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Simple Science Activities for Home: Connecting After School Science Programs

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by Rachel Wells.

Looking for ways to keep your little scientist busy at home?  Want your child to grow their interest in science?  Science experiments have a way of engaging almost everyone.  Apollo After School offers after school science programs, however if you are looking to extend a love of science at home, here are 3 simple science experiments you can do, with supplies you probably already have, that will provide opportunities for your child to learn and stay busy.  Experiments provide the canvas for quality time together and interaction, so if you are looking for a new route for entertaining your child and interacting, read on.

Water Bottle Steam Boats

For this experiment you will need baking soda, white vinegar, a plastic bottle, straws, hot glue, and a baby pool or bathtub. This is not an experiment that would be easily done in after school science clubs, making it a perfect experiment to try together at home.

Prepare the bottle boat by drilling or poking a small hole, about the size of the straw circumference, in the bottom edge of the plastic bottle.  (This should be done by an adult and with protective eyewear)  Place a three or four inch straw into the hole so that about an inch sticks into the bottle and the rest sticks out the back.  Apply hot glue around the edges so that no liquid drips out.

Turn the bottle on its side, cover the straw end with your finger, and pout 1 cup of vinegar into the bottle.  While holding the bottle flat, scoop a few spoonful’s of baking soda into the bottle, making sure that the baking soda and vinegar stay on either end not touching each other.  Put the cap onto the bottle, give the bottle a quick shake, and place it into the pool or bathtub.

Make Your Own Rock Candy

For this experiment you will need:
  1. 2 – 3 cups of sugar,
  2. 1 cup of water,
  3. skewers,
  4. jars,
  5. a large saucepan,
  6. clothespins,
  7. food coloring
  8. optional candy flavoring.
Combine equal parts sugar and water in saucepan and heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Then slowly add more sugar and mix until the sugar will no longer dissolve in the water, and the water looks a little cloudy.  If you have candy flavoring or food coloring, you would add that in at this point. Dip your skewers in water and roll them in sugar.  Set aside, until the sticks are dry. Once the sugar water is cooled, pour it into the jars.  Once the skewers are completely dry put one in each jar.  Put the skewer in a clothespin and lay the clothes pin on top of the jar so that the sticks are hanging down and not touching the bottom or sides of the jar. Now is the time to practice patience.  Observe the growth of the rock candy each day for a week.  After a full week they should be ready to eat!  Remove the skewers from the jar and lay them on a clean surface to dry.  Once dry, enjoy your yummy treat!

Leak Proof Baggie

This experiment is the definition of simple amazement at any age.  It definitely impressed me when I first tried it (actually I was equally entertained the second and third time too!).  For this experiment all you need is a Ziploc bag (a gallon or quart size is the most fun) filled 2/3 of the way full with water and sharp pencils When the bag has been filled 2/3 full of water, have your child (and yourself) carefully poke a sharp pencil right through the bag, into the water, and out the other end of the bag.  No water will spill out of the bag!  You can try this with other sharp objects as well (i.e. skewers or pens).  When you are finished pull the pencils out over the sink and enjoy watching the fountains of water as the bag empties. This works because Ziploc bags are made from polymers, and when you poke the bag the polymers are forced apart, but then they quickly press back together as much as possible.

Experiment Everywhere

Don’t let the idea of a science experiment seem overwhelming or too messy for home.  While after school science programs provide wonderful opportunities for your child to grow and discover, science at home can create wonderful opportunities for meaningful conversation and engaging learning between yourself and your child as well.  A few simple ingredients can create a lot of quality time together. Remember when doing science experiments with your child to talk and ask questions.  Ask your child to make predictions about what they think will happen before the experiment.  Have your child tell you their observations about what is happening during and throughout the experiment. Encourage your child to make observations using their senses (what do things look, feel, smell, taste, or sound like).  And take time to talk about what happened after the experiment is finished.


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