Draw pictures of the bugs, flowers, leaves that you find and look for the life forms that you have seen outside. Look in a wildlife reference book for what you drew and write the name beneath the picture. (It does not have to be a good picture.) The child could also just make note of the markings: “red-headed bird with long legs” or “black squirrel.”
Go for walks in the park or your neighborhood; pick up leaves and other plant life to bring home and look up or paste into a notebook/journal and label. Do leaf rubbings with crayons to make the “leaves” last longer.
Have a predetermined scavenger hunt of things to find. (Mom can snoop around the park ahead of time while the kids are swinging and sliding to find out what kinds of leaves, etc. are available.) Research can be done first to fine out what an “oak leaf” looks like, then the students can find them and confirm their work back at home. Turn the same idea into Bingo for a more advanced learner who knows what to look for.
Do “kitchen science” experiments:
— Make caramel corn, noting how the “caramel” reacts to the baking soda.
— Explain what makes cookies rise.
— Make bread and see how the yeast makes bread rise so big.
— Freeze different substances: grape juice never fully freezes, lemonade freezes “flaky,” water freezes solid (from the top down), milk freezes solid (from the bottom up). How do other things freeze?
[Parents, you do not have to know all the answers ahead of time — experimenting and discussing the possibilities togethermakes a great joint learning experience.]Read biographies of famous scientists (especially Christians, like from the Sower series) to inspire a love of science.
Dye cloth with anything natural that kids think will provide color (be sure to use raspberries, black walnut hulls, and anything else that stains fingers). Boil the dyeing material in a little water in coffee cans and dip in scraps of white cotton cloth. Beware: this is a fun activity, but can be very smelly. Consider doing it outdoors or with the windows wide open!
Get a coaster wagon and a spring scale (the kind used for weighing large fish), measure how many pounds of “pull” it takes to make the wagon move when empty, with a child in it, with bricks in it, with the dog in it. Notice how the amount of “pull” decreases once the wagon gets moving. Try different surfaces: sidewalk, gravel driveway, grass, carpet, etc. How much pull does it take to pull a child on roller skates, a skateboard, a bike, or a sled. Discuss friction and weight, and what effects they have on moving an object. Read about scientists who worked on gravity/physics laws.
Play with bubbles! Watch the colors change and wonder why? Experiment with different solutions to make the BIGGEST bubbles or longest lasting bubbles. [Hint: use Joy dish liquid and add some glycerin.] Try piling up bubbles and attaching bubbles to each other. I once saw a bubble artist on television attach 6 bubbles around one central bubble, then dip a straw into the bubble solution, poke it carefully through to the central bubble, and gently blow in cigarette smoke through the straw to show that the central bubble had become a perfect cube!
Carefully start a fire with a magnifying glass. Fall leaves burn quite well on sunny days! [Caution your students to only do this with adult supervision!] Try “woodburning” art with a magnifying glass.
Play with ice cubes, stacking slightly melted ones with some fresh from the freezer. Just the act of playing with something can produce questions about how/why things work the way they do. Now try to discover the answers to your questions.
Lie out in the backyard in sleeping bags and watch the stars. Get away from city lights for the best effect. [Education is a 24/7 activity — do not limit yourselves to “schooltime” only.]
Paint and mix the colors. Drop food coloring into puddles of white glue on a paper plate. Stir with a toothpick to see the colors blend. [Spread by hand onto eggshells, this makes durable marbled Easter eggs, or break the shells up for making mosaic art.]
Make SLIME! Mix just enough water into an entire box of cornstarch to make a substance that “breaks” when you cut it with a plastic knife, but “melts” and flows when you tip the container. Mix it in a dishpan or large cake pan so there is plenty of surface area to play with. Discuss whether it is a solid or a liquid, and why? Add drops of food coloring and repeat the color-blending experiments.
Many more suggestions are available in our book Taking the Mystery Out of Learning Styles.