Share it! Science : 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons to Visit Chicago's Shedd Aquarium In Person or Online

One of our favorite family activities is visiting aquariums, zoos and museums. As a teacher, I'm also always looking for great educational resources from these institutions. A recent visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, provided an excellent in-person experience and plenty of online resources and virtual experiences to share with you.

Although difficult to narrow it down to just a few, I've created this list of 10 reasons why you absolutely must either visit the Shedd Aquarium in person or online.These will be especially interesting for those of you who teach about aquatic life, or simply love to learn about and experience it. 

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

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

Top Ten Reasons to Visit the Shedd Aquarium 


1. Bamboo Shark Eggs! 

This is a great example of the "little things in life" being some of the most interesting and impressive. Despite all of the other fantastic creatures and exhibits we observed at the Shedd Aquarium, one of my favorites of everything we saw were the bamboo shark eggs on display in the Wild Reef exhibit.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

Bamboo sharks are small sharks that are found in shallow, tropical reefs. We were able to view the sharks in their tank right next to the examples of their eggs. You could actually see the baby sharks moving around in their eggs!

We learned that it takes around 4 months for the bamboo sharks to hatch, but the exact timing is due to temperature. The babies are able to survive on their own once they have hatched. 

Check out this short video clip from our visit. Keep an eye on the middle one, as that is the easiest to see move. They are even cooler in real life!

Wild Reef models the coral reefs of the Philippines. It is one of the main exhibits in the aquarium.  We really appreciated the fact that the exhibit not only housed the wildlife of the reef, but also described the culture as well. I think it is rare that an aquarium describes in such detail how the aquatic environment impacts the culture and economy of an area, and vice-versa.
Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

It was also fascinating to see how the aquarium was cultivating coral for the exhibit, which exclusively features coral grown right at the Shedd Aquarium.
Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

The reefs of the Phillipines are some of the most diverse coral reefs in the world. We saw some of our favorite colorful creatures here.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online
We found Dory! Can you find her too?

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

2. See dolphins up close!

We attended a live animal show that included observing the aquarium's Pacific white-sided dolphins. The dolphin tank and the aquatic shows are part of the Abbott Oceanarium, a fabulous space modeled after the Pacific Northwest coast.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

After the show, the area cleared out and we had a few minutes where we could watch the dolphins swim, jump and dive without a huge crowd around. It was much more exciting than simply watching them behind glass. It was also interesting during the show to see firsthand how the dolphins are trained.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

3. Fabulous Exhibits

The Shedd is absolutely a world class aquarium. The exhibit spaces were detailed, with excellent signage and understandable, accessible interpretation.

In addition to the Wild Reef and Abbott Oceanarium I mentioned above, there are several other large exhibits that make up the aquarium.

Amazon Rising takes you along the Amazon river during the rainy season when the forests are flooded. In addition to fish like piranhas, we spotted tiny Goeldi's monkeys, an anaconda (or the skin it last shed anyway, most of the large snake was hidden underwater) tarantulas and stingrays.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

In addition to galleries on the life of the ocean, in lakes, in rivers and the local fauna of the Great Lakes, the Caribbean Reef is a must-see. It is also hard to miss it as this 90,000 gallon tank is the centerpiece of the main exhibit space of the aquarium.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

4. Knowledgeable, Friendly Staff and World Class Research

I was so impressed with everyone we met at the aquarium. All had a smile on their face, a friendly greeting and were very knowledgeable. It was really a nice change of pace to visit a place where it truly seemed like everyone was happy and interested to be there!

The Shedd is a leader in conservation and aquatic research. From field work on the Great Lakes and in the Caribbean, and on-site research and breeding programs, the Shedd Aquarium works alongside and to inform the greater scientific community. Check out this link for a great launching point into the great work they do.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

5. Virtual Field Trips

Maybe you can't actually visit the Shedd Aquarium, but you'd like your classroom or homeschool students to experience the aquarium. You're in luck because they offer virtual field trips for reasonable rates. Learn more here. 

6. Accessibility

The entire Shedd Aquarium is accessible so no one has to miss out. We found this very helpful as we visited with a young child in a stroller, which many others were doing as well. Although I was thrilled about the ability to travel anywhere with the stroller, I'd advise you give yourself a little extra time to get from place to place if you need to use the elevators. When the aquarium is busy there is often a short wait for them.

The Shedd also offers a Sensory Friendly App, with visitors with autism or sensory processing disorder in mind. Learn more about this app and accessibility at the Shedd Aquarium here.

7. Penguins!

Need I say more? Who doesn't like watching penguins?! It was our daughter's favorite spot.

We didn't experience the special Penguin Encounter program, but that looks fun too!

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

8. A National Historical Landmark

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

The facade of the beautiful Shedd Aquarium building has been named a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Service. The building is just one part of Chicago's Museum campus, which is 57 acres along Lake Michigan and includes the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and Soldier Field. We enjoyed walking through the lovely park campus during our visit.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

9. Classroom Clubs and Competitions

In addition to their regular education programs, school visits and the like, Shedd also offers cool opportunities like the NextGen Animal Responders program, a curriculum guide that brings animal rescue efforts to life, and the Underwater Robotics Club, several different STEM programs and resources for teachers that allow kids to delve into the engineering and design of underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles).

10. Citizen Science

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know how much we like citizen science! The Shedd Aquarium supports several citizen science projects, including working to save seahorses through iSeahorse, a project that anyone can participate in.

Learn at the Shedd Aquarium, in person or online

We really enjoyed our visit to the Shedd Aquarium and hope we get back to visit again one day! I hope that you get a chance to visit in person or online soon!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Communicate Like a Bee! Code a Message in Dance

Did you know that bees dance to communicate with each other? It's true! Scout bees collect information on where the best food sources are and bring this news back to the hive. They then do a series of dance moves in which the location of the food source is encoded.

Click on over to my guest post in the Storybook Summer series on the Rainy Day Mum blog where you can find out more about these fascinating bee dances. You'll also find some great picture book suggestions to read to kids about bees and their dances, in addition to a fun dance coding activity to try.

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

Dance in Code Like a Bee

Create Your Own Dance Language

My post, Code a Message in Dance...Like a Bee, includes a free printable to help kids create their own coded messages through dance. It is a wonderful way to explore animal communication while honing coding skills.

Bee dances appear simple, but contain complex information. Older children will be fascinated by the specifics of these messages and how they can create moves that encode secret messages, while younger children might simply enjoy the idea of using dance to tell a story.

Dance in Code Like a Bee

You'll also definitely want to check out the picture book, Bee Dance, by Rick Chrustowski. It has great illustrations and explores the idea of bee communication in story form, easily understandable for children of any age.

Want to share the idea of bee dance with young kids? Here is a great PBS video from Sid the Science Kid all about the bee dance!

If you are interested in other books about the fascinating social lives of bees, you might want to find the picture book Are You a Bee? by Judy Allen.

Love insects? Here are some great insect themed citizen science projects perfect to try this summer.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Build a Pinhole Projector to View the Solar Eclipse!

Here is a quick DIY project to build your own pinhole projector. What is a pinhole projector? It is a simple device that allows you to project an image without looking directly at it. This is perfect for viewing a solar eclipse, since it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun, even when it is eclipsed. Building, designing, and engineering a pinhole projector is a great way to get kids engaged and excited to view the eclipse that will be visible across the United States on August 21st, 2017.

The design is simple and only uses a few materials that you most likely already have at home, in the kitchen or recycling bin. A great project for upper elementary or middle-school, or even younger kids with a bit of help from an adult.

Build a Pinhole Projector to Safely View the Solar Eclipse

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

You can find the directions for the pinhole projector on my guest contributor post on From ABCs to ACTs.

Build a Pinhole Projector to Safely View the Solar Eclipse

You'll probably also want to get some solar glasses, which can be purchased fairly inexpensively as well. (Regular sunglasses are not sufficient eye protection.) This way you can see how well your pinhole projector works, and then also view the eclipse through the glasses. Be sure to NEVER look at the eclipse with your naked eye, as it can cause permanent damage.

Solar Eclipse Glasses at Steve Spanler Science
You won't want to miss our post on the details of the solar eclipse and everything you need to know about safe viewing. You can also explore the concept of eclipses to really understand what is happening with this quick lesson idea.

Not only is it exciting that the solar eclipse will be visible this summer, but it also provides a great summer vacation learning opportunity. We are so excited about eclipse viewing! Be sure to learn more to see if you'll see a total eclipse in your area!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

DIY At-Home Science, STEM and STEAM Summer Camps

Are you looking for an engaging, fun and educational way to spend the summer with the kids without spending a lot of money? We've included a bunch of great ideas for creating your own science, STEM and STEAM camp right at home this year. These plans would also be excellent for daycare, traditional camps and summer schools.

From kits that are completely packed and planned for you, to activities you can put together with supplies from home, you'll definitely find something useful here. Not only will providing science, technology, engineering, art and math activities boost your kid's brains and help combat the summer slide, but they are also super fun!

DIY Science, STEM and STEAM Summer Camps

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

DIY Science, STEM and STEAM Summer Camp

Here are 5 days of Science Camp including science experiments, games and snacks you can do right at home, just collect up the materials!

Kids love nature? Check out these ideas for a DIY Science and Nature Camp including worms, seeds, leaves, trees, bugs, turtles, etc.

If you have kids ages 3-6, you won't want to miss this free STEM camp, with 5 days of STEM themed book explorations!

We are big fans of the STEAM Kids book series, and this year they are offering STEAM Camp! This at-home camp offers 5 days of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities aimed at kids ages 4-10. What makes this one even more special is that you're not alone! You'll have a camp success guide and access to a member's only Facebook group where your STEAM "camp counselors", the authors of STEAM Camp, will be available to help you out.

**Save $15 by pre-ordering STEAM Camp before June 14th, 2017!** 

Try this DIY Science Camp for 16 activities ranging from backyard geysers to homemade silly putty.

This at-home Science Camp features daily themes like the water cycle and separating molecules. Each day includes a themed activity, snack and craft ideas.

You'll find a week of experiments from things you most likely already have in your kitchen with this DIY Science Camp. Activities include "Composting Detectives" and "Homemade Soda".

This summer Steve Spangler Science is offering a 5 day, at home STEM Camp. If you are looking for activities that include all the supplies and directions, then this one is for you. Nothing to collect up or plan ahead for, and you'll still save a fortune compared to sending them to themed day camp or sleep-away camp. You can learn more here.
Steve explains STEM Camp for Parents & Grandparents in a quick video! Watch to learn all about Summer Learning with STEM Camp.

STEM Camp Collection

More Science, STEM and STEAM Activities to Fill Your Summer Days

If you're looking for other fun science, STEM and STEAM activities you won't want to miss these. Check out the Spectacular Summer Series featured here. 8 different summer science themed blog posts.

Try a STEM engineering challenge, like designing a solar oven or building a nature sculpture.

5 days of STEAM activities from building Rube Goldberg machines to hosting a Family STEAM night with the Children's STEAM Festival.

Create beautiful nature art with these printables. 

Stop Summer Boredom Before It Begins!

Build your own maker space or tinker kit with these ideas.

Use free apps to identify plants and create your own yard map.

You also won't want to miss the solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Patriotic Spin on the Zoetrope Animation STEAM Project

Let's put a patriotic spin on one of the most popular activities we've featured- zoetrope animation. Combining the science of how our eyes work along with creating some great art that you can animate makes this a super fun STEAM project. Why not also combine this activity with your Independence Day celebration and inspire some creativity over summer vacation?

First, you'll build your zoetrope out of supplies you most likely have around the house. Then do some doodles and voila! You'll be animating in no time. If you love STEAM projects, be sure to continue reading to the bottom of the post where we're sharing some other fun patriotic STEAM ideas.
DIY Zoetrope Animation Patriotic STEAM Project

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

Supplies you'll need:

DIY Zoetrope Animation Patriotic STEAM Project

Build a Zoetrope

You will find the directions for building a zoetrope here.

DIY Zoetrope Animation Patriotic STEAM Project

Once you've built your spinning device, you can begin to create the art that you'll be able to animate. For our zoetrope design, you'll find that strips of paper that are an inch and a half wide work well for your drawings. We created an American flag design and some fireworks for our Fourth of July animation.

DIY Zoetrope Animation Patriotic STEAM Project

What other patriotic or summer designs could you make? Here are some ideas:
  • Parade floats
  • The Statue of Liberty being built
  • The crack forming in the Liberty Bell
  • A moving map of the United States
  • Talking Mount Rushmore
  • Red, white and blue Popsicle melting


Zoetropes aren't the only way to make your own animation. You can create a stop-motion movie using LEGO bricks. Or try a clay animation video. You'll find a kid-friendly clay animation article here.

Here's a classic example of clay animation in action. 

If you're interested in doing more STEAM projects at home, you won't want to miss these Family STEAM night ideas.

Patriotic STEAM for Kids

Check out these other great patriotic STEAM ideas for your 4th of July and summer vacation!

DIY Zoetrope Animation Patriotic STEAM Project

Fluffy Patriotic Slime :: Schooling a Monkey
Make an American Flag Using Water Science Experiments :: From Engineer to Stay at Home Mom
Patriotic Animation :: Share It! Science
Film Canister Rocket Fireworks :: Science Kiddo

Home with the kiddos this summer? Check out this awesome new resource to keep them creating, experimenting and tinkering: Camp STEAM! 
DIY At Home STEAM Camp for Kids

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Using Nature Arts and Crafts to Inspire STEAM Learning

Creating art from natural items is an excellent way for kids to hone their observation skills while developing creativity. I'm excited to be reviewing the Nature Arts and Crafts printable pack from author Penny Whitehouse of the Mother Natured blog. Not only is this a beautiful and clever resource for families, teachers and summer camps, but it also provides opportunities for STEAM learning and building science observation skills.

There are over 30 activities included that only require a printer, a place in nature and an excited kid! I predict it will provide hours of creative hands-on engagement for the kids in your life. Check out what we've done so far with our copy.

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

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

What are Nature Arts and Crafts? 

The Nature Arts and Crafts printable pack is a 60 page digital book including over 30 activities to take out into nature and create art. The activities are open-ended, inspiring creativity in nature loving kids. Not only do they get to explore art while out in nature, but also hone some important science and math skills in the process.

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

There are printables for all skill levels included in the pack, from learning patterns and developing fine motor skills for young children, to creating intricate nature mosaics and nature journals for older kids.

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

STEAM Learning Opportunities

Not only will kids get to be artistic and explore nature with these activities, but they also learn a lot in the process. Elements of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) are inherent throughout. Concepts like symmetry, and patterning develop math skills. Activities like basket weaving inspire nature engineering projects.

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

As kids choose the natural items they will use to make art, they make careful observations, looking for specific shapes and colors in nature. This can even lead to better plant identification skills. Using the printables during different seasons of the year can help children understand the changes that nature goes through.

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

Fun with Nature Arts and Crafts

So far we've enjoyed a few of the activities and are excited to try them all. The best part is that you can do them over and over again and each time they come out differently! It only reminded me that I need to get a little laminator like this for home so that I can make sturdy copies of each that we can take with us whenever we go on an outdoor adventure.

Our cherry tree was just losing its blossoms when we were collecting materials, so we had plenty of pink petals to craft with! Here are some of our other "supplies".

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

Pattern practice, first an AB pattern, then ABC!

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

We also had fun with dress-ups!

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

I love that there are so many different ways you can use the same printable to create something new! Here is another example:

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

Where Can You Get Nature Arts and Crafts?

Ready to try these yourself? You can follow this link to learn more and to purchase the printable pack. The digital download cost $14.99, and is well worth the money, as you can print them over and over once you own it.

In the meantime, you can enjoy this free excerpt.

Want to know more? Check out this video to see Nature Arts and Crafts in action!

Looking for more nature art? Check out these Nature Sculpture Engineering Challenges or this Beautiful Bird Nest craft. You might also enjoy this post on hosting a family STEAM night!

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

Nature Art and Crafts Printable STEAM Activities

Disclaimer: I received a digital download of this printable pack in exchange for an honest review.