Share it! Science

Friday, March 20, 2020

40+ STEM Activities Using Materials You Already Have

I've scoured the 300+ posts on Share it! Science to find over 40 hands-on science, STEM or STEAM activities that do not require special materials and can be completed with things you most likely already have at home. In a few cases I have made suggestions of possible substitutions for materials as well. With a little flexibility and creativity we can work together to give your family a fun experience at home (as well as sneaking in some learning...but don't tell the kids!)

Whether you are stuck close to home due to school closures, or just stumped on what to do with your kids over a vacation you are sure to find something here that will keep you busy! So, raid the recycling bin, check out the craft drawer and start learning and having fun.

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission from purchases made from these links at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information. 


Making, Building and Experimenting Activities 

Kids love things that move! You can build a zany Rube Goldberg machine out of recyclables or just about anything else you have in the house. What task will your machine accomplish? Feeding the dog? Cooling you off on a hot day? Squeezing toothpaste out of a tube? The possibilities are endless with this one!

Encourage the kids to be spies and CSI's with this (ink-free) fingerprinting and (heat-free) invisible ink activity! Explore loops, whorls and arches and other unique patterns in your fingerprints and create and distribute some secret messages. You probably have everything you need right in the kitchen!

Have a flashlight, white paper, water, an old cd? Just a few of the things you can use to make a real rainbow indoors! Learn how to make 5 different rainbows from just a few common household items.

Save your toilet paper rolls and try this challengeHow much weight can a toilet paper tube hold? How about an egg?

Science in the kitchen! This outlines a decomposition experiment with apples, but you could substitute any food you've got on hand. 

Build a marble roller coaster! This is so much fun for kids and adults alike. You might not have the tubes I've used in this post on hand, but you can use just about any recycled container to create a little roller coaster.

Green Kid Crafts Delivered Right to your Door

This leaf pigment experiment can be pretty magical, and it can be done with markers if you don't have access to fresh leaves- you'll find the directions for the marker experiment at the bottom of this post.

Do you have flowers outside? Learn how to build a butterfly feeder and see who comes to visit! If you don't have the exact type of jar or sponge at home, experiment to see how you can create a feeder that will deliver a slow feed of nectar!

Love bird watching? Here are some ideas for easy-to-make bird feeders.

Challenge the kids to build a solar oven and make some nachos or s'mores! This is wonderful for open-ended design and engineering.

Investigate reflections with mirrors and drawings. You can also challenge the kids to code some secret messages that only a mirror will help them read!

Did you know that your kids can participate in professional science projects in a hands-on way, or online? Here are some starting points for getting kids involved in citizen science projects.

Do your kids know where the trash goes? Build a landfill model and learn what happens in it over time. Great conversation starter for Earth Day!

ARRRGH! Do your kiddos love pirates? Try these pirate optical illusion activities.

Nature, Wildlife and Outdoor Activities

Go on an indoor animal adaptations scavenger hunt! Free printable included at the end of the post.

Go on a math-themed scavenger hunt for the Golden ratio in the flower garden or the park.

Did you know you can grow a houseplant from kitchen scraps? Try growing a grapefruit plant or an avocado plant

Learn the parts of a flower through dissection! Ideas included for adapting for all age levels.

Got dirt, mud, sand or snow? Learn some animal tracks and go on a scavenger hunt.

Dream up and design a themed garden! Fun themes for kids are: taco or pizza garden, rainbow garden, and alphabet garden.

Build your own indoor worm composting bin and start composting your food scraps.

Challenge the kids to design and engineer a plant seed from craft materials and see how well it sinks, flies or floats!

Build a creature and learn about animal adaptations with this easy activity.

Did you know bees communicate through dance? Challenge the kids to code directions in a dance just like a bee!

Kids love building? Here are some nature sculpture engineering challenges. Get outside and build!

For bug-loving kids, here are ideas for designing an insect investigation, includes a free printable science journal.

Observe birds at the feeder and keep a tally with this free bird counting printable.

Go on a nature walk and hunt for cool lichen, see what types of fungus you can find, or find an empty bird's nest.

STEAM: Activities that include Art

You'll find several STEAM activities in this post outlining a family STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) event at my school. These are all fun for the whole family.

Grab a container from the recycling bin and build a zoetrope, then have the kids make some simple animation. This is always a hit with older kids. **Depending on the size of your container you may need to adapt the measurements. (We have faith in you!)

Hone the kid's observation skills and practice sketching in this "magnify without a magnifier" art project. All you need is a writing implement, an interesting object to draw and some paper. 

Find some fractal patterns outdoors or online and create a beautiful fractal sun catcher. If you don't have tracing paper try substituting with parchment paper or very carefully with tissue paper.

Activities that Make Use of Technology

Kids on the computer? They can be citizen scientists and participate in projects like Penguin Watch!

Wildlife cameras are a great way to experience animals that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. Learn more about the Decorah Eagle wildlife cam here.

These are some videos I have used to teach science. They are all entertaining enough to watch for fun (and learn something too!)

Who doesn't like some fun music? Here are some of my favorite kid's science songs.

Did you know you can listen to an astronaut read you a picture book? Check out Story Time from Space.

Kids can learn coding for free through a variety of programs online (and off-screen as well!).

Looking for more science activities with household items?

Here is a list of companies offering free subscriptions during school closings!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Save the Bees! Bee Citizen Science Projects for School or Home

Empower your children or students by showing them some activities that can work toward solving the world's declining bee populations. Whether you are studying pollination, planning an Earth Day project, or teaching an insect unit, understanding the importance of bees to all ecosystems and our food supply is important and interesting at any grade level. In this post you'll find some children's book suggestions for learning more about bees and a bunch of ways you can contribute to professional science through easy bee citizen science projects.

This post is part of the 2019 Storybook Science series on the Inspiration Laboratories blog. For more activities linked to great children's books as well as other citizen science projects to try, check out the list of posts in the series here

save the bees citizen science

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission from purchases made from these links at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

Picture Books for Inspiring a Love of Bees

Bee & Me is a delightful wordless picture book by Alison Jay. It is the fictional story of a girl who meets a bee and cares for it in her city apartment. It eventually grows bigger than the girl and longs for flowers. They travel to the country to collect flower seeds and spread them around the city. The following spring the city is in bloom from sidewalk to roof tops.

Although the story is fantasy, it is a nice entry point to learning about the needs of bees and their part in the life cycle of plants. The end pages have suggestions for attracting and learning more about bees. Another bonus about this cute story is that it has no words, so you could share it with a wide variety of ages from readers to non-readers alike. This is just one example of some of the great new picture books that can inspire STEM activities with kids.

Another bee book I am highly anticipating is the unreleased, "Next Time You See a Bee" by Emily Morgan. The books in the "Next Time You See..." series are well written, engaging non-fiction stories that make great read-alouds for home or the classroom.

Kids Help Professional Scientists: Bee Citizen Science

Citizen Science is a method of crowdsourcing scientific research. Through the participation of volunteers, more data can be collected than might be otherwise. There are many kid-friendly citizen science projects. 

There are so many ways people of all ages can contribute to science, whether it is local or online. Here are several ways to monitor and identify the bees in your area with kids. Contribute your observations to a science project and be part of an important scientific process. 

bee pollination citizen science

Through Bumble Bee Watch go on a scavenger hunt for bumble bees. Snap a photo and submit it for identification. Grab a bumble bee field guide and have kids try their hand at identifying the bees.

With the Great Sunflower Project you can learn how to attract and count pollinators in your yard, and even get discounts on pollinator friendly seeds. Make observations to count how many pollinators visit your yard or observation area, then submit your count!

bee pollination sunflower

In the fall, take The Goldenrod Challenge. Team up with others to see how many different bees you can spot on goldenrod flowers and report your findings. 

If you live in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri or Ohio you can observe and count bees for the BeeSpotter project.

Visit PollinatorLive for all sorts of different pollinator citizen science projects as well as resources for teachers.

More Bee and Pollinator Activities

If you are looking for more activities to keep the bee and pollinator learning going, try out the following:

Communicate like a bee and code directions into a bee dance! 

Learn how to plan and grow a garden that is attractive to pollinators.  

bee citizen science

Find more insect citizen science projects for kids here.

Learn how to build a colorful insect hotel with this project from the STEAM Kids book. (Especially great if you've got plastic straws you are trying to use up before transitioning to paper straws!!) 

Story Book Science

Be sure to stop by Inspiration Laboratories for the full list of Story Book Science activities! You'll find more citizen science, STEM challenges, environmental science and space science themed books and projects this year.