Share it! Science : 2017

10 Most Popular Science Activities of 2017

2017 has been another exciting year of growth on this little blog. I'm so thankful for my readers and your support! I wanted to share the 10 most popular science activities on the blog this year, as well as announce some exciting changes for Share it! Science in 2018.

I'll be taking a brief hiatus from writing any new blog posts as I work towards improving the Share it! Science site. In the new year the site will undergo a facelift, and get some behind-the-scenes updates that will improve the way readers navigate the site. You can also look forward to a regular newsletter that will be full of science, STEM and STEAM resources. There will continue to be content added to the site regularly, just as you've come to expect. I'm really excited about the changes and hope you stick around to see what is in store for us in 2018!

In case you missed these science, STEM and STEAM activities, here are the 10 most visited posts from the past year. Some are new, a few are oldies but goodies that continue to pique the interest of science teachers, homeschool families, and parents who love providing hands-on learning fun for their kids.

1. Year of the Solar Eclipse! 

This past summer, the United States went eclipse crazy! Due to that, I had my first viral post: Everything You Need to Know About the Great American Solar Eclipse

It included resources for finding out where and when the eclipse could be viewed, as well as safe viewing practices. Although it is rare that so many are able to witness a solar eclipse across the U.S.A. we'll have another opportunity in 2024, so tuck this post away again until then!

If you are interested in astronomy or want to teach kids more about it, you'll also want to visit these posts:

2. DIY Zoetrope STEAM Project

Early in 2017 I wrote this post about making your own zoetrope to create animation as part of a "A-Z STEM" series. Z was for Zoetrope! It quickly became one of my most popular posts of all time and is still very popular on the blog. If you love hands-on projects for kids this is one that will keep them engaged for hours!

If this project looks intriguing you'll also want to explore:


3. DIY Recycled Seed Paper

This older post has been a favorite on the blog for 2 years now. It is a tutorial for making your own recycled paper, infused with seeds. You can plant the paper right in the ground or a pot and grow flowers. It's not only a fun activity to help kids learn to recycle and about nature, but also makes a great homemade gift!

If you like DIY projects for the kids, or enjoy nature and gardening with children, you won't want to miss these activities:

4. Safe and Easy Projects for Little Spies and CSIs

Another oldie but goodie, the post "Spies and CSIs" has been a hit for a long time. It includes directions for 2 different invisible ink projects, that don't need candles or a heat source, and a version of fingerprinting that does not require ink. Great for a rainy afternoon, your students or children can create secret messages and a fingerprint database with materials you most likely have on hand already.

If your students or children love hands-on science activities like Spies and CSIs with materials that are easy to find, then you should definitely check out these posts:

5. Learn to Conserve: Build a Landfill Model 

I designed this conservation lesson around a children's book for a Storybook Science series earlier in the year. In "Here Comes the Garbage Barge" Inspired Landfill Model you can learn where all of the trash we generate goes and how a landfill works by building a model. I used this lesson many times when teaching 3rd grade science and it was always a fun eye-opener for my students.

If you teach conservation at home or school, you'll want to learn more about these green resources:

6. DIY Pinhole Projector to Safely View the Solar Eclipse

This DIY for building a pinhole projector to view the solar eclipse was very popular this summer as well. This is a great project for kids who like to build things. It requires simple materials and is a great lesson in optics as well as functioning as a tool for eclipse viewing.

To learn more about solar eclipses, or cool DIY projects, check out these links that I've also shared above:

7. Teaching Kids to Code 

Teaching kids how to code can help them develop important problem-solving and sequencing skills. This post on different ways to teach kids coding with and without a computer continues to be a popular one. It is a lot easier than you might think to teach these skills and it doesn't necessarily mean more screen time for kids.

If you are a STEM teacher, or any teacher or homeschool family for that matter, and are interested in educational technology, you will also find "Eduporium: A Great Resource for Educational Technology" useful.

8. Best Lesson for Teaching Water Conservation 

This water conservation demo was always an eye-opening and effective lesson when I was teaching science. It clearly and easily illustrates how little fresh, clean water is available to drink, and why we must conserve water. The bonus is that it uses materials you most likely already have in your kitchen.

If you are looking for more resources for teaching conservation or teaching science and STEM in general, you'll want to investigate the following.

9. Plan a Family STEAM Night at School or Home

STEAM, or the inclusion of art with the STEM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is a huge movement in developing curriculum that stimulates all parts of the brain and engages creative problem-solving and design skills. This popular post outlines a Family STEAM Night event I helped to organize at my school. These fun, family STEAM activities can easily be used at home or school.

If you want to learn more about STEM and STEAM you won't want to miss the following:

10. Cool Engineering Projects for Kids

Check out Tinker Crate with us in this post where we use a STEM kit to build our own automaton! A great way to engage kids in tinkering, building and engineering!

Want to get kids engineering, designing and building? Check out these posts:

Ice Science: Grow Your Own Ice Spikes!

Brrrr! As the weather is turning colder, I start to think about the science of ice and snow. Ice comes in many forms out in nature, from icicles to frost, even ice ribbons and flowers. One structure that is not found very often in nature is called an ice spike.

As you can imagine, an ice spike is just that, a spiky column of ice. You can grow your own ice spikes, and challenge students or children to figure out how they formed, easily and quickly using your own freezer. Read on for the directions to get started with this ice science investigation and to find some other great links to ice and snow activities.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.


How does Ice Form? 

You may think that ice is simply frozen water, but did you know that it is actually a type of crystal? Regular ice has a crystalline structure of repeating hexagons or cubes.Various conditions can give ice irregular crystalline shapes too. Ice crystals form around tiny particles or impurities. The ice structure grows from these first crystals.

Materials Needed to Grow Ice Spikes 

To grow ice spikes you need only a few materials. Most kids are probably familiar with how ice cubes form, but you may want to make some with regular tap water before you start this experiment to use as an example.



Grow an Ice Spike

In order to grow ice spikes, all you have to do is fill the ice cube tray with the distilled water and place it in the freezer. The cubes will freeze fairly quickly, so you'll want to check on them every half hour or so. If you want regular ice cubes to compare these to, fill a second ice cube tray with tap water and let them freeze as well.

We got so excited about taking photos of the first ice spike that we took it out of the freezer and it began to quickly melt. See below! They can be fragile!

You also may not grow spikes each time. We found that filling the ice cube tray up to the top was helpful.

Why Does the Ice Spike Grow? 

Before revealing why the ice grew these crazy structures, ask your students or children why they think this happened. You can also tell them it doesn't happen very often in nature. Why do they think this is? After a brainstorm, reveal the science.

Distilled, or pure water, freezes differently than water with impurities. It freezes quickly because it supercools. In other words, the distilled water freezes at a lower temperature than regular tap water. It can remain liquid water longer, but once it begins to freeze, it freezes rapidly.

The sides of the ice cube tray may seem smooth, but small scratches or bumps in the plastic can serve as the spot where the first ice crystals form. The ice cube freezes around the outside first, leaving liquid in the center. As the ice closes in on the liquid water a few of the ice crystals (which are less dense than the liquid water) float to the top and are pushed out of the hole, forming a spike. The spike continues to grow until the entire thing is frozen.

Regular tap water has impurities and freezes at a normal freezing point for water. It does so more slowly, and the crystals form more evenly and uniformly. This doesn't result in the center staying liquid the longest, so there is no hole for a spike to form in. Water free of impurities is rare in nature, and that is why you might not see ice spikes when you are out on a winter hike.

Winter Science Activities

Winter is a great time for science! There is a ton to learn about seasons, ice, snow and winter wildlife. Explore these links for tons of activities to keep the kids busy. 

STEAM Saturday: Ice and Snow Science Activities

Learning about Friction while Playing in the Snow :: From Engineer to Stay at Home Mom

Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid Activity

Those school days before a break, holiday or vacation can be pretty exhausting for a teacher. The kids are excited and wiggly (can you blame them?) The teachers are running out of steam. There are often special assemblies, field trips and other things that make the normal schedule not so normal, adding to the fun. It is an uphill battle!

When I was teaching during chaotic times like these I tried to find a way to create activities that still allowed for learning but were not too vexing for the students or myself. The day before Thanksgiving was one of these times! I would teach a unit on ecosystems with my fourth graders, including food webs, chains and trophic levels. To wrap this up before we took a few days to stuff ourselves with turkey I liked to do this easy "Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid" science activity. It really illustrates that humans also consume more at the lower levels of the energy pyramid, just as in any ecosystem.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.

Materials for Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid

You will need:

Background Information for Trophic Pyramid Lesson

A trophic pyramid, also known as an ecological pyramid or energy pyramid is a graphical representation of food energy levels in an ecosystem. In other words, who eats who and how energy moves up the food chain. The widest part of the pyramid is made up of plants, the narrow point at the top is reserved for the top predator/carnivore. For more background and an activity to learn about trophic pyramids, check this lesson out.

A great book for learning about how energy moves through an ecosystem or food chain is: Pass the Energy Please! by Barbara Shaw McKinney. It's great for a read-aloud (even to early middle-schoolers) or as inspiration for writing and illustrating food chain rhymes.

Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid Activity

Draw a very large triangle on the white board, or mark off a triangle on the floor with tape. Give it 4 sections, labeled from bottom to top: "Producer", "Consumer-Herbivore", "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator".  You can also get the printable version of the trophic pyramid here.

Give students three 3x5 cards, or post-it notes. Instruct them to draw and label something they like to eat or drink on Thanksgiving on each card. They will then tape their card up in the part of the pyramid they believe it belongs in: "Producer", "Consumer-Herbivore", "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator".

Some might fit in more than one category based on ingredients. In general all plant-based items should go in the "Producer" section, any animal products will go in the "Consumer" sections, based on what type of animal. Most likely for your purposes, you won't have anything that goes in either "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator" sections.

When finished discuss what they notice about the diagram. For sample questions, download the Thanksgiving Trophic Pyramid lesson plan here. 

More Food Science Activities for Thanksgiving 

Try these other fun science activities with your children or students in November: 

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: Amazing Women in STEM Project

I am so pleased to be sharing another awesome new children's book! The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a wonderful picture book describing the childhood of the world renowned animal scientist and speaker, Temple Grandin, and how she overcame being different to become a successful scientist and writer. It is one of two picture books in the new Amazing Scientists book series.

In addition to sharing this new book with you, I have included a free "Amazing Women in STEM Research" printable that will be perfect for science and language arts projects in the elementary classroom or with the kids at home. To get you started on your project, also included in this post is a list of inspiring women in STEM with accompanying children's book suggestions.
Amazing Women in STEM Project

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.

Temple Grandin, an Amazing Woman in STEM

I was very excited to receive my review copy of The Girl Who Thought in Pictures . I love so many  things about this book! I love that The Girl Who Thought in Pictures is written in rhyming text, it makes for a lovely read aloud. The illustrations and the way the text is laid out is visually appealing to children as well. The book does an excellent job of describing some tough topics, Dr. Grandin's childhood, her autism diagnosis and how through it all she found things she loved and ways to become successful.

I think it is so important for children to find relatable role models in the sciences and The Girl Who Thought in Pictures does such a great job of illustrating Temple Grandin's signature quotes: "Different, not less." and "The world needs all kinds of minds." I think that all kids most likely experience feeling like they don't fit in at some point in their life, and it is wonderful for them to hear the message that even when you are different, you are needed, you can find supportive people, you can learn what works for you, and you can find success.

Temple Grandin Quote: STEM for Kids

As well as a great read-aloud story, the book includes a timeline of Temple Grandin's life, a letter from Temple Grandin, highlights from an interview and detailed biographical information. It could definitely be used as a resource in an elementary biography or research project.

Here is a sneak peek:

I also love that this is just one of two books depicting a strong female role model in the sciences. The second book in the new Amazing Scientists book series is The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist. I'm excited to see future additions to this book series!

Amazing Women in STEM Research Printable

Use this free 2-page "Amazing Women in STEM Research" printable to get your students or kids at home started on a research or biography project featuring a notable women in a STEM field. The list of women and related children's books below will have you well on your way.

Women in STEM 

In addition to Temple Grandin and Patricia Bath, the following is a list of female scientists, mathematicians, computer coders, and engineers. No doubt you'll know some of these names, but others will most likely be new. They are all fascinating people! Accompanying each woman is a list of children's books about them. 

Women in STEM Research Project

Mary Anning (1799-1847)

An English fossil hunter and paleontologist, discovered a fantastic source of sea fossils from the Jurassic period.

Learn more:

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and an advocate for future female doctors.

Learn more:

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941)

An American astronomer whose work cataloguing the stars led to the system of modern stellar classification.

Learn more:

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Marine biologist, conservationist and writer, her influential book Silent Spring waned of the use of chemicals like DDT on the environment.

Learn more:

Eugenie Clark (1922-2015)

American ichthyologist known as "The Shark Lady", increased our knowledge of sharks and other fish, as well as worked to improve shark's negative reputation.

Learn more:

Anna Botsford Comstock (1854-1930)

American conservationist, teacher and artist, was a pioneer in the nature study movement.

Learn more:

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Polish physicist and chemist who completed pioneering work in the field of radioactivity with her husband, Pierre. Won Nobel prizes in Chemistry and Physics.

Learn more:

Sylvia Earle (1935- )

American marine biologist, explorer, author, lecturer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

Learn more:


Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Molecular biologist who was responsible for much of the research and understanding of the structure of DNA, despite the findings being published by James Watson and Francis Crick first.

Learn more:

Jane Goodall (1934- )

British primatologist, the world's leading expert on chimpanzees, ethologist, anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace. Also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots program.

Learn more:

Margaret Hamilton (1936- )

American computer scientist and systems engineer. As Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory she helped develop software for the Apollo space missions.

Learn more:


Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Pioneer of computer programming, a computer scientist and United States Navy admiral.

Learn more:


Mae Jemison (1956- )

NASA astronaut, engineer and physician. The first African-American woman to travel in space.

Learn more:

Katherine Johnson (1918- )

African-American mathematician, or human calculator, who was critical to early NASA missions, such as Project Mercury and Apollo 11.

Learn more:

Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914)

Called the "most famous 19th-century inventor" known for the flat-bottomed paper bag.

Learn more:

Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921)

American astronomer who discovered relationship between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Although she didn't get much credit during her lifetime for her discovery, it helped future astronomers measure the distance between Earth and other galaxies.

Learn more:

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

English mathematician and writer, known for being the first "computer programmer" as she created the first algorithm intended to be carried out by the first proposed computer.

Learn more:

Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell (1965- )

World renowned elephant expert, instructor at Stanford University Medical School, scientific consultant, author and co-founder of Utopia Scientific.

Learn more:

Maria Merian (1647-1717)

German naturalist, entomologist and scientific illustrator.

Learn more:


Sally Ride (1951-2012)

American physicist and astronaut, the first American woman in space!

Learn more:


Marie Tharp (1920-2006)

American geologist and cartographer, who along with Bruce Hezeen, completed the first scientific map of the entire ocean floor.

Learn more:

Collections about Women in STEM

Amazing Women in STEM research project

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 The Girl Who Thought in Pictures, 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.

Roller Coasters and Outer Space: Gravity Activities for Kids

Some science concepts can be seem pretty big and difficult to grasp. Gravity and other forces that we cannot see can be tricky, particularly for elementary aged children. I love teaching with picture books, so the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science® Series has always been one of my favorites. Gravity is a Mystery by Franklyn M. Branley is a great example of one of these kid-friendly science books.

In this post we'll explore Gravity is a Mystery and the concept of gravity with a hands-on science and engineering investigation: marble roller coasters. You'll also find a free printable "Weight in Outer Space" worksheet and a list of further resources for teaching and learning about gravity. This post is part of the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science® Series hosted by My Joy-Filled Life blog.

Gravity STEM activities
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.

Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science®: Gravity is a Mystery

If you haven't read a Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science book before, you are missing out. Written by many authors well versed in the fields of science and science for kids, they are books that are written in kid-friendly language, have engaging illustrations, and often include activity ideas and background information.

Let's Read and Find Out Science Activity and Book Series

The books come in 2 stages, stage 1 stories are books about simple concepts appropriate for preschool and kindergarten, stage 2 books explore more difficult concepts for elementary aged kids.

Gravity is a Mystery is a stage 2 book. In it, a scientist and his dog explore the mysterious force of gravity. It answers interesting questions like: What would happen if you dug a hole through the center of the Earth and jumped in? How does gravity pull on you and other objects? How does gravity work? What does weight have to do with gravity? Why do we weigh different amounts on different planets?

Gravity is a Mystery is an excellent launching point for science activities about gravity. Read on to learn how to build a marble roller coaster and calculate your weight on other planets. If you are looking for even more activities about gravity and forces, check out these gravity lesson ideas.

Build a Marble Roller Coaster

Building and designing marble roller coasters is an engaging STEM activity for just about any age. I have done this activity in the classroom and during family science night programs and it is always a hit with kids and adults.

What do roller coasters have to do with gravity? Once a roller coaster is pulled up the "lift hill" by a motor and released, the rest of the ride is controlled by the force of gravity, and inertia, or the tendency of a moving object to maintain its forward velocity. Thanks to gravity and inertia, a roller coaster can stay on its tracks as it spins and flips.

Supplies for Marble Roller Coasters Gravity STEM Project

You will need: 

Build the Roller Coaster

First, you'll need to prepare the foam insulation. Although you can build roller coasters out of many different types of material, I like this way best. Use the utility knife to carefully slice down the solid side of the pipe insulation.

Marble Roller Coaster STEM project

The foam is flexible and can be used over and over again. It is already split down one side to fit around the pipe, so by simply slicing down the opposite side, you can make 2 troughs that a marble fits perfectly inside of.

Marble Roller Coaster STEM project

Although you can use any type of tape, I suggest using painter's tape because it allows you to attach the roller coasters to most surfaces without damaging them. This way you can work across the wall, floor, tables and chairs. It also peels nicely off of the foam insulation, so you can re-use the pieces.

Start out by encouraging kids to build a simple design while they get the hang of how the marble will behave in the roller coaster. Expect to use a lot of tape during the design process!

Marble Roller Coaster STEM project

Once they've experimented through trial and error, add some more complex elements to the coaster. Challenge them to include hills, a loop-the-loop, a spiral or some other spine-tingling roller coaster element.

Marble Roller Coaster STEM project

Roller Coaster Gravity STEM activity

Other Ways to Build a Marble Roller Coaster

If you want to continue exploring the idea of roller coasters, you can also build them with recycled materials like we did here for our Family STEAM Night event.

You also will want to check out this really neat set of marble tracks for home or the classroom. I love how it lends itself to open-ended exploration, it won a toy of the year award in 2016 and is reasonably priced. Learning through FUN is the best!

Marble Tracks STEM toy
It would be super fun to have this on the refrigerator, wouldn't it? STEM and a snack!

Gravity and Weight in Space

The weight of an object is equivalent to how much the force of gravity is pulling the object towards the Earth. The strength of this force changes with mass and distance. The larger an object is, the greater the force of gravity. This is why the force of gravity from the Sun, which is enormous compared to the planets, can hold all the planets in orbit. Gravity is also stronger when the distance between the objects is smaller. This is why the planets are not pulled away from our Sun, toward another, further away massive star.

Gravity Lesson Weight in Space Printable

This relationship is also what would make us weigh different amounts on different planets. You've probably had some experience with this concept at a science museum or planetarium. You can calculate the weight of an object, or yourself, on a different planet. The closer the planet is in size to Earth, the closer your weight will be to your weight on Earth.

Use this free "Weight in Outer Space" printable worksheet to explore this concept with kids. It requires multiplication, so is best for upper elementary and above. Please note that I have chosen to use the weight of a pet dog rather than the student in this sheet. You certainly can also have students substitute in their own weight. I found in a middle school classroom setting some students were sensitive about their own weight, so this easily alleviated the issue.

Further Resources for Studying Gravity

Check out these lesson plan ideas and other learning resources for further study of gravity:
I also recommend these children's books about gravity:

Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science® Blog Series

You won't want to miss the rest of the posts in the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science® series. Each includes a book and activities that complement the science concept. You'll find the entire series here.

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