Panning for Gold

So technically, this isn’t a *science* experiment/activity but it was part of my activities for St. Patrick’s Day where we went hunting for gold to put in our gold pots.  But it was so much fun for the tiny tots and for my superheroes that I had to share it:)  Super easy to do!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin or Sandbox (I use the shoebox size bins from the dollar store)
  • Sand (I used the play sand from Home Depot)
  • Gold (we painted rocks in our yard with metallic gold acrylic paint)
  • Plastic gold coins or pennies, plastic gems or shiny glass stones
  • “Tools”: sand toys such as sifters, shovels, rakes, magnifying glasses, etc…

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To prepare the rocks:

We first collected big and small rocks to make large gold pieces and small gold nuggets.  Then we painted them with gold acrylic paint.

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We let them dry and they looked AWESOME!

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To prepare the box:

Fill the bin about halfway with sand.  Bury the gold rocks and gold coins into the sand.   Make sure all the treasures are covered up by the sand.

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Give your superheroes some “Tools” and let them dig and discover!  That’s it!  Easy!

IMG_5485The little ones enjoyed digging in their boxes for gold and treasures!

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This was definitely a favorite for my superheroes and the Tiny Tots in my science class.  I’ve also varied this with dinosaur eggs and skeletons in my Dinosaur Dig activity

 The Science behind the Activity:

Here is another science activity that invites young children to explore, investigate and be curious, just like real scientists.  They choose which tools to use and how to use them and what methods are best for locating the hidden items, and cleaning off their finds.  Lots of problem-solving and the kids think that they are just playing in the sand!

Extension:

This activity can be modified for any hidden items.  You could also throw in some gems, large beads,  Great for a pirate party or to link to a history unit.  You can also add magnetic items and non magnetic items and have them use a magnetic wand to find and test the items!  So many options!

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Travel on Sand (or Snow)

My son asked me for money to buy a book at the school book fair.  I assumed he would purchase a Star Wars or Superhero type book.  I was correct.  BUT, it was a Star Wars Science Fair Book so I was pretty impressed at his choice.  We are slowly trying out some of the classic experiments in the book with a Star Wars twist but seriously they can be done without the Star Wars connection.

This particular investigation explores how to travel in the desert/snowy environments of the planets that the Star Wars characters live on.  We added some of our own extensions to this as well.  Super easy to get this set up!

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Here’s what you need to get started:

  • box or container (we use the plastic shoeboxes from the dollar store)
  • enough sand to fill the container about 1/2 full
  • cardboard (we used leftover cardboard from our multiple Amazon deliveries)
  • scissors
  • jar lid
  • dime or penny
  • pencil

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Before starting this activity, I asked my son how it feels to walk on the sand at the beach.  Is it hard to walk?  What happens to your feet as you step in the sand?  I then had him take the pencil and press gently into the box of sand and obviously, the pencil immediately sank in.

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Next we used the jar lid and coin to draw 2 circles of different sizes.

IMG_2665I helped him cut the circles out of the cardboard since it was so thick and difficult for him to do on his own.

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Next, he placed the small cardboard circle on the sand and used the pencil eraser to apply some pressure as before.  We repeated with the larger circle.

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The smaller circle did eventually begin to sink into sand but not like the pencil did.  The large circle did not sink at all.  I asked my son why he thought that was.  I asked him if it hurts more to poke him with a sharp pencil or with my flat palm.  I asked him some probing questions and then it led us to talking about skis and snowboards and why they don’t sink in the snow.  So guess what?  We cut out skis and snowboards out of the cardboard to test out his theory.

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The snowboard did pretty well under pressure.
IMG_2675The skis buckled a bit (more due to the cardboard bending than the shape/surface area) but still didn’t sink.

We tried out snowshoe shapes as well (my son thought they looked more like tennis rackets…sigh).  Those held up pretty well, too.

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This simple experiment was really so easy but led to some fantastic discussion and experimentation with my son and I.  I thought it was going to take us 5 minutes but by the time we tested all our shapes and discussed his theories and the science behind it all, it was 45 minutes!  Wow!  Time flies when learning is FUN!

And lastly, the Lego Star Wars Minifigures went into the box for some playtime:)

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The Science behind the activity:

In physics, students are taught that a force applied over a given area results in pressure or P=F/A.  The greater the force applied, the greater the pressure.  BUT, if you increase the area over which the force is applied, you can REDUCE the pressure.  This is why it hurts more when someone steps on you with the tip of a high heel versus a flat shoe.  Or why it hurts more if your little brother pokes you with a toy sword versus a toy shield (I am not promoting violence but I do live with three little boys…)  It’s why you don’t sink in the snow with skis or on a snowboard but leave deep shoe prints while walking with just your boots.  It depends on how your body weight is being distributed over a small or large area.

Extension: Have your child make large cardboard or wooden versions of these that they can put on their feet and test it on in a sandbox.  Do you get the same results?

For more details and to see where I got this idea from check out this fantastic book we got from the book fair Star Wars Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles and sold by Scholastic Books.

Ocean in a Bottle

For my ocean themed class, I thought it would be fun to make an ocean discovery bottle.  If your kids love to collect shells and rocks and the beach (like mine do), this is a perfect extension activity for when you get home.  This is an easy activity for the kiddos to do and there are so many fun ways to play and learn with them.  And there are so many variations you can add to yours.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Empty water bottle with a cap
  • Funnel
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Sand (we used play sand since that’s what I had at home)
  • Sea shells that are small enough to fit inside a water bottle (I picked up a pack at Michael’s but you could use some that you’ve collected at the beach yourself)
  • Little fish/sea creature figurines (I couldn’t find any that were small enough to fit through the mouth of our bottle)
  • Foam ocean stickers/shapes (we peeled the backing off the stickers since I couldn’t find just the foam shapes)IMG_1675

First we added about 2 inches of sand to an empty water bottle.  We used a funnel to make it easier.

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Then they added the sea shells.

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Next we added the foam shapes after peeling the paper backings off them.  We didn’t want to “pollute” our ocean:)

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Using a funnel, the boys added the blue ocean water to the bottle.  Screw the cap on.  (You can also use a hot glue gun to attach the cap so it can’t be opened)

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And THEN the fun began.  Almost immediately, my middle son started shaking his bottle.

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My oldest son decided to roll his bottle and make waves.  They tried to find their sea animals and sea shells.

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That’s it!  So easy!  And lots of shaking going on over here!

The Science behind the Activity:

Discovery bottles are great for toddlers and preschoolers as it gives them a chance to explore cause and effect.  “If I shake this bottle, what will happen?”  For preschoolers and a bit older, you can discuss the motion of water and waves.  A variation to this is to make it with oil and water instead of sand and water and you can discuss concepts such as density and why water and oil don’t mix.  Endless options!  What variations have you tried?

 

 

Dinosaur Dig

This Dinosaur Dig activity is SOO easy to set up and keeps the youngest superheroes entertained for a long time.  Pair it up with some Dinosaur Eggs and your little Paleontologists will be even happier diggers!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin or Sandbox (I use the shoebox size bins from the dollar store)
  • Sand (I used the play sand from Home Depot)
  • Container to place all the hidden items in as they find them.
  • Toy dinosaurs, skulls, skeletons
  • Dinosaur Eggs (click here to see how to make these EASY eggs with treasures/fossils inside)
  • “Tools”: paintbrushes, toothbrushes, shovels, spoons, magnifying glasses, etc…

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To prepare the box:

Fill the bin about halfway with sand.  Bury toy dinosaurs, toy skulls or dinosaur skeletons into the sand.  I also buried a few dinosaur eggs for the kids to find.  Make sure all the treasures are covered up by the sand.

Give your superheroes some “Tools” and let them dig and discover!  That’s it!  Easy!

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The superheroes enjoyed digging in their boxes for dinosaurs, skulls and skeletons!

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Using the magnifying glass for closer examination and toothbrushes to clean out the dinosaur skulls was a big hit!  The picture below on the left shows a superhero brushing the dinosaur’s teeth:)

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The dinosaur dig is definitely a favorite for the superheroes and the Tiny Tots in my science class.  We will definitely be doing this again next session!

 The Science behind the Activity:

Here is another science activity that invites young children to explore, investigate and be curious, just like real scientists.  They choose which tools to use and how to use them and what methods are best for locating the hidden items, breaking open the dinosaur eggs and cleaning off their finds.  Lots of problem-solving and the kids think that they are just playing in the sand!

Extension:

This activity can be modified for any hidden items.  You could also throw in some gems, large beads, gold-painted rocks and show them how to use a sifter (from their sand toy collection) to look for treasures as well.  Great for a pirate party or to link to a history unit.