can be read to the very young. Despite the fact it is simple, it inspires interesting questions. After reading, my four-year-old niece wanted to know "How does a squirrel fly?", which led to a great discussion about how a flying squirrel glides and how bats are the only furry animals that really can fly. If you have young children who love animals, they will enjoy Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep.

Mr. McGinty's Monarchs

Mr. McGinty's Monarchs by Linda Vander Heyden and illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen, is a lovely story about a man who saves a bunch of monarch caterpillars. Again, a great story with an actionable problem. Mr. McGinty collects up the monarch caterpillars after the milkweed has been cut down and he brings them to schools where the students learn about them and raise them.

The bright, colorful illustrations are appealing and so is the engaging story. The end of Mr. McGinty's Monarchs includes kid-friendly factual information about monarchs and migration. Mr. McGinty's Monarchs would be a great companion to these activities about monarchs and monarch migration.


Circle by Jeannie Baker is the story of the migration and a year in the life of a godwit shorebird, which migrates further than any animal. The illustrations are made life like with the use of mixed media, including natural items.

Reading this story is a great way to learn and teach about migration, or read before students create and illustrate pictures of life cycles. Circle includes more factual information at the end. This would be a great choice for an upper elementary classroom.