Friday, August 27, 2010

Observation & Inference...

Kid Scientists make observations all the time...they are watching, listening and experiencing their world.  Learning to distinguish between observations and inferences is an important science skill and it's easy to practice.

Ages: This activity is best for Big Kids...see the end of the post for an adaptation for Little Kids

Materials:  Pictures nature or animals...this works really well with science books or an atlas of animals

Observations are factual statements that can be made about the picture.  Inferences are logical conclusions or  predictions that are based on observations.
  • While looking at a picture together, ask your Kid Scientist what they observe.  With pictures we are limited in which senses we can use, but prompt them to be as specific as possible.  How many?  What color?  Is it bigger or smaller?
  • Use the observations to make inferences...draw conclusions or make predictions.  What do you think? 
  • As Kid Scientists become better at distinguishing between observations and inferences, ask them for a specific number or look for more difficult pictures.

Observations:  There is a nest, the leaves are green, the sky is blue, the nest is on a branch
Inferences: there are eggs in the nest, it is spring, it's a sunny day

Little Kids:  Little Kids can focus on just their observations.  As they become better at making observations, prompt them to be more specific and detailed

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sweet Celery...

Ages: All ages of Kid Scientist can set up this exploration.  See the end of the post for extensions for Big Kids.

Materials: Tall water glass, stalks of celery, water, salt, sugar

  • Fill the glass with water and add 2 tbs of sugar
  • Mix well
  • Cut the end off a stalk of celery under running water.  Leave the leafy end, leafy
  • Place the cut end of the celery into the glass
  • Leave for several hours or overnight
  • Taste
  • What do you notice?
* Try this same procedure with salt water

Extensions for Big Kids:
  • Set up three glasses with different amounts of sugar or salt.  Make sure you record how much sugar is in each glass.  Is there a difference in the results?  How could you measure that difference?
  • What's happening?  Research osmosis and write an explanation of this exploration.
  • Does this work with carrots?   Cucumbers?  Lettuce?  Explore this process withn different plants.
The Science Mommy would love to hear about what you learn!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I won an Award!

What an exciting thing to disover this afternoon!  Huge thanks go out to Leptir Montessori Blog  for this award!  In order to accept I need to ...1)  Thank the person / blog who gave me the award, 2) Share 7 things about myself and 3) send the award on to more fantastic bloggers.

A few things about The Science Mommy...
* I am a full time middle school science teacher, who's currently heading back-to-school and I really enjoy teaching middle school :)
* I love sharing science with my kids while we're in the moment.  Over the weekend we went on a family rafting trip and spent a long time speculating about the geology in the canyon we were rafting through.
* I created The Science Mommy simply to share my love of science with lots of other Kid Scientists. 
* I have a basket of rocks on my kitchen counter...I pick a small rock whenever I am in a special place and my kids give me rocks from places they want to remember.
* I am also very crafty and I enjoy creating things, sewing and scrapbooking.
* I am worried about keeping up with The Science Mommy when I go back to school.  I am going to need a schedule for posting.
* I think curiousity is one of the most important things to nurture in children!

And now some very deserving Versatile Bloggers...
Busy Bees
Butterfly Wishes and Wonderland Dreams
Butterflygirlms Rambles On
Discover Their Gifts
OurWorldwide Classroom
The Activity Mom
Welcome to Our Wonderland

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nature Walks...

A reader recently asked about journals for Nature Walks.  I put together this Nature Journal for her girls to use on their walks.

Ages: Kids should be able to write or draw their observations without frustration.  Otherwise, just enjoy your walk without journaling.

Materials: Consider binoculars, hand lenses or cameras.  All these tools help Kid Scientists focus their observations on something specific and will give them more to write or draw.

Procedure:  Nature Walks can be as simple as a walk through your neighborhood or as involved as a day trip to a new location.  Having a specific focus for Kid Scientists will enhance what they are observing on their walk.
  • Look for as many different trees as you can find.  Gather fallen leaves as evidence of their difference or make rubbings of different types of bark.
  • Look for as many different wild flowers as you can find.  This is a good one for digital cameras so that walkers who come along after you can also enjoy the flowers.
  • How many different animal signs can you find?  This would include nests, feathers, tracks, scat etc.
  • How many different noises do you hear?  Can you tell which ones are natural and which ones are man-made?
  • What can you see that is living?  What is not living? Why are both important?
  • Check out this post for more nature walk ideas
Make sure you have a sense of what they will see and hear before you set their specific focus.

The Nature Journal can be printed out, folded and turned into a book that Kid Scientists add to over several different excursions.  I like using the Notice / Wonder format because it encourages your Kid Scientist to discover what they think is important and to think about what they are seeing or hearing.  The Wonders  can also lead to future nature walks or research at home. 

How do your Kid Scientists explore Nature?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fun Putty...

Here's a great, quick activity that will leave your Kid Scientists entertained all afternoon!

Ages: Big Kids can do this on their own but Little Kids may need help with measuring

Materials: Sta-Flo starch, Elmer's glue, food coloring, glass bowl, air tight container
Procedure:  Mix equal parts starch and glue in a bowl until you have a nice putty.  You may need to add drops of one or the other to achieve a nice mix.  Add food coloring to achieve the color you want.

The putty can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crystal Snowflakes...

Now you can keep your snowflake hanging in a window.

Ages:  This activity is for Big Kid Scientists

Materials:  pipe cleaner, string, water, borax,wide-mouth jar, food color

  • You will need boiling water for this activity.  Kid Scientists - make sure you have supervision for boiling water
  • While you're waiting for the water to boil, create your snowflake.  Cut a pipe cleaner into 3 pieces. Twist the pieces together at the center to form a six-legged shape.  Make sure the snowflake fits into the jar.
  • Tie a piece of string to one leg of the snowflake.
  • Fill the jar with boiling water
  • Add Borax one tablespoon at a time to the water.  Stir after each tablespoon to dissolve the borax.  Stir as much Borax into the water as possible, stopping when the Borax no longer dissolves. (This is called a Saturated Solution)
  • Add food color drops to create your favorite color
  • Suspend the pipe-cleaner snowflake in the jar of borax solution.  Roll the string around the pencil so that the snowflake hangs from the pencil laid across the jar.  (The snowflake should not touch the jar sides or bottom)
  • Allow the jar to sit undisturbed for several days.
  • Once the liquid has dissolved you can take the snowflake out of the jar and carefully hang it up.
The Science Mommy would love to see pictures of your snowflakes!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Club...

The Science Mommy is joining the Book Club over at Chase-ing the Dream today...

My Science Kid, Aiden, loves this book.  The Dorling Kindersley First Animal Encyclopedia.  He keeps it in the car and shares fun facts about animals with us while he reads.  A favorite car game is "Guess Who" and Aiden has adapted that to use with his book.  He'll pick an animal and answer our "yes or no" questions until we can guess the animal.  This has been a great way to start teaching classification based on external characteristics (which is a state standard).  Aiden loves animals and has really learned a lot with this book.

My Science Kid, Connar, loves science fiction and this is the new series he's reading...The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.  This author combines a love of history with a few modern-day twists to create a very compelling story.  Connar read all the Percy Jackson books and this series uses a similar combination of history and fiction to keep readers engaged.

It doesn't matter what your Kid Scientists are reading, as long as they are reading...and being read-to also.
What are you reading?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fun with Big Science Words...

A while ago the Science Mommy posted this exploration of Ooblek.

The Big Kid Scientists may have fun with this one...

Materials: Corn starch, water, container

Procedure:  Mix about a cup of cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of water

What's Going On...
 Isotropy is the property of a fluid to become firm when agitated.  This is what you're experiencing with the cornstarch and water.  You can also see this while walking on wet sand at the beach.  The sand firms up below your feet when you first touch it, then becomes more fluid as your feet sink into the sand.  If you run over the sand, the sand feels firm.  If you walk slowly, your feet will sink.

Thixotropy  is the opposite of isotropy.  The fluid mixture becomes more firm as is it agitated.  An example of this is when you strike the end of a ketchup bottle to get more ketchup out.  The striking force causes the ketchup to become more "runny" and it flows more easily from the bottle.

Originally found at

Friday, August 13, 2010


The Science Mommy recently had a chance to take her Kid Scientists out into the field, on a snorkeling trip to the Molokini Crater in Maui.  Sharing science where we find it is one of the best ways to encourage an appreciation for our world in Kid Scientists.  In this case we also talked about why biodiversity is important and had fun identifying fish on the reef.

We started by buying an identification guide for the fish we were likely to see.  This one is printed on plastic, so I was able to carry it with me while we were snorkeling. 

My Kid Scientists were ready to explore the reef.
 We saw a Butterfly Fish...
 Some sort of urchin as well as many different species of coral...
 Lots of Yellow Tangs...this one was Aiden's favorite.
 We think this is a sort of Parrotfish, but it wasn't on our guide.
Lots of Surgeon fish...
...and we were lucky enough to see four endangered sea turtles.  Wow...this was the most amazing part of the whole trip!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Exploring Tide Pools...

One of the best ways to make science real for all Kid Scientists, is to find it wherever you are.  You don't have to be able to identify all the organisms you see, just encourage the curiosity of your Kid Scientist as he explores.  Ask him questions about what he is looking at and get in there for a look also.
The boys spent about an hour looking at the tide pools.  I made sure to set a couple of guidelines for keeping the animals they saw safe...
  • Don't chase animals around the pool
  • Nudge shells gently...if something is living inside (it's firmly attached) leave it alone
  • If you pick anything up, ask for help to make sure you handle it gently
  • Watch where you're walking so that you don't step on any animals or slip and fall
Kyle and Connar saw a huge crab scurrying around on the side of the rocks.  We admired it's camouflage, in fact I wasn't even able to get a good photo.
 Aiden found several Hermit Crabs and giggled as they ran over his hands.  We were very careful to hold them close to the water we found them in and not to drop them.
Since we were in Maui, we spent lots of time looking at the volcanic rock and speculating about how the lava flows would have looked.

What science have you found...on vacation or in your own backyard?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time for an Adventure...

The Science Mommy and her family are off for a great family adventure! 
 There will be more science fun to share when we get back!

What questions do you have for the Science Mommy?  What are you wondering or curious about? 
Leave your questions in the comments to this post and I will respond next week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baking Soda Rockets...

This investigation is so much fun!  My Kid Scientists spent two hours with their rockets!

Ages: Little Kids will enjoy the show, but this is for the Big Kid Scientists

Materials: baking soda, vinegar and a film canister
Note: Kid Scientists will use all the materials available.  Unless you want them to use the whole box and whole bottle, give them materials in smaller containers.  
Note #2: After much trial & error the Science Mommy's middle school students discovered that the clear plastic (Fuji) film canisters work best.  Ask at your local photo counter for donations (this is where ours came from)

  • Mix baking soda with vinegar in a film canister
 This is the focus of the investigation.  Kid Scientists will need to determine the most effective ratio of baking soda to vinegar for the best rocket.  My Kid Scientists filled the well of the lid with baking soda every time as the constant and then varied the amount of vinegar for each launch.  (Check out the details on VARIABLES here!
  • Lock the lid onto the base

  • Place upside down on the driveway
 This part of the investigation requires a lot of practice! Encourage Kid Scientists to use smaller amounts of vinegar until they have mastered the technique of locking on the lid and setting the canister on the driveway.
Safety Note: The rocket does not launch with much force.  Kid Scientists should not hold the rocket to launch, or hold their face directly over the rocket prior to launch. With those two rules in mind, as well as supervision, no on will get hurt.
  • Enjoy the rocket show!
 My Kid Scientists were having so much fun, the neighbors came over to see what was going on...
It was irresistible... Jack and Payton needed to try out rockets for themselves!