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A Fun Science Experiment to Teach Kids About Pollution

earth day pollution science

Today is Earth Day, and we ditched our regular lessons to spend the day learning about pollution and how it affects our earth.

We began with this oil spill activity that was really eye-opening, even for me! We started with a pristine-looking ocean scene which turned yucky very fast. The boys tried several times to wash the slimy oil off their sea creatures and it was harder than they thought it would be.

We got the idea from here, if you want to see the original post.

Oil Spill Science Experiment

First, we started with a large, clear plastic tub to hold our ocean animals and water (plus some blue marbles to add a sensory element).

I added two drops of blue food coloring so that the water would be more visible. The boys played in the ocean with their animals for a bit, and then we added the boat.

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To make the oil look like crude oil, we mixed some cocoa powder into the vegetable oil before pouring it into the boat’s compartment. It looked like oil, but smelled like brownies. 😉

Now it’s time for the oil spill. Once the boat gets bumped around enough, the oil will begin spilling into the pristine blue water. The boys thought it was fascinating to see the oil droplets swirl around in the water. And actually, so did I.

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Now, it’s time for cleanup.

First, they tried cleaning up the oil spill by scooping it out. They soon found, though, they were scooping way more water than oil, and the water was looking dirtier.

Next, they used items to try and suck up the oil – cotton balls and a sponge. Both materials were able to remove a bit of the oil, but not enough to make a real difference.

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I think they were beginning to understand how irreversible some types of pollution are.

Now it was time for animal rescue. Using tongs, they took turns removing the ocean creatures from the water and washing them with soapy water. It took many tries to wash all of the slimy oil off. Another good lesson.

We also dunked a real bird feather into the oily water so the boys could see the effects of an oil spill on real animals.

Pollution Walk

After our science experiment, we put on disposable gloves and headed to our neighborhood’s nature trail for a pollution cleanup walk. We found SO. MUCH. TRASH. Either I never noticed it before or today was just a messy day in our neighborhood, but I’m sad to say we filled half a trash bag full of litter on our short walk.

The boys were pros at spotting the trash – it was like a treasure hunt, but less glamorous.

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Honestly, I was pretty disgusted at the amount of litter we picked up. On our walk we talked about what happens to trash when it sits on the ground (and what biodegradable means) and why it’s important not to litter.

Earth Day Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Oil Spill!

The Lorax

The Curious Garden

Compost Stew

Miss Rumphius

Once There Was a Tree

Pond

 

 

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What Makes the Seasons? {Spring Equinox Science Experiment}

spring equinox seasons

Have your kids ever asked you what makes the seasons?

The days are finally getting longer around here and the snow is almost gone, which is making us all slightly giddy. After a long, cold winter, the spring sunshine feels GOOD.

A few weeks ago, I prepared a little lesson to teach my boys about the spring equinox, and what makes the seasons. We ran a quick little experiment to visualize how the tilt of the earth makes it summer, fall, winter and spring in different parts of the world.

spring equinox seasons

It was a great way for them to see why we have seasons and I think it’ll really stick with them.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Orange
  • Marker
  • Pencil or Wood Skewer
  • Pushpin
  • At Least 2 People

First, grab your orange (the “earth”) and label the equator and Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Place the pushpin approximately where you live. Push the pencil or skewer through the center of the orange – this will act as the earth’s axis.

Now, assign one kid to hold the flashlight in the center of the room – he/she is the sun. Kid number two will hold the earth and move in a wide circle around the sun. The person with the flashlight keeps it pointed at the orange as it moves around the circle.

spring equinox seasons

The MOST important part of this experiment is to make sure whoever is holding the earth is keeping it tilted slightly, with the top tilted towards them and bottom tilted away from them. The trickiest part of this activity is making sure the earth remains tilted in the same direction as their body moves around the sun. So, on the opposite side of the circle, the top of the orange will be tilted away from them and the bottom will be tilted toward them.

On opposite sides of the circle, have the person holding the earth pause and note which hemisphere is receiving more light. As the earth moves around the circle, you’ll be able to see the sun hit each hemisphere differently – full strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our summer), partial strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our fall), full strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our winter), and partial strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our spring).

You can also ask them to make the earth rotate as it moves around the circle (this requires slightly more hand-eye coordination, a little trickier for smaller kids). observing night and day.

For more reading on the spring equinox and seasons, we loved these books:

The Reasons for Seasons

A New Beginning – Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox

spring equinox seasons

Happy Spring, friends!

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Spring Nesting Bird Study and Egg Craft

nesting bird spring study

This week we studied all things birds with our nature study curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children. We are crazy about birds over at our house, so I thought I’d share our activities and resources here.

Bird Study Activities

nest and egg spring craft

Nest Building and Egg Painting

This spring craft is a bit messy but worth it! The boys each painted wooden eggs with acrylic paint (you could use any paint) and then using moss, twigs, string, yarn and rubber bands, they made a nest. A good book to go with this activity is Mama Built a Little Nest (listed below in Resources).

There are so many materials birds use in their nests – you could have the kids search your house for other items birds commonly use, like socks, feathers, hair, shoelaces – the list is practically endless.

nesting bird spring study

The best thing about this craft? It doubles as a pretty Easter decoration!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

birds nest cookies for spring

A fun and tasty way to celebrate the birds coming back for the season.

Get the recipe here.

DIY Bird Feeders

Remember making these growing up?

Gather some cardboard toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, bird seed and some string and let the kids go at it. Sunflower butter works just as well if there are any peanut allergies.

bird feeder DIY craft

If you wanted to make it into a “bird store” of sorts, you could also hang nest building materials in the toilet paper roll – string, shoelaces, etc. This is a fun spring craft to do with friends.

Bird Bingo

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Such a fun way to learn about bird species and play at the same time!

Find the Bird Bingo Game on Amazon (it’s very affordable)

Bird Watching Nature Walk

Take the kiddos on a nature walk and look for birds flying back and forth to their nests. Listen to the new bird calls of spring, bring along a bird call identification guide and nature journals if you wish.

Resources

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The Backyard Birdsong Guide – An absolute must-have! Our whole family has learned so much about birds just by keeping this book on our table by the window

Bird Feather Identification Cards by Chickie & Roo

Nature Journal

Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest

Mama Built a Little Nest

Robins, Songbirds of Spring

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

My Book of Birds

Blue Sky Bluebird

A Nest is Noisy

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

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Easy, Budget-Friendly Spring Flower Craft

spring craft for kids daffodil

We are just starting to see the daffodils pop up and man, am I happy about it. This winter seemed longer than usual, and we are all ready for longer days and more time out in the sunshine.

My boys love doing crafts, so in the spirit of spring I put together this simple and easy craft you can probably do with items you already have in your home.

Easy Daffodil Craft

You’ll need:

  • Paper muffin tin liners (preferably white but any light color will work)
  • Paint (not watercolor) and paint brushes
  • Gluesticks
  • Green pipe cleaners, optional

Each flower will require two muffin liners. Have them spread out one nice and flat, and keep the shape of the second one intact.

With the yellow paint, have them cover one side of both muffin liners, making sure they don’t smush the cup-shaped one. This can be made easier by having them cup the liner in one hand while they paint it with the other. They’ll get paint on their hands, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. 😉  I always keep a pack of baby wipes nearby for emergencies.

(Because if you’re not cleaning your house and kids with baby wipes, are you even a mom?)

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Okay, now let them dry for a bit.

Next, they take a smaller paint brush and paint dots on the inner liner, which will represent the pollen. We used orange and white for this part. Allow a few minutes for it to dry.

Finally, have them glue the cupped liner to the middle of the flat one.

spring craft for kids

You can also glue or staple on a green pipe cleaner to use as a stem, but my kids just wanted to keep making more flowers, so we didn’t get to that part.

How pretty would these be sitting in a little vase?

Happy Spring!

spring craft for kids daffodil

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Spring Pond + Frog Life Cycle Study

Last week we learned about the spring pond with our Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. The boys learned about the ecosystem of the pond and the lifecycle of a frog through play-based learning, lots of good books and outdoor exploration.

Here’s what we did:

Spring Pond Loose Parts Play

For this activity, I set out some kinetic sand along with mini pond animals, marbles, small stones and some leaves I pulled off a silk plant (because they need lilypads, of course!).

The boys played with this setup for days.

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Life Cycle of a Frog

The boys colored this free printable while I read aloud from one of our favorite nature study books: Nature Anatomy. There are a couple of pages dedicated to frogs and toads.

If your kids are a bit older, you could also have them make a Venn diagram that illustrates the differences between frogs and toads. And if you have access to frog eggs or tadpoles, nothing beats seeing the life cycle play out in real life!

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Pond Nature Walk

Nature study is somewhat limited unless you actually go outside and experience nature, right? Most of our ponds are still partly frozen, but we followed the recommendation of a friend and went to a sweet little neighborhood pond. There were geese, ducks and we looked for frog eggs but unfortunately didn’t find any (although we did find other cool pond creatures in the water).

The kids brought their nature journals and colored pencils, some buckets, nets, a good magnifying glass and we made a picnic lunch out of it.

And only one kid fell in the pond so I call that a success. 🙂

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Pond Study Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner (This book is really neat)

Pond by Jim LaMarche (A wonderful and beautiful story that left us all smiling)

Turtle Pond by James Gladstone

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel  (My five year old loves these stories)

Seasons of the Freshwater Pond Biome by Shirley Duke

National Geographic Kids Tadpole to Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

 

 

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DIY Tide Pool – Ocean Science Activity for Kids

This week we studied ocean zones while following the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 curriculum – and to add an extra element of fun, we also studied the Intertidal Zone.

Did you know that the Intertidal Zone is one of the harshest environments on earth? It’s true. Animals who live there have to withstand extreme variations in temperature and water levels, not to mention crashing waves and predators.

Amazingly, so many little creatures still make tide pools their home, like sea stars, puffer fish, crabs, anemones, barnacles, mussels and even baby octopuses!

See, I bet you learned something. Class dismissed.

Jk.

One of the ways we studied tide pools was this fun little backyard activity. I know it’s winter and 30 degrees outside, but my boys were not opposed to playing in the water. It’s a mystery, but it’s true.

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DIY Tide Pool

  • First, get some sort of large container to act as your tide pool. We used the top of an old plastic bird bath, which was perfect. You could also use a trash can lid or storage container.
  • Put a few scoops of sand or crushed rock in the bottom.
  • Add some seashells or small rocks. Check your local dollar store or craft store for shells, sand dollars and starfish. We got a very inexpensive bag of shells (since we live nowhere near the beach) and it was so worth it!
  • Add some mini sea creatures – but only ones that live in the intertidal zone! We used sea stars, sea turtles, crabs and a little octopus.
  • Have your kids fill up the tide pool with buckets of water. They can take turns making it high tide and low tide. My boys especially loved making waves by rocking the container back and forth.

This activity kept my boys occupied for hours!

Further Resources

 

Wild Kratts Stars of the Tides episode

Tide Pool Secrets

Look Inside a Tide Pool

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**