5 Fun Science Experiments Kids Can Do at Home
The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report found that Australian standards have declined in maths, reading and science. This worrying trend points to problems with higher order thinking skills. For this reason, you should consider introducing fun science experiments as a learning method in children.
According to Geoff Masters of the Australian Council for Educational Research, PISA “assesses the ability to transfer and apply learning to new situations and unseen problems. This requires an understanding of fundamental concepts and principles, as well as the ability to think.”
One way you can help your child to develop higher order skills is by encouraging them to use the scientific method. This involves forming a hypothesis, conducting an experiment and analysing the results.
Here are five fun and easy experiments you can do at home this summer to get kids thinking and making connections. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand and impart these concepts.
A solar oven is easily made from a pizza box, aluminum foil, plastic wrap and black paper. The suns rays bounce off the aluminum foil into the box’s opening, teaching kids about reflection and the transfer of thermal energy.
The inside of the box is lined in black paper to absorb energy. The air beneath the plastic wrap is trapped, causing it to heat up and preventing the process called convection. In addition to learning about these processes, kids can use their oven to cook yummy snacks such as nachos, hot dogs and chocolate sauce.
Rock candy is formed when sugar and water are mixed and stirred over heat, creating what’s called a supersaturated solution. This means there are more dissolved sugar particles in the solution than the water is able to contain at a lower temperature.
When the mixture begins to cool, the sugar particles fall out and connect with each other causing crystals to grow.
Bubbles form as a result of water molecules with negatively charged hydrogen atoms and positively charged oxygen atoms attracting and clinging to each other. This creates a surface tension. When dish soap is added to water, it stabilises the water molecules, enabling them to be stretched into huge bubble shapes.
Soap molecules prevent quick evaporation, which stops bubbles popping immediately. A dry hand stuck into a bubble will cause it to pop due to dirt particles and oils on skin, but a hand dipped in soapy water won’t have the same effect because the film clings to the solution, not skin.
This experiment requires only a few household ingredients, the most important one being salt which when mixed with ice creates an environment low enough for ice cream to form. This is because water freezes at 0 °C, but the freezing point is lowered when salt is present.
When ice cream ingredients are placed in a small bag inside a larger bag of ice and salt, the mixture is cold enough to change the liquid ingredients to solids. To test this out, get kids to shake the same ingredients inside a bag containing ice cubes only and ask them what role they think salt plays in the process.
Slime can teach kids about concepts such as polymers, states of matter, elasticity, viscosity and cross-linking. This substance forms when borate ions in sodium borate, boric acid or borax powder mix with PVA glue to create a stretchy material through the process of cross-linking.
Slime develops because PVA glue is a polymer which means it is made up of duplicate strands or molecules that are in a liquid state until borate ions are added. The borate ions bind them together to create the rubbery consistency kids love.
These fun science experiments will get kids thinking and learning this summer.