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  1. #1
    Senior Member Enlightened
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    Default Favorite Science (and Other) Projects Your Kids Have Enjoyed

    Hi Everyone,

    I used to really struggle with "teaching" science to my son because he didn't like reading it out of a textbook and he thought the experiments in the usual experiment books were boring. I had to agree. So this year, we created our own science experiments and that has worked much better for us.

    One of our favorites was taking soda cans, filling them up with water, and sealing them in various ways, and hurling them down the street. Afterwards, we'd study the areas of impact and weakness, how the thing came apart and so forth. We did this during school/work hours, so luckily no one much was around....

    I would really love to hear what sorts of experiments or projects your kids enjoyed over the years and what grade/age level they did them. Please don't name whole curriculums; I'm just looking for project ideas.

    Thanks in advance!
    Homeschooling an only, DS10

    Trains move quickly
    To their journey's end

    Destinations
    Are where we begin again

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  3. #2

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    Sounds like your DS might enjoy doing the mentos + soda geyser experiments. You can do it with different types of soda and with different numbers of mentos to see how the results change.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diet_C...entos_eruption
    https://www.stevespanglerscience.com...t-coke-geyser/

    I agree the science curricula available tend to be a bit of a drag. I also found that the experiments often do not connect well with the theory. We much prefer just exploring as well. I can't off the top of my head think of any outstanding favourites as we do so much and my kids just tend to be enthused about all science (helps when they have a chemist as a mother, biochemist as a father, and chemist as a grandmother who are all like "yay science" all the time, lol).

    For littles (< 5 years), they always love all sorts of baking soda + vinegar + food colouring type things, freezing and thawing stuff, sink and float, seeing if things are soluble/insoluble and miscible/immiscible.

    My oldest recently attended a class where they made an electric quiz board and really liked that. If you do a Google search, there are heaps of different ones online that you can find instructions for.

    I usually use websites and books for project ideas. These are some of our favourite resources for projects:
    https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/
    https://www.sciencebuddies.org/scien...rojects#browse
    Lab for kids series books: "Kitchen Science Lab for Kids", "Outdoor Science Lab for Kids", "Geology Lab for Kids", "Energy Lab for Kids", "Astronomy Lab for Kids".

    Oh oobleck as a non-newtonian fluid is always well loved by kids but I prefer not to make it too often because it is such a pain to clean up and dispose of (do not put it down your drains!).
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 12-14-2019 at 06:03 PM.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  4. #3

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    We really like the DK Maker books. The have a Home Lab and Outdoor Maker Lab that we enjoyed. The photos were helpful, they were simple projects. The books had a sidebar with the science, but in the end they were fun projects to do.

    You can see them, as well as other good versions of these books here:
    https://www.dk.com/uk/category/science-experiments/
    A mama who teaches college writing, as well as help her 12-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.

  5. #4

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    We enjoyed this book, it makes really clever (well I thought so) moving models out of paper.
    https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Models-...s%2C212&sr=8-1

    Also, Tinker Crates has great activities, our charter pays for ours or else Id think they were too pricey. (This week, DS7 made a laser activated lantern.)
    Their website / newsletter has a constant stream of free ideas, too. I love that all the ingredients are included. We have been making these for years and have yet to get a dud, or something with confusing directions.
    https://www.kiwico.com/
    (Two years ago, DS5 (at the time) started taking over the tinker crates from his brother (DS11). If one of the lines appeals to you, dont be intimidated by the age range.) Its been a great introduction to circuitry and wires for him.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  6. #5

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    My kids liked this book put out by the science museum in San Francisco, the Exploratium. Exploratoipa is fun, but probably a little young for your son. If you can get it at the library, maybe you could look through it for ideas he could expand upon.

    DS also liked the Electric Snap circuits. These are essentially electrical components (resistors, capacitors, PNP and NPN sensors, diodes, etc) but in a lego type format so they are much easier to put together. The kits come with instructions, but he can also experiment with different circuits to see what happens.

    My physics kids always liked the "Egg Drop" challenge--an engineering project. Design a container of a sort to protect an raw egg from a pre-selected height from breaking. This is a decent website that describes it.

    For the heck of it, one year DD decided to determine what surfaces in our house had the most bacteria (including the cat's mouth!!). It involved petri dishes and agar (just plain gelatin) and cotton swabs. I wonder if you could make do with tiny pie tins and plastic wrap to keep out air (and airborne bacteria)? If you want petri dishes, a good place to purchase is Home Science Tools (currently has a 10% of sale off everything right now).

    She also got plain white fabric and gathered a bunch of vegetables/fruit/plants to see which would make the best natural dyes having them steeped in hot water.

    Just goofy stuff. If I think of more I'll post!

    Some libraries or YMCA groups offer Lego Robotics challenges. Would that be too "scripted" for him?
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  7. #6
    Senior Member Enlightened
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    Default

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestions. I haven't heard of a lot of these so I'm definitely going to look into them. These ideas will keep us busy for a while.

    @NZ_Mama: We tried the Mentos before, but it turned out to be a dud for us. We followed directions but nothing exploded. Then we wondered whether they changed something, because we noticed it had a waxy coating on it that may have prevented bubbling?

    @Inmom, I love the bacteria on surfaces idea. Right now, we're several different molds in containers on our kitchen windowsill to see what conditions they like best. DS would love to do Lego Robotics but I've only seen classes offered by private companies here and they're very expensive.

    One that we've done lately is to take different small bits of metal and immerse them in salt water, wait for the salt water to evaporate and then reverse the damage with a rust remover. After the rust is removed, we examine the damage that rust does to metal. I couldn't help thinking what a good tie-in it would make with a unit on the Titanic.

    Science is most lovely when it's goofy. We're watching "Fringe" at the moment and do our experiments in the spirit of Walter Bishop.
    Last edited by vicsmom; 12-18-2019 at 10:08 PM.
    Homeschooling an only, DS10

    Trains move quickly
    To their journey's end

    Destinations
    Are where we begin again

  8. #7

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    I don't know about your Mentos, but there is a science experiment right there for you. Why did it not work? Does it work if you do something to the Mentos first, does it work with a different flavor of Mentos, does it work with other types of soda or other types of candy or things other than candy (apparently sand and salt work)...

    I think that is the most important part of science to show to kids and get them really into. The when things don't work or go wrong or the things that you don't see happening (rather than what you do see because people get very focused on "I saw X, Y, Z results" rather than "well I did not see or hear or smell..."). Then it helps them develop that mentality of why, why, why and test, test, test because the reality of being a research scientist in a laboratory is weeks, months, years of things not working and going wrong, and you have to be excited and enthused by that to relentlessly repeat and try other things until eventually finally you get a tiny success.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  9. #8

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    I have not heard of Fringe or Walter Bishop. It sounds like its a good motivator for you guys for science, and that is great.

    I read a little bit about it, and this is most definitely not related to you guys specifically, but just a general bug bear of mine. So Walter Bishop is a white male and he is described as the "archetypical crazy scientist". I really have issues with the perpetuation of various parts of society of that image of scientists a white males and "crazy scientists". It is so insidious. They have done long-term studies asking children to draw what a scientist looks like, and they most of the time draw a white male. And white males dominate media visibility in science. I am very much for the various campaigns, like Women Doing Science (https://www.instagram.com/women.doing.science/), that there have been on social media to change this image of scientists. That you can be female, not white, look and dress absolutely nothing like the stereotype of a scientist, and you do not have to be crazy. It just creates a really limiting environment to continue the stereotype as there are so many children that would not identify with that image and then do not associate themselves with a career in science.

    And the whole "crazy" thing also creates this negative connotation towards what is actually an essential and very normal part of science (testing out things that have never been done before).
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 12-19-2019 at 10:36 PM.
    New Zealand-based. DD 11 (year 6 [NZ system]) homeschooled, and DD 6 (year 1 [NZ system]) who is currently trying out public school.

    Freelance copyeditor, specializing in scientific text, who will make mistakes in my posts (I don't self-edit).

    That's a kea (NZ parrot) in my avatar. You can learn about them on Beak & Brain - Genius Birds from Down Under on Netflix.

  10. #9
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    Default

    I understand where you're coming from, NZ_Mama. Stereotypes can be frustrating and limiting, particularly ones that relate to us personally.

    But just for an alternative viewpoint-- Walter Bishop isn't just an "archetypical crazy scientist." Whoever wrote that was being rather flippant. His character is a modern-day Victor Frankenstein, a scientist whose raging ambition has done a lot of damage to those around him and had driven him to madness. In fact, you can blame Mary Shelley for the perpetuation of the trope of the mad scientist. That story and the ideas behind it were so compelling and the implications so frightening that they continue to be used in one form or another in literature, movies and cartoons.

    Yes, Walter is white. Yes, he is male. Should he be dismissed on these simplistic grounds? I don't think so. He is a complex character with many layers. I also love the questions that this particular archetype asks about the interplay between ambition/ego and humanity. Not everything should be viewed solely through the lens of gender and race, because that in itself can be limiting.

    Walter isn't meant to be portrayed as a role model; he is the antithesis of one. But he is meant to ask important questions about the role that science should play. Same question Mary Shelley asked: Should scientists play God?
    Homeschooling an only, DS10

    Trains move quickly
    To their journey's end

    Destinations
    Are where we begin again

  11. #10

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    Vicsmom,

    Do you have a place locally with lots of space (think big park w/o lots of trees, fairgrounds, or field) where you could launch rockets? My kids liked to build and launch rockets, trying different engine types, angles, etc. Models can be as simple as snapping together to lots of detail and glue and paint.
    Last edited by inmom; 12-26-2019 at 04:13 PM.
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

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Favorite Science (and Other) Projects Your Kids Have Enjoyed