Summer can be a great opportunity for hands-on science learning
Five Fun Summer Science Activities
Grow A Vegetable Garden
What better way to learn the basics of science and how things grow them to plant your own garden? You can start with fast growing seeds or pick up a few small plants. Sunflowers can be fun too, but they take a while to grow so be sure to include some plants that will give early satisfaction as well. For example, vegetables provide a great opportunity for fun and education and they start to give results quickly, especially if you buy them as small plants instead of seeds.
As you plan and plant your garden you can talk about what the plants will need to grow: air, water, sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Not only will your child will learn where food comes from, but best of all, your child can get to eat the product of their labor!
Go to library and get a book on bugs, butterflies or insects. Next, grab a clean glass jar, poke a few holes in it. Add to this, collection of tools a small notebook with a pen or pencil (tied on) and you have all you need to send your young summer scientist into the field!
You won’t need to give much direction as this comes instinctively to curious minds: have your child go out and collect, draw, identify and then release their finds. See how many different spiders, caterpillars or critters your child can find. Discovery which come out at night vs day and if some like a particular area in your yard or neighborhood.
Everything’s more fun with a friend so consider engaging another child or family to partner in your child’s adventuring or maybe even set up a friendly competition. What about a bug party- invite a couple kids over and send them out for a scavenger hunt! Tell them to find:
1 bug with six legs
You get the idea. They will be running, laughing (and counting, shhh!) before you know it and all in the name of science!
Visit a Nearby Nature Center
There are lots of nature based centers around the state that are free or low cost. Some libraries offer passes to museums and centers so ask what is available before you go. You can explore the woods, lake life, the ocean, or an estuary and all of it is within a 45 minute drive.
Some local ideas include:
McLane Center, operated by the NH Audubon located in Concord
Squam lakes Natural Science Center, Holderness
Squam Lakes Association
Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center in Laconia
Great Bay Estuarine Research Reserve, Greenland
Go to this web site for a complete list of locations with links to the websites for hours, locations, offerings etc.
some of these places also offer camps and day programs for young adventurers and scientist in the making.
Put out a feeder and a bird house or two (make one out of a milk carton or food container and some string or look on line for directions on how to make houses and feeders out of household objects) and hang them from a tree where you can watch and then keep a journal.
Kick this up a notch and Get a bird guide from the library or your local book shop and have fun identifying your new feathered friends. If you’re really lucky one pair might make a nest! Your child can Draw pictures, write a story about your birds and research their migration path or observe what time of day or type of food they prefer.
For fourth through 6th graders you might think about incorporating the scientific process.
Begin with a hypothesis
Maybe as to what kind of food the birds will prefer?
For example, I think Cardinals prefer thistle over sunflower seeds
with different the two different kinds of food
Observe- what they eat and what disappears fastest
Measure and document the results
Analysis- compare your hypothesis to what you observed, take note of any short comings in the experiment.
For example, did other birds eat the thistle making it hard to tell what the Cardinals preferred?
Conclusion: Can you draw a conclusion?
For example: Cardinals prefer sunflower seeds over thistle
Write a report summarizing the whole thing, add pictures; drawn or photos, make charts or graphs-
Measuring things can be fun and it’s a foundation for scientific observation. There are so many things to measure. For example:
You could Measure the amount of rainfall in your yard or keep track of the temperature every day at a certain time.
Each day look up a new measurement like- how many miles from your house to Boston, to Chicago and to Los Angeles?
Another day look up how many miles to the moon, to the sun, to mars.
Look up how many people live in your town, in Manchester, in New York City and then In Tokyo, Paris and Botswana.
Ask your child before you leave for the day:
Do you know how many stars there are in the Milky Way?
How many planets in our solar system?
Have them “research” the answer and tell you when you get home or perhaps you could have your child write out the answer.
How many days is one million seconds? How about one billion? You might be amazed by the answer! For children interested in dinosaurs, look up how long ago in time one trillion seconds is! (spoiler alert in the question
Practice Directions and Mapping this Summer
Ask your child to Plan a trip by mapping it out. Your child can pick the best route and explain why he or she chose it. have your child explain to you how many miles you will travel on this route and how long it will take. Let your child be the navigator if you’re brave and drive where he or she directs. Of course, keep safety first!
Have your child write out the directions to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you do the same then swap directions and following them precisely. Suspend all you know about how to complete this task and without filling in any gaps in the directions or making any assumptions, make that sandwich. It’s usually a riot. For example, someone will inevitably say “spread the peanut butter onto the bread”, but neglect to say “using the flat end of the knife… “. Be ready to be messy and silly.
Cooking is a great science project with even better reward. The skills in following a recipe, measuring and creating your own “solution” or “chemical reaction” is both scientific and fun!
Why not combine cooking with reading? Our youngest started a summer “Book and Bake Club” one summer with his buddies. Each child took a turn “hosting” which meant he got to choose the book and make the snacks!
Whatever you do this summer, the real lesson is that science and math are everywhere!