Our Summer holidays are about to start so I thought it would be a good time to spruce up this post full of STEM challenges. They are all very simple and use mostly things you probably already have around the house.
The lovely Mrs Mactivity has also created us some fun printable science challenges that you can cut out and use as prompts. Scroll to the bottom of the post to download.
If you haven’t heard of Mrs Mactivity, do go and take a look at her website, she has some wonderful primary resources available.
If you’d like to join us, I’d love you to share anything you try on social media using #SummerScienceChallenges
Science Challenges for Summer
Build a tower with Sugar Cubes
How tall can you build a tower before it falls down?
What happens if you spray the cubes with water?
Can you add anything to waterproof them?
Make your own lava lamp
All you need to make a lava lamp is oil, water and an alka seltzer or effervescent vitamin tablet.
Make a treasure map
Use coffee or tea to colour your paper and draw a treasure map, can your friends follow the trail?
Just mix a little lemon or lime juice with a some of water and draw your message on some paper.
Ask an adult to put in the oven and your message will appear.
What can you build with a cardboard box?
Can you build something functional with a cardboard box?
We added a kitchen roll holder and space for a sink to our cardboard kitchen.
Bubble snakes are super easy to make and great fun for kids of all ages. Younger children will enjoy blowing lots of bubbles easily, while older children can design their own bubbles snakes and even create an investigation using them.
What you need:
Small tube or plastic bottle
Bubble mix – shop bought or make your own
Old cloth for the end
Sharp scissors or pen knife
First you need to cut the bottom off your water bottle – ask an adult to help and be careful as the end might be sharp.
Cover the end of the bottle with a piece of cloth and secure tightly with an elastic band.
Blow carefully down the other end of the bottle and watch as a bubble snake appears!
Remember to blow down the bottle NOT suck!!
Can you spot a rainbow in the bubbles?
Try adding food colouring to your bubble mix to make a coloured bubble snake!
Why does this work?
When you blow air through your Bubble Snake, hundreds on tiny bubbles are created. The bubbles stick to each other which gives you a big long snake!
So why are bubbles round?
Bubbles consist of a thin film of soapy water filled with air. When you blow a bubble, the film expands outward. The forces acting between the molecules of the bubble cause it to form the shape that encloses the most volume with the least surface area — a sphere.
These red cabbage indicator colour changing potions are fantastic fun for kids of all ages and very easy to create. We used red cabbage indicator and added different amounts of baking soda ( an alkali ) and vinegar ( an acid ) to make the different colours.
What is a pH Indicator?
A pH indicator is a substance which has one colour when added to an acidic solution and a different colour when added to an alkaline solution.
Acids have a low pH and bases a high pH.
Why does red cabbage make a good indicator?
Red cabbage contains a chemical called anthocyanin. This changes colour depending on the acidity of its environment. It turns a pink/red colour in the presence of an acid, is purple when neutral and when added to an alkaline substance turns blue or green.
What you’ll need
Red Cabbage ( chopped )
Selection of jugs, jars and beakers
Dish soap ( washing up liquid )
Place your chopped red cabbage into a pan, cover with water and heat until the water turns purple ( ask an adult to help )
Carefully pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the red cabbage and collect the solution in a container.
Pour the indicator into smaller beakers, it doesn’t really matter how much you use, but we made ours about half full.
Add different amounts of baking soda or vinegar to each one.
How many different colours can you make?
Make it Fizz!
For a little extra fun, you can add vineger to a beaker containing baking soda and vice versa to see a fizzy colour changing reaction.
Wear safety goggles if using strong acids/bases.
An adult should help with the chopping and heating of the cabbage.
More Red Cabbage Indicator Ideas
We love how The Science Kiddo froze some red cabbage indicator to test different substances
Many years ago we went through a stage of painting on sheets of ice and then pressing paper on the top. Once the paper dried we then used the paint as a fun background to draw on.
This activity is a little different as we’re painting on ice shapes rather than a flat sheet. Ice is actually a very nice medium to paint on as it gets slippy meaning your paintbrush glides across the surface.
The small ice cube towers you can see are a small set of 3 that I froze as normal ice cubes, let melt a little bit, stacked up and put back in the freezer so they stuck together. I think we’ll try this again and see how tall a tower we can build.
The next day we painted mini ice castles and stars.
Then we went large, and painted on a giant LEGO brick. I used the lid from a lego storage block for this.
Questions to ask
How does the ice feel? Is it slippy, sticky, slimy?
Does it get harder or easier to paint as the ice starts to melt? Why do you think this is?
Did you know I released a new book a couple of months ago?
This Is Rocket Scienceincludes 70 fun experiments for kids (and adults ) showing you how to use everyday items like bottles, cardboard, glue and tape to build awesome rocket ships, paper spinners and mobile rocket launch pads, all while learning about the scientific concepts behind space travel!!
We had huge amounts of fun creating the book so I hope you love it as much as we do!
Win a copy of This Is Rocket Science
To be in with a chance of winning your very own copy of This Is Rocket Science complete the rafflecopter form below.
This lovely, colourful jar experiment is super easy to set up and carry out but looks amazing!
What you’ll need:
A jar or glass
Fill the glass or jar about 3/4 full of warm water
Carefully pour a small layer of oil onto the surface of the water and leave to settle. Note that oil and water don’t mix!
Use a pipette to carefully drop small amounts of food colouring into the jar. You should see the food colouring drop through the oil into the water leaving colourful trails behind.
The Science Bit
Why do oil and water not mix?
Water is a polar molecule – it’s structure means that is has a positive charge one end and a negative charge the other. Water molecules stick together because the positive end of one water molecule is attracted to the negative end of another. The structure of an oil molecule structure is different – it is non polar, which means its charge is more evenly spread out . In fact oil is hydrophobic (water fearing) so it tries to get as far away from water as possible.
Why does oil sit on top of water?
The reason that oil rests on top of the water rather than underneath is because oil is less dense than water.
Why does food colouring not mix with oil?
The food colouring we used was water based and therefore does not mix with the oil, but sinks through the oil into the water below.
Why does the food colouring leave trails?
Since the addition of the colouring makes the food colouring heavier than the water it sinks to the bottom leaving trails (resembling fireworks) as some of the colour diffuses into the water.
What do you think will happen if you put a raisin in a glass of water?
It will sink!
Do you think it’s possible to make raisins rise to the top and jump around?
Find out in this simple baking soda investigation.
What you need:
A pint glass
Raisins or anything else you would like to test.
Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
Fill the glass half full with warm water.
Add two heaped teaspoons of baking soda.
Add a few raisins
Put the glass in a tray – it might overflow
Top of with white vinegar
You should see the raisins begin to rise and fall
Why do the raisins dance?
The vinegar and bicarbonate of soda react forming carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles collect over the surface of the raisins. As carbon dioxide is lighter than water it rises to the top and takes the raisins with it. As the bubbles pop at the surface the raisins drop again, only to be covered in bubbles again at the bottom until the reaction finishes.
More Investigation Ideas
Can you find the smallest amount of baking soda and vinegar that allows the raisins to dance? Try with just one raisin and then investigate to discover if you need more to make 2 raisins dance.
Can you think of anything else this would work with? You could investigate using other dried fruits and record how well each dances.
We tried with small LEGO pieces and found that they sank when they filled with water and once the reaction started they jumped to the top, but didn’t dance around.
We then tried with small coins, but these didn’t move at all, you can see how all the bubbles of carbon dioxide have gathered on the surface though.
Another idea is to attach something to the raisins and see if they still dance.
Why do baking soda and vinegar react?
If you combine an acid ( vinegar ) and an alkali ( baking soda ) they react together to neutralise each other.
The reaction releases carbon dioxide gas, which is the bubbles you see.
Rockford’s Rock Opera is an enchanting ecological musical story of a boy from Battersea named Moog and his dog Rockford. The app combines pictures, animations, songs, sound effects and dialogue in a fun ( at times sad ) and thought provoking way. My 9 and 7 year old have been spellbound throughout and have big plans to watch it a second time on the plane when we go on holiday soon. The story is aimed at 6-12 year olds, but I know my children would’ve enjoyed it even younger than that.
The story is split into 4 parts. Part 1 is free via the app and 52 minutes long. I liked that each section is also split into chapters meaning there are natural break points if you only have a short amount of time, it’d also be great for listening to in the car or just before bedtime.
What’s the story about?
The story starts with Moog and Rockford playing in the park when Rockford accidentally ends up in a boat on the way to the island of Infinity, where the last member of every species to ever exist lives. As Moog searches for Rockford he also ends up on a boat heading to Infinity. When he arrives the animals are very distrusting as their extinction was mostly caused by humans.
I won’t spoil the story too much, but Moog and Rockford face the tough challenge of saving both dogs and humans from extinction. I had only briefly touched on the topic of extinction with my own children, so listening and watching this story has led to lots of questions and definitely made them think more about how and why we should look after our planet and the devastating and permanent damage we are doing.
We love the catchy songs, fun characters and lovely story. I’d definitely recommend downloading part one and taking your children on this wonderful adventure with Moog and Rockford.
STEM Activities for kids has a fun investigation to encourage children to think about the effect of oil spills.
More about Rockford’s Rock Opera
Rockford’s Rock Opera wss created by award winning alternative entrepreneurs, ‘Sweetapple’, (www.sweetapple.co.uk). The project is entirely self-produced and financed and has now been downloaded or streamed on the web by over 2,000,000 people!!
Now, with top selling Apps in the Apple App Store, iPad app incoming, a stage show, video game and a film planned, the creators of Rockford’s Rock Opera are looking forward to the next chapter for this wonderful heart warming story!
Where can I find Rockford’s Rock Opera
ON THE WEB. The first hour of the story is available free as a stream or downloads, you can then buy the whole story on CD, as downloads or streamed as an animated picture book and read-along:http://www.rockfordsrockopera.com/home