It's December! Fa la la la la! I love the holiday season and I love giving my students some fun Christmas themed lessons that tie into science. Below you will find a list of fun activities that you can do in the month of December. Note: even if you have students that don't celebrate Christmas, many of the options below are simply science oriented, not dependent on the actual holiday. Enjoy!
Before you throw out your Christmas tree, grab your saw, cut off a few tree cookies from the stump and sand them down. You can do a fun mini lesson on dendrochronology! Check out this free lesson on tree rings and climate change (aimed at AP environmental science students).
Check out this "Case of the Christmas Cookie" mystery lab from The Science Spot. This lab is fun for middle school students- they test mystery powders to help Mrs. Claus save Christmas. You can download the lab here.
Did you know poinsettia leaves can make great pH indicators similar to red cabbage? Check out these lab directions from Flinn on how to turn this Christmas plant into a pH lab. You can download the lab here.
If you live where it snows in December, this lab looks fun! (Disclaimer: I've never tried it since I live in AZ, so if you try it let me know how it goes in the comments, I'd love to hear!) Have your students preserve a snowflake and look at them under the microscope. You can find the lab directions here.
An oldie but goodie! Make borax crystal ornaments to hang on your tree. This set of directions also has you add glow in the dark paint so your ornaments glow at night. Check out the procedures here.
Want to throw in a little science literacy before Christmas break? Check out this free article on Christmas trees from my friend over at Biology Roots. You can download it here.
The past few years at my school we have done a door decorating contest. I wanted to do a science themed door so we made a "chemis-tree" with elements from the periodic table. It turned out great (yes we went a little overboard) and the students had fun putting it together. You can download free element squares here.
While you are decorating your door, check out these cool scientist snowflakes from the Franklin Institute! We tried the Einstein one and it was hard to make look good, but the flask one was pretty easy. You can download the templates here.
Raid the chemistry stock room and do a cool copper and silver nitrate Christmas tree demo. You can see the YouTube version here or do a small scale microscope version of this lab here.
Do you have a string of Christmas lights that don't work well? Chances are most of the bulbs are still good. Grab some wire cutters, cut apart the bulbs, and turn it into a series and parallel circuit lab. You can find lab directions here.
This last link isn't an activity, but if you like to send home a small gift with your students for the holidays, check out these cute hot chocolate molecule gift tags from my friend over at Nitty Gritty Science. Adorable! You can download them for free here.
I hope you have a great holiday season! Make sure to check out the holiday category on my blog and see what other science activities I have for other holidays throughout the year!
Looking for some fresh and fun ideas for Halloween this year? This Spooky Science product bundle from Educational Innovations will have you covered! Your class will have a blast with products included in this bundle, and you can teach them some science at the same time!
Here's what's included:
1L of Slime- Have your students learn about polymers while they make some slime! You can also discuss properties of substances before and after a chemical reaction has occurred and have students make qualitative observations as they get their hands dirty.
800 Gooey Eyeball Spheres- These eyeball spheres have so many fun uses! After soaking the small spheres in water, they will expand to over 3cm long. Have students take both quantitative and qualitative data before and after the spheres expand- great measurement practice! You can also use these spheres to germinate plants for students to observe root growth. If you are gentle with them, they can be dried out and re-used.
100 Sheets of Goldenrod Paper- This golden paper is treated with a pH indicator so when it is exposed to a base you will see it change from yellow to blood red. Put a little ammonia (or another base) on your hand, touch the paper, scream you are bleeding, and watch the priceless look on your students faces! After their hearts have slowed, discuss pH and see if they can figure out how to turn the paper back to yellow.
A Dozen Glow Light Sticks- Glow sticks are always a fan favorite. You can use these glow sticks to teach conservation of matter before and after a chemical reaction. Another fun idea is to have students put one glow stick in hot water and another glow stick in ice water and observe the effect of temperature on the rate of chemical reactions.
Two Bug Lollipops- Teach entomology or forensics? Even if you don't, bug lollipops are a creepy crawly hit! You can use these two lollipops as student prizes and have your students eat some healthy bug protein.
Jello Brain Mold- Anatomy teachers will love this brain mold! Students can review parts of the brain and you can even have them dissect it into slices. It's great practice before getting out preserved specimens and having them do the real deal.
Would you love to win this product bundle for FREE!? Head over to my instagram account and see how to enter! Hurry, the giveaway only runs from 11/13 - 11/17!
*This blog post is sponsored in part by Educational Innovations
Every year, we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. If you have some flexibility in your curriculum, it is great to take a day or two and do some fun Earth Day activities. If you already teach science, it is really easy to pick a topic that should fit into your curriculum. I've compiled a list of activities, projects, articles, and movies you can use this month. Find one or two that catch your eye and have fun!
LABS and ACTIVITIES
Carbon Footprint Calculator- Have students calculate their carbon footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org. If you would like a worksheet to accompany the activity, click here.
Quadrat Biodiversity Survey- Go outside and have students complete a biodiversity survey. You can mark off quadrats with string, meter sticks, or even borrow hula hoops from the PE teacher. Here is a worksheet you can use for this activity.
Air Quality Lab- How clean is the air you are breathing? Use this simple 2 day lab to look at particulate matter in the air. (Microscopes required).
Learn About Acid Rain- If you are lucky enough to have rain during April, collect some of that rain water! Have your students compare the pH of tap water, bottled water, and rain water. They will be shocked how low the pH of rainwater is (It is generally around 5.6)!
Build A Water Filter- Millions of people around the world don't have access to clean drinking water. Challenge your students to build a water filter with every day resources. Here is a free lesson to get you started from NASA.
Urban heat islands- Here in Phoenix, we have a major urban heat island problem. If you live in a large city, chances are you do too. Teach students about urban heat islands, and have them go outside and record temperatures of different materials on your school campus. Here is a lab worksheet you can use.
Build a Solar Cooker- If it is warm enough where you live, solar cookers are really fun to make! I let students use whatever materials they want. I've had them bring in shoe boxes, pizza boxes, and even pringles cans. Cook up some smores and have a gooey treat.
Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup- This lesson from National Geographic is really engaging! Students use vegetable oil, water, soap, food coloring, and other inexpensive materials to simulate an oil spill and analyze the best way to clean it up. You can check it out here.
How Much Waste? Have your students see how much trash they produce by having them carry their trash around for a day. Give each students a grocery bag and the next day in class they can weigh their bags and analyze what percent is food waste vs recyclables etc. You may get some groans, but it is a very eye opening experience for them!
Plan a Fundraiser- Have your students plan a school fundraiser for an organization such as Water Is Life or One Tree Planted. Even small donations go a long way!
Neighborhood Clean Up- Have students organize a neighborhood or park clean up near your school. It is also a great way to earn some community service hours they may need for classes or clubs!
Virtual Field Trip- Don't have the funding to take your students on a field trip? Try a virtual one instead! Many sites such as Discovery have cool virtual experiences for students to see things that they wouldn't normally have an opportunity to see. Here is a list of more options.
Plant a Tree on Campus- I know this sounds cliche, but honestly when I've done it in the past students really enjoy it and never forget it. I've had students that graduated come back and check on their tree. Call around to a few local nurseries, and they will often donate a tree for free to a school, or you can do a small fundraiser on campus to raise money for one. You can also check out this freebie that has students measure the worth of one tree.
Make an Infographic- Assign your students an Earth Day related topic (water pollution, renewable resources, recycling, etc) and ask them to do research and make you an infographic. Piktochart is a great and free website you can use to make info graphics. If you would like some worksheets to help guide students through the infographic making process, click here.
A Long Walk to Water- If you run a book club at your school or your library has multiple copies of this book, you might want to give it a try. It is a really quick read about kids in Sudan who struggle with having potable water.
Pacific Garbage Patch- Have your students heard of the Pacific garbage patch? Find an article on it (such as this one on newsela) and have students read about pollution in our oceans. Have them brainstorm ways to fix this problem.
MOVIES & DOCUMENTARIES
Below is a list of documentaries and movies that are related to sustainability, conservation, and climate change on our planet. Preview before showing to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
Story of Stuff- This Youtube channel tracks consumer products from production to landfill. Choose a product you think your students might be interested in.
The Lorax- The original is available on Youtube.
Chasing Coral- available on Netflix.
Before the Flood- available on Netflix.
One Strange Rock- available on Netflix.
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind- available on Netflix
No Impact Man
It's almost Valentine's Day! When you teach teens, it can be hard to fight the candy and hormones.... so how about embracing the holiday instead of fighting it? I've compiled a list of Valentine themed activities you can do this year.
MIDDLE SCHOOL IDEAS
1. Make borax crystal hearts! Borax and pipe cleaners are super cheap and students love watching the crystals grow. You can find directions on Steve Spangler's site here.
2. What is the most genuine present you can give your Valentine? Your own DNA of course! Do a DNA extraction of cheek cells, put the DNA into a microcentrifuge tube, and allow students to take their DNA home or give it to their Valentine. Need directions? Check here.
3. If you teach about plants, make some red and pink color changing flowers! This experiment takes a few days, but students enjoy coming in each day to watch the petals change color. You can find directions for this lab here. A few tips: Don't spend a lot of money- look for discounted carnations that are a week old. Also, I've found that leaving the flowers out of water overnight so the stems are nice and dry helps, because when you put them in the colored water they will be nice and thirsty and absorb the water faster.
4. This fun "secret message" demo uses a pH indicator to reveal whatever secret message you want your students to see. Have a hidden note revealed from their secret valentine! It's available free from Nitty Gritty Science and can be downloaded here.
HIGH SCHOOL IDEAS
5. If you are teaching genetics, this speed dating activity is a blast! I put up lights around my classroom and moved the desks in long rows so students face each other. Each student gets assigned a different monster and they rotate around the room on different dates, completing punnett squares with each date. At the end of the 3 dates they pick a monster they would like to go on a second date with. Its a valentine's day they won't forget! You can find the lesson here. I also have a symbiosis version here.
6. If you teach biology and classification, have students create a dichotomous key using candy hearts. They can classify traits such as color or number of letters on each heart. They are really inexpensive to buy and students can eat them at the end!
7. Your students are probably a little young to have match.com accounts, but they are still familiar with dating websites. In this activity, have students create a dating profile for a famous scientist. They come up with some creative ideas! You can find the lesson here.
8. Check out this "Vanishing Valentine" activity from Flinn Scientific. It is a great demo if you have covered oxidation-reduction reactions.
9. No matter which grade you teach, these anatomy valentines from Gnature with Gnat are adorable! They have phrases like "I want tibia your valentine" and "urine my heart." Tape a piece of candy on them and your students will definitely feel loved. You can download them for free in her TpT store by clicking here.
I hope you and your students have a fun day!
Be sure to check out other holiday blog posts I have to read about activities you can do throughout the year!
Halloween is coming up, and it is always a fun time to do some science experiments. I always try and find an experiment that fits my content area and ensures students are learning a concept they would have to learn in my class anyway. For example, elephant toothpaste in a jack-o-lantern is fun, but it doesn't have anything to do with biology, so it's a pass for me. (Yes, I'm a bit of a party pooper). However, I've come up with a list of ideas you can do for each content area, so hopefully you can find an experiment that is both engaging, AND tied to your curriculum!
If you teach BIOLOGY
This idea is for my fellow biology teacher friends! It seems like every year the day after Halloween all you do is hear rustling of candy wrappers begin opened during class. It's a battle I've stopped trying to fight. Instead of saying "put away the candy," tell them to get it out! Have students pull out their candy, lay it on their desks, and classify it and make a cladogram. You will have some students that don't bring in candy, so I bring in my leftover candy from home. It's a win-win: students get to learn while eating candy, and I don't eat all the leftovers and save myself some time at the gym!
If you are teaching genetics, another fun biology lab is to do a DNA extraction. I typically use strawberries, but during Halloween try extracting pumpkin DNA instead!
If you teach ASTRONOMY
Glow sticks are readily available at the stores around Halloween and are great for demonstrating chemical reactions. They are also great for teaching the concept that hotter and larger stars shine the brightest. Give students 3 glow sticks, have them place one in a beaker of ice water, one in a beaker of room temperature water, and one in a beaker of hot water. Have them compare the luminosity of the 3 glow sticks over a span of 10-15 minutes.
If you teach CHEMISTRY
Nothing says Halloween like some spooky bubbling potions! One of the best parts of teaching chemistry is getting to play with dry ice! In this lab activity, students explore phase changes and sublimation while comparing the change in mass of dry ice in water vs. regular ice in water. I have students use triple beam balances instead of electronic scales because it is good practice for them to adjust the hanging masses and practice their measurement skills.
If you'd rather not mess with dry ice, have your students measure density of different "potions" instead. Get some different liquids (water, rubbing alcohol, oil, soap, etc) add some food coloring, and have them measure the density of each liquid. Once they are done they can figure out the order of the layers to make a density column.
If you teach FORENSICS
Analyzing blood spatter is always an easy way to keep students engaged! Check out this quick and easy lab from the science spot where students learn about blood spatter patterns.
Want to include some science literacy? Have students read this article about The Body Farm and how scientists have learned about human decomposition rates.
If you teach PHYSICS
Looking for a STEM challenge that is easy and engaging? Have your students build candy corn catapults! Give students some materials like popsicle sticks, spoons, rubber bands, and tape, and have them create catapults. Offer prizes for the group that can catapult their candy corn the furthest.
Looking for more of a WOW factor? This activity is always fun and a great way to discuss forces! All you need is a pumpkin and some rubber bands (okay.... a lot of rubber bands). Ask students if you think it is possible for rubber bands to make a pumpkin explode. After discussion of how it could be done, take the students outside and have them start putting rubber bands around the center of the pumpkin. (Tip: be sure to buy a medium sized pumpkin- too small and it won't work and too big the rubber bands won't fit). Continue adding rubber bands until it explodes! If students are helping add the rubber bands, I would advise having them wear goggles.
Lastly, if you just want to re-enforce some scientific method skills (observation and inference, CER, and graphing), check out these fun Halloween themed worksheets!
I hope you have a Spook-tacular Science Halloween!
Earth Day will be here April 22nd and I'd love to send you some prizes for you and your students! Not one but THREE winners will be picked to win these amazing prizes!
Enter below to win these amazing prizes!
The fine print:
It's almost April Fool's Day and time to start thinking about how to trick your students! While it may be funny to scare students with a pop quiz or sending your best student to the principal's office, I like an April Fool's joke where the students learn a science concept at the same time. Check out these ideas on how to trick your students into learning a science concept:
1. "What's Wrong With The School Water?!"
For this one, fill a clear drinking glass with with rubbing alcohol and set it up front. When you are ready to start class or students are working on bell work, bring out a few ice cubes and drop them in your "water." (The ice cubes will sink instead of float because the ice is more dense than the rubbing alcohol). Start yelling to the class "Something is wrong with the school water! Look at my ice cubes!" and see their reactions. Follow up with a discussion about density. (This video below from my friend James shows how it works).
2. Make a Stink Bomb
Use this home made stink bomb recipe to gross out your students! Pretend that someone in your class keeps passing gas and make a scene asking them to stop. Once you tell them it's a joke, follow up with a discussion about sulfur and other things that contain sulfur (eggs).
3. "Do Not Open Bottle" from Steve Spangler
This is a fun prank that your curious students won't be able to resist!
4. Dihydrogen Monoxide
Tell your students that there is a new drug going around that they need to be aware of called Dihydrogen Monoxide. (Dihydrogen Monoxide is the chemical name for water). Show them this video clip and then ask the students what chemicals you think people might make this drug out of.
5. Rat Skulls
Do you have students who try and eat in class even when you tell them to put the hot cheetos away? Do you have any small skulls left over from your last owl pellet dissection? Tell the students that you were cleaning the room yesterday and you found the skull in one of the cabinets. Explain to them that the only reason rats come to the classroom is because they are finding food. You can have a discussion about food chains (and if you truly want them to stop eating snacks, don't tell them the truth!)
6. Burning Money
Tell the students that you had $5 stolen out of your wallet the day before. Tell them you know $5 isn't a lot, but you are really disappointed in them. To prove your point that it isn't about the money, take out a $5 bill and light it on fire yelling "see, it's not about the money!" (To light the money on fire without damaging the bill, dip the money in a water and rubbing alcohol mixture behind your desk where the students can't see).
7. Fools Gold
Have a piece of pyrite laying around? (If not, check with your earth science teacher). Tell the students that you were hiking after school the previous day and came across a large piece of gold. Pull out the pyrite, tell them it is worth thousands, and today will be your last day because you are retiring. April Fool's Gold!
8. Set up a Fake Text
Head over to a website such as http://iphonefaketext.com/ and create your own fake text message conversation. The possibilities here are endless! You can pretend to have seen a conversation between two students or between teacher and student (see pictured). Kids are addicted to their phones, so might as well stoop to their level!
I hope you have a fun day fooling your students! Enjoy!