Share it! Science : April 2017

Investigating Reflections: Secret Messages with Mirrors

Do you know a young detective or cryptologist? Hop on over to Green Kid Craft's blog where I wrote an engaging secret code mirror activity. While kids explore writing and decoding secret messages with mirrors, they'll also begin to learn the science of light and reflection.

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

You'll need the following materials for the secret code project:
If you are teaching about mirrors, light and reflection, for elementary, I'd highly recommend checking out the More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons' "Mirror, Mirror" lesson plan. In addition to standards linked activities it uses the children's books What Did They See? and I See Myself to investigate mirrors.

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

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.  

Grow an Alphabet Themed Kid's Garden!

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.

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.  

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

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


Grow An Alphabet Themed 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 (Monarda)
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
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, Ursinia
V- Verbena, Viola
W- Watermelon, Wallflower
X- Xeranthemum
Y- Yarrow
Z- Zucchini, Zinnia (find out how to win some Zinnia seeds below!)

Grow a Kid's 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. I love to use Renee's Garden seeds as they are certified organic and you can find interesting varieties of heirloom plants and unique seeds that can be grown on trellises or in containers. You're sure to find plants you don't see elsewhere when you shop their seeds!

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, and I am a member of their affiliate program, but I was not otherwise compensated by Renee's Garden to write this post.