Friday, May 13, 2011

Top Ten Ways to Encourage Young Scientists Over Summer Break

As we fast approach the end of the school year, I'm looking at different educational science activities that my children can take part in over the summer. I've narrowed it down to my ten favorites:

10. The easiest place to start is right in your own backyard. Give children a bug catcher, a magnifying glass, or simply a pencil and paper. Ask them to search the yard and see who and what lives there? Take it further and have them check different locations (ie at a grandparents house, lake cabin, friends yard, etc). Encourage the children to figure out what factors lead to the organisms living in a particular environment.

9. Take a Nature Walk. There are so many walking paths and trails in the US that are underutilized by families for educational purposes. To this day, I still hear from my kids about the beaver they saw building a damn when they took a nature walk in their preschool. This is a great way to learn about an animals habitat.

8. Go outside and look up! On a clear night, there are so much in the sky to see. Having a telescope makes this even more educational and valuable. Even without one, we can still see quite a bit. Don't be afraid to use the internet to see when and where planets will be visible.

7. Go to a museum. This should go without saying, but depending on the age of the children, one can visit any good museum multiple times and always find new things they didn't get to see on a previous trip. As far as Chicago goes, my kids really love the Museum of Science and Industry.

6. Take them to the Zoo! Large and small, all zoos offer so many opportunities to learn and kids absolutely love going to a zoo.

5. Utilize the programs offered by your local park districts. Many park districts offer events ranging from reptile interactions to butterfly hunts to lessons about dinosaurs and fossils. These are sure fire hits with kids.

4. Start a rock collection. Have kids collect as many different types of rocks (or seashells depending on where you live) and see how many they can identify. There are many great posters out there that can help identify rocks, minerals, or seashells. A quick search on the internet will help you find one. Note: our principal, Feenixx Publishing produces the finest ones I've seen. Email me at and I can refer you to a distributor.

3. Backyard Bird Identification. This is another activity that could be significantly aided by a Backyard Bird poster which again is easily found with a quick web search. Again, I highly recommend the posters from Feenixx Publishing. You'd be amazed how many different types of birds visit your neighborhood.

2. Blow Something up.....safely. I highly encourage this to be done outdoors. Taking care not to get their face in the way, drop a few Mentos into a two liter bottle of diet coke (don't use regular coke unless you want the sugar to stick to everything). I've seen a great products on the internet that attach to the top of a soda bottle and allow a string to be pulled which safely releases the Mentos into the soda. You'll be amazed at how high the soda flies. Ask your kids to explain scientifically why this happened.

1. My personal favorite science activity is taking my kids to an amusement park. If your kids are younger, start out with simpler questions for them to find out, such as why a ride has a height restriction. Older kids can really dissect a park through physics by calculating speed, acceleration, centrifugal and centripetal forces, height, friction, etc. There is always a smile on my face when my 6 year old explains to his younger brother why people don't fall out of roller coasters that go upside down!

Please share your ideas for additional activities and adventures to help us mold the future scientists of the world. Need motivation....just remind yourself that the kids of today will be our caretakers of tomorrow!

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