Summer is great time of year to support children in the sciences by asking questions and conducting experiments. Here are three fun activities that will get your students asking questions, building vocabulary, and exploring the topic of Earth Systems. Ultimately, they will help get early learners ready for their future use of the scientific process.
Why do we measure the temperature? How can we measure the temperature each day? What words can we use to describe the temperature?
This summer you have the opportunity to observe the weather and talk to your scholars about the patterns you see daily, weekly, and monthly. You can make a science/nature journal for your students where they can record temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover, and wind speed each day. Here are a few activities to help your scientists begin to understand the natural world.
Making a Thermometer
Ask your students the questions above, allowing time to turn and brainstorm ideas. Chart their ideas, particularly the words to describe the temperature. Dig deeper if students haven’t already discussed that measuring temperature helps inform environmental decisions for plants and animals, our daily and weekly activities, and what we are going to wear. Read an informational text on weather and atmospheric temperature or other outside resources to ask and answer more questions. After you have discussed the importance of measuring the temperature and its effects on our daily lives, you can teach students about the history and importance of a thermometer for measuring how something’s temperature. Engage students by helping them make their very own atmospheric thermometer to record daily temperatures.
How to Make a Thermometer:
Paper joined together to make a notebook for observation
12” x 4 “ inch card stock
Flat 36” Shoe Lace
Blue, green, orange, and red colored pencils
Scissors/modeling craft knife
1. Using a flat surface, place the card stock lengthwise and find the center.
2. Using a pencil and a ruler, help your students draw a straight 10” line lengthwise, marking to the left every ½” inch section from the bottom to the top of the line.
3. Draw a parallel line to the right of the first line that’s about 1” away. Then, join the lines to make a rectangle.
4. The adult should then cut the rectangle out with scissors, or a modelers knife. This rectangle will act as the glass in your thermometer.
5. Once you have cut the middle rectangle out you should still be able to still see the ½” inch lines you drew to the right. With a black pen mark the lines distinctively and have your student label the 10” line from 0 – 100 with 0 at the bottom. At the top, write degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Punch two holes on the top and bottom of the thermometer glass.
7. Have students color half of the shoe lace with red marker.
8. Hold the shoelace over the front of the card stock, and pull it through the holes before tying it in the back.
9. On the right side opposite of the number scales, label the thermometer using colors. 0-32 degrees could be colored blue for cold, 32-62 could be green for cool, 60 -80 could be orange for warm, and above 80 could be red for hot.
Now, your students have their very own thermometer to record and describe the temperature. All your students have to do is pull the red portion of the shoelace up or down depending on the temperature outside. Have your students record the daily temperature in their journals and look for patterns over time.
How can we measure the wind speed every day?
Making Wind Tools
Set up a fan and have various materials out for your scholars (i.e. fabric, socks, feathers, plastic, paper, and streamers). Let your students explore the materials finding their own way to measure the wind. Encourage them to share their ingenuity and thought processes with the class. After exploration, explain to your students that all around the world people use a tool called a wind flag to measure the wind. Connect this to social studies (self-to-world) by having a book about flags. Explain to your students that they can make a tool wind flag, too.
How to Make a Wind Flag
4” x 6” inch pieces of cloth
12” by 4” inch pieces of card stock
1. Give each student a piece of fabric to use as a flag.
2. Have students decorate their flags with fabric markers using their own designs or copying a flag from their favorite country.
3. Give each student a piece of card stock and have them fold it lengthwise.
4. Staple the fabric into the fold of card stock at the top
Using the fan as the wind source, allow students to experiment with their wind flags to see what no wind, some wind, and strong wind look like. Measure the wind speed using the wind flag and have students add the observations to their journal.
How does the weather affect your house or how engineers construct the house you live in? How can we engineer and build a house strong enough to withstand the wolf from “The Three Little Pigs?”
Building a Wind Resistant House
Read your students the book “The Three Little Pigs” and pose the questions above. Chart your students’ answers. Explain to students that weather and wind can affect the house you live in. Give your students examples of severe weather, such as blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes. Explain to students that engineers and builders make different choices in materials to build a house to withstand the weather. Ask: How could we build a house to withstand the wolf’s wind? Tell your students that you have brought in a fan that will act as the wolf and their team’s job is to engineer and build a house to save the pigs by withstanding the wolf’s wind.
Steps for Exploration
1. Set out all materials at a station, so students see the materials they can use for this engineering project.
2. Break students into teams of 4 assigning team roles: Materials person, facilitator, recorder, presenter
3. Assign students a designated area to plan and build.
4. Give students 15 minutes to begin designing their plan. Let students know the recorder will be drawing and writing their design, listing materials needed, while the facilitator merges ideas into a cohesive plan.
5. Stop students and let the materials person gather the materials to begin building.
6. Give students 2-3 sessions to build their design. Have a fan going so they can test and improve their project.
Last, have all students participate in a gallery walk to look at finished projects. Have each presenter share their team’s project by explaining how they constructed the house, what materials they used, special features, and improvements they made. Once everyone has shared, provide time for comparisons of engineering designs by charting comparisons.
Teaching our early learners to ask questions and explore answers is an imperative. We need to take the time in our schedules providing early learners time to engineer and work on solving problems. We will be supporting our students’ readiness for the years to come. What science questions can we pose today? How can we encourage our students to actively participate in science activity? How can we grow and expand our students’ knowledge of Earth Systems?