Young Explorers Science Fun

What happens when I program or think about programs is that I get fixated on certain ones and won’t let them go.  STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) programming is one of those things.

I geared my STEAM programs to grades K-2 and held them once a month on Saturdays.  Traditionally, Saturdays used to be HUGE in my library I’m told.  They used to have to prepare 50+ crafts and they’d practically turn kids away.  But as the years went on, less and less people came into the libraries on Saturdays to the point where we had very little programming.  Of course I wanted to change that and buck that trend.  I know families are busy on Saturdays – there’s language schools, sports, family parties, the list goes on.  But I also know that we get asked often enough about Saturday programming that I felt it was something we should try and see what happens.  Luckily, it worked out and I got a small group of kids who were pretty dedicated to the Young Explorers Programs and a lot of people just hanging out at the library on a Saturday who wanted something to do.  Attendance was good enough that I continued the program into the Summer and plan to do at least 2 of them in the fall.

I have to admit that I am by no means a scientist, or a teacher.  But I did a little research and focused on principles I felt comfortable explaining.  I wrote out a script and tried to make things as simple as possible.  Because we are limited on space/materials/etc., I pre-measured ingredients and put them into baby food jars and other small containers with lids.  Each child/family (depending on how many kids showed up) received a Copy Paper Box lid in which to put all their materials.  The rules were that they weren’t allowed to walk around once liquid had been distributed and certain things, like putting in food coloring, had to be done with the guidance of an adult.

Each program was 30-45 minutes, the major variant being how long everyone took with the art portion.

The basic outline of the programs went something like this:

  1. Introduction of Topic (1-2 min)
  2. Story (4-5 min)
  3. Explanation of Rules (1-2 min)
  4. Discussion of Science terms and principles we’ll be learning about (2-5 min)
  5. Depending on what experiment we were going to be doing, either show them the experiment or pass out materials and do the experiment together
  6. Art portion

The programs we did were:

Kitchen Chemistry

Notice how the colors swirl around each other and don't really mix

Notice how the colors swirl around each other and don’t really mix

Using food coloring, milk, and liquid soap, we discussed what milk is made of and how things react (and what a reaction is).  The fun part of the experiment was watching the food coloring bounce away from the dish soap dipped q-tip and never really mix together.  Our art portion was to use the colored milk we created during our experiment to paint pictures using q-tips as our paint brushes.

How it went:  The kids managed everything pretty well, although for many of them the separation of color didn’t last too long and some of them were left with brown and black milk to paint with.  Luckily I brought some crayons and markers so that they could supplement their art.  Some kids used whole milk and some used 2% so that they could compare the differences in how well the milk jumped or didn’t jump when touched by the dish soap.

Book Read:  The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra

Helpful links for this project:

Steve Spangler Science

About.com Chemistry

Kids Activities Blog

Play Dough Science

I don’t have any pictures from this project, making play dough is pretty common among kids of all ages.  In this program, we talked mostly about mixing things and how parts of lots of different things can make an entirely new whole (like cake!).  Because we are in a small room with no outlets and I was working with younger elementary school kids, I opted to go with no-cook play dough.  I’m attaching the link to the recipe I used which was fabulous.

How it went:  The major hiccup was towards the end.  The kids who put too much food coloring ended up with blue hands and the kids who didn’t put enough had a very pastel looking dough to play with.

Book read:  Mrs. Muffly’s Monster by Sarah Dyer

Helpful links for this project:

No-Cook Playdough

Science NetLinks: Ready, Set, Let’s Dough! It’s a Matter of System

Bubbles & Molecules

In this project, we talked about how bubbles work, focusing on what molecules and atoms are.  We talked about how no matter what kind of wand we use, bubbles will always take a circular form and why.  We made our own bubble solution using dish soap, water, and sugar, and for the art portion, we added food coloring and used our straws and wands to make bubble art by blowing bubbles onto paper.

How it went:  I think the kids had the most fun with this project, although it was the messiest with a few spills – luckily they were contained in the copy box lids and the carpet in our storytime room wasn’t ruined – yay!

Books read:  Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie DePaola

Helpful links for this project:

About.com Chemistry:  How to make bubble solution

About.com Chemistry:  Bubble Prints

About.com Chemistory:  How bubbles work

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