Are you heading to the beach for vacation this year? Are you lucky enough to live near the beach? The beach is my happy place. It is my favorite spot for a family vacation.
Like any good homeschool mom, if you are heading to the beach (or anywhere) for vacation, you are looking for ways to turn it into an educational experience. From fun learning experiences in the sand to ocean animal studies, there are so many ways to turn vacation into a beach science class —and still have lots of fun!!!
Here are some activities, experiments, resources and ideas I gathered that will set you up for some pre-trip unit studies or on-the-spot beach science activities. Enjoy!
This post contains affiliate links.
Beach Science Activities And Resources
In this The Lab Report, sponsored by Apologia Science, learn how waves affect the shape and appearance of sandy beaches and then try the activity yourself!
If your kids are really interested in ocean life, I highly recommend the Marine Biology High School Curriculum! Written by a marine biologist who is absolutely passionate about science and education.
We studied sea turtles before leaving for our very first beach vacation, because we read that they nested on the beaches were we stayed. We never saw turtles, but we did see some nests! The kids were so excited!
Crab hunting! Our favorite vacation spot is in Gulf Shores, Alabama in the Fort Morgan area. We love to grab our buckets and flashlights to hunt ghost crabs on the beach at night. It’s fun and hilarious. Go do it and you will know what I mean.
Beach Field Guides
Do NOT forget the field guides!!! I didn’t take any on our first trip and I was so sad. We kept seeing birds, fish, and other creatures we had never seen before and had no way to identify them.
Here’s a tip: Do your research before hand and try an find nature guides specific to the area you are traveling. That will really save you time and frustration while trying to identify something on the spot. Here are some field guides you might want to have on hand.
Step outside into the sunshine. Feel the warmth that comes from its rays. That’s energy. Notice how the sunlight illuminates everything in the daytime. That’s energy. How does the sun create energy?
Energy can be defined as the capacity to do work. This may be in the form of kinetic, nuclear, potential, chemical, or other forms of energy. The energy that comes from the sun is in the form of heat and light. This energy is essential for life on Earth and we are discovering ways to harness that energy to make life on the planet better.
But, how does the sun create energy? How does that energy get all the way to Earth? Is the sun’s energy really that important? Let’s learn all about it.
Why Is The Sun’s Energy Important?
The sun is a massive power plant that fuels the earth. You could say that the Earth is solar powered. Without the energy from the sun, life on our planet just wouldn’t exist. Plants require sunlight to create their own food through photosynthesis. Animals need plants as a food source either directly or to feed the other animals that they eat. Animals, also, need plants to make the oxygen they need to breathe.
Energy from the sun, also, drives the Earth’s natural cycles. The heat from the sun creates convection currents that cause winds to blow and generate ocean currents. Heat energy from the sun is key in the Earth’s water cycle. Without the water cycle, we would not have any fresh water to drink. Also, without the heat from the sun, planet Earth would be in a deep freeze!
Our sun sits in the center of our solar system and considered to be a yellow dwarf star. The sun is given this classification by scientists because of its mass and the fact that it radiates yellow to white light. It is this light that contains the sun’s energy.
It is the sun’s gravitational force that holds the planets in their orbits and keeps them from spinning off into the universe. The gravitation force of the sun is generated by its size and mass. The sun is the largest object in our solar system containing 99.8% of its total mass. At 864,000 miles (1.4 million Km) wide, the sun is 109 times wider than Earth.
Even though the Sun contains mass, it is not solid like the Earth. Made up mainly of hydrogen (91%) and helium, the sun is actually a swirling mass of gas and plasma. Plasma is the 4th state of matter. The other three being solid, liquid, and gas.
Plasma forms when gas gets so hot that atoms break apart and basically form a cloud of protons, neutrons and electrons that have the ability to act as a whole rather than as a bunch of different atoms. Often, this plasma seems to flow like a liquid.
Even though the sun is not a solid, it can still be divided into zones: the core, the radiative zone, and the convective zone. To understand how the sun creates energy, we need to learn about these layers.
Layers Of The Sun
The core of the sun is located in its very center. This zone is where the sun’s energy is produced. The temperature of the sun’s core is approximately 27 million degrees F (15 million C). Pressure inside the sun’s core is also very high. The large mass of the sun pressing in on the core gives it an incredible pressure of 250 billion atmospheres.
This extreme heat and pressure is enough to sustain thermonuclear fusion in the Earth’s core. Fusion takes place when atoms combine to form larger atoms. In the core of the sun, hydrogen atoms fuse to create helium atoms. This process releases massive amounts of energy.
The energy created by nuclear fusion in the sun’s core is carried by photons, light particles, into the radiative zone of the sun. As the energy carried by the photons radiates through the radiative zone, they do not take a straight path. The photons bounce around the layer from particle to particle being held by each one for a small amount of time. Since the density of the plasma in this layer is so high, it can take 171,000 years for a single photon to make its way through and into the convective zone.
The convective zone of the sun extends from the radiative zone to the sun’s surface. This zone makes up approximately 66% of the sun’s volume but only about 2% of its mass because it contains mostly gas. The temperature of the convection zone is much cooler than the sun’s core at about 10,000 F (5,500 C). Energy is transported relatively quickly through the convective zone and out to the sun’s surface, the photosphere.
The sun’s surface is called the photosphere. When photons that have traveled from the sun’s core reaches the photosphere, they move rapidly through the sun’s atmosphere and into space radiating in all directions. Here on Earth, we can see the energy that leaves the surface of the sun as sunlight eight minutes after it leaves the sun.
Sunlight is made of solar photons. These photons travel 186,000 miles/second for 93 million miles. This distance is also called an astronomical unit (AU).
Uses For The Sun’s Energy
Now we know how the sun creates energy and how that energy powers our natural world, how else could that energy benefit us here on Earth?
Generate electricity using solar cells
Recharging electronics with solar powered chargers
Heating water for use in houses and businesses
Solar powered lights
What other ways can we use the sun’s energy?
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I can’t believe July is here already. Seriously, summer weather just arrived in our neck of the woods this past week and summer is half over! I feel the need to cram as much summer goodness into the next month and a half as I can, because once mid-August hits, school starts, hockey practice begins, and all the fall activities gear up. I’m not even ready to think about it!!!
For now, I just want to enjoy sunshine, swimming, and slower schedules. What about you? I want summer to be fun!
Using The July Science Calendar
The Homeschool Scientist’s science calendars are perfect for summer learning and fun. For those of you who still homeschool during the summer months, the activities and information from the calendar can be used to let the kids learn at their own pace or as a break from the curriculum.
If you don’t do school during the summer or your kids are home from traditional school, the science calendars are perfect boredom busters or ways to sneak learning in without the kids knowing it.
Each day, the calendar has a link to another engaging science activity or lesson. This summer, your kids will be learning about the science behind summer storms, sharks, making s’mores in a solar oven, building a model waterslide, and more!
The July calendar is on of my favorites. It’s packed with fun STEM activities that will keep your kids’ minds active, engage their creativity, and let them have a lot of fun!
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Use these resources to put together your own storm lesson or unit study! Some are affiliate links.
I am fascinated by weather in general and storms in particular. At any given time, I have 2 or 3 weather sites up on my computer, plus the weather apps on my phone. Who really needs 4 weather apps? Apparently, I do. My husband jokes that I am the family meteorologist.
We live in the midwest where violent storms are a part of life. There is nothing more beautiful and awe-inspiring than a summer thunderstorm rolling in. Watching cumulonimbus clouds form in the distance, feeling the change in the wind, and then smelling the oncoming rain is a wonderful experience. Nothing sings me to sleep quite like rolling thunder at night. Ahhh….
Storm Lesson and Unit Study
My love of weather is the reason we seem to always be doing a weather related study. Over the years, we have repeatedly tracked rainfall, watched cloud formations, and monitored the changing barometer. I have a digital weather station that sits on my kitchen counter that makes our weather studies really easy.
Storms are a weather phenomena that have always captivated me. The power and strength of storms are simply amazing. They are an uncontrollable force that, while beautiful, can leave devastation in their wake. The science behind storm formation, tornadoes, lightening, and wind is fascinating to study.
I have gathered at bunch of resources to use to create a custom storm lesson or unit study for your students. There are books, links, notebooking pages, hands-on activities, and more. Let’s starts with books…
I have always liked to base a lesson or unit study around a book, then fill in with other books and websites. Here are a few of our favorite storm books geared toward elementary age and younger students.
A couple years back, we received the latest DK Adventures book, Twister, from our friends at DK Publishing. The books in this series are part adventure story and part fun educational information. Twister is a story of a boy that visits his storm chaser cousins in Tornado Alley and ends up on a chase himself. In between the chapters, DK has packed lots of storm information like storm chasing gear, a storm shelter guide, the anatomy of a tornado, and lots more.Twister would make a great base to launch a storm unit study. Add books, online resources, notebooking pages, and hands-on activities to round out your study.
Storms is a National Geographic Level 1 reader that is a great book for young learners to learn the “why” about all types of weather, storms in particular. This book explains the science behind thunder, lightening, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more in a simple way that kids can easily understand.
Children 3-7 will love The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow. This lyrically written Caldecott Honor book beautifully describes nature and an oncoming storm from the perspective of a young boy.
If your child likes facts, this Time Life For Kids Science Scoops book, Storms!, is for them.
Storms Weather Book For Kids is a Kindle book full of fun facts, science, and amazing pictures of storms, including hailstorms, blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes.
Fireworks, parades, flags, cook-outs, family, and friends. I love the 4th of July!!
Growing up, my family always had a huge cookout with other families and then we would all go watch our town’s fireworks display. Back in the day, the big treat for the young kids was sparklers, while the older kids shot bottle rockets and the occasional roman candle. So much fun!! But….
What were our parent’s thinking???
We all, remarkably, made it through childhood with all our fingers and minimal sparkler scarring, but thinking about it now as a parent makes me cringe.
I still love Fourth of July. We still have cook-outs and go see fireworks. However, I try to find safer activities for the kids, but ones that they will remember as fondly as I do those darn sparklers. In my search for fun stuff this year, I ran across a bunch of fourth Of July STEM activities! Perfect!
Each month here at The Homeschool Scientist, you will find a new FREE Science Calendar you can download and use in your homeschool or classroom. Each day on the calendar contains a link to a fun science activity or fascinating science information that your students will love digging into.
Many use the science calendar as a fun kick-start to the school day. Others use it as a reward for getting school work completed. If you are taking a summer break, the science calendar makes a fantastic boredom buster and a great way to sneak in some learning.
June Science Calendar
So, what’s in this month’s science calendar?
June means the official start of summer, but it’s also National Dairy Month, Get Outdoors Month, and National Candy Month. You can bet we found some fun ways to celebrate these with science and included the links in this month’s calendar!
Download the June calendar and you will also learn about:
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Learn about how energy is passed from one organism to another in this food chain lesson. Plus, download a FREE pond food chain coloring book for your younger learners.
All living things, no matter how big or small or where they live, need energy to survive. Energy is defined as the ability to do work. When it comes to energy being used in living things, that work could be to run, to play, to think, or to grow. These are all considered work.
So, if it is so important, how do organisms get energy?
It depends on what type of organism you are talking about.
How Do Living Things Get Energy?
Living things obtain energy from their environment. Some create their own energy from elements within their surroundings (producers), while others must get their energy from other living things (consumers and decomposers). Let’s look at each of these types of organisms in a little more detail.
Plants are considered producers simply because they can produce their own energy through a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis allows the plant to take solar energy from the sun, water and nutrients from the soil, and transform it into energy the plant can use to grow.
Animals are consumers. They get their energy from the food they eat. Some animals eat only plants. They are called primary consumers, or herbivores. Other animals eat only other animals. They are called secondary consumers, or carnivores. Still other animals, like humans, eat plants and animals. They are called omnivores.
Some tiny organisms like worms, bacteria, and fungi eat dead plants and animals. They are called decomposers. These organisms are important because they clean up dead matter and let the nutrients from the dead plants and animals to be put back into the soil to be used by plants. They are nature’s recyclers.
So, we’ve learned how organisms get energy. They either produce it themselves or obtain it from eating other organisms. This passing of energy from one living thing to another is called a food chain. Every organism on Earth is part of a food chain of some sort. Even people!
Each ecosystem has it’s own food chains based upon the plants and animals that live there. From oceans to grasslands to desserts, food chains are vital to the health of those ecosystems and the environment.
We like to study the pond ecosystem. There are several nearby and we always seem to see something new each time we visit. Ponds and the areas around them are teeming with life of all kinds. Right in that one ecosystem, there are many food chains we could study. Let’s learn about one of them.
Pond Food Chain
It is that time of year when the mosquitoes are laying their eggs in any still body of water they can find. Soon, we will see millions of tiny mosquito larvae swimming in the shallow water around the pond’s edge. These larvae feed on the microscopic algae that grows in the pond. Algae is a type of plant that uses photosynthesis to create its own energy using solar energy from the sun and water and nutrients from the pond.
Those little mosquito larvae are a great food supply for the fish that live in the pond. In turn, those fish are a popular food for the raccoons that hunt at the water’s edge. When that raccoon eventually dies, the decomposers will use its body for energy and return nutrients back into the soil or water for plants to use in the future.
algae —-> larvae —-> raccoon —-> decomposers
You can see from this real life example how each organisms passes its energy to another and how the decomposers complete the cycle that can start over again when a plant uses those nutrients the decomposers put back into the soil.
Pond Food Chain Coloring Book
Now that you’ve learned about food chains and how one might look in a pond ecosystem, let’s have some fun with this Pond Food Chain Coloring book! It’s free for our email subscribers, just fill in the form below and I’ll send you the download link.
Pond Food Chain Coloring Book
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This is an updated post to include new ideas submitted by readers! This post also contains affiliate links.
Lots of families are gearing up for family vacations this time of year. Vacation packing lists are being created so no vacation essential is forgotten. Shirts, shorts, underwear, sunscreen, swimsuits, shoes, camera…..
But what about the science packing list?
Really! I’m not kidding. Take science supplies on vacation!
Vacations Are Great Times To Learn About Science
Vacations give kids the opportunity to learn about science outside of the textbook and without even realizing it! Plus, exploring and learning as a family makes great memories, too.
I always search for ways to make our family vacations an educational experience while still having fun. We have some favorite places to visit, since my daughter can’t pass up a zoo and I am all about exploring new parks and nature preserves.
Here are some of the places we look for on our trips to add a little science:
It’s great to plan out a few fun educational stops on vacation, but I like to be prepared for the unexpected science experiences, too. That’s why I like to pack some science supplies along with my flip flops and suncreen.
So what kind of items go on a science packing list? It kind of depends on where you are going and what your family enjoys doing. Here are the basics to get you started.
Math typically isn’t the first thing people think of when it’s summer. For our family, summer is all about sun, fun, and friends. Mention learning anything around here and get ready for the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Since it’s so important to keep the learning going during summer break, especially essential math skills, I have gotten into the practice of tricking my kids into learning.
Yep. Pure deception.
But, it’s all for their good! It keeps them sharp and saves us time when we hit the books again in the fall. The key is finding activities and resources that are having such a good time that they don’t even realize they are learning.
I pull off the treachery all year long, but it really comes in handy during the summer. I’ve rounded up some of our favorite math resources that your kids will actually have FUN playing. These will keep your kids on track during the hottest months of the year. They are tried and true games, activities, and books that we always have on hand, but will make learning this summer something they will enjoy!
What is your child interested in? What do they spend their free time doing, reading about, or dreaming about? Use that interest to make math fun for them. Here are a few interest-led math resources your child might like.
We are big fans of games here. In all of our 10 years of homeschooling, we take at least 2 days a month just to play games. Everything from Scrabble to Quiddler to Carcassonne teaches skills and strategy. Here are a few math games you and your kids might like.
Logic is essential to mathematics. It is the science of correct reasoning that allows us to come up with conclusions, such as in math problems. Logic is also the basis for learning to code. There are so many logic games and puzzles that make learning these skills fun and easy. Here are a few of our faves.
Rush Hour (Our whole family has loved this one for years!!)
(This post contains affiliate links. I received a free copy of Eddie The Electron from Amberjack Publishing and I was compensated for the time to review the book. Opinions are all mine.)
Most primary and elementary science curricula do not cover atoms. It can be difficult for some young learners to grasp the concept of something they cannot see making up everything that we can see. However, I don’t see any problem with taking baby steps toward understanding larger, more complex concepts like atoms and elements. We build on these types of concepts with young children all the time.
You Can’t See It, But It’s There
Think about the wind. Can you see it? Can you feel it? The wind is just atoms moving really fast. Even though you can’t see it, the wind is there. It’s the same as when you blow up a balloon. You are filling the balloon with millions of atoms of nitrogen, oxygen, and other elements. Even though you can’t see the air that you exhale, it is still present.
Share these examples with your young learners. Let them test it out with a balloon or by blowing on their hand. Get them used to the idea that somethings are so small that we can’t see them, but joined together, those atoms are a force.
Age Appropriate Atom Lesson For Early Learners
Even the most complex subjects can be introduced to young learners when you start with the basics and explain it in a way that they can understand. I’m not saying you need to walk your child through atomic theory. I’m saying that you can introduce the concept of an atom and some basic supporting information. Make it interesting, simple, and fun.
You might also like…
The Science Lesson
I created this simple Atom Lesson downloadthat you can use with your children as a place to start. It covers the basics of atoms by answering simple questions like – What is an atom? What makes up an atom? Are there different types of atoms?
Eddie The Electron is a charming book from Amberjack Publishing that teaches kids about atoms without them realizing they are learning. Eddie walks kids through what it is like being an electron inside an atom. He brings concrete ideas ideas that can help kids understand the concept of atoms.
The book is entertaining and simple, with cute illustrations. You could read it aloud to younger kids or let the bigger kids read it themselves. Both would find it a fun read.
Eddie The Electron was written by a PhD chemist, Melissa Rooney. I love her thoughts about kids and science “I am confident that, by presenting these scientific concepts to children at an early age, Eddie would increase the likelihood that they would be comfortable and interested in such ‘complicated’ ideas.”